Underwater Demolition Team SEVENTEEN came into existence one day late in October of 1944, at the Maui base, when a miscellaneous group of officer volunteers, gathered from various ships and stations in the Pacific, were divided into two groups and began the long grind of getting into physical condition. One group was called Team SIXTEEN; and the other Team SEVENTEEN. As the grueling program of calisthenics and swimming continued through November, more and more officer and enlisted volunteers were received. By the first of December Team SEVENTEEN had grown into an outfit of over one hundred men and fifteen to twenty officers.

Finally, on 7 December, 1944, the team settled down to the serious day and night business of training to be a real Underwater Demolition Team. Early in February, after a final practice operation with an APD, the training was completed and the team declared ready. By that time the team was down to standard size, and Lieutenant Arthur M. DOWNES, Jr., of Canton, Ohio, who had been executive officer of Team FOUR at Guam and Leyte, had taken over command.


By 5 February it had its orders and by 7 February half of the team was in Pearl Harbor busily loading gear and explosives aboard the U.S.S. CROSLEY (APD 87). On 13 February the CROSLEY returned to Maui, where the remainder of the team embarked, and on the evening of the 14th, the CROSLEY turned her bow westward and put out to sea.

The CROSLEY departed from Maui with TransDiv 104, a division of eight APD's and six embarked Underwater Demolition Teams, under the command of Captain R.D. WILLLIAMS, U.S. Navy. The division arrived at Eniwetok Atoll on the morning of 22 February, departing at noon the neat day as part of a convoy screen. On the afternoon of 4 March, the division of APDs anchored off Tarraguna in Leyte Gulf.

While waiting at Leyte, which was one of the staging bases for the Okinawa campaign, the team was kept busy with training and with preparations for the forthcoming action. On the morning of 9 March, the six teams of Underwater Demolition Group BAKER departed Leyte Gulf for Okinawa with a convoy of transports which comprised part of the Western Islands Attack Force. This force arrived off Kerama Retto on the morning of 26 March. The CROSLEY was assigned a screening station outside the transport area, where it remained during the day while the Kerama Retto landings were being made. On 27 March the CROSLEY made a run five thousand yards off the Okinawa western shore to give the team an opportunity to look over the beaches it was to work.

Team SEVENTEEN was assigned the Green Beaches, northernmost of the Hagushi Beaches, where the main landings on Okinawa were to be made.

Up to 2$ March the team had seen little or no evidence of enemy activity, but early that morning the CROSLEY, and consequently the team, had its closest call of the campaign. At about 0630 an enemy plane appeared out of nowhere, without warning, and pointed its nose straight for the ship. The CROSLEY's guns soon were pumping away, but it kept boring in, and only a quick maneuver saved the ship as the plane plunged into the sea about thirty feet astern. That was the first taste of the Kamikaze, which was to grow more intense day by day.

On the morning of 29 March the reconnaissance operation took place, after a twenty-four hour delay. The CROSLEY arrived at its position six thousand yards offshore on time at 0900, and at 0930 the team was in its boats headed for the beaches. With the boats going full speed and with shells of the Fleet's guns crashing into the beach, the swimmers were dropped five hundred yards offshore. They swam across the four hundred yards of fringing reef to the shore, taking soundings, studying the reef floor and observing all that could be seen on the shore. By 1115 all swimmers had returned and been picked up without a casualty. All six teams of Underwater Demolition Group BAKER operated simultaneously along the length of the main beaches. On returning aboard the CROSLEY, the teams prepared reports and charts, which were delivered to the Commander Underwater Demolition Flotilla that afternoon.


The only obstacles discovered by the team were approximately two hundred wooden posts placed on the coral reef in a staggered row about thirty yards from shore. On the following morning these obstacles were removed by demolition, without casualties. Enemy opposition proved to be light, although some swimmers reported machine gun and sniper fire from the beach.

During the evening of 30 March the team detached an officer, along with the Marine observers who were aboard, to another APD which was to transport them to a rendezvous with the Northern Attack Forces, where a delivery of charts and reports would be effected. On the morning of 11 April, the day of the landings, team personnel were delivered to the Green Beach Control Officer to act as wave guides and assistants to the Beach Masters. While the landings were being carried out, with virtually no opposition, the team stood by to await instructions regarding post-assault operation.

