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Part of a naval tradition that goes back to World War II, the first SEAL teams were commissioned in 1962. As underwater demolition experts, skilled parachutists, and specialists in a host of other areas, their first proving ground was Vietnam. In Hunters and Shooters, 15 SEALs tell their incredible and heroic stories.
One of the legendary names of the SEAL Teams is that of Rudy Boesch, who holds the distinction of having the longest time in service of any man ever in Naval Special Warfare. Long known as a steadying influence on the quarterdeck, Rudy, as he was called by his men, served with SEAL Team TWO from us first day in 1962 to the late 1980s.
World War Two was in its last year, though I didnt know it, when I joined the Navy. I was seventeen years, three months old in April 1945 when I enlisted. Boot camp for me was in Sampson, New York, not far from my home in Rochester, New York.
While I was in boot camp, the war in Germany ended. Now it looked as if the Pacific and Japanese would be where and who I would fight. Just after graduation while still at Sampson, the class was lined up for an announcement. What we were asked was if anybody wanted to volunteer for a special program. That was about all the information they gave us, a special program. Out of my class of about one hundred guys, I was the only one to put his hand up.
The next thing I knew, I was on a train heading for Fort Pierce, Florida, and the United States Naval Amphibious Training Base there. Arriving at the base, I still didn't know anything. The NCDUs were training there before going on to the Pacific and.. becoming UDTs, but the units were so secret that, as a lowly seaman apprentice, I knew nothing about them at the time. Arriving at the base, on South Hutchinson Island, I was assigned to the Scouts and Raiders.
The mission of the Scouts and Raiders during the last phase of the war in the Pacific was to go into mainland, China and prepare for the final invasion of Japan. As a seventeen-year-old, none of this, meant a great deal to me -- the big picture just went over my head. As it was" the big picture never happened.
In August, the class was out in Lake Okeechobee doing training in the swamps when the atomic bomb, dropped onJapan. We knew absolutely nothing about it me out and join us. "Stop what you're doing," we were told. "The war is over. Everybody is going back to Fort Pierce."
When we got back to the base, our orders were simple -- we were going to tear the base down. Within a week, the large naval base on South Hutchinson Island simply ceased to exist Buildings were stripped out and returned to their former owners. Mostly what we had were tents, and those we just tore down and burned. The basewas now gone, and so were we.
It was the longest train ride of. my life, a troop train from Fort Pierce, Florida, on the Atlantic, to the West Coast and the Pacific, Five hundred men left Florida, and about 250 arrived in California The rest jumped off the train whenever it would stop-just went over the aft, the war had ended.
Still heading west, the Navy put me on a slow boat to China. I ,finally arrived in the harbor at Hong Kong in October 1945; One day while going out on the mail run to Kowloon, I and two other guys came back to a decommissioned ship. In the sit, bouts, that it took us, to make the run, 40, bad- em bad the ship of personnel. Taking orders from another Navy ship, nearby, I and four othersended up spending eight= months in the Far East, most of them guarding the empty ship.
The first year we all spent guarding that ship in Hong Kong Harbor -- breaking into the food lockers and freshwater tanks, selling parts, and fixtures for money to go ashore with, and holding off mobs of people on junks, first using rifles, pistols, and submachine guns and finally .22 pistols and flare guns when the ammunition ran low.
The U.S. Navy finally remembered us,. and we spent some time going to Shanghai, then upriver to the Navy base. After drawing eighteen months back pay, we finally were returned to the United States. The Navy put me on a destroyer for two years, and then I pulled a stint of shore duty in London, England, for a good while.
By 1950, I had read in All Hands magazine about the UDTs and how they were from their postwar cutbacks. The UDTs with their small numbers, camaraderie and interesting assignments looked like what I wanted to do during my time in the Navy, so I put in my chit and volunteered.
In January of 1951 I first arrived at Little Creek to attend UDTR training. I had no idea that I wouldn't permanently leave the, base until 1988, and if someone had told me dial, I wouldn't have believed him. I've spent MOM time at Little Creek than the post barbers, and in a military installation the barber is considered a permanent fixture.
As I came to understand it, after World War Two, the Navy had gathered A the UDTs in California for decommissioning. With most of the men gone, two Teams were created, one for the West Coast and one for the East Coast. The East Coast Team was going to be stationed at Indian Head, Maryland, up the river from Norfolk and Little Creek. When the Team stopped off at Lade Creek on their way upriver, they decided they liked the location. The Teams have been at the Creek ever since.
To join the Teams you had to go through UDTR (Underwater Demolition Team Replacement) training. With my class, Class 6, the training was almost all physical. As I remember, the amount of demolition training I received at the time I could teach to a soldier in about fifteen minutes.Hunters & Shooters
Posted January 18, 2010
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Posted December 20, 2011
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