Virtual Museum of the Vietnam War

U.S. Navy SEAL Vietnam Diorama

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U.S. Navy Seal
XL version
U.S. Navy Seal
XL version

US Navy SEALs in Vietnam

Although the SEAL Team (Sea, Air & Land Team) was officially formed December 11th 1961, it’s tactics and tradition reach back to the years of World War II. The need to conduct major amphibious operations called for reconnaissance of the landing site and then clearing the paths for amphibious units through the obstacles most likely placed there by the opponent. In 1943 US Navy established NDCU (Naval Demolition Combat Unit) to clear the beach in preparation for the landing of allied forces on Sicily. Successful in spite of very tough conditions sailors ot the NDCU formed the core of the new NDCU school established in Florida. Very intensive training caused more than half of the candidates to drop out of the training. This tradition is still alive, as effect it is guaranteed that people who finish the school are the best of the best.

The next big operation in which the NDCU participated was the landing in Normandy. After that operation the units were reorganized, the name was also changed, to UDT (Underwater Demolition Team). Following the reorganization the UDTs were sent to the Pacific theatre of operations, where many amphibious operations were left to be conducted. The participation in operation “Galvanic” showed errors in preparation of the US Navy for the landing and became an impulse to again change the training procedure of the UDT. The new training additionally included very intensive swimming classes and also hydrographic and cartographic course, the clothing and equipment of the sailors were also revised. The introduced changes helped to improve the effectiveness of the UDT, conduct many successful amphibious operations and lower the losses. After the war the numbers of sailors serving in the UDT decreased, as there were no need for their services. This time was used to work on new equipment like diving gear, diving suits or devices allowing sailors to operate from submerged submarines.

The war in Korea that started on June 25th 1950 made UDT necessary again. Because of tough situation on the front it was decided to use it for interdiction of enemy’s railroad lines along the Korean coast. The regular job, support of amphibious landings was also important at that time. Additionally the UDT took part in the operation "Fishnet" – destroying the North Korean fishing capacity. After the end of the Korean War the basic objective of the UDT was reconnaissance, they also participated in many scientific experiments, including those connected with the space flight program, and also tested new equipment.

Since John F. Kennedy became the president of the United States, the role of Special Forces and counter-insurgency warfare increased substantially in the US armed forces. Subsequently it was decided in the US Navy to form a unit specialized in unconventional warfare. Many sailors in the new unit, the SEAL Team came from the UDT. The main objective of the SEAL Team was to provide the US Navy with unconventional warfare capability, to develop necessary tactics and equipment.

As soon as March 1962 two instructors from SEAL Team ONE arrived in Saigon to train South Vietnamese soldiers in special warfare, thus beginning the SEAL Team involvement in the Vietnam War. Later the SEALs cooperated with the CIA in recon operations, but it was found they could achieve much better results if they create their own intelligence structures.

One of the most well known and most representative operations of the SEAL Team in Vietnam was their actions in the RSSZ (Rung Sat Special Zone). This is a portion of the Mekong delta containing all main waterways of the region, and so it is strategically important. On the other hand, the presence of all the rivers, canals and streams makes it one of the most unpleasant and unwelcoming places in the south of Vietnam. For ages pirates, bandits and smugglers of all southeast Asia sought refuge in those almost inaccessible subtropical swamps. The terrain is terrible. The plants of tropical lowlands constitute an impenetrable barrier of tangled roots. Places more dry have double canopy jungle, hiding them from airborne observation. During low tide a thick layer of mud, reaching up to a torso of a mid-sized man makes traveling very hard. Flourishing vegetation of the swamps is a home to many species of animals. Jungle cats, pythons, crocodiles, venomