Saturday, June 6, 2015

Frogs on the Beach In Operation OverLord- Navy SEAL Post


the Oldest FrogHog on the Web (said only in the nicest way, of course!) has been doing a little reading about Frogmen on the beach during WWII.

Back then they were not known as Frogman. That moniker came later. During the war, these warriors went by the names of: the Naval Combat Demolition Units or (NCDUs), Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs) and Scouts and Raiders.

Below is something that I remember reading regarding the historic day in June 1944- D-Day and Operation Overlord. It is totally appropriate to remember them today, on June 6th, D-Day Remembrance Day.

From the Book "The U.S. Navy SEALs- From Vietnam to Finding Bin Laden" by David Jordan.

"While the UDTs were training for their operations in the Pacific, 6 men from the 11th NCDU were sent to Britain in November 1943 to prepare for the invasion. A few weeks later, the Scouts and Raiders appeared, including Phil Bucklew, ( Bucklew is known as the Father of Naval Special Warfare) and began to conduct reconnaissance missions. Bucklew and his men took depth soundings of the planned invasion beaches. On one occasion Bucklew crawled ashore, filled a bucket with sand, and took it back to England to allow experts to test its load-bearing capacity so they could judge how well the sand on the landing beaches would be able to take the weight of tanks and other heavy vehicles.

The Germans had not been idle in preparing defenses to meet the Allied invaders, and the NCDU men grappled with the question of how they would breach some of the formidable beach obstacles, particularly a huge iron and steel construction know as the "Belgian Gate". The NCDUs needed to be able to blow the obstacle down without sending massive amounts of shrapnel fling through the air to endanger both the demolition parties and any nearby troops. The solution to the problem was discovered by Lt jg Carl P. Hagensen. He filled waterproof canvas bags with C-2 plastic explosive and then fitted the pack with a cord at one end and a hook at the other. This enabled it to be attached precisely to an obstacle. Tests on a mock-up of a Belgian Gate demonstrated that the pack worked perfectly. Sixteen such packs were fitted to the critical points of the Belgian Gate and then detonated. The Gate fell flat, just as required. The next problem was one of manpower. Six men were obviously not going to be enough and in the weeks before D-Day every available man at Ft Pierce was sent to Britain. By the end of May, 16 teams, each 13-men strong, had been trained to enable them to breach the 8 gaps in the obstacles planned for Omaha Beach and the 8 for Utah Beach.

Early in the morning of June 6, 1944, Operation Overlord began.

Phil Bucklew was one of the early participants, bobbing around in a small boat as he led the troops in toward the landing zone on Omaha Beach. Once again, Bucklew led the invasion force in (earning a Gold Star in lieu of a 2nd Navy Cross in the process) but their troubles had only just begun. The current had ensured that several of the gap assault teams had drifted off course and landed in the wrong place. Some of them found that they were the 1st men on the beach, instead of the tanks and infantry, and were cut down by defensive fire as they attempted to land. While the other teams set about destroying obstacles, some of the blasts had to be delayed as frightened soldiers attempted to take cover behind the sturdy beach defenses.

The demolition men solved this problem by setting fuses and telling the sheltering GIs that their cover would blow up in 2 minutes. This did the trick and the obstacles were removed. Other difficulties came from the loss of explosives and the NCDU men were forced to salvage German mines and add their explosives power to the C-2 that they had available. By the end of the day, 52% of NCDU men had been killed or wounded. It was the worst day in the history of naval special warfare. Despite the high cost, they had done their job well. "

Here is a link to the top secret Naval Combat Demolition Group Assignments at Omaha Beach on that day-
Also here's a link to NCDU on D-day post,  on the Fallen SEALs Facebook page       

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