The Navy’s Underwater Demolition Team


During World War II, UDTs reconnoitered beaches and their waters to identify reefs, rocks, or shoals that could obstruct landing craft from moving, then used explosives to blast away those obstructions. They also conducted hydrography and river surveys. Choose the best Demolition Contractor Oakland.

LCDR Kauffman left Fort Pierce in April 1944 to command UDT 5 in Maui, Hawaii, where he would remain until the war’s conclusion.


During World War II, the Navy established underwater demolition teams (UDT) to clear pathways for amphibious landings. These frogmen became an essential component of invasions into Normandy and North Africa, as well as parts of Italy’s campaign. Still, it was during the battle of Tarawa in November 1943 that their significance indeed became clear: when various amphibious craft struck coral reefs near shore. 

Admiral Kelly Turner sent two UDT members on shore without detection to survey conditions and report back before returning undetected to their ship despite the incredible risk to report back and report back to Turner before reporting back aboard ship wearing swim trunks before reporting back and reporting back on what had transpired before being used against them by others!

Responding to the success of UDTs at Tarawa, the Navy established a particular unit that combined demolition skills and commando training called Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDUs). This team could quickly destroy Japanese bunkers under heavy fire and use them for every central amphibious landing across the Pacific theater.

NCDUs would become the precursor of modern Navy SEAL teams. Their training regime was intensive and combined physical endurance tests with strategic education sessions on topics such as underwater demolitions and reconnaissance missions – creating warriors that could tackle any task above or below water, from demolition experts and swimmers extraordinaire to soldiers of exceptional caliber.


During World War II, UDTs were charged with conducting extensive searches of beaches and waters surrounding islands to detect any obstacles that would impede landing craft from arriving. If any challenges were identified, their job was then to remove or demolish them.

Combat divers were responsible for clearing passage through mine-infested waters for Marine Corps landing craft, conducting inland demolition raids, and even performing sneak attacks underwater.

These frogmen played an invaluable role in the invasions of Normandy, North Africa, and parts of Italy, as well as preparing for future landings on Peleliu, Guam, and Iwo Jima. Unfortunately, due to politics and inter-service affairs, they experienced early setbacks and were ultimately decommissioned after WWII had ended.

Today’s UDT is a combined organization consisting of four operating platoons with 15 line officers and 101 enlisted men each, as well as a headquarters and support platoon. There is also a headquarters and support platoon. Each operating platoon can be deployed individually or together depending on operational needs; its commanding officer (lieutenant commander billet) from either Atlantic Fleet or Pacific Fleet reports directly to their respective Commander Amphibious Force, while each UDT team also features a senior enlisted advisor from Navy combat swimmer community for added guidance and advice.


When the Navy first established underwater demolition teams (UDTs) in 1942, it lacked hydrographic data on enemy beaches as well as information regarding any fortifications erected by German and Japanese forces near beaches suitable for amphibious landings. To account for and demolish these obstacles if discovered, UDTs were trained to conduct full sweeps over the beaches and waters of the islands prior to any amphibious landing operation.

UDTs would be dropped off by landing craft on a beach and sent on missions to clear any artificial or naturally occurring obstacles from their path, using efficient methods and an array of devices, including mine detectors, markers, Tetryl (explosives) demolition packs, and devices for measuring water depth.

Once an obstacle was identified, a team leader, typically an officer, would notify their ship by radio for further instructions. While returning to their boats via swimming back channel, swimmers would cover themselves in grey-blue paint to camouflage themselves and wear only swim trunks, face masks, and fins.

LCDR Draper Kauffman was widely credited with initiating the UDT training program at Fort Pierce. He remained there until April of 1944 when he left to command one at Amphibious Base Kihei on Maui, Territory of Hawaii – here, many procedures and training methods from Fort Pierce were explicitly adapted for island invasions in the Pacific Ocean.


Combat divers were trained to clear beaches and coastal defenses of enemy-held areas prior to amphibious landings in Europe and the Pacific. Traveling ashore on inflatable boats, they frequently faced hostile small arms fire from small arms shooters as they worked under cover of naval gunfire support; their work helped ensure successful Allied landings.

These courageous UDT frogmen were the precursors of today’s Navy SEAL teams. Pushing boundaries with both physical and tactical skill, these early SEAL team members set new standards of bravery that continue today among SEAL team members who continue the legacy of those brave UDT scouts by embodying their spirit of audacity, skill, and collective heroism.

UDTs were instrumental in setting the stage for crucial Allied offensives during World War II. They served as waveguides during Marine Corps landing operations at Inchon and cleared paths through mine-infested waters for Marine Corps landing craft, even saving 25 sailors trapped aboard two minesweepers that had been struck by North Korean mines and sinking.

At times, these men had to work under intense gunfire in water so cold it necessitated wearing rubber boots for warmth. Unfortunately, their efforts weren’t without casualties: on one UDT recon of Iwo Jima alone, one person was killed and 23 injured – leading the UDTs to implement new training and equipment to enhance shallow-water operations, eventually culminating in the creation of the UDT2019 life preserver, with at least 29 lbs of buoyancy.

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