UNDERWATER DEMOLITION TEAM HISTORIES
WWII UDT TEAM NINE
Underwater Demolition Team NINE was organized at Fort Pierce, Florida on 20 May 1944 by the consolidation of fourteen (14) trained Naval Combat Demolition Units, each consisting of one (1) officer and five (b) men with the addition of three (3) officers and eleven (11) men to give an original complement of seventeen (17) officers and eighty*one (81) enlisted men. The officers of the team were Civil Engineer Officers from Camp Peary and Davisville, line officers from Northwestern University, Cornell University, Fort Schuyler Midshipman school, and the Navy Mine Disposal School, and Attack Boat Training School at Fort Peary. Enlisted personnel were, for the most part, Sea Bees from Naval Construction Training Center, Camp Peary, Virginia. Lieutenant Commander James B. EATON was assigned as Commanding Officer, Captain J.W. McINTOSH„ AUS, was assigned as Liaison Officer, and Ensign M.D. HUDSON was assigned as Mine Disposal Officer. Immediately after the original organization, the team completed the Fort Pierce training schedule by going through the "Standard" and "Payoff" courses before leaving Fort Pierce on 3 June 1944, by troop train through the Advanced Base Personnel Depot, San Bruno, California. From San Bruno the team was transferred to the pre-embarkation barracks on Treasure Island, and from there loaded aboard the U.S.S. MONTEREY, aboard which they sailed for the Hawaiian Islands on 13 June. Arriving on Honolulu on the morning of 18 June, the team was given first priority on unloading and immediately transferred to an LCI which carried them to the Naval Combat Training and Experimental Base at Maui.
The training at Maui consisted principally of coral blasting and the development of new techniques. The problem confronting the team, aside from the learning of demolition practice in the Pacific, was that of knitting the original fourteen (14) crews, among whom competition was highly developed, into a team with four smooth-working operating platoons. Upon the completion of the coral blasting and reconnaissance training, the team did experimental work with explosives and explosive hose in the blasting of channels through coral reefs. Under the direction of Lieutenant W.E. COLLINS, formerly the Commanding Officer of the Naval Combat Demolition School at Fort Pierce, the team perfected a technique of quickly placing large explosive hose charges. The procedure used consisted of placing large charges of hose aboard and LST or a LSM and towing it into place with Am tracks. This project was developed for the assault on the Island of Yap in the Carolines. On 9 September the team assigned platoon THREE, under the charge of Ensign James H. PIERCE, to the Yap demolition plan. The platoon was loaded aboard LSM-29 with one hundred twenty-five (125) tons of explosive hose. LSM-233 carried the six (6) Am tracks and marine drivers under the charge of Lieutenant (junior grade) C.A. STOWELL. On 13 September the remainder of the team, now composed of thirteen (13) officers and seventy-five (75) men, embarked on the U.S.S. BROOKS (APD-10) and proceeded to Pearl Harbor to join a group of transports for the trip to Eniwetok and eventual destination, Yap. The group sailed from Pearl Harbor on lb September.
Enroute to Eniwetok, a dispatch was received stating that the Yap operation had been cancelled, and the force was ordered to proceed on the Manus in the Admiralty Islands, to stand by for another operation. The BROOKS arrived at Manus on 2 October where the entire Seventh Fleet was being put in readiness for the coming operation at Leyte. It was there that the team was assigned to the North beaches on Leyte and preparations were immediately begun. After leaving Manus on 12 October, in company with the fire and bombardment group, the group passed through the outside of a typhoon which prevented any further preparation for the landings until the group sailed into Leyte Gulf on 18 October. Because the typhoon had delayed the mine sweeping unit, the North beach off-shore areas had not been sufficiently swept to allow the passage of fleet units, and the operation was postponed for one day. At 1100 on 19 October, the ships closed the beach and the team began its reconnaissance. As the landing craft left the APD and headed for the assigned areas on the White beaches near Tacloban air strip, they immediately began drawing fire from the beach. Platoon FOUR proceeded on their reconnaissance as scheduled, but the landing craft carrying platoon ONE was hit by mortar fire, LAUDERDALE being killed and twelve (12) men wounded. Platoons TWO and THREE picked up survivors and returned them to the APD. Returning at 1500, the three (3) remaining landing craft completed their reconnaissance at the beach. During the whole operation cover fire support from the fleet units was impossible because the off-shore areas were not yet completely swept clear of mines. The information received on reconnaissance was compiled and given to the Landing Force Commander the day before the landing.
