SEa-Air-Land (SEAL) Teams trace their history back to the first group of volunteers selected
from the Naval Construction Battalions in the spring of 1943. Their mission was to clear obstacles from beaches chosen for
amphibious landings, which began the first formal training of the Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDUs). The NCDUs distinguished
themselves at Utah and Omaha beaches in Normandy and in Southern France. In the Pacific, the NCDUs were consolidated into
Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs).
From 1962 when the first SEAL teams were commissioned, to present day, Navy SEALs have distinguished
themselves as an individually reliable, collectively disciplined and highly skilled maritime force. Because of the dangers
inherent in NSW, prospective SEALs go through what is considered by many military experts to be the toughest training in the
Navy SEALs are named after the environment in which they operate, the Sea, Air, and Land, and are the foundation
of Naval Special Warfare combat forces. They are organized, trained and equipped to conduct a variety of Special Operations
missions in all operational environments. Today’s SEALs trace their history from the elite frogmen of World War II.
Training is extremely demanding, both mentally and physically, and produces the world’s best maritime warriors. Our
focus during this training is based on three core pillars:
- Men of Character: The nature of our mission requires men who will uphold the Navy Core Values - Honor, Courage, and Commitment.
- Physical: The nature of our mission also requires men who are physically fit and capable in every environment, especially
- Technical: Finally, maritime Special Operations require SEALS who are intelligent and can quickly learn new tasks.
Today's Naval Special Warfare operators can trace their origins to the Scouts and Raiders, Naval Combat
Demolition Units, Office of Strategic Services Operational Swimmers, Underwater Demolition Teams, and Motor Torpedo Boat Squadrons
of World War II. While none of those early organizations have survived to present, their pioneering efforts in unconventional
warfare are mirrored in the missions and professionalism of the present Naval Special Warfare warriors.
To meet the
need for a beach reconnaissance force, selected Army and Navy personnel assembled at Amphibious Training Base, Little Creek,
on 15 August 1942 to begin Amphibious Scouts and Raiders (Joint) training. The Scouts and Raiders mission was to identify
and reconnoiter the objective beach, maintain a position on the designated beach prior to a landing and guide the assault
waves to the landing beach.
The first group included Phil H. Bucklew, the "Father of Naval Special Warfare," after whom the Naval Special Warfare Center
building is named. Commissioned in October 1942, this group saw combat in November 1942 during OPERATION TORCH, the first
allied landings in Europe, on the North African coast. Scouts and Raiders also supported landings in Sicily, Salerno, Anzio,
Normandy, and southern France.
A second group of Scouts and Raiders, code-named Special Service Unit #1, was established
on July 7, 1943, as a joint and combined operations force. The first mission, in September 1943, was at Finschafen on New
Guinea. Later ops were at Gasmata, Arawe, Cape Gloucester, and the East and South coast of New Britain, all without any loss
of personnel. Conflicts arose over operational matters, and all non-Navy personnel were reassigned. The unit, renamed 7th
Amphibious Scouts, received a new mission, to go ashore with the assault boats, buoy channels, erect markers for the incoming
craft, handle casualties, take offshore soundings, blow up beach obstacles and maintain voice communications linking the troops
ashore, incoming boats and nearby ships. The 7th Amphibious Scouts conducted operations in the Pacific for the duration of
the conflict, participating in more than 40 landings.
The third Scout and Raiders organization operated in China.
