The United States Naval Special Warfare Command (SPECWARCOM, NAVSOC, or NSW) was commissioned April 16, 1987, at Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado in San Diego, California. As the Naval component to the United States Special Operations Command headquartered in Tampa, Florida, Naval Special Warfare Command provides vision, leadership, doctrinal guidance, resources and oversight to ensure component maritime special operations forces are ready to meet the operational requirements of combatant commanders.
To meet the need for a beach reconnaissance force, selected Army and Navy personnel assembled at Amphibious Training Base, Little Creek, on 15 August 1942 to begin Amphibious Scouts and Raiders (Joint) training. The Scouts and Raiders mission was to identify and reconnoiter the objective beach, maintain a position on the designated beach prior to a landing and guide the assault waves to the landing beach.
Plans for a massive cross-channel invasion of Europe had begun and intelligence indicated that the Germans were placing extensive underwater obstacles on the beaches at Normandy. On 7 May 1943, LCDR Draper L. Kauffman, "The Father of Naval Combat Demolition," was directed to set up a school and train people to eliminate obstacles on an enemy-held beach prior to an invasion. On 6 June 1943, LCDR Kaufmann established Naval Combat Demolition Unit training at Ft. Pierce. By April 1944, a total of 34 NCDUs were deployed to England in preparation for Operation OVERLORD, the amphibious landing at Normandy.
On 6 June 1944, in the face of great adversity, the NCDUs at Omaha Beach managed to blow eight complete gaps and two partial gaps in the German defenses. The NCDUs suffered 31 killed and 60 wounded, a casualty rate of 52%. Meanwhile, the NCDUs at Utah Beach met less intense enemy fire. They cleared of beach in two hours, another by the afternoon. Casualties at Utah Beach were significantly lighter with 6 killed and 11 wounded. During Operation OVERLORD, not a single demolitioneer was lost to improper handling of explosives.
In August 1944, NCDUs from Utah Beach participated in the landings in southern France, the last amphibious operation in the European Theater of Operations. NCDUs also operated in the Pacific theater. NCDU 2, under LTjg Frank Kaine, after whom the Naval Special Warfare Command building is named, and NCDU 3 under LTjg Lloyd Anderson, formed the nucleus of six NCDUs that served with the Seventh Amphibious Force tasked with clearing boat channels after the landings from Biak to Borneo.
British Combined Operations veteran LCDR Wooley, of the Royal Navy, was placed in charge of the OSS Maritime Unit in June 1943. Their training started in November 1943 at Camp Pendleton, moved to Catalina Island in January 1944, and finally moved to the warmer waters in the Bahamas in March 1944. Within the U.S. military, they pioneered flexible swim fins and facemasks, closed-circuit diving equipment, the use of swimmer submersibles, and combat swimming and limpet mine attacks.
In May 1944, GEN Donovan, the head of the OSS, divided the unit into groups. He loaned Group 1, under LT Choate, to ADM Nimitz, as a way to introduce the OSS into the Pacific Theater. They became part of UDT-10 in July 1944. Five OSS men participated in the very first UDT submarine operation with the USS BURRFISH in the Caroline Islands in August 1944.
On 23 November 1943, the U.S. Marine landing on Tarawa Atoll emphasized the need for hydrographic reconnaissance and underwater demolition of obstacles prior to any amphibious landing. After Tarawa, 30 officers and 150 enlisted men were moved to Waimanalo Amphibious Training Base to form the nucleus of a demolition training program. This group became Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) ONE and TWO.
The UDTs saw their first combat on 31 January 1944, during Operation FLINTLOCK in the Marshall Islands. FLINTLOCK became the real catalyst for the UDT training program in the Pacific Theater. In February 1944, the Naval Combat Demolition Training and Experimental Base was established at Kihei, Maui, next to the Amphibious Base at Kamaole. Eventually, 34 UDT teams were established. Wearing swim suits, fins, and facemasks on combat operations, these "Naked Warriors" saw action across the Pacific in every major amphibious landing including: Eniwetok, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, Angaur, Ulithi, Pelilui, Leyte, Lingayen Gulf, Zambales, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Labuan, Brunei Bay, and on 4 July 1945 at Balikpapan on Borneo which was the last UDT demolition operation of the war.
The rapid demobilization at the conclusion of the war reduced the number of active duty UDTs to two on each coast with a complement of 7 officers and 45 enlisted men each.
The Korean War began on 25 June 1950, when the North Korean army invaded South Korea. Beginning with a detachment of 11 personnel from UDT 3, UDT participation expanded to three teams with a combined strength of 300 men. As part of the Special Operations Group, or SOG, UDTs successfully conducted demolition raids on railroad tunnels and bridges along the Korean coast. On 15 September 1950, UDTs supported Operation CHROMITE, the amphibious landing at Inchon. UDT 1 and 3 provided personnel who went in ahead of the landing craft, scouting mud flats, marking low points in the channel, clearing fouled propellers, and searching for mines. Four UDT personnel acted as wave-guides for the Marine landing.
