Amid cries of anxious " demolitioneers" to get overseas into some action during the summer of 1944 at Fort Pierce, Naval Combat Demolition Base, a plot was brewing. Their wish was to be gratified to a greater extent than anyone expected or planned for. Orders had been received to send 17 crews, consisting of 5 men and one officer, on their way to the forward Pacific areas. On August 31 under the command of Ens. Gordon Vail Brooks, 17 crews, Five staff, and twelve of class seven's best, assembled with loads of superfluous baggage on the station platform, boarded a troop train and headed WEST. It was the beginning of a long exodus -- with the far end on the opposite side of the world.

Enthusiasm was high. We were actually on our way, on the train partying lasted long into the nights. Ensign Jackson will never quite tire of recalling Reno, Nevada where he and Ensign L. O. Smith made a lucky run on a local gambling house and in ten minutes during the train's stop, rolled the dice for $100 -- shining and silver they were. Jackson's excitement was exceeded only by L. O.'s who nearly dropped his hatful of silver carrying it to the cashier. In those IO minutes and the next 30 telling about it he smoked a cigarette for every dollar he'd won. The biggest excitement of the three weeks at San Bruno was the celebrating - San Francisco was a good liberty town. But as such carryings on are typical of any outgoing unit and not exclusive to demo units, they will bear omission.

There was a veteran Dutch merchant ship, the MS Tjisdane, with a Hindu crew, preparing for departure at Pier 18 San Francisco. After a two day intermission at Treasure Island the 17 units were ordered to travel as far as Saipan on her. How the orders ever read to Siapan no one will ever know, but someone certainly got the wrong word. If at Pearl Harbor an officer by the name of Lt. Sundberg hadn't come aboard and rescued the units, they would have been hopelessly lost in a long wandering journey over the western Pacific.

Here it's is about time to introduce a prominent character of Team 15, who played a very important role in many events. Every team ought to have a mascot. We had a dog, a mongrel mutt and as mutts go she wasn't worth a stick of tetrytol to blow her overboard. But she could swim and was beautiful by standards of her devoted admirers. She was called Esther Williams because Esther Williams could also swim and was likewise beautiful.

Esther lead a hectic life but was invariably the happiest member of the team. She was therefore a great source of inspiration. It's fortunate that humans can't be as interested and enthusiastic over every little everyday occurrence. Esther was outlawed aboard the Tjisdane by the big Dutch First Lieutenant, so her caretakers crated her in a comfortable chest, slipped her regular food and water and avoided difficulty. She had to be lowered in her sea-chest over the fantail by a rope to get ashore at Honolulu. Then eased immediately aboard the awaiting LCI to sail to Maui, along with 17 demolition Units as escort.

Promptly on arriving at the Maui Underwater Demolition Training Base, the name Underwater Demolition Team 15 was given to the 17 units. They were organized into platoons with rotation platoon officers for training purposes with Lt. (jg) Don Forcum, senior officer, acting as officer-in-charge. There followed six weeks of strenuous training. It seems some confused forerunners had spread the word to Maui staff that this team was composed of wonder swimmers who could swim the mile with 50 lbs. of tetrytol strapped to their backs. Consequently, the first day after our arrival we were put to test. Results, needless to say, were poor. So some Hawaiian pearl diving swimmers were assigned the job of instructing us. Within two weeks the team actually was a bunch of swimmers of some renown. It was swim in the morning after P.T. until noon, and swim in the afternoon, with a reconnaissance in the late afternoon and another at night. Why everyone didn't become water-logged no one will ever know. Liberty came once and only once a week -- Friday. Sundays were as full as any day. For a solid six weeks the team whipped itself into final shape by swimming, making reconnaissance after reconnaissance, blasting coral all day and usually far into the night. Esther was the only one who actually enjoyed it though everyone was to a degree enthusiastic. No one could deny the schedule was interesting, And everyone knew his life depended on how well he learned what was being taught by the veterans of Saipan, Guam, Tinian and other operations. It wasn't because of inadequate or properly assimilated training that the team eventually suffered such a great loss in killed and wounded. That was a stroke of raw fate for which there is no prevention.

During the seventh week on Maui, Team 15 was given a gift by Commander Kauffman which they will always be thankful for. Lt. Houston F. Brooks, former C. 0. of team IO and then head of training was made commanding officer and Lt.(jg) John C. Schantz, veteran of teams 5 and 7 was made executive officer. They shifted the platoon officers around and picked the best men. Smoky Stright (Ch.Carp.) began madly procuring supplies and gear until by November 30 an LSM beached at the base and loaded a ready and rarin' team aboard to take to P.H. where the APD 48, U. S. S. Blessman waited uneasily with a hold full of 40 tons of powder to receive them.

