As we passed through Florida we had a chance to stop in Fort Pierce on the Atlantic side, northeast of Lake Okeechobee. On a side street off to one side of the town, is the only museum dedicated to a very unique Navy unit which recently has come into popularity. The plaque on the outside of the museum read "In memory of our fallen comrades who have sacrificed their lives in the service of their country while serving in the United States Navy with Naval combat demolition units, scouts, raiders, underwater demolition teams and the Sea Air and Land Teams. After a short introduction at the front door, we entered the museum and began learning about "Amphibious warfare". Amphibious warfare is the use of water to gain a land objective. The U.S. Navy has accomplished such operations since the beginnings of our nation. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Navy drew its amphibious forces from ship's companies of sailors and Marines and landed units on foreign soil to protect U.S. interests. When necessary, the Army would participate by providing more substantial units, such as during the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. During conflicts of the time, U.S. forces relied on established ports for major landings. Minor raids could utilize boats and craft of the Navy ships. As our nation has grown, the Navy with the other armed forces, has developed plans and technology to land anywhere and meet strategic and tactical goals for National interest. The strategy for fighting a world war actually can be traced back to the 1920s. U.S. forces fought "war games" to practice tactics as well as to develop ideas and technology for defending strategic interest and defeating the enemy. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor launched the U.S. into a new role as a world power. To defeat the Axis powers, Japan, Germany and Italy, the U.S. expanded its armed forces dramatically. By 1945 it had 11.7 million men and women in uniform. Before the U.S. could carry the war to the enemy, it has to train men. Before and after Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy opened schools, training bases and laboratories. Planners realized that amphibious warfare would be necessary in both the European and Pacific theaters. American commanders planning for the war in Europe mapped out a series of strategic moves to carry the war to victory. In August 1942, realizing the need for detailed beach information, Adm. H. K. Hewitt, commander of U.S. Atlantic amphibious forces, ordered Lt. Lloyd Peddcord, U.S. Army, to establish the Joint Amphibious Scout and Raider School at the Naval Amphibious Training Base in Little Creek Va. The whole operation started off with one officer and five men. The first equipment was nothing more then swimming trunks and a knife, and a slate that could be written on underwater. Later on, fins and face masks became standard. By 1943, the Naval Combat Demolition Units, forerunner of the UDT and SEAL teams were established. Although a small number of NCDU men were involved in operations in Sicily and the Pacific, the primary focus of these six or 7 man units was the invasion of Normandy. Throughout the training, close team concept designed to develop outstanding esprit de corps was emphasized. These principles are as true to the training today as it was in the beginning. Reconnaissance and obstacle clearance became an important first step in any landing, to choose the best areas for invading an enemy coast and minimizing losses to our own forces. Commanders recognized the need for small "special" units to hit the beach ahead of an assault force. The men would be chosen from a variety of fleet specialties to lead landing operations. The Navy established an amphibious training base at Fort Pierce, Florida, to enable sailors to practice and hone their skills year-round. Capt. C. Gulbranson, USN, commissioned the base on January 26, 1943. His headquarters were in the Burston Building downtown Fort Pierce. The base quickly became a center of activity for many different phases of amphibious warfare. Sailors were trained in gunnery, boat and amphibious vehicle landings; beach supervision and salvage, reconnaissance and demolition. The base had a dramatic impact on this part of the eastern Florida coast. The previously uninhabited north and south barrier islands became housing and training areas for thousands of troops passing through its schools. Day and night, the sights and sounds of ships and boats became commonplace. Explosions from Naval Combat Demolition Units and Scout and Raider exercises could be heard and seen. While ships lay off the coast, landing craft and rubber boats laden with men approached enemy shores to gather information, blow up obstacles and report to "invasion commanders" the result of their work. Combat reconnaissance and demolition took only volunteers who had to meet tough physical standards and complete a rigorous training program. Most of the protection for these men came from the sea. They learned to use camouflage and concealment to hide their approach. The sailors at Fort Pierce learned many different techniques, including the use of clothing, underwater breathing apparatus and small boat tactics.
HOME PAGE Next >>>>>