UNDERWATER DEMOLITION TEAM HISTORIES
WWII UDT TEAM FIVE
The personnel of what later was to be
designated as Underwater Demolition Team FIVE was composed mainly of Sea Bees
with only a few line men, these latter being mine and bomb specialists. The former
had all volunteered to enter Demolition from
On 28 February orders were received
directing the outfit to the new Demolition Base on
The Team was organized into one headquarter and four operating divisions, each consisting normally of three officers and sixteen men. With modifications this system was later adopted by all teams. As such the team continued training during April and May. At that time there was no organized training staff, so Team FIVE had to do most of its training on its own.
In April, Lieutenant Commander Kauffman
learned of the part his team was to play in the operation against
At another meeting at
Still another innovation adopted for all
future teams was the use of destroyers, and in this particular instance the
It may be mentioned that communications among the team personnel and between the team and the support ships was very poor. Although this situation was somewhat improved with practice, it was not until the latter stages of the war that the teams learned how to handle their radios properly.
Through Lieutenant Alan G. LESLEY, a 2nd
Marine Division Liaison Officer, attached to the team in May, it was learned
that one of the primary desires of the Marines was to know where LVT's could
beach. This initiated Amtrack training into the
On 29 May, the team loaded its sundry gear aboard the USS GILMER (APD), a converted World War I Four-Pipe Destroyer. This class had unfortunately never been intended for the use of a Demolition team, consequently the quarters were horribly over-crowded. Although the ship's company was very cooperative, it is still the team's belief that no other Naval personnel has ever been permitted to live under such miserable circumstances. It might be added that Team FIVE was aboard this ship and its sister the U.S.S. HUMPHREYS for eight months.
All the way to Roi-Namar, the officers
held continual conferences establishing standard operating procedures for all
imaginable eventualities. During the two days on this island, the team
practiced with DUKWs and on the proper way to blast a ramp on the edge of a
reef for LCM'S. Immediately upon leaving here for
At this point a general description of
the operation plan shall be given. The four beaches assigned to Team FIVE were
continuous, each 700 yards long and were named from north to south as follows;
Red Two, Red Three, Green One and Green Two. The coast line came down
absolutely straight north to south along the northern three beaches. About half
the way down Green Two it curved out forming a point known as SUSUPE or AFENTNA
Point. The defenses consisted of fire trenches just back of the beach about ten
yards from the waterline which were enlarged from 40 to 50 yards into a machine
gun position. SUSLTPE Point was very heavily defended as were the hills
immediately behind the beaches. Off the beach there was a barrier reef about
100 to 200 yards across. The distance of the reef edge from the water line
varied from 800 yards at the south end of Green Two to 1800 yards of the Red
Beaches. Between the reef and the beach was a lagoon. The depth of water over
the reef and the depth of water in the lagoon were not known. Fortunately there
were some good land marks all along the beach. The fire support allocated to
the team consisted of the Battleship
The operation of the two platoons on the
Red beaches was different than that of the two Green beaches. On the Red
beaches it was believed the swimmers would not have time to go all the way into
the beach and back and do a thorough reconnaissance job on the way. Therefore,
On the Green beaches there was no advance reconnaissance party. The same use of pairs of swimmers was to be made and all swimmers were to go in to 300 yards of the beach. There the odd-numbered units were to take the slates away from the even-numbered units, and while the odd-numbered units with both sets of information proceeded out again, the even-numbered units would swim into the beach. This was done so that even if the men in close were killed their information would be brought back to the APD. Along all the beaches the swimmers who were to turn around at 300 yards were given the additional duty of closely examining the reef edge.
The men were dressed as follows: swim fins, swim shoes, swim trunks, four plexiglass slates three inch by ten inch, two pencils, waterproof first aid packet, a knife, life belt, dive mask, gloves and knee pads. The platoon leaders who were to be on the flying mattresses took 536 radios, 630 binoculars, and helmets. The Commanding Officer was on a flying mattress with Alex PAIGE as his seeing eye. The Executive officer remained in the LCPR and all orders to the team were issued by him or the Commanding Officer through him. Every man and officer on the team went in on the operation. Each landing craft had one officer, one UDT coxswain, one APD machinist, two APD gunners, one UDT radioman. It was further planned that the APD would check in each of the buoys along the reef. The buoys were marked with one, two, three and four washers depending on the number of the division and also had a line that had from one to seven knots in it indicating the number of the buy starting with one at the northern edge of each platoon's beach. This was done in order that men doing night demolition work could go into the reef, locate any one buy and know exactly where the other buoys were. To assist in picking up stragglers, one rubber boat for each beach was sent in to cruise off the reef, with one man in it and an outboard motor. The plan called for fire support as close to the waterline as possible without getting our own shells in the water. No swimmer was to go within 100 yards of the water line until Roger plus sixty minutes. All swimmers had to be outside the 100 yard line by 1030. During the period between 1000 and 1030 the fire support ships were to move their fire a little further inland and intensify it. The aviators were to make intensified strafing runs along the beach to keep the Japs in the fire trenches and machine gun posts down and the swimmers were to make the dash from the 100 yard line to the water line and back. At 1130 when the landing craft returned to the ship, the division officers would get all of their information together and chart it, and the other team commanding officers were to meet on the GILMER and prepare a joint dispatch to send back to the attack force.