The drawing of the Blessman was another fortune. The ship's company turned out tops and they and the new intruding team hit it off immediately. Morale was high. For ten days we awaited sailing orders and the time passed quickly with squaring away a team aboard their first permanent ship, drawing a library, and hunting down supplies -- not to mention food liberty in Honolulu.


On the afternoon of Dec.11, we gave a big cheer - Diamond Head was disappearing over the horizon. At last we were farther west than Pearl. Eniwetok, Saipan, Ulithi, names we had heard much of were soon to be part of a long list of islands visited.

There were drills and there was work. To begin with the men were a little eager - it was still a novelty. Needless to say, novelty became drudgery, The men felt they were top specialists; anyone could clean a head.

By the time we arrived at Ulithi, the old salts were ready to go ashore - just for a feel. It was late afternoon on Christmas Eve when we anchored.

There were some mighty young faces in the audience that night as Lt. Thomas, the ship's First Lieutenant, a former Theological Student, made a talk during our Christmas Services. Even the toughest guys have a soft spot, I guess.

Christmas Day Sec. I went ashore at Nog Nog beach. A band, free beer, a look at Nimitz, and Halsey completed the day. The following day we left for Kossol Roads, where we met some of our old cronies in teams 5, 8, 9, and 10. Up until then, we had been having a pleasure cruise. Now our mission began to take shape. We received registered mail -- TOP SECRET -- our operational plans.

Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, P.I. was the objective. We were pleased, yet there was a certain amount of apprehension in each of our minds.

Early on the morning of I Jan. (0445) we sailed in company of the bombardment group of the Seventh Fleet under the command of Vice Admiral Oldendorf (who had recently crossed the T). Teams 5, 8, 9, 10, 14 and 15 were embarked in their APDs which were in screening stations.

The trip was exciting; detailed plans had to be made for the reconnaissance and prospective demolition work. Philippine Guerrillas had given us information concerning mine fields of every description in the Gulf. It was up to the Demo Teams to find the mines and destroy them before a landing could be made.

Nor was that the only thing that made the trip exciting. Our route was around the tip of Leyte, into the Mindanao Sea, the Sulu Sea, the South China Sea and into the gulf Not far to our starboard we passed Ormoc, where the fighting was going on, and too close for comfort was Manila. It was a formidable force that so bravely took the short cut, but we were not invulnerable to air attack - that we found out for sure.

On the third, a lone plane came over. No damage; the plane was scared off That roused our confidence. However, for the next few days the formation underwent sporadic attacks at all hours. The Homony Bay was hit by a suicide plane on the fourth and finally had to be sunk by a U.S. ship. The ships were divided into two bombardment groups. The attacks were directed toward one group and then another.

Jan. 5 was a very hectic day. Our group underwent four separate air attacks during which the cruiser Louisville was hit by a suicide plane, and a near miss damaged one of His Majesty's Australian Ships. There is no more helpless feeling than that of an observer during an air attack. Fifteen of the demos. manned .30 cal. machine guns on the fantail. They knew their firing was futile but it was better than standing around cursing the planes.

S Day was set for Jan. 9. The Demo teams were scheduled to make their initial reconnaissance on S-2 day. The time was drawing nigh and every man had been questioned and rehearsed on what he was going to do so that he would gather the necessary information as of habit, regardless of distraction.

At 0300 on Jan. 6 G.Q. was sounded. The attack failed to develop so we wearily hit the sack again. The group formed up at 1000 for shore bombardment, then the fireworks started. The bombardment group steamed into the gulf (through the swept channel) in a column. It looked like an Armistice Day Parade. The battleship California with two other BB's astern led the column. Astern of them were three cruisers etc. The ships were traveling at 500 yard intervals with destroyers and APDs at 500 yards on either side, off-set in the gaps. This information was to maneuver into its bombardment positions. But very little firing took place that day; the suicide planes began to arrive in considerable numbers. Attacks were almost constant until dark. The Louisville off our starboard bow was hit, as well as about seven of our other major units. The formation reversed and the Portland, then off our port bow was hit -- a lot of men being blown overboard. It was a pitiful sight to see men in the water as we passed -- but could not stop. The last DD did the Louisville was hit again! Many planes were shot down - one of which the Blessman claimed at least an assist in downing. When it was totally dark we secured from G. Q. It had been a bad day - the first real action we had seen.

