Navy SEALs

U.S. Navy SEALs (1962-present)

The U.S. Navy's principal special operations force, SEa, Air, and Land (SEAL) teams operate under the direction of the Naval Special Warfare Command and U.S. Special Operations Command. Although SEALs trace their roots back to the early twentieth century, they were officially established in 1962 in response to a growing need for special forces capable of succeeding in unconvential warfare tactics. For more than 50 years, they have been tasked with taking on the U.S. military's most dangerous covert operations, including special reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, foreign internal defense, direct action, and unconvential warfare.

History & Heritage

On June 6, 1943, the Naval Combat Demolition Unit (NCDU) training school was established at Fort Pierce, Florida. The first NCDU class graduated in September 1943, after months of training with primary emphasis on demolition of submerged beach obstacles. During the amphibious D-Day assault on Normandy, the NCDU casualties on Omaha and Utah Beaches were 34 killed and 79 wounded—a casualty rate of 52 percent. It was the single bloodiest day in the history of Naval Special Warfare. After the close of European operations, all Fort Pierce-trained NCDU sailors were sent to the Pacific and assigned to Underwater Demolition Teams.

Formed in December 1943, the first Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs) trained at Waimanalo Amphibious Training Base in Hawaii. Between December 1944 and August 1945, UDTs 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 Borneo. The UDTs' primary mission was to conduct reconnaissance of planned landing beaches and destroy enemy defenses on these beaches prior to U.S. and Allied amphibious landings.

SEALs in the Modern Era

Anticipating further American involvement in the ongoing conflict in Vietnam, President John F. Kennedy instructed the U.S. military in 1961 to develop an improved capability for unconventional and guerrilla warfare tactics. The Navy responded by training its UDT divers—already well-versed in special operations at sea—to develop a similarly formidable set of skills and knowledge that could be applied on land and in the air, as snipers and advanced parachutists.

In the days, months, and years following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Navy SEALs have been called upon more so than ever to accomplish America's most dangerous and covert operations. SEAL teams have been involved in several high-profile missions in recent years, including the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.