So much for the plan. This is what
actually happened. The advance group including the fire support and the teams
arrived off the west coast of
Jumping the gun a little, and leaving the ship at 0850, the four landing craft immediately fanned out and headed for that important spot where they were to begin dropping the swimmers. When the boats came within 500 yards of the reef they were taken under fire by the Japs and zigzagging became more wild than ever before. The boat officers, however, fortunately and very much to their credit kept their minds on one thing -- the control point, and no boat missed that point by as much as 100 yards. In order to space the swimmers 100 yards apart a small buy was dropped along with the first swimmers. This buy had 100 yards of line on it and every time this buy came alongside the buy denoting the spot where the last pair of swimmers was dropped another was put over. The boats completed their run to the southern edge of their beach and headed out to sea between 500 and 1000 yards off the reef. They cruised back and forth the length of the beach, while the boat officers used binoculars in an effort to spot returning swimmers or wounded swimmers in order to rush to their rescue. From time to time the landing craft approached too close to the reef edge and the Japs turned them back with mortars which fortunately never found their mark. The swimmers started coming back to the landing craft at about 1045 with the exception of one or two who made it earlier. As soon as they were spotted on the reef the landing craft would head for them zigzagging all the while and pick them up as close to the reef as possible. Pickup methods consisted of throwing a Jacobs Ladder over either side and bringing the landing craft to a stop beside the swimmer, who then half climbed and was half pulled into the landing craft by other personnel aboard. At any time while the PRs were stopped it was fully expected that the Japs drop mortars into the boat.
As the men swam in towards the beach, the platoon leaders on their flying mattresses went back and forth in front of them trying to make certain that the lines went directly into the beach. It became immediately obvious that the flying mattresses were being used by the Japs as targets. Four of the flying mattresses were hit by enemy fire but in three of the cases the men aboard were not injured. Unfortunately, Robert CHRISTIANSEN, SFlc, one of the finest and best liked men on the team was killed instantly when hit while on a flying mattress with Ensign Bill RUNNING. On the way in several of the reconnaissance reels jammed. Some of these were abandoned and others patched up in order to continue the reconnaissance. There is no doubt that carrying the reels was a definite hindrance and a constant source of grief; however, almost all of the men with reels carried out their mission exactly as planned. In two cases reel men got a little off in either direction and crossed the line of another man; however, this was easily spotted and correctly charted.
The most important event of the day which
was to be the heavy air support between 1000 and 1030 never happened. This
combined with the fact that the
All of the officers and men appeared to the commanding officer to be absolutely calm and to have a complete disregard for their own safety. The men claimed afterwards, however that they were as far from being calm as they had ever been in their lives. Quite a few of the men had mortars go off underwater near them and six of them, ENG, RENBARGER, LAFOREST, HALL, MORELL and HENRY, suffered internal injuries from the concussion. At least two of these men, one being Harold Hall, were thrown completely clear of the water by the force of the mortar going off underneath. The division officers went to work collecting and charting the information brought back by their men. The first thing that was checked on was whether the team needed to blast any ramps on the beach and unanimous opinion was that it did not need to do so, that the reef had such a gradual slope that an LCM could ride up on it and put off the tanks quite easily. That we were right is shown by the fact that landing craft of all kinds discharged vehicles on that reef for the next two weeks quite easily.
About 1400 the Commanding Officer of Team
SEVEN reported aboard the GILMER where the two Commanding Officers and the
division officers had a conference to draw up a joint dispatch to send back to
the attack force. They then went aboard the U.S.S.
The plan for D-Day called for Lieutenant Commander Kauffman to go aboard the flagship of Admiral HILL where General Watson was also stationed. Also Ensign MARSHALL reported to Admiral TURNER; Ensign ADAMS to the Marine Tank Commander; and Ensign SUHRLAND to the DUKW Commander. The most important information the team had concerned its route for the tanks which differed from that planned by the Marines. Their original route would have been disastrous. Team FIVE had found, on the other hand, a narrow diagonal path across the reef starting at the center of Green Two and ending in the center of Green One. This latter route was adopted, and proved its value. Ensign ADAMS in an LVT and Lieutenant Commander KAUFFMAN in another led the first tank across successfully. Reporting to the shore party commander, Team FIVE's Commanding Officer was ordered to blast a channel through the Red Two reef. As this task required eventually over fifty tons of tetrytol, it occupied the team for several days.