Our operation was scheduled for 1000 but was delayed to allow more time for bombardment; there was very little air activity that day. At 1400 we lowered away for our recon. on Green and Yellow beaches. There were LCIGs giving light fire support (their stations were the flanks of each beach 1500 to 500 yards from the beach depending on the amount of enemy fire). APDs at 2000 yards heading seaward were giving support with their 40mm. Destroyers, Cruisers and TBs were seaward of these, giving heavier fire support.

Our LCPRs closed the beach using the LCIGs as guides for they were on the flanks of each beach. It was a comforting feeling to hear the fortys and twentys being fired as we passed. That firing was just enough to relax the tension caused by the prospect of our first reconnaissance under enemy fire.

We were getting closer now; the machine guns in the boat were silent -- their purpose was counter-battery fire only. Lt.(jg) Schantz, the boat officer, told Williamson, the coxswain "turn now--everybody ready--buoy over." We dropped buoys on our flanks to mark the beach for future work.

"Now" Ensign H. W. Locke and his partner R. J. Pfister hit the water. One hundred yards later the command was given again. Another pair jumped in. This was repeated until all five pairs of swimmers were dropped. The buoy was dropped and the boats swerved and disappeared to seaward.

It was a lonely trip into the beach. There was only the noise of the firing to keep you company. My partner and I acted as one -- taking soundings, searching, estimating distances and surf.

There was very little fire being returned; so little in fact that an LCIG almost passed us and we were only three hundred yards from the beach, We finished our job and swam back out to be picked up. The boat came along shortly after we had gotten back out to only 300 yards. After being pulled aboard, the first thing I noticed was that everyone was safe and sound. It had been almost like the rehearsal at Ulithi.

Everyone was laughing and feeling very happy in general as we came alongside of the fantail of the Blessman. Ensign Hyland, the ship's supply officer took pictures of us as we came up. The silver camouflage grease on us made us look very weird.

In the chow hall the platoon officers of the two operating platoons, platoons I and 2, began gathering the information. There were no mines - the beach was almost ideal for any landing craft. The afternoon of S day the surf was a little high, but nothing exceptional the day of the reconnaissance. About 1800 Lt. Brooks, the C.O., took our information to the HUMPHREYS, APD 12. Upon his return we proceeded out of the gulf for night retirement stations.

The following day, S- 1, we were at screening stations and could see very little. The bombardment ships were still at work.

S Day was amazingly quiet. There was none of the hustle and bustle expected. Ensign Andrews reported to the beachmaster for duty. The rest of the ship and team stayed aboard trying to watch the invasion. Very little could be seen, even with binoculars. That night the inner screen laid smoke covering the transport area. We took night retirement stations.

About 1300 on S plus I Day, the 10th, UDT 9 reported by radio that suicide swimmers had been spotted among floating debris. It seems they had a field day with the Japs; it offered only diversionary excitement for us. We spotted none.

On the afternoon of S plus I Team 15 was asked to make a string reconnaissance on the left flank of the beaches then being used for the invasion. As platoons I and 2 had been used in the S-2 reconnaissance, platoons 3 and 4 were given the job of making the string reconnaissance. This reconnaissance was to be made so that the high command would know where to beach certain landing craft.

We laid one long trunkline along the beach, marked off at 100 yard intervals. The swimmers worked in pairs with one man holding a reel and one man taking down the datum on a plexiglass slate. The pairs were to work down the beach until there was a survey every 100 yards.

This operation was not successful because the surf was so high. The breakers came in such rapid succession, and the surf broke where the water was 5-15 feet deep.

During the first part of the reconnaissance, several of the officers took the platoon I boat and headed for the beach. In the far distance we heard M.G. fire and saw a yellow flag, which was our S-2 emergency signal, so we immediately loaded our machine guns and started out at flank speed for platoon 3 boat. When we got there we found that Ensign Kvaalen was just practicing. When I later talked to some Army personnel on the beach and Team 5, 1 found out that they had loaded their guns and were ready to return the platoon 3 fire which for some strange reason seemed to come dangerously close to them.

After platoon 3 and 4 had worked on the reconnaissance for about an hour, they received word from the Blessman to return immediately. When platoons 3 and 4 returned to the Blessman we found that four of Platoon 4's men had to stay on the beach as they could not swim out through the high surf. We immediately left for Leyte so we were not able to be back after these men.