Scouts and Raiders were deployed to fight with the Sino-American Cooperation Organization, or SACO. To help bolster the work
of SACO, Admiral Ernest J. King ordered that 120 officers and 900 men be trained for "Amphibious Roger" at the Scout and Ranger
school at Ft. Pierce, FL. They formed the core of what was envisioned as a "guerrilla amphibious organization of Americans
and Chinese operating from coastal waters, lakes and rivers employing small steamers and sampans." While most Amphibious Roger
forces remained at Camp Knox in Calcutta, three of the groups saw active service. They conducted a survey of the Upper Yangtze
River in the Spring of 1945 and, disguised as coolies, conducted a detailed three-month survey of the Chinese coast from Shanghai
to Kitchioh Wan, near Hong Kong
In September of 1942, 17 Navy salvage personnel arrived at ATB Little Creek, VA for
a one-week concentrated course on demolitions, explosive cable cutting and commando raiding techniques. On 10 November 1942,
this first combat demolition unit succeeded in cutting a cable and net barrier across the Wadi Sebou River during Operation
TORCH in North Africa. Their actions enabled the USS DALLAS (DD 199) to traverse the river and insert U.S. Rangers who captured
the Port Lyautey airdrome.
Plans for a massive cross-channel invasion of Europe had begun and intelligence indicated
that the Germans were placing extensive underwater obstacles on the beaches at Normandy. On 7 May 1943, LCDR Draper L. Kauffman,
"The Father of Naval Combat Demolition," was directed to set up a school and train people to eliminate obstacles on an enemy-held
beach prior to an invasion.
On 6 June 1943, LCDR Kaufmann established Naval Combat Demolition Unit training at Ft.
Pierce. By April 1944, a total of 34 NCDUs were deployed to England in preparation for Operation OVERLORD, the amphibious
landing at Normandy.
On 6 June 1944, in the face of great adversity, the NCDUs at Omaha Beach managed to blow eight
complete gaps and two partial gaps in the German defenses. The NCDUs suffered 31 killed and 60 wounded, a casualty rate of
52%. Meanwhile, the NCDUs at Utah Beach met less intense enemy fire. They cleared 700 yards of beach in two hours, another
900 yards by the afternoon. Casualties at Utah Beach were significantly lighter with 6 killed and 11 wounded. During Operation
OVERLORD, not a single demolitioneer was lost to improper handling of explosives.
In August 1944, NCDUs from Utah
Beach participated in the landings in southern France, the last amphibious operation in the European Theater of Operations.
NCDUs also operated in the Pacific theater. NCDU 2, under LTjg Frank Kaine, after whom the Naval Special Warfare Command
building is named, and NCDU 3 under LTjg Lloyd Anderson, formed the nucleus of six NCDUs that served with the Seventh Amphibious
Force tasked with clearing boat channels after the landings from Biak to Borneo.
Some of the earliest World War II
predecessors of the SEALs were the Operational Swimmers of the Office of Strategic Services, or OSS. Many current SEAL missions
were first assigned to them.
British Combined Operations veteran LCDR Wooley, of the Royal Navy, was placed in charge
of the OSS Maritime Unit in June 1943.
Their training started in November 1943 at Camp Pendleton, moved to Catalina
Island in January 1944, and finally moved to the warmer waters in the Bahamas in March 1944. Within the U.S. military, they
pioneered flexible swim fins and facemasks, closed-circuit diving equipment, the use of swimmer submersibles, and combat swimming
and limpet mine attacks.
In May 1944, GEN Donovan, the head of the OSS, divided the unit into groups. He loaned Group
1, under LT Choate, to ADM Nimitz, as a way to introduce the OSS into the Pacific Theater. They became part of UDT-10 in July
1944. Five OSS men participated in the very first UDT submarine operation with the USS BURRFISH in the Caroline Islands in
Admiral Chester Nimitz’s "Granite Plan" for central Pacific operations required an efficient amphibious
force. Many of the targeted islands were coral atolls with reefs that acted as natural obstacles to landings. During early
November 1943, SeaBees engaged in experimental underwater blasting work were assembled at Waipio Amphibious Operating Base
on Oahu to begin training in underwater demolition.
On 23 November 1943, the U. S. Marine landing on Tarawa Atoll
emphasized the need for hydrographic reconnaissance and underwater demolition of obstacles prior to any amphibious landing.
After Tarawa, 30 officers and 150 enlisted men were moved to Waimanalo Amphibious Training Base to form the nucleus
of a demolition training program. This group became Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) ONE and TWO.