On the afternoon of the 23rd, the BROOKS received orders to Hollandia, New Guinea as part of an escort screen for a group of empty transports. Arriving at Hollandia four (4) days later, the BROOKS was granted availability for repairs to their sound gear for damage suffered during the typhoon; so on 1 November, the team was transferred to the U.S.S. BELKNAP (APD-34). After a hectic afternoon, during which the BELKNAP was unloaded of approximately thirty-five (35) tons of tetrytol in the troop spaces and the spaces put in order to receive the team, the transfer was finally completed after dark, just as the BELKNAP had orders to leave for Tulagi. Received aboard the BELKNAP with a royal welcome from the ships company, the team settled down to enjoy their stay. After a brief stop at Tulagi to re-fuel, the BELKNAP proceeded to Noumea, New Caledonia where she arrived on 11 November. The team immediately moved ashore to the Naval Receiving Station while the ship received minor alterations and repairs. The two weeks passed all too quickly, and on the after-noon of 25 November, the team re-embarked on the BELKNAP. Lieutenant Commander EATON received orders to fly to Hollandia to assist in writing plans for the next operation, and Lieutenant Herman STEVENSON, the Executive Officer, was left in command of the team. The team left Noumea on 26 November and after a short stop at Finschaffen, New Guinea, arrived in Hollandia on 2 December. Hollandia, although without suitable recreation facilities, presented an interesting liberty spot because of the wrecked Japanese planes near Lake Sentena which yielded many souvenirs to the team personnel. While waiting for the coming Lingayen landings, which had been delayed approximately two (2) weeks, the team spent nearly a month, during which time as much recreation and swimming as possible was scheduled to keep the team in good physical condition. During the stay at Hollandia, preparations for the Lingayen operation were begun by the Commanding Offices and the platoon leaders; the operation plan, photographs, charts and intelligence material being thoroughly studied. A conference was held with the captains of the fire support ships assigned to cover the teams and detailed plans were made. A special detail assigned to the team for this operation was that of making a sweep for cables leading from the shore to control the mines. Intelligence reports indicated that the possibility of the Japs having placed a large controlled mine field. The team furnished one (1) officer and one (1) man to the U.S.S. SANDS (APD-13), to cooperate with the SANDS mine sweeping small boats, to cut, using explosives, any control cables found by the sweepers.
Leaving Hollandia on 27 December, the team proceeded to Kossol Passage to join other units of the fire and bombardment group. It was here that the team first heard of the existence of Commander Underwater Demolition Teams when they met Captain B.H. HANLON who was aboard the U.S.S. CALIFORNIA. A conference with the Commanding Officers of the other teams was held and plans for the Lingayen western beaches were discussed. Captain E.L. PAYNE, CE, AUS, of the Fortieth Infantry Division and one (1) enlisted man were assigned to Team NINE to act as observers during the beach reconnaissance. On leaving Kossol Passage on the morning of 31 December with ships of the bombardment and fire support group, the team headed for Lingayen, passing through Leyte Gulf, Surigao Straits, the Mindanao Sea, the Sulu Sea, and up the East China Sea. The group entered Lingayen Gulf on the morning of 6 January and, sailing through swept waters, proceeded to shell the shore positions around the Gulf, retiring into the East China Sea that night under heavy air attack. After returning to the Gulf on the following morning a heavy bombardment was made of the landing beaches; then the BELKNAP took station three (3) thousand yards off the Orange beaches near the town of Lingayen, and the team made its reconnaissance. Two (2) LCI(G)s stood in to 750 yards, and gave excellent covering fire while the heavy units of the fleet farther off shore covered the major installations. The team launched and retrieved its swimmers at approximately 300 yards from the beach. Some enemy fire was encountered, mostly from the gun positions in the stone capitol building approximately 100 yards inshore, but there were no casualties. No obstacles were encountered and all beaches were found to be suited for all types of landing craft. Information was compiled, charts made, and all intelligence distributed to the major elements of the landing forces on the morning of landings. Ensign MERICLE reported to the Beachmaster for duty assigned to direct the landing craft into the beaches. Shortly after H hour the word was received from the Beachmaster that a reconnaissance party was needed to make a check of sounding on Green beaches. Ensign BASLER immediately left the ship with his platoon and made the reconnaissance as the fifth wave was going ashore. Results checked with information submitted two (2) days previously. During the 9th and 10th, the team, having no duties assigned, stayed aboard the BELKNAP on the screen. Early on the morning of the 11th while the ship was just outside the transport area, two (2) Jap swimmers clinging to pieces of wreckage were seen in the water. These men were apparently survivors of suicide boat attacks made previously, and were attempting to swim back to shore. A party consisting of both team members and ships company was hurriedly organized to investigate. After an unsuccessful attempt to get the men to surrender, the party was forced to open fire at close range when one of the swimmers tried to throw a grenade into the boat. After a thorough search for intelligence material, the bodies were disposed of and the search continued for other swimmers. Another LCPR and crew later joined the search, and the day's work resulting of the killing of eleven Jap swimmers. On the morning of the 12 January