(Editor’s note: The swimmers left behind were later rescued and returned to Team Fifteen.)

The trip back to Leyte was very uninteresting. We were part of the screen for a 24 ship convoy which traveled very slowly. The beach was our only interest.


A swarm of Philippine bum boats surged out to greet the ships of the convoy as we dropped the hook in the Leyte, Samar waters off Tacloban. Outboard rigger canoes were filled with an assortment of native knives, baskets, mats, and rice paddie hats to be traded with sailors. Clothing -- above all clothing -- mattress covers, blankets, shirts, trousers - any cloth at all; these things they wanted most.

Recreation parties were held daily. Each man had a few cans of beer apiece. This was a celebration after the nightmares of Lingayen.

We moved on to Ulithi for a rest before our next operation. There were small coconut islands where shells and coconuts were plentiful. The water was clear; the beaches were wide. Beer parties on the beach were relaxing - yet good training. Swimming and diving for shells conditioned the men for the rough job ahead -- Iwo Jima. At Iwo they were to do a good deal of diving -- not so much for shells as from them.

Our operation plans for Iwo were studied thoroughly and two dress rehearsals of the complete reconnaissance plans of both Eastern and Western beaches were staged. LCIGs and destroyers were in respective positions of 1000 yards and 2500 yards off the beach simulating battle conditions by firing 20mm, 40mm, and 5 inch guns over the swimmers' heads. Swimmers in battle gear were dropped and a reconnaissance was made.

Sea Gulls off of the cruisers and battleships simulated suicide attacks. After Lingayen, defensive tactics against suicide planes was stressed considerably. The practice reconnaissance went off well and although it was not directly helpful to us it did give the fire support ships a chance to find out just how we did things.

There is an interesting account of one pair of swimmers and a short 40mm shell. Two men of platoon 2, Fletcher and Conlon, were swimming about 20 yards apart as partners. A short exploded on the water between them to the great concern of each. One dived for cover - simulating actual combat -when he came up he couldn't see his partner. Thinking him to be a victim of the shell and fearing another, he dived again. Meanwhile the other man, who had only gone under, came up for air, saw no buddy and thought as the first -- the shell had hit him. They were two uneasy boys until they finally came to the surface at the same time. What a sigh of relief went up!

During the intermission between rehearsals some UDT officers went aboard their respective supporting DDs to pay a social call. The purpose was to familiarize each other with exactly what was desired in fire support. The DD officers were really appreciative and interested to know what kind of an outfit they were to support at Iwo. Their encouraging talk was inspiring to us too.

I might add that this should always be done. A closer coordination is obtained if the mission is given a personal touch. In the future the Demos will be better known, but the personal contact with fire support ships is invaluable.

On about the 12th (Feb.) the fleet pulled out of Ulithi and headed for the roughest operation yet, IWO JIMA.


At 0545 on Feb. 16, 1945 the radar operator reported an island contact. Iwo Jima was just a little distance off. G.Q. was sounded at 0700 whereupon we took our station in the fire support screen. The bombardment of the island commenced.

This was a mighty small island we were looking at. It stood in the way of future advance on the "Road to Tokyo." It was to be taken regardless of cost.

D-2 was the day for the initial reconnaissance - the time 1100. The first reconnaissance was to be made on the eastern beaches by platoons 3 and 4 with platoon I as standby. In addition to naval gun-fire spotters (coordinators of fire with the DDs), Lt.(jg) Locke and Ens. W. K. Phillips, were to be put aboard the LCIGs.

The preparations had been thorough; charts and photos had been given us and every man knew them by heart. I might add here that every effort was made to give the demolition teams sufficient information, in every form -- anything that would make the mission clearer. There was practically nothing given or shown us prior to the Lingayen operation. This was a handicap.

"Synchronize watches ... 2.. I..now..Demolition Men muster on the fantail," were the orders that came over the loudspeaker. We were already there in our swim trunks with fins, face masks, knives, plexiglass slates, lead lines, life belts, and foul weather gear. The long underwear to be put on after swimming was in the boat. (The air was cold, the water also, in comparison to the southern islands visited but actually it was only 67 degrees.)