The UDTs saw their
first combat on 31 January 1944, during Operation FLINTLOCK in the Marshall Islands. FLINTLOCK became the real catalyst for
the UDT training program in the Pacific Theater. In February 1944, the Naval Combat Demolition Training and Experimental Base
was established at Kihei, Maui, next to the Amphibious Base at Kamaole.
Eventually, 34 UDT teams were established.
Wearing swim suits, fins, and facemasks on combat operations, these "Naked Warriors" saw action across the Pacific in every
major amphibious landing including: Eniwetok, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, Angaur, Ulithi, Pelilui, Leyte, Lingayen Gulf, Zambales,
Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Labuan, Brunei Bay, and on 4 July 1945 at Balikpapan on Borneo which was the last UDT demolition operation
of the war.
The rapid demobilization at the conclusion of the war reduced the number of active duty UDTs to two on
each coast with a complement of 7 officers and 45 enlisted men each.
The Korean War began on 25 June 1950, when the
North Korean army invaded South Korea. Beginning with a detachment of 11 personnel from UDT 3, UDT participation expanded
to three teams with a combined strength of 300 men.
As part of the Special Operations Group, or SOG, UDTs successfully
conducted demolition raids on railroad tunnels and bridges along the Korean coast.
On 15 September 1950, UDTs supported
Operation CHROMITE, the Amphibious landing at Inchon. UDT 1 and 3 provided personnel who went in ahead of the landing craft,
scouting mud flats, marking low points in the channel, clearing fouled propellers, and searching for mines. Four UDT personnel
acted as wave-guides for the Marine landing.
In October 1950, UDTs supported mine-clearing operations in Wonsan Harbor
where frogmen would locate and mark mines for minesweepers. On 12 October 1950, two U.S. minesweepers hit mines and sank.
UDTs rescued 25 sailors. The next day, William Giannotti conducted the first U.S. combat operation using an "aqualung" when
he dove on the USS PLEDGE.
For the remainder of the war, UDTs conducted beach and river reconnaissances, infiltrated
guerrillas behind the lines from sea, continued mine sweeping operations, and participated in Operation FISHNET, which severely
damaged the North Korean’s fishing capability.
Responding to President Kennedy’s desire for the Services
to develop an Unconventional Warfare (UW) capability, the U.S. Navy established SEAL Teams ONE and TWO in January of 1962.
Formed entirely with personnel from Underwater Demolition Teams, the SEALs mission was to conduct counterguerilla warfare
and clandestine operations in maritime and riverine environments.
SEAL involvement in Vietnam began immediately and
was advisory in nature. SEAL advisors instructed the Vietnamese in clandestine maritime operations. SEALs also began a UDT
style training course for the Biet Hai Commandos, the Junk Force Commando platoons, in Danang.
In February 1966, a
small SEAL Team ONE detachment arrived in Vietnam to conduct direct-action missions. Operating out of Nha Be, in the Rung
Sat Special Zone, this detachment signaled the beginning of a SEAL presence that would eventually include 8 SEAL platoons
in country on a continuing basis. Additionally, SEALs served as advisors for Provincial Reconnaissance Units and the Lien
Doc Nguoi Nhia, or LDNN, the Vietnamese SEALs. The last SEAL platoon departed Vietnam on 7 December 1971. The last SEAL advisor
left Vietnam in March 1973.
The UDTs again saw combat in Vietnam while supporting the Amphibious Ready Groups. When
attached to the riverine groups the UDTs conducted operations with river patrol boats and, in many cases, patrolled into the
hinterland as well as along the riverbanks and beaches in order to destroy obstacles and bunkers. Additionally, UDT personnel
acted as advisors.
On May 1, 1983, all UDTs were redesignated as SEAL Teams or Swimmer Delivery Vehicle Teams (SDVT).
SDVTs have since been redesignated SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams.