In October 1950, UDTs supported mine-clearing operations in Wonsan Harbor where frogmen would locate and mark mines for minesweepers. On 12 October 1950, two U.S. minesweepers hit mines and sank. UDTs rescued 25 sailors. The next day, William Giannotti conducted the first U.S. combat operation using an "aqualung" when he dove on the USS PLEDGE. For the remainder of the war, UDTs conducted beach and river reconnaissance, infiltrated guerrillas behind the lines from sea, continued mine sweeping operations, and participated in Operation FISHNET, which severely damaged the North Korean's fishing capability.
SEALs are U.S. Special Operations Command’s force-of-choice among Navy, Army and Air Force Special Operations Forces (SOF) to conduct small-unit maritime military operations which originate from, and return to a river, ocean, swamp, delta or coastline. This littoral capability is considered more important now than ever in history, as half the world’s infrastructure and population is located within one mile (1.6 km) of an ocean or river.
Responding to President John F. Kennedy's desire for the Services to develop an Unconventional Warfare (UW) capability, the U.S. Navy established SEAL Team ONE and SEAL Team TWO in January 1962. Formed entirely with personnel from Underwater Demolition Teams, the SEALs mission was to conduct counter guerilla warfare and clandestine operations in maritime and riverine environments.
Navy SEALs have distinguished themselves as an individually reliable, collectively disciplined and highly skilled maritime force. Because of the dangers inherent in NSW, prospective SEALs go through what is considered by many military experts to be the toughest training in the world. The intense physical and mental conditioning it takes to become a SEAL begins at Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training which is conducted at the Naval Special Warfare Center in San Diego, CA.
SEAL candidates begin Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) Training in Coronado, CA. This six-month course of instruction will focus on physical conditioning, small boat handling, diving physics, basic diving techniques, land warfare, weapons, demolitions, communications, and reconnaissance.
First Phase Trains, develops, and assesses SEAL candidates in physical conditioning, water competency, teamwork, and mental tenacity. Second (Diving) Phase Trains, develops, and qualifies SEAL candidates as competent basic combat swimmers. During this period, physical training continues and becomes even more intensive. Emphasis is placed on long distance underwater dives with the goal of training students to become basic combat divers, using swimming and diving techniques as a means of transportation from their launch point to their combat objective. This is a skill that separates SEALs from all other Special Operations forces. Third Phase trains, develops, and qualifies SEAL candidates in basic weapons, demolition, and small unit tactics. Third Phase concentrates on teaching land navigation, small-unit tactics, patrolling techniques, rappelling, marksmanship, and military explosives. The final three and a half weeks of Third Phase are spent on San Clemente Island, where students apply all the techniques they have acquired during training.
SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams historical roots began during WWII, however with Italian and British combat swimmers and wet submersibles. Naval Special Warfare entered the submersible field in the 1960s when the Coastal Systems Center developed the Mark 7, a free-flooding SDV of the type used today, and the first SDV to be used in the fleet. The Mark 8 and 9 followed in the late 1970s. Today's Mark 8 Mod 1 and the soon to be accepted for fleet use Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS), a dry submersible, provide NSW with an unprecedented capability that combines the attributes of clandestine underwater mobility and the combat swimmer.
The exclusive mission of SWCC operators is to expertly drive and provide small-caliber gunfire support on specialized high-tech, high-speed, and low-profile Surface Combatant Craft to secretly infiltrate and exfiltrate Navy SEALs on Special Operations missions worldwide. These missions include Direct Action on land, sea, coastline or rivers (such as strikes, captures, and ship take downs by Visit, Board, Search and Seizure), Special Reconnaissance, Coastal Patrol and Interdiction of suspect ships and surface craft, Counterterrorism operations, Riverine Warfare, Deception Operations, Search and Rescue Operations, and Foreign Internal Defense missions. Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC) operate and maintain the inventory of state-of-the-art, high-performance boats. Individually, SEALs and SWCC go through separate, but similar, specialized training programs that emphasize special operations in the maritime environment. SWCC are trained extensively in craft and weapons tactics, techniques and procedures. Like SEALs, SWCC must be physically fit, highly motivated, combat-focused and responsive in high stress situations.
The SWCC designation is a relatively new Naval Special Warfare career path that is independent of the regular line Navy. Today’s Special Boat Teams have their origins in the PT boats of WWII, and the “Brown Water” naval force that was created in 1965 at the onset of the Vietnam War. The Patrol Coastal and Patrol Boat Torpedo are the ancestors of today's PC and MKV.