During the two days following the landings the team worked on the Green Beaches, blasting several channels and ramps on the reef edge. Thereafter, until 15 April, it remained inactive aboard the CROSLEY, which was assigned to screening duty and to the job of fighting off the incessant suicide air attacks. In the fight against the Kamikazes the team took its place at battle stations on the CROSLEY. Team men manned 50 caliber machine guns, formed the fire and rescue parties and served as ammunition passers. On two occasions, when the CROSLEY came to the assistance of stricken ships, the team's fire and rescue party was sent aboard, giving an excellent account of itself in fighting fires and in aiding the wounded.

On 12 April Team SEVENTEEN was transferred from Task Force Fifty-one to Task Force Fifty-three, and on 14 April it was ordered to proceed to the northern tip of Okinawa for a reconnaissance of two beaches where it was planned to unload equipment for a radar station.

By 0830 on the morning of the 15th the CROSLEY was in position off the designated beach, and the team proceeded ashore. Elements of the Sixth Marine Division had reached this point two days previously, by means of the single road which wound along the rugged western coast of the island. The Team Commanding Officer went ashore to contact the Marine officer-in-command while two platoons proceeded to investigate the reef, which lay off a small deserted Okinawa village. Another platoon skirted around the island's sharp northern tip to the eastern shore where it reconnoitered the other designated beach. The job was completed by 1400 and the team returned to the CROSLEY to make its report by dispatch to the Commander of Task Force Fifty-one. This was the last task for Team SEVENTEEN at Okinawa, and on 20 April the CROSLEY received orders to proceed to Ulithi, where the team was to disembark.


The months of May, June and July were idle ones for Team SEVENTEEN

...[page missing]                        ...Squadron One (Captain R.D. WILLIAMS) and in company with the other ships of its squadron and Squadron Two, it proceeded full speed to Pearl Harbor. At Pearl two days were required for loading explosives, fueling and provisioning, and on 24 August the BLESSMAN, with only half of its squadron, steamed off at twenty knots for a fast trip to Manila, with brief fueling stops at Eniwetok and Ulithi. After passing through San Bernandino Straits, the BLESSMAN steamed into Manila Bay on the morning of 6 September. But the great need for speed was unwarranted, inasmuch as the stay at Manila lasted until 10 September, after which further layovers were made at Subic Bay and at San Fernando Bay in Lingayen Gulf. By this time it was known that the destination was Wakayama, Japan, and on 17 September a rehearsal operation was held at Lingayen by Teams SEVENTEEN and THREE, who were to work together on the Wakayama beaches.

On 18 September, the BLESSMAN and the U.S.S. JEFFERY (APD 44), with Teams SEVENTEEN and THREE, departed Linayen for Buckner Bay, Okinawa, on the heels of a typhoon, arriving 20 September and departing 21 September. Dawn of the 23rd found the two ships proceeding cautiously through the narrow channel cleared by mine sweeps in Kuii Suido, Japan. By 0800, the BLESSMAN was in position off the Wakayama Beaches, and the team proceeded to investigate the two thousand yards of beach to which it was assigned. That afternoon, Team SEVENTEEN made a hydrographic and photographic survey of the Wakayama Boat basin and inner harbor, while Team THREE investigated the docking facilities of the Kino River. The following morning Team SEVENTEEN made a reconnaissance of Wakanoura Wan and Osaki Wan in search of beaches, docks or piers which could be used for unloading operations by the occupational landing forces.

During these operations, no hostility was encountered from the Japanese and no mines, obstacles or other defense installations were found which could impair landing operations.

At approximately 0830, 25 September, the first wave of Sixth Army troops, which were to occupy the area, hit the Wakayama Beach. Subsequent landings and unloading proceeded smoothly.

The Team originally was scheduled to. perform reconnaissance with Team THREE at Yokkaichi, Japan, near Nagoya, but this task, subsequently, was turned over to Team THREE, and on 30 September, 1945 Team SEVENTEEN, aboard the BLESSMAN, left Wakayama and Japan for San Diego, California, via Guam, Eniwetok and Pearl Harbor. Enroute to Guam, the BLESSMAN played a game of tag with two typhoons, which seemed bent upon catching her, but her elusive tactics proved successful and Apra Harbor was reached without mishap on 4 October. The team then knew that its job was done and that the course home was safe and sure.



(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 SEVENTEEN and you would like further information, we suggest you contact the UDT-SEAL Museum.

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