UNDERWATER DEMOLITION TEAM HISTORIES
WWII UDT TEAM TWENTY-SEVEN
The history of Team TWENTY-SEVEN presents such an excellent description of the training program, both at Fort Pierce and Maui that it has been decided to include it as an example of this program as it affected all the teams, particularly those from Team EIGHTEEN through Team THIRTY. The historian, however, neglected to include any factual data concerning the team's movements. Briefly, this data is appended below.
Formed on 15 February at
Power always seems to cause interest in men; so when two weeks are devoted to power in small bundles, the instructor need not worry about raising interest in his pupils. During the two weeks of training everyone became acquainted with T.N.T., tetrytol, "C-2", "C-3", primacord, "explosive hose", cratering charges, shaped charges, and detonating assemblies. The mornings were devoted to lectures on the use, placing, make-up, and demonstrations of various explosives. Men who know demolition would apply the explosive to assorted obstacles, while the instructor pointed out each move. The newness of the training invited our attention. However, in the afternoon the newly acquired knowledge was employed in practical application. An instructor was assigned to a small group of men. It was he who precautioned, instructed, and aided them. This method of training proved fruitful, as the trainee soon realized he must absorb and learn the lectures in order to get the full value of the afternoon work. The reward of the unobservant was a misfire and the subsequent ribbing of this teammates. When firing land shots, interest was centered on the damage to the obstacle, and when firing water shots, interest lay not so much on damage to the obstacle as to the fish. A side line which was thought boring, but later of value, consisted of two hours spent on the knot and the girth and clove hitches. Only after two weeks of concentrated efforts on the part of the staff was the outfit pronounced fairly adept at explosives.
As all became more familiar with demolition it was found that the name was confusing, for reconnaissance, one was told, is the most important work of all. The instructors presented the minutest parts of reconnaissance as carefully as the more obvious points. Hydrographic symbols confused some. The ability to recognize, record, remember, approach a beach, and grab the life ring stumped others. Soon enough though, the men were able to pick up long strings of swimmers with one sweep of a PR. Later on, all learned how to swim in the water while presenting the smallest, most deceptive target possible. Finally the outfit was given a chance to go through the whole process. Again, as in explosives, once or twice wasn't sufficient. Time and time again was the theory. Do it until each part is vivid to the mind and mechanical to the body. Practice makes perfect, but for all our water-soaked hours of practice the men who knew how still didn't think the unit approached perfection.
Training in anything wouldn't be complete without specialized lectures in minor subjects. One morning was solely devoted to mines, hand grenades, and booby-traps. Another class was devoted to the art of shallow water diving. Hardly had our diving information been given a chance to grow hazy before we visited the newly built pool on north island. Here with "Jack Brown's" a practical application of the lectures was made in an attempt to grope our way around the murky bottom. Of the men in head-quarters, signal men learned semaphore and blinker. Radio men were acquainted with the radio telephone procedure. Our boat crews handled the VPs and PRs in conjunction with the reconnaissance work, otherwise they were separated from the team by work on the boats at Fabers Cove. A class was given in estimating charges; it would have been wise to acquaint the men a little more with the mathematics of this subject. Instruction was offered in chart-making and map-reading. Of course the old standby, marlinspike seamanship, was used to take up some spare time. Three days were devoted to gunnery; two of stripping small arms and one day on the range.
SWIMMING AND PHYSICAL TRAINING
It didn't take long for the men to realize that the environ for demolition is water. To absorb all the time the trainees spent in the water, a man has to have a healthy liking for it. Day in and day out at least a part of the waking hours was consumed swimming. First it was a quarter mile, and finally one mile. Strange as it seems, many times the men would go swimming on liberties. Certain classes may be hard to recollect but not so for the physical training. It wasn't enough that the "muscle-men" would work the men until they were worn out, but the sand fleas seemed to fast overnight for our appearance every morning. All submitted to this because it was soon found that every one was rounding into shape. It was realized later on why so much time was spent showing the techniques of swimming well, both on the surface and underneath the water. The exercises strengthened everyone, improved wind, and added to endurance - three factors which are prime requisites of good demolition men.
It seems there's a place in Florida, between the towns of Jensen and Stuart, which is just nasty enough for demolition to practice there. Thus, after being exposed to the basic training, the outfit was to go through an operation here. Officers and men were briefed; necessary gear and provisions were secured; and one gloomy morning all set out by boat for the objective. It was here that a coral reef was first encountered. Too much time was allotted to the swimmers by the men still in the boats, consequently, the platoons became interspersed and it was hard to pick up the right men. Radio contact was maintained between boats so that all swimmers were accounted for. The team retired to the inland waters by Jensen for chow consisting of K rations. After a short rest, night reconnaissance of another beach was held.
