UDTs of WWII

I just finished reading James D. Hornfischer’s The Fleet at Low Tide. This book is a remarkable story of the greatest sea war ever: WWII in the Pacific Ocean.

I appreciated Hornfischer’s extensive accounts of the Navy’s (then) new amphibious forces led by Admiral Kelley Turner, Commander of the 5th Amphibious Force. The Amphibians eventually enabled the Pacific fleet to deliver overwhelming force against Japanese strongholds all across the Pacific—Any Beach, Any Time.

Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, CIC of the United States  Pacific Fleet, described this capability as “the outstanding development of the war.”

I also found Hornfischer’s account of Kelly Turner’s use of the UDTs— Underwater Demolition Teams—especially enlightening. The Allies’ dreadful experiences during  earlier  assaults on Tarawa and Makin atoll had convinced Turner of the need for  specially trained teams to clear the reefs and obstacle-laden approaches to the beaches ahead of the landing craft. Robert Benney, an artist who covered the assaults in the Marianas, painted this gripping scene of UDTs at work and provided the caption below:


 

Demolition crew prepares to disable a mine

Demolition Crew – The Marianas

Before D-Day and H-Hour, these tough, hardened, and highly trained men went in on the beaches at Saipan to pave the way for invasion. It was they who made possible the approaches to the beach and the subsequent landings of our Army and Marines. Pictured here, a group of men have approached the beach at low water at a previously charted area. They are attaching “satchel” charges to the “Crib” in the rear. In the foreground is a Japanese honed “Scully” and the man directly behind it is attaching a demolition cap to a “J-13 Mine.” In a few minutes their hazardous job will have been completed and another highway to Tokyo opened, thanks to the “Demolition Demons.”


Credit: Naval History and Heritage Command, Robert Benney Collection

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