the BELKNAP, while on screening station outside the transport area, was hit amidships by an enemy suicide plane. Two (2) forward boats were carried away along with most of the forward stack. Three inch ammunition in the ready box on the galley deckhouse was set off and the resulting shrapnel from the plane and the exploding ammunition caused heavy casualties. A fire started but was quickly put out. The casualties among the team consisted of one (1) officer and seven (7) men killed, three (3) missing and thirteen (13) wounded. The U.S.S. NEWMAN (APD-59) came alongside to render first aid, and another APD sent over a doctor, who, with the aid of all hands whenever possible, evacuated the wounded to the U.S.S. ZEILLAN aboard the NEWMAN, and the BELKNAP was taken in tow and anchored in a western beach area where the dead were buried at sea that afternoon. On the following morning, the remainder of the team was transferred to the U.S.S. SANDS (APD-13) carrying what little gear remaining undamaged, and on that night sailed from Lingayen for Leyte Gulf, where they arrived on the sixteenth. As the team was down to twelve (12) officers, forty-seven (47) men, and practically no equipment, plans for their use in another operation were cancelled and the team ordered to return to Maui. Aboard the SANDS the team sailed for Ulithi where they arrived on 26 January, and on 10 February transferred to the U.S.S. ADMIRAL COONTS (APA-122), which was acting as a receiving ship. On 20 February the team was transferred to the U.S.S. MISSISSIPPI which carried them to Pearl Harbor. At Pearl Harbor the team was sent to a rest camp for five (5) days, then returned to Waipio Point, where, after a weeks delay, they were put on a APC and carried to Maui. At Maui the team was assigned to take charge of the training the base staff at Naval Combat Demolition Training and Experimental Base, and after a brief island leave, took over the duties of instruction. After two (2) months on the staff at Maui, the team was relieved by Team EIGHT and on 26 May, aboard the U.S.S. CULLIVIAN (APA-78), they were carried to Honolulu, where they were transferred to the U.S.S COTTLE (APA74), and on the afternoon of the 28th, sailed for the United States. On arrival at San Francisco six (6) days later, the team was taken to Treasure Island and given thirty day leave orders, upon the completion of which they were ordered to report to Fort Pierce, Florida. At Fort Pierce, all units were given a thorough processing, including a rigid physical examination, which resulted in large number of the groups being disqualified for further demolition duty. Those who desired were allowed to drop out of the team. After the processing had been completed, the team ended up with three (3) officers and twenty-one (21) men. The team was given a quota of replacements and given delayed orders to report to Oceanside, California for cold water training. Arriving in Oceanside on 9 August, ready to begin its cold water training, the team was assigned to the U.S.S. LANING (APD55) as part of Underwater Demolition Team Squadron TWO. Also aboard the LANING, was Captain J.J. CLELAND, Jr., Commander of the squadron with his staff and equipment. After a hurried loading, the ship sailed for Pearl Harbor on 16 August, where additional gear and provisions were loaded before the team continued on to ENIWETOK and Okinawa. At Okinawa, the team was assigned to a reconnaissance of the Blue Beaches at Jinsen, Korea, to which on the morning of 8 September they proceeded in company with the ships carrying the 7th Infantry Division. The reconnaissance proved to be an interesting one as there was a twenty-eight (28) foot tidal variation, and advanced areas of the mud flats were exposed in a few hours time. The job included a special tide measuring detail to go ashore and set up a tidal gauge station to check the U.S. Hydrographic Service Tidal Tables. On completion of that reconnaissance, charts were prepared and delivered to the Beachmaster on the following day. Because the beaches were unsuitable for anything larger that LCT's, and those only at high tide, the Blue Beaches were not used. After remaining at Jinaen until 27 September, during which time all hands were allowed to go ashore for a look at the town, the LANING sailed for Taku, China in company with the group of LSTs and LCIs carrying equipment for the occupational landing of the First Marine Division in the Tientsin area. Arriving at Taku on the morning of 30 September, the team was assigned the task of making a reconnaissance of the approach channel to the mouth of the Hai-Ho river and of docking facilities along the river itself. Charts were prepared and delivered to the Beachmaster the following day. Two (2) days later the team was called on to buoy the channel across the sand bar, as LSMs were having difficulty following the Chinese buoys. This completed, the team stood by until 7 October, when they were ordered to Tsingtao and assigned to make reconnaissance of the alternate landing beaches on the southeast side of the city for their possible use, in conjunction with the docks and wharves on the west side of the city, for landing occupational troops of the Sixth Marine Division. Using three (3) landing craft, the team completed its survey and delivered its charts to the Beachmaster on the following day. Remaining at Tsingtao until 17 October with no further duties, members of the team were allowed to go ashore on liberty. On leaving Tsingtao, the LANING sailed for San Diego by way of Okinawa, Guam, Eniwetok, and Pearl Harbor, and on arriving in San Diego on 11 November the team was transferred ashore to the Amphibious Training Base, Coronado, where, after nearly eighteen (18) months, the team was re-designated as post-war team BAKER and the personnel discharged, re-assigned or re-enlisted in the Regular Navy.
(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 Nine and you would like further information, we suggest you contact the UDT-SEAL Museum.