The next to the last week of training was given over to actual reconnaissance and demolition operations on beaches prepared with obstacles. The first two days consisted of dry runs on all the types of obstacles which were placed on the standard beaches. Each platoon rotated so it had experience on four separate types of obstacles; Japanese seawall, dry-land pilings, cribs and scullies, and jetted rails, pilings, and hedge hogs. More work was done with detonating assemblies before starting on the operations. The staff planned it so that operations rotated reconnaissance and demolition - a reconnaissance of a beach and then the demolition of it. The first operation was a night reconnaissance. Upon completion of the reconnaissance the officers in charge gathered all information, placed it on a chart, and turned the product over to the staff for correction. Before relinquishing the chart, however, the officers were briefed and an estimation was made of the explosives needed to clear the beach. The routine was the same for each of the three beaches we hit except that the time was switched around so night, dawn, and daylight reconnaissance and demolitions were made.
Basic training prepared the unit for Jen-Stu-Fu and standard which in turn prepared the unit for Pay-Off. This week was practically identical with standard except for the absence of dry-runs and the presence of two new obstacles: the Tank trap and the barbed wire strung between the dry-land pilings. Bangalore torpedoes were used on the barbed wire and cratering charges along with tetrytol and "C-2" or "C-3" were used on the tank trap.
SWIMMING AND PHYSICAL TRAINING AT MAUI, T.H.
By far the most time taking activity at Maui was swimming. Here physical training was subordinate of swimming, as the exercises used were those which conditioned the swimming muscles. As many as six hours a day would be spent in the water. The first two weeks of training were entirely devoted to swimming. When training focused on other specialties work on the basic underwater recoveries - breast stroke, side stroke, and back stroke - was not entirely put aside. Enthusiasm for learning these strokes was maintained by constantly classifying the men as good, average, and medium swimmers. Relays, distance swims, and "free" swims diversified the program. Instruction was given on surface diving, face masks, the intricacies of underwater swimming, and breath holding. To increase our underwater ability, each man timed for endurance in breath holding. Lectures were given on marine life, surf swimming, coral formations, and life-saving. As training continued, the team was exposed to these subjects by actual experience. The outstanding feature of the training consisted of the facilities at hand for perfect tutelage. When something new was presented, the instructor merely lectured on the beach and then took the class out on the pier. Here each trainee would go through swimming, surface diving, life-saving, while the instructor stood on the pier where he could watch every movement of the man in the water. Whether a man came to Maui as a good or poor swimmer, he left much improved. It was here that the best swimming training in the Navy was offered.
Probably the most interesting part of our training was the work on the lava flows. Two days of lectures and instructions preceded the actual work. Transportation of explosives, the placing of explosives, the mechanics of lava blasting, the result to be obtained, and the use to which the resultant would be put were thoroughly covered. As the days on the lava flows went by, heavier charges were made as there were harder formations to blast. The south lava flow was used the break the team in, while the north lava flow really tested its ability. Comparatively small charges of one ton of tetrytol were used on the out croppings of the south flow. Four ton "shots" were placed on the vertical face of the north flow. Rubber boats were used to transport the explosives from the PR to the shore. Powerful as four tons may seem, one blast in many instances was not sufficient to attain the required result. During this training on lava, everyone was in wet clothes most of the time, and the hours were long, yet the teams' morale soared as everyone was working together. The last day on the lava flows consisted of a morning blast, and an afternoon reconnaissance during which each platoon picked out a location to blast a ramp and marked it with luminous tape. That night each platoon proceeded into the flow and made a half ton "shot" at its chosen place. A demonstration of the effect "C-3" should have when compressed into the crevices and cracks of lava was given. This concluded the training in the art of lava blasting.
Perhaps the second most interesting part of the stay at Maui was coral blasting. In preparation for the blasting proper, lectures were attended for two days. The techniques of laying chains of tetrytol by boat and "float-a-hose" were explained. Diagrams were used in conjunction with a lecture on the effects of a blast on coral heads and coral reefs. One point which was given special attention was that due to the "tamping effect" of water, a single pack has more power in water than on land. The object of coral blasting is to clear channels; sometimes, while laying the charges the men ran across dead coral, live coral, coral heads and sand. From inspection of the blast they were able to tell the various channeling affects on each of these formations. After repeated operation, the men were able to perfect a system to lay explosives along designated patterns in a fairly short time. Working space in the water was very limited, thus in using only the minimum number of men the operation was carried out with the greatest expediency. Ten men would herd the "float-a-hose" in to position from the PR, one man would cut the balsa float loose to mark the extremity of our chain and then turn to cutting the packs loose, one man would check the packs as they dropped into position on the bottom, and four men kept the hose moving during the "cutting-off" process - the remaining men returned to the PR when their job of bringing the hose in was completed. This was the basic system which was used in work on coral; however, each platoon had minor variances.
A week of training was used in once more going over the use of small arms plus work with the hand-grenade. Instruction was aimed at proficiency in marksmanship rather than the mechanical operation of the small arms. Each trainee was given opportunity to fire the thirty-eight caliber pistol and carbine. One morning was used in instruction on the make-up of the hand-grenade and perfecting the throwing of this object. Not all the team could be handled on the range at one time so that old reliable "filler-in" schedule, swimming was used to take care of the excess platoons.