The boats lowered away and came alongside the fantail. We boarded and were off Lt. (jg) LOCKE and Ens. PHILLIPS had to be put aboard their LCI's before R hour - 5 minutes for at that time the LCI's were to close the beach and fire their rockets. The small boats were to remain astern until the rockets had been fired and then proceed to the beach when given the signal by the spotting officer. Ens. PHILLIPS was put aboard, but Lt.(jg) LOCKE's LCI was drawing too much fire already to endanger the small boat by going alongside.

The LCI 441 fired its rockets in spite of taking three hits before getting them fired; the 471 was disabled to such an extent that they were never able to fire their rockets.

The small boats headed for the beach under withering fire. Shells were dropping so closely that spray soaked everyone and twice the boats were lifted out of the water by concussion. Zig zagging all the while, the boats made their runs and dropped swimmers at 100 yard intervals. They then retired astern of the line of LCIG'S.

The swimmers fluttered off toward the beach, cautiously but speedily. Every so often one of a pair would take a sounding (with a three fathom lead line) and give his results to his partner who would write it on a plexiglass slate. Some dispensed with the writing; they were too busy. By swimming under the surface out of sight I'm sure that casualties were averted.

The schedule called for all swimmers being back in their LCPR's by R plus 90. They worked fast. Although they were dropped at about 700 yards, the men had to come back to about 900 yards to be picked up. (Endangering the boat was endangering many more lives.) Orders were for the boat officers to keep away from the beaches and only in extreme emergency could they go as close as 300 yards, only then to pick up a stranded swimmer. The swimmers were very important- they had the information.

The swimmers were back. There were some close calls, but everyone was safe. Radio contact was made with "King" (code) and he ordered the return to the ship. The operation was almost over. Then the unfortunate happened. In spite of the zigzagging and swerving, Frank W. Sumpter, the stern gunner for platoon four's boat, was hit in the head by the Jap equivalent to our .50 cal. He was rushed to the nearest destroyer and put aboard- he was later transferred to a battleship for further surgery but there he died. He was our only operational casualty.

The ship was not a cheerful place after that morning operation. The LCIG's had taken a terrific beating in order to protect us. The information gained was all negative, we wouldn't have to go back to that hell, but the afternoon operation was only an hour away. To repeat that hell??

The morning had knocked all of the fight out of anyone who had any. Of our 12 spunky little LCI gunboats all 12 had been knocked out of action by the eastern batteries. So they were unable to offer us any of their coveted fire support. But there was no calling off our scheduled recon. Though the morning had only cost us one man killed, everyone was extremely pessimistic over the afternoon's prospects. Ens. PHILLIPS had been a fire control spotter on an LCI which had suffered 70% casualties. He himself suffered from temporary shock and was taken off the ensuing job.

It was decided that the DD's would close the beach by another 1000 yards to compensate the lack of LCIG's. Everybody gathered on the fantail, men with bodies painted with silver camouflage, boat crews with heavy shrapnel proof vest and aprons. Three platoons, 1, 2, & 4, loaded over the side into PLs. Just as the second boat pulled away from the ship, a long splatter of 20mm bullets traced a row toward the PL and just short of the ship. Our hearts sank; it was starting already and we were still 4000 yards from their island. But a cruiser noticed the fire from the rocks. Repeated barrages of 8 inchers fell among the rocks-- all was quiet. We took courage. Roger hour plus 10 -- so we made for the island. To our surprise we drew no fire all the way in. At 500 yards we turned left and still no fire from the beach as the swimmers took to the water--two each 100 yards as in the morning. The water was cold and the air chilly. The men cringed as they hit the water but they took bearings and began stroking toward shore. They were to get exactly the same information as was required in the morning. The boat swung toward sea to await their return; they spotted fire and advised the DD's as to targets during this waiting period. The DD's did well.

Twice an airplane zoomed in trailing a thick smoke screen that smothered the beach. It was effective and made everyone feel good knowing he had some cover. Many times fighter plane formations strafed and fired rockets to keep the enemy occupied. The excellent support given by the destroyers coupled with the fact that there were fewer Jap gun emplacements on the Western Iwo, resulted in not a single shot being fired on the PLs or swimmers -- not even when Lt. BROOKS' PL skimmed within 100 yards of the sand, nearly getting caught in the surf, while looking for two evasive swimmers. Without more that ten minutes delay, all swimmers were back in the boat, given a shot of brandy, clothed in long underwear and happily bound for the BLESSMAN--Iwo Jima's recon job was over. There was no need to go back.


