Both the Korean War and the Vietnam War hold a special significance in the history of the Navy SEALs. That is because these two wars marked the official formation of this elite force under the US Navy as a response to the call of then-President John F. Kennedy for the United States military to train troops that will conduct unconventional warfare in Asia.
Why was there a need for specially trained troops like the Navy SEALs? At the time when these forces were first formed, the United States, as the bastion of democracy in the world, needed to put a check on the spread of communism in Asia. The communist forces that assaulted the borders of South Korea and South Vietnam used deadly guerilla tactics in their attacks. As thus, the US military must be able to fight at that level to counter the efforts of the communist forces.
However, even though the official date of the formation of the Navy SEALs was set on May 25, 1961, the SEALs already had various predecessors that saw action as early as the Second World War. The precursors of the SEALs are the Underwater Demolition Teams or UDTs, and they played an important part in the Korean War.
The UDTs in the Korean War
UDTs have three important basic tasks. One of these tasks is to reconnoiter beaches where the allied troops are to land. The second is to remove underwater obstacles that can prevent troops from landing successfully. The third is to help in guiding these troops through the assault.
This is exactly the job that UDTs performed during the Korean War. Under the aegis of Operation Chromite, the UDTs scouted the Korean coastline ahead of the US Marines, acted as waveguides, did demolition raids and located mines for the minesweepers. The efforts of the UDT personnel contributed greatly to the successful operations of the US forces in Korea.
The Navy SEALs and the Vietnam War
The Korean War may have ended in a stalemate, but it was followed soon enough by the Vietnam War. Because President Kennedy wanted the formation of special troops capable of conducting unconventional warfare, the US Navy reorganized some UDTs and other similar forces to create the Navy SEALs.
The initial tasks of these Navy SEALs are to conduct clandestine warfare and to execute anti-guerilla tactics during the Vietnam War. The Navy SEALs also oversaw the training of South Vietnamese commandos. In addition, they acted as the military advisors for the Provisional Reconnaissance Units and the Vietnamese SEALs.
Aside from the Navy SEALs, the Vietnam War also saw the formation of the teams that we now know as the Special Boat Teams. These boat teams provided additional support for the Navy SEALs and became the predecessors of the US Navy’s Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen or SWCC. The tactics of the Navy SEALs and the Special Boat Teams greatly complemented the riverine and maritime environments of Vietnam.
The outcomes of the Korean War and the Vietnam War may not have been favorable for the United States and its allies. Nonetheless, they provided many valuable lessons in the formation and maturation of the Navy SEALs.
This Article is written by James Kara Murat