That night the GILMER, which was
inadvertently in the outer screen, engaged five Japanese AKs. Although hit
eight times itself, she managed to sink four of them while a destroyer sank the
fifth. Later this became known officially as the
On D plus 2, the team succeeded in firing its shot of the channel in spite of strafing from Japanese planes. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Commander KAUFFMAN had reported to the force Beachmaster, Captain ANDERSON, for duty. At 0530 every morning he reported, aboard the SC 714 for further assignment. Captain ANDERSON referred to Team FIVE as his own All-American Football team, for he used it constantly until D plus 12 when he released the team. During this time reconnaissance were conducted of Green Three and White One. No mines were found, but detailed hydrographic charts were drawn up of both areas. Also a constant watch was kept of the team's buoys and lights in its own channel and in Charon Kanoa channel. A boat pool area was charted off of Green Three.
28 June, D plus 13, the team experimented
with Japanese anti-boat mines. The best method found to blow them up was to
wire a half-pound block of TNT to the horn in contact with the body of the
mine. The next day which was Jig minus 25 for the approaching
It was obvious at this time that a great
argument was brewing as to what beaches the Marines would hit on
The Commanding Officer of the Marine
reconnaissance battalion, Captain J. JONES and his officers, one of the top
battalions of that already great outfit, were contacted 9 July, (Jig minus 15).
As both Commanding Officers realized the difference of methods employed, they
decided to hold a rehearsal in
The night of the actual operation, 10
July, was beautiful and clear. The team was using four officers, one of whom
was Lieutenant Commander KAUFFMAN , and eight men. At this point, the GILMER's
radar and gyro went out of commission, necessitating the party's being guided
in by directional flashlight. Previous information indicated that there would
be a current of about one-half knot just off the coast running south; however,
it was discovered later that it ran north. The rubber boats proceeded as
planned: Group Able heading north for its position 500 yards off
After conferences with Admiral HILL and General SMITH in the afternoon, it was decided to make a reconnaissance that night of White Two only. The APD STRINGHAM was used for its radar which guided the two boats in beautifully, as the swimmers hit the water only 100 yards north of the beach. Since the Japanese were working right on the beach, the swimmers had narrowly escaped, but all returned by 0330.
On the basis of the information gathered on these two nights, the high command decided to land on the White beaches. On 13 July, Admiral HILL requested that Team FIVE on Jig minus 1 night take in enough explosives to ramp the beach and to blow up all the mines as well. Lieutenant Commander KAUFFMAN felt that particularly with the mines already twenty yards up the beach, the attempt would be suicidal; but Admiral HILL said he wanted it tried anyway.
During the next week many ideas were hatched as to the best method of getting the powder in. The two decided upon were, one, to lash 1,000 pounds of explosives to a long tube and, two, to load a rubber boat braced with boards on its deck with another 1,000 pounds. In each case the conveyers were to be towed into the beach by a swimmer who had reached shore with a line. Ensigns SUHRLAND and ADAMS had worked out their own method of dealing with the mines. Working from opposite ends of the beach dressed entirely in white, each would lash half-pound blocks of TNT to each mine connecting them all with prima cord. Each circuit was to be attached to the main ramping charge. After diligent practice, the team felt ready for J minus 1 night, 23 July.
The night was a miserable one. Heavy seas and surf, whipped higher by squalls, resulted in having to commence from too far out. As the landing craft were using underwater exhausts, this further cut down their speeds, already reduced by having to tow the cumbersome equipment. Not until 2300 did the craft reach a point 2,000 yards off the beach, then the rubber boats commenced their trip. A heavy squall scattered the little fleet. Finally at 0230, Lieutenant Commander KAUFFMAN ordered all explosives jettisoned, so that at least a final reconnaissance could be conducted. This showed that no new mine field had been laid. It was felt that without the special exhausts and if the landing craft had been brought further in that the mission would not have failed. Although the team was bitterly disappointed, the results that day cheered it somewhat. Out of the two Marine divisions which landed on Jig Day, there were only five casualties, as the Japanese had not expected the landing to be made on the White Beaches. As Team FIVE, in conjunction with the Marine scouts, had gathered the information which resulted in this decision, it was greatly comforted.
Soon after this, team FIVE was on its way
The team was reorganized, and had now only eleven officers and sixty-four men. Hardly had everyone returned from his ten day inter-island leave than the team was ordered to participate in the Yap Island operation. On 14 September, the team boarded the U.S.S. HUMPHREYS (APD-12). Upon arrival at Eniwetok some ten days later, the Commanding Officer learned that the Yap operation had been canceled, and that instead the task unit under Admiral Oldendorf would assemble at Manus to proceed to the Philippines. The task force left Manus on 12 October, reaching Leyte Gulf on the morning of the 17th. As a typhoon had prevented the minesweepers from carrying out their mission, the schedule was behind several hours.
