History of the UDT
(Underwater Demolition Teams)
During World War II, a number of small elite maritime units joined the Allied forces. These specially trained personnel assisted submarine operations, prepared for the invasion of Normandy and successfully landed on beaches under the cover of darkness.
In 1942, an amphibious landing craft sank in the Pacific after hitting a submerged reef. Many of the crew members died from drowning or gunfire as Japanese fighters attacked the sunken ship. In response, the Navy formed the Underwater Demolition Teams that could map underwater obstacles, take sea depth bearings and clear features like the reef ahead of amphibious landing craft. UDT-1 and UDT-2 had 14 officers and 70 enlisted men each. Their involvement at the end of World War II was a significant factor in the outcome of the war. These units served as ancestors to modern-day SEALs.
During the communist attack on South Korea in 1950, the UDTs undertook marine-only endeavors and also participated in inland raids. Inspired by the success of these units, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Arleigh Burke, proposed the UDTs also conduct covert assignments that were not limited to water. The Navy staff agreed and decided the UDTs should also possess abilities to engage in unconventional warfare.
By March of 1961, Burke appealed for a combined new special operations unit who he called Navy SEALs. The appeal described the capabilities for the unit as encompassing SEA, AIR, and LAND producing the acronym SEAL. Just two months later, President Kennedy sent a letter to Congress lobbying for the creation of a new Naval Special Forces unit. Congress agreed and SEAL Teams One and Two were formally established in January of 1962. Many people credit Kennedy with the beginning of the Navy SEALs, but the Teams did not arise overnight. Located on opposite coasts, the existing UDTs became the first members to these prestigious teams.