UNDERWATER DEMOLITION TEAM HISTORIES
WWII UDT TEAM TWENTY-ONE
UDT 21 was a mixture of all types of men who had seen all types of duty; men from the battlewagons, cruisers and destroyers of the fleet; men from the amphibious forces and its multitude of different craft; men from the armed guard of the merchant marine fleet of tankers and freighters; men who had fought in all corners of the globe and men who had yet to leave the United States for the first time. Old Salts and boots, that had all volunteered for combat demolition service.
The original members of UDT 21 began
training at the Amphibious Training Base,
Team 21 left
Team 21 disembarked immediately and set
up housekeeping in pyramidal tents on the slopes of an extinct volcano
overlooking the bay. Extensive training followed with accent on swimming
(especially reconnaissance swimming) with fins and face masks. Christmas of
1944 and New Years Eve of 1945 passed on
On February 14, the team boarded the
destroyer transport, USS BUNCH, (APD 79), and set sail for points west. At 1019
on the eighteenth of February the. USS BUNCH crossed the International Date
Line, and on the twenty-second of February arrived at
On the twenty-first of March, the team
On L-3 day, the twenty-ninth of March,
UDT 21 plus five other teams swam into
On the thirtieth of March, L-2 day, Team
21 and other teams blasted down hundreds of yards of log obstacles imbedded in
the reef on other beaches. Team 21 worked on
On the twenty-ninth and thirtieth almost every ship in Task Force 51 was lined up off the Hagushi Beaches to furnish fire support for the demolition teams. The battleships were scarcely two miles offshore and lines of cruisers, destroyers and gunboats were in front of them. For every swimmer in the water there was well over a thousand men behind guns, backing them up. The thunder of big guns, the whoosh and roar of huge shells, the terrific concussion of naval rifles were a familiar sound to team members between the ships and shore.
Some of the famous ships that furnished fire support for the team were:
Besides the battleships and cruisers there was a host of destroyers and smaller craft. Some of the more famous destroyers were:
Air support was provided by a large number of escort carriers.
On Love Day, April 1, 1945, team members directed the first waves into the landing beaches from control boats offshore.
On the night of April 2, the old converted four piper, USS DICKERSON (APD 21), was smashed by a Japanese Betty bomber which suicided into her bridge- The USS BUNCH was the nearest ship to the scene and proceeded with rescue and salvage operations. Team members dove over the side of the USS BUNCH and towed survivors to safety while others helped put out the fires of the abandoned DICKERSON.
On April 7, some small islands off Okinawa's eastern coast were reconnoitered by other demolition teams while UDT 21 stood by in reserve.
Because of the high toll that Japanese suicide planes were taking of destroyers on screening duty off Okinawa, it was decided to transfer Team 21 on April 10, to the APA 58, the USS APPLING, in Kerama Rhetto, while the USS BUNCH continued on screening duty. Twenty four hours was enough. But next day Team 21 was back aboard the BUNCH and glad to be there. Preparations proceeded for the next operation.
On April 13, (W-3 Day), Team 21 reconned Red T One and Red T Two beaches on Ie Shima. The following day Red T Three and Red T Four were checked. No obstacles were found although the reef was impassable in most places to everything but tracked vehicles.
On April 16, the Army landed on le Shima under the direction of Team 21 members. For the next four days Team 21 worked steadily improving the channel into Red T Three beach so that LST's and LSM's could beach on le Shima. The (Japanese) poured a steady volume of mortar, machine gun, rifle and light artillery fire at the men working in the water throughout the four days, but the work was completed in time to assist greatly in the capture of the island. On April 18, Ernie Pyle was killed a few hundred yards from the spot where the team was working off le Shima. A total of thirty eight and a half tons of powder were expended in the four days time, all of it placed by hand without special diving equipment at depths up to twenty-five and thirty feet.
On April 21, Team 21 was released from the le Shima operation. On the twenty-sixth the USS BUNCH with her "passengers" left Okinawa for the rear areas. A twenty-four hour stop-over was made at Ulithi on April 30, before arriving at Guam on May 1. On May 4, the team went to a rest camp near the Navy's gunnery school a mile and a half from Agat village. Two weeks of blissful rest and quiet followed - a brief interlude of basketball and beer, ice cream and showers, movies and a degree of privacy.
On the sixteenth of May Team 21 received word that it was to return to Okinawa immediately. At 0600 on the nineteenth, the team left Guam, again aboard the APD 79 with gear and nineteen tons of powder. The BUNCH arrived at the Hagushi anchorage, Okinawa, on the twenty-second.
On June 6, the team participated in the capture of Iheya Island to the north of Okinawa. Several beaches were reconnoitered during the operation but no blasting was done.
The invasion of Aguni Island on the ninth of June proved to be quick work for Team 21. A ramp was blasted through a sea wall and a portion of reef offshore leveled to assist in the landings. Two Marines were injured in the blast. One seriously when a roof caved in on him.