In this operation it was planned to hit the beaches on the eastern or Leyte Gulf side. Seven teams were to be employed: THREE, FOUR, FIVE and EIGHT to reconnoiter the Southern beaches around Dulag and San Jose on A minus 2, 18 October; and SIX, NINE, and TEN to work the northern beaches off Tacloban on A minus 1.
Team FIVE was assigned Orange ONE and Orange TWO beaches, northernmost in its group. Each beach was about 600 yards wide with no evidence of reefs or any other obstructions. Hydrographic charts showed plenty of water and a steep gradient. Consequently it was decided not to use the string method. A preliminary bombardment was given the area, after which, at 1500, the team headed in. Call fire support was good; moreover, for a change there was fighter support with excellent strafing. Also the team's PR's had two fifty caliber machine guns, a comforting factor. A regular swimming reconnaissance was conducted, and was completed by 1630. "Frenchy" Audibert, a gunner and a fireman was killed by sniper fire; and SIMMONS, a Phm, received shrapnel. The report showed an excellent area; no mines, no obstacles, good beach gradient, good exits, slight current, little surf, and no demolition work involved. This report was presented to Lieutenant Commander Don YOUNG of Team EIGHT, who turned it over to Admiral OLDENDORF. There was no work for the team on A-1 or A Day. On 23 October, Team FIVE received orders to depart for Marcus.
Next stop was Noumea where the team went ashore for two weeks for a well earned rest. While here, the team members officially received their Silver and Bronze Stars. It was with regret that Team FIVE left this most pleasant island for Hollandia, which was reached on 2 December. The stay at this port for a month was quite tiresome, as the team remained aboard the HUMPHREYS. The one bright spot was the receiving of Christmas mail the day before Christmas, followed by a delicious dinner on the Holiday.
On 27 December, Team FIVE was on its way
to its next operation, this time in Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, about 150 miles
northwest of Manila. Once again the HUMPHREYS was in the company of an enormous
task force. Leyte was passed on 3
Teams FIVE, NINE, and FIFTEEN were assigned the southern group of beaches. Each team had about 2,000 yards with FIVE on the left or northern flank. Once again there were no reefs nor known obstacles, though sand bars were suspected as there was a river on either side of the beaches. Reports on mines had been issued. Each division would cover 500 yards, and five swimmers were to use string reconnaissance. Swimmers were to be dropped in staggered formations by the RP's so it would look less like an assault wave. Gunfire support plans were excellent, but in practice it turned out to he inadequate. As no enemy fire was noticed throughout, there was luckily no need for such support. Swimmers were dropped at 1430, and every one was back aboard at 1630 in spite of the heavy swells. The information gathered proved the beaches free of obstacles and mines, and that there were no exits. In order to unload LST's and LSM'S, however pontoons would be necessary as the beach gradient was gradual. Lieutenant DE BOLD took a composite chart of the three teams' findings to Captain HANLON, ComUDT-PHibsPac, aboard the U.S.S. CALIFORNIA, who in turn sent it on to the commander of the attack group.
Arriving at Ulithi on 28
Reassembling at Fort Pierce, Florida, in early May, Team FIVE found itself left with a nucleus of only seven officers and about twenty-five men, the rest either having transferred out of Demolition or having been put on the staff. Until 11 July, the team remained as such, doing odd jobs and experimental work, then it was ordered to augment itself to full size in preparation for the cold-water training to be held at Oceanside, California. On 19 July the team left Fort Pierce with a delay in reporting to Oceanside until 8 August. After a hectic week there, the team was loaded aboard the U.S. HOBBY (APD-95), disgustedly heading for Japan, which was about to surrender.
Arriving off the Japanese home islands, Team FIVE prepared to conduct a reconnaissance of the Kure-Hiro naval station in West Honsho. This was carried out from 2 October to 4 October in conjunction with advanced units of the 10th Army Corps and the Senior Beachmasters of Transron 16. The area was divided into three sections each of which was thoroughly reconnoitered: Ondo Strait, Hiro Area and Kure Area. The report, giving current and channel conditions in the strait, and docking, landing, and shipping facilities, as well as all gun positions in the other two areas, was turned over to the proper authorities for their guidance.
Then, from 11 October to 13 October another reconnaissance was conducted with the advanced units of the 10th Army Corps, this time of the Mitsuhama water front area in Shikoku. The purpose of the plan was to find suitable landing and storage areas, and a report to this effect was later turned in.
Immediately thereafter, the HOBBY headed for San Diego where the team was disembarked and assigned to the Naval Amphibious Base, at Coronado. Here on 23 October, 1945, Team FIVE was formally decommissioned.
(compiled by Robert Allan King for the UDT-
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 FIVE and you would like further information, we suggest you contact the UDT-SEAL Museum.