At The Beginning, With The Navy SEALS - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

6/1/04-Tyler

At The Beginning, With The Navy SEALS

He and his fellow servicemen "swam the invasions" of World War Two. East Texan, Bob Bassett, is one of our country's very first Navy SEALS. "I had machine gun fire around my head every time I'd come up for air. It'd pepper the water around me."
Bob Bassett Was a young Navy Seabee in 1943 when he volunteered for a highly secretive demolition team. "...Turned out to be underwater demolition team, UDT, which was the beginning of the Frogmen, Seals, and everyone coming after that."
The elite fighting force Bassett joined was formed after the Navy lost three thousand men in the invasion of Tarawa because of coral sink holes. The reconnaissance swimmers were to save tens of thousands of American lives in subsequent landings.
"We went into it with a boat to about 200 yards from shore. There we would roll off the side of the boat into the water to swim in as far as we could." The reconnaissance missions took place several days before the invasions. Because UDT members faced the enemy armed only with swim trunks, fins, face mask, a six inch knife and a waterproof chart for mapping, they were to become known as "the naked warriors."
Casualties were high for underwater demolition teams, sometimes running up to 75 percent. "You know the Japs always placed their crack riflemen out there as snipers and they could start picking you off at two or three hundred yards."
Although Bob Bassett and the other early navy seals paved the way for the invasion of Saipan, Guam, and other important American victories in the South Pacific, UDT activities were top secret for many years following the war. The UDT-SEAL museum in Fort Pierce, Florida opened in 1993 commemorating the bravery of "the naked warriors". Bob Bassett's fins, face mask, and knife, are among the memorabilia featured in the museum.

Joan Hallmark, reporting

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