February 18th was a typical California day, with rain, fog and a cool damp miserable feeling that spread over the entire Nip stronghold of Iwo Jima. That evening the nervous tension that the men had stored up during the past few days was not noticed as most of them knew that the hardest part of their job was over. The mess hall was filled with men eager to write home and inform their parents that they felt fortunate to be alive after the previous day's work. At a few of the tables were men involved in various games of chance. Little did they realize that by staying in the game they stood to loose not only their money but their lives as well.

In the troop officers quarters the lights were on and our XO was telling our guest, 1st Lt. Dave Pottorff of the 4th Marine Division, how he went in at Saipan on D-2 while Dave was trying to get some sleep. We realized that Dave had to pay the beach a social call the next day and that he needed sleep more than anything else. As our XO was about to finish his horror packed tale of bullets and the like, there was a loud report; the ship shook from stem to stern and all the lights went out. When the lights went out, we realized we had been hit, so all of the officers grabbed their life belts and what medical supplies they could carry and ran topside.

That evening we had been steaming at flank speed from the vicinity of Iwo Jima to the outer screening area. With the usual efficiency with which anything connected with UDT15 functions, the BLESSMAN, APD 48 found itself able to take the place of another ship that had engine trouble. While speeding at 22 knots, the BLESSMAN left a wake that could be seen for miles and one which was seen by a member of the opposition. A twin engine Betty with numerous five hundred pound bombs came in on our wake, swung to the left when he saw us and then made a 180 degree turn coming back in our beam, dropping one bomb of the five hundred pound variety. It went through the top port PR, several pieces of pipe, down through the overhead of the starboard mess hall and exploded when it struck the deck of the same. A second bomb creased one of our boat davits but failed to explode until it hit the water. When we got topside we saw that the starboard mess hall had been opened up just like a matchbox with a huge exploding firecracker. The midsection of the ship was engulfed in flame and the smell of burning flesh was everywhere.

Some of the men went through the troop compartments pulling injured men from their bunks and helping others to struggle to the fantail. It was a hectic race to see if the injured men could be cleared from the troop compartment before they were burned to death. In a short time all the injured men had been brought from the troop compartment but there were still dead men in there that we were not able to get out until the next day.

In the meantime every bit of fire fighting equipment had been mustered to fight the spreading fire but none of it was found in workable condition, so all able hands were recruited for a bucket brigade. This kept the fire in check for a small time but it soon spread through the entire troop compartment.

About two hours later the GILMER, APD 11, came alongside with all its fire fighting equipment trained on us. It was only a short time until the flaming inferno was transformed into mountains of sultry smoke. While the GILMER was busy fighting the fire, we were busy transferring our many wounded to them. After the GILMER had extinguished the fires and taken our wounded, it pulled away to make arrangements for us to be towed to safety.

The next morning a repair ship came alongside and gave us gasoline and pumps so that we could hold our little ship afloat. (The authorities at Saipan figured out our condition and marked us off the list as having rolled over). While the crew was trying to pump out the engine room the Demos were busy hunting for their buddies and team mates in the wreckage and preparing them for burial. The afternoon of the 19th of February was the darkest time in the history of any demolition team as the remaining and able members of Team 15 buried 18 of the men that they had worked and trained with for the past year.

That evening we received orders to transfer the Team to the NEWBERRY, APA 158, and about one third of the team went in the first load. When they reached the NEWBERRY, they found it ready to retire for the evening and the other 2/3 were not able to get on board. Shortly after the men transferred to the NEWBERRY, an LSM came alongside and took us in tow for Saipan. The journey started at a speed of 3 knots --almost like a Team 15 swimmer towing a PR.

Our first problem was to construct something on which to heat our food and this was met by constructing a fire place out of fire brick. From the top of this fireplace came some of the best food that we ever received while aboard the BLESSMAN. During the trip from Iwo to Saipan, the BLESSMAN had to be steered by hand from after steering. This watch was taken over by team fifteen and executed with usual FIFTEEN efficiency, giving many of our men their first experience with duty in the fleet.

About half way to Saipan an oceangoing tug came alongside and took us in tow from there on in. This brought our speed from 3 knots up to about 7 knots. This brought the ETA up to 25 Feb.

The main part of the trip found officers and men very congenial -- working at whatever they could to keep from doing too much thinking. In the evening we would sing and tell stories trying to do the best we could to build and maintain what was left of the morale.

It was late that evening when we arrived in Saipan, but the XO of the Naval base had a warm reception for us with a fine big meal at the top of his list. About a week later the NEWBERRY arrived in port and once again the greatest team in the history of Demolition was once again together.

