UNDERWATER DEMOLITION TEAM HISTORIES
WWII UDT TEAM TWENTY-FOUR
Editor's note: TEAM TWENTY-FOUR's history, unlike the others, did not come from the Navy's Operational Archives, but was provided 45 years after the fact by the author J. Ray Ashcom.
UDT 24 was commissioned
in November 1944 at Fort Pierce,
The youngest man in the team was about 5'2" tall and just 18 years old. When we dropped off the LCVP's with full gear in shallow water, two bigger guys were always assigned to carry him into the beach area so he wouldn't drown. The oldest man in the outfit was Edwin (Pop) Tesch, GMI. "Pop" was 37 years old and truly gave the team inspiration. He had been a trumpet player with Lawrence Welk in the early North Dakota days of the band. The night during "Hell Week," when we were dropped off the boats about 400 yards offshore and had to swim across a heavy reef (with breakers) to shore with no moonlight, Pop was the only one not accounted for when we took muster. The training staff turned all the beach lights on and Pop was about a quarter of a mile south swimming parallel to the beach. When about half of our outfit refused to jump off the 50 foot tower into the water with full gear and helmets on, Pop Tesch jumped and shamed everyone else into jumping.
Most all of us were ready to throw in the towel at one time or another during "Hell Week." Mine came the next to last day when we were being ferried north for about 2 hours through heavy water in LCVP'S. By the time we got onto the beach at about 0600, 1 was a total seasick loss. We were told to eat our breakfast "K" rations, and while I was trying to get my little can of cold scrambled eggs and crackers into my poor seasick gut, the whole beach around us blew up with sand and water running down on us and into our food. Needless to say, sand and eggs did not sit well in the sick body. But by this time, we knew there was only the rest of today and tomorrow and we all comforted each other by trying to verbally hate LCDR Draper Lawrence Kauffman, the Godfather of UDT, and Capt. Gulbranson, the Base Commander. We were down very close to complement and we made it through that day and the next to become fully fledged UDT 24. We trained with TNT, Tetratol, composition C2 and 4 inch rubber hose filled with TNT over the next 10 weeks along with swimming, obstacle course, and work at Jensen-Stuart, Florida in which we worked on blowing a deeper channel from the ocean to the Indian River. We called the place JenStuFu. The cold, miserable conditions, along with sand fleas, cold water and C & K rations trained us to be able to take most any kind of conditions and respond adequately.
At the end of our training at Fort
Pierce, we headed for San Bruno, California and then to Treasure Island and
boarded the USS METEOR for Honolulu, Hawaii. By smaller craft from
We trained heavily on
In late July 1945, we boarded an LST for we didn't know where. The Japanese-American waitresses at the Wailuku Hotel had told us "UDT 24 go back stateside soon." We did, in fact sail east for 11 days dead reconning under totally overcast skies and made port on the 11th day at Oceanside, California. Within 2 days of our arrival at Oceanside, 26 of the 30 UDTS were at the base from all parts of the world. There were 18 APD's in the harbor and we all knew it was the invasion of Japan, preparation. As it turned out, it was. A few days after our arrival, came the bomb on Hiroshima, followed several days later by the bomb on Nagasaki. Our team immediately boarded the GANTNER and fueled at San Diego. We sailed flank speed to Yokasuka, Japan and commenced 5 months of the heaviest, tiring work most of us had or would have ever done. Many days we were in the cold, filthy Japanese harbors from early morning til nearly dark, reconning, blowing shipmasts and obstacles and charting and mapping for the occupation forces to come ashore. We worked Sagami Wan, the Sendai Beach and landing area. Back to Tokyo Bay for a few days and the second biggest typhoon I have ever been in. (Guam in 1952 was heavier). We then headed north. Aomori, Honshu is in a bay at the northern tip of Honshu. It is now a city of well over 1,000,000 people, but in late 1945 it was just a small town with a nicely sheltered harbor. We cleaned the harbor, made up the charts and graphs, and turned them over to the Army forces prior to the APA's and AKA's arrival with the occupation troops.
Our next job was one of extreme interest. Hokaido is the northern island of Japan. It is the home of the Ainu, the tall, large, Japanese people, many of whom were well over 6 feet. When we sailed into Otaru, halfway up the west coast of the island on the Sea of Japan, in late October, it was snowing and bitter cold. By the second or third day of our clearing and charting operation, the word had spread in Otaru and we were confronted by a Japanese colonel who, at about 6 feet 5", was the tallest Japanese I had ever seen. He and his staff were intent on turning over a Chinese prisoner of war camp located just outside town. We were a mobile unit with a specific assignment and not equipped to take over a whole POW camp. With great difficulty, we persuaded the good(?) colonel to wait for just a few days until the Army would come in. It was also in Otaru that one of our young virgins came down with the social disease after visiting an Otaru Geisha House. He (remaining nameless here) was all cured long before he went back home to Illinois, thanks to Penicillin(?).
With the arrival of the Army and our job
completed, we moved back southward to
On the way home we stopped at Guam, swam in the beautiful crystal waters of Eniwetok, anchored at Kwajaliene, sailed belatedly into Pearl with liberty in Waikiki Beach where the only two hotels in the town were the Royal Hawaiian and the Moana. You can barely find the two of them today amidst the high rises.
I must mention several men who helped get
my platoon to stay on the straight and narrow. They did an excellent job. Our
platoon chiefs Jim Williams and Fred LuCore, along with Cobb from
One final note. In 1949 when I was supply officer of the USS MOALE DD693 operating out of Norfolk, I heard that Draper Kauffman was skipper of the USS PERRY (I think that was the ship.) I visited with him aboard over coffee in the wardroom. He was a Commander then and he told me that his ambition was to follow in his father's footsteps and be Commandant of a Naval District. Years later I learned that he retired as Commandant Ninth Naval District.
Quite a man. My life has been better for having been a part of his.
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-FOUR and you would like further information, we suggest you contact the UDT-SEAL Museum.