Special Boat Units can also trace their history back
to WWII. The Patrol Coastal and Patrol Boat Torpedo are the ancestors of today's PC and MKV. Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron THREE
rescued General MacArthur (and later the Filipino President) from the Philippines after the Japanese invasion and then participated
in guerrilla actions until American resistance ended with the fall of Corregidor. PT Boats subsequently participated in most
of the campaigns in the Southwest Pacific by conducting and supporting joint/combined reconnaissance, blockade, sabotage,
and raiding missions as well as attacking Japanese shore facilities, shipping, and combatants. PT Boats were used in the European
Theater beginning in April 1944 to support the OSS in the insertions of espionage and French Resistance personnel and for
amphibious landing deception. While there is no direct line between organizations, NSW embracement is predicated on the similarity
in craft and mission.
The development of a robust riverine warfare capability during the Vietnam War produced the
forerunner of the modern Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewman. Mobile Support Teams provided combat craft support for SEAL
operations, as did Patrol Boat, Riverine (PBR) and Swift Boat sailors. In February 1964, Boat Support Unit ONE was established
under Naval Operations Support Group, Pacific to operate the newly reinstated Patrol Torpedo Fast (PTF) program and to operate
high-speed craft in support of NSW forces. In late 1964 the first PTFs arrived in Danang, Vietnam. In 1965, Boat Support Squadron
ONE began training Patrol Craft Fast crews for Vietnamese coastal patrol and interdiction operations. As the Vietnam mission
expanded into the riverine environment, additional craft, tactics, and training evolved for riverine patrol and SEAL support.
SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams historical roots began during WWII, however with Italian and British combat swimmers and
wet submersibles. Naval Special Warfare entered the submersible field in the 1960's when the Coastal Systems Center developed
the Mark 7, a free-flooding SDV of the type used today, and the first SDV to be used in the fleet. The Mark 8 and 9 followed
in the late 1970's. Today's Mark 8 Mod 1 and the soon to be accepted for fleet use Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS), a
dry submersible, provide NSW with an unprecedented capability that combines the attributes of clandestine underwater mobility
and the combat swimmer.
Post-Vietnam War operations that NSW forces have participated in include URGENT FURY (Grenada
1983); EARNEST WILL (Persian Gulf 1987-1990); JUST CAUSE (Panama 1989-1990); and DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM (Middle East/Persian
Gulf 1990-1991). More recently NSW has conducted missions in Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, and Liberia.
Special Operations is characterized by the use of small units with unique ability to conduct military actions
that are beyond the capability of conventional military forces. SEALs are superbly trained in all environments, and are the
master’s of maritime Special Operations. SEALs are required to utilize a combination of specialized training, equipment,
and tactics in completion of Special Operation missions worldwide.
A tactical force with strategic impact, NSW mission areas include unconventional warfare, direct action,
combating terrorism, special reconnaissance, foreign internal defense, information warfare, security assistance, counter-drug
operations, personnel recovery and hydrographic reconnaissance. Although NSW personnel comprise less than one percent of U.S.
Navy personnel, they offer big dividends on a small investment. SEALs' proven ability to operate across the spectrum of conflict
and in operations other than war in a controlled manner, and their ability to provide real time intelligence and eyes on target,
offer decision makers immediate and virtually unlimited options in the face of rapidly changing crises around the world.
The most important trait that distinguishes Navy SEALs from all other military forces is that SEALs are
maritime special forces, as they strike from and return to the sea. SEALs (Sea, Air, Land) take their name from the elements
in and from which they operate. Their stealth and clandestine methods of operation allow them to conduct multiple missions
against targets that larger forces cannot approach undetected.
During the Second Phase of training you will be given a "Dream Sheet" upon which you will indicate the Team
of your choice. The West Coast Teams are based in San Diego, California, while the East Coast Teams make their home in Virginia
Beach, Virginia. You may receive orders to the Team of your choice; however, the needs of the Teams always come first. Once
assigned to a team you may be assigned to various duties worldwide.