Again it was brought to attention that the main purpose in actual operations was to bring back all pertinent information which would aid in landing the invasion forces on the beach. A new method of reconnaissance was developed using the aid of a paddle-board, reel of string, some buoys, compasses, and fathometers. At first it seemed a very cumbersome process, but the exactness of the results were more than adequate in proving its merit. The same system of instruction was used. The instructor gave all the details of carrying on reconnaissance. Then, with this newly acquired knowledge, the team would tackle a dawn, daylight, or night reconnaissance. To give the team officers an idea of the reconnaissance ability of each man, the entire team was run over "test course Able". This course consisted of known objects placed in a specified area of water. The men were required to completely cover this area and report their findings to their platoon officer. The information that the man brought back generally became more specific and correct as each new reconnaissance was made. At the end of the instruction in this phase of demolition, it was found that all became more capable in gathering, assembling and dispatching information.
In order that all concerned could accurately evaluate Underwater Demolition Team TWENTY-SEVEN, it was exposed to complete training operations under as near actual circumstances as possible. Operation plans were handed out; briefings were carried on before embarking on an assigned APD, all gear was prepared and made ready, and in all too short a time the team was undergoing the rigors of an APD problem. This consisted of carrying out reconnaissance of several beaches. The team was obliged to live a time table devised in order that everything ran on schedule. Each platoon, each officer, each man had his definite assignment. Mistakes, improper functioning, and irregularities did, of course, occur. But it was through working out these faults that TWENTY-SEVEN learned how to forecast and avert them. Wherever one looked wet clothes were there, yet with discomfort the theme of living, everyone lived up to expectations. A man couldn't help but feel proud when he realized he was part of this outfit. Our APD was the number 43; the officers and men were very pleasant to work with and they gave the team invaluable assistance when it was needed. As all of the operations were reconnaissance which have been previously delved into, it is hard to elaborate on this training. As each reconnaissance came up it ran off more smoothly and the information was dispatched more quickly. The team which disembarked after a twenty-four hour problem composed of six separate operations was a much improved organization with definite ideas of what could be done and how to do it.
Shallow Water Diving:
One officer was placed in charge of eight operating men in connection with diving. This group was given careful instruction in the mechanics, use, and operation of the Lambertson shallow water diving outfit. They spent many hours of actual practice underwater with the assistance of a capable instructor.
This was carried on by three men and an officer. Several men from the team volunteered for the job of cartographer. After a few days of intensive training in this duty by a staff of drafting men one was picked to do the chart work for the team. At this point he became separated from the team's daily routine by working on charts which would be used on our APD problems.
Qualified radio talkers were picked from headquarters platoon to receive training as radio technicians at the base radio shack. These men were used to carry on the maintenance of all radio equipment.
A lecture was given on the proper use of "float-a-hose" and flotation packs. Also included in this class was the proper method of loading rubber boats and making explosives ready while in a PR.
Picking up Swimmers:
This was much the same as at Fort Pierce except that the use of a grommet and other means of actually bringing the swimmer out of the water were introduced to us.
Flying Mattress and Mattresseno:
A short lecture describing the purpose of these two rubber freaks was followed by the actual operation of each by every man.
Cold Water Exposure Suit:
Each man was given an opportunity to use this important yet cumbersome outfit.
Classes were held on Radar, Nancy gear, tide gauge, mine horn clip, relationship of Demolition with a beachmaster, post assault work, and capacity and capability of landing craft.
COMPARISON OF FORT PIERCE AND MAUI
There appeared to be a separate base for each of these two bases. Fort Pierce's objective was to introduce Demolition to the trainee and give him a rough overall training and perspective. Intra-team specialization was withheld until Maui. The training at Fort Pierce was thorough only to the extent of fulfilling its purpose. It was at Maui, where the team actually faced Demolition. The work at Maui was made up of only the best, latest, and most workable systems of reconnaissance and demolition. The swimming at the advanced base was by far superior to that of Fort Pierce. Both the major and minor phases of Demolition were present, practiced and smoothed out. Upon leaving Maui, the team knew its work, was well organized, and realized more clearly its purpose.
Presentation of Training:
Maui, it seemed, had more capable instructors who presented a better program. One point which was decidedly in favor of the Hawaiian base was the natural environment which the training staff had at hand to use in coordination with lectures. The coral, lava, marine life, water, shores and such were much more available than at Fort Pierce and this made the program more effective. Both bases worked on the idea of a lecture followed by actual experience in the "field." This system was very good and obtained the desired results - acquire, develop, and retain the information.
"Appearance of Training Programs"
One glaring fault in the complete Demolition training was the lack of coordination between the two bases. After learning various techniques at the first base, teams were obliged to discard them and take on new systems. In some instances the men were able to get the best points out of each conflicting system. On the other hand, confusion often resulted.
(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-SEVEN and you would like further information, we suggest you contact the UDT-SEAL Museum.