Three of our officers received the Bronze Star Medal for the meritorious work done during the fire-fighting and evacuation of the wounded on the BLESSMAN. Ens. R. H. McCALLUM and Ens. E. F. ANDREWS went into the burning troop compartments to fight the fires and give assistance to the wounded in spite of the exploding ammunition and heedless of their own safety. Ens. E. B. RYBSKI led a fire-fighting party on the boat deck, which had been declared unsafe. By his courageous actions in jettisoning INFLAMMABLE material and working hoses (which were supplied by the GILMER) the fire was kept confined and the safety of the ship was materially improved.


When we stepped ashore at Saipan, we were greeted by the XO of the base who had trucks ready to take us to a wonderful meal which had been prepared especially for us. After this we were give sleeping quarters--that was our first real sleep in some time.

After we got settled, we started to ensue our unorganized recreational program that was to last almost a month. The plan of the day for the enlisted men consisted of visits to nearby hospitals to see our injured men, trips around the island, souvenir hunts, movies, and numerous beer parties. The officers had a slightly different plan. We would sleep til 0930, when we would meet the last sitting of the coffee mess. The remainder of the morning we would censor mail and play cards. At 1300, when the club opened, we could be found banging on the club door -- we didn't want to lose any valuable drinking time. The evenings would be spent at the movies or helping one another back to the living quarters.

One evening our C.O. came home almost totally inebriated (sp) and upon retiring to the sack, he noticed that the lights were still on. Like any good Texan who had a 38 handy, Comdr. BROOKS saw no reason why he should get up to turn the lights out. He fired 3 shots, two of which met their mark, and as he was ready to finish his job, an SIA OOD came charging in -- immediately placing our would be Jesse James on report. After having a little chat with Captain King, our C.O. decided to accept more comfortable quarters aboard a ship in the harbor, offered to him by Captain King.

Captain King made his report of the affair and subsequently Captain Grayson made his, ..."and this officer, at 50 yards, did draw his revolver and fire at 3 light bulbs, hitting same (GOOD SHOOTING)."

At this time all members of Team 15 would like to thank Captain King and his staff for the wonderful treatment and consideration in which we reveled while in Saipan.

On 18 March we left Saipan aboard the USS COTTLE for Pearl Harbor. This trip was, as usual, a totally uneventful APA trip. The only amusing thing that happened (and to the men it was not amusing) during the trip was a little shake-up. All had been smooth sailing with very little pitching when all of a sudden the bow dropped some distance down. The helmsman must have gotten off course. The ship shook from stem to stem. From the forward compartment on the third deck, our men came charging up the ladders and out on deck with life-belts in hand. They were still a little jumpy. Some army personnel followed their move, but when they got topside they realized what had happened. It was only then that they could laugh.

We arrived Pearl 28 March.

I guess we were glad to get back to Maui. It isn't the best place, but far from the worst. The best thing about our arrival was that it was only 1730 o'clock. Always before Team 15 has been forced to load and unload during the dark hours. This was the new regime.

Everyone was interested in leave. Our tour had been short and we didn't deserve one on that basis; but with scuttlebutt thicker than ever, we figured we were eligible. Ten days leave in the Hawaiian Islands was granted.

Upon our return we settled down to assist Team 9 in the training program. Shortly thereafter, fur really began to fly. We were to return to the states for rehabilitation and reorganization. It wasn't official and we could hardly believe it- nevertheless, preparations were made. Fortunate for us that we did act unofficially too, for by the time definite word came through, we had twenty-six hours to be loaded aboard an APA which was waiting at Kahului. On May 24 we left for home. We were to report to Fort Pierce, Fla. (our old stomping grounds) on July 9.

With a full thirty days leave under our belts, we reported to Ft. Pierce. I guess all bases would react in the same way when a large group of men is thrown at them, so possibly that den of confusion was not unusual.

To begin with, we were all given physicals. We knew that some of the men were unfit for future combat duty, but that bomb played more havoc than we realized. Of the 58 men that came back, we were to lose 28 of these. (Two or three wanted out anyway.)

Then the question of replacements came up. There were three teams there for replacements, (7, 9, and 15) and none were available. There were two teams waiting to go out and it was eventually decided that these be broken up to provided replacements. This was bad for those teams for they had trained and worked together only to be split up and thrown with strangers. It worked out all right, however, because so many men were needed for each team that many of the new men were kept together.

Our orders came. We were granted 16 days delay in reporting to Oceanside, California. This was a break.