June 11 and 12 found Team 21 in Naha Harbor, Okinawa, conducting a survey of the wreckage in the harbor. Over eighty ships of all sizes were examined and checked despite sniper fire and very dirty and oily water. The front lines were less than a mile away during the operation.
From June 15 to 22, Team 21 worked over its old stomping ground, the channel to le Shima. Days of steady surface diving to depths of more than fifteen feet and often up to twenty-five and thirty feet began to tell on the team. Headaches, ear aches, fungus infections and the usual coral cuts placed many men on the inactive list.
The last sizable invasion of the war took place on June 26 - Kume Shima, fifty miles due west of Okinawa. Team 21 buoyed the channel into shore and led the first waves in. There was no opposition whatsoever.
The fish off le Shima took another beating from June 27 to 29, when UDT 21 finished up its job there. A total of over thirty tons were expended in the second series of operations at le Shima making a grand total of almost seventy tons - all placed by hand.
When the USS BUNCH and Team 21 left Okinawa on July 1, they had experienced well over two hundred air raids. The BUNCH had two planes to her credit as well as two suicide boats.
The BUNCH returned to the States via Maipan (July 5), Eniwetok (July 9), Pearl Harbor (July 16-17), Maui (July 18), and Oceanside, California (July 25).
After the team had spent twenty days in the States, the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, making an early peace a sure thing. The brass hats, realizing that peace meant the invasion and occupation of Japan, further realized that no landing was a safe one without the assistance of UDT 21, and consequently on August 15, it found itself packed into C-54's, winging its way westward. Behind was the States. With some of the members were pleasant memories of the leave at home and with the rest of them the almost as pleasant memories of the Los Angeles orgy; ahead of them lay the sacred soil of the Japanese mainland.
The team which left California this trip was not entirely the same combat outfit which made so much history during the spring of '45 in the Ryukyus. Injury, sickness and battle fatigue took fifteen men during the eight combat months. Replacements had filled the vacancies, and they as well as the old men looked forward anxiously to the occupation of Nippon soil.
Two and one-half days after the "Golden Gate" had sunk below the horizon, the team was boarding the USS BEGOR, (APD 127), in Guam. No time was wasted getting us combat equipped and on our way to join the Third Fleet lying off Tokyo Bay.
On August 29, UDT 21 effected a reconnaissance and a landing on Futtsu Saki, Tokyo Bay, Honshu. The team officially touched Japanese soil at 1030, only a few hours after the advance vanguard of paratroopers had landed. Nevertheless, team members were the first Naval personnel to touch the Japanese shores, proceeding all Marines by a full day, as they sorrowfully realized when they saw the "Welcome Marines" sign which was left for them. On the same day the commanding officer of a fort guarding the entrance of Tokyo Harbor surrendered to Lt.Comdr. Clayton, commanding officer of UDT 21, gave his sword, the sign of total defeat.
On the next day the USS BEGOR was the first ship to enter Yokosuka Naval Base. The team spent the whole day demilitarizing enemy vessels and preparing dock space for the cruiser, USS SAN DIEGO, aboard which the surrender of the Naval Base would be completed.
For several days UDT 21 worked among the various Japanese ships present and stripped them of all armament as well as anything else light enough to carry off as a souvenir. It has been estimated that seven tons of souvenirs were brought aboard.
On August 31, Team 21 reconnoitered the beaches of Tateyamma Wan on the other side of Tokyo Bay. Team members also investigated an airfield and village just behind the beaches.
During the following three weeks the team traveled up and down the coast of Honshu from Tokyo to a point north of Sendai in company of the USS BOSTON, two destroyers and a tug. The coast was searched with a fine tooth comb for suicide boats, midget submarines, coastal defense guns and other forms of enemy armament. Two hundred and seven suicide boats and ten subs were destroyed by sinking, burning, chopping and demolition. Whenever they could be found, Japanese soldiers and civilians were pressed into service and forced to do the bulk of the work. Great sport was enjoyed by the team who, acting as gang bosses, watched the people destroy "their" own war-making materials.
Points visited on the East Coast of Honshu were Sago Wan (25 suicide boats) and Ubara Wan (52 suicide boats), on September 9 and 10; Kominato (25 suicide boats), September 15 and 16; Onahamn (26 suicide boats, 10 submarines), September 17 and 22 (typhoon interfered); Chosi (78 suicide boats), September 23 and 24.
After the work had been completed and the Team had been deluged in a shower of "well dones", several days of liberty and vacation were spent in Yokosuka and Tokyo. It only took one day ashore for the team to wonder what the Japanese were fighting for and to realize that the sooner we got home the better.
On September 30, one month after the initial landing on Honshu, the APD- 127 passed Fujiyama -- heading due east at eighteen knots. For UDT 21, the United States was twenty-three days away.
(compiled by Robert Allan
King for the
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 TWENTY-ONE and you would like further information, we suggest you contact the UDT-SEAL Museum.