On 9 August the team arrived at Oceanside with shouts of Atomic Bomb on their lips. Everyone was hoping that the war would end and thereby make us eligible for discharge (little did we know).


The end of the war found us anchored off Oceanside, California, aboard the JOHN PL GRAY, APD 74. The den that arose after the news reached us was something we'll all remember. After a full half hour of whistles, bells, very lights, and joyous cries, which rang from every part of the ship, we began to anxiously await orders canceling our second overseas tour. Alas, we never received them, and two days later we were steaming for Pearl Harbor.

At Pearl we received the word that we were definitely going on westward and that we only had a couple of days to draw the necessary gear and shove off for the occupation of Korea. Consequently, our thoughts were filled with both the onerous task at hand and the new places we were soon to see.

The biggest problem arising from this two day rush order was trying to think of a good excuse to get out of a working party and slip off to the nearest bar. This was finally accomplished by a group of the officers, who threw a typical Team 15 blowout at DesPac the afternoon of our departure. It seems that during the celebration of the discharge of two of our officers, Lt. (jg's) ANDREWS and BROOKS, nothing would do until the new civilians were thrown in the "drink". We'll probably never know the exact sequence of events that followed, but one hour later we beheld thirteen of the most soused officers ever recorded coming up the gangway.

A few minutes later we were off toward the setting sun in company with UDT's 8, 9,12, and 23. None of us knew what to expect in the matter of Japanese resistance, so we immediately began preparing for the worst. Our new men were interviewed and given assignments; radios were checked, boats overhauled and briefings were held. Every day we had the kinks worked out of us with thirty minutes of PT. Although most of us believed these preparations and precautions unnecessary, we didn't want to take any chances.

Though we were kept pretty busy the first two weeks out of P.H., the time dragged on and on and it seemed like months before we sighted the mast heads at Eniwetok and even longer before we pulled into Buckner Bay at Okinawa.

Disappointed as we were at not getting ashore at Okinawa, we consoled ourselves with the thoughts of liberty in Korea. We began sorting gear to trade with the natives and talking of Saki parties. Thus, we left Okinawa the day after our arrival in company with Task Force 58.1.

The trip to Jinsen proved uneventful with the exception that we had a few uneasy moments while passing through mine fields. On the morning of 8 September we pulled into Jinsen harbor -- met no enemy resistance whatever; and by 1800 the army had taken over.

Through the glasses, we could see thousands of natives lined along the hills just back of town. Most of them were dressed in white and looked as if they were all set to give us the key to the city. Since we had not been off the ship since we left the states, we eagerly awaited our liberty day, Our wait was in vain, however, and during the next six days we were destined to "ride the hook" and look longingly shoreward. We left Korea the 14th of Sept. without so much as a glance at a native girl.

Between Korea and Okinawa on our way back home, some of us had our first taste of a rough sea. Forty miles out of Buckner Bay, we had to change course in order to avert a 100 knot typhoon. By going almost to Formosa, we managed to miss the center of the storm, but for two days we were at the mercy of a very high sea.

At Guam we finally got ashore and all of our sour thoughts of Korea were forgotten- though the Guam bartenders will never forget the thirst we built up.

During the two weeks from Guam to PH, we spent most of our time writing home or sun bathing on the fantail. At last we were able to definitely determine ComSacPac. The honor went to Ch. Carp. Stright, who had Ens. Bob McCallum for his Chief of Staff and as far as we know they still hold the positions.

Pearl Harbor at last!! After Korea it seemed almost like home. Because we were so anxious to get on with the last lap, we worked harder and faster while loading stores- and we only stayed in the harbor a day and a half. Most of us were so anxious, we were all packed to disembark before Diamond Head was out of sight and you can imagine the happy looks on our faces when we saw the "WELCOME HOME" sign in San Diego Bay.

During the next two weeks the team was decommissioned. Nine men transferred to the Regular Navy for Post-War Demolition and eight USN men requested to remain in Demolition. The remaining men were transferred to ATB, Coronado, California.

On 29 October the team was officially decommissioned by Captain R.H. RODGERS.

(compiled by Robert Allan King for the UDT-SEAL Museum from public records at the Operational Archives of the Naval Historical Center)

TEAM ROSTERS - To protect the integrity of the Teams and the privacy of individual frogmen, Team rosters are not made public. If you or your relative was a member of UDT Team Fifteen and you would like further information, we suggest you contact the UDT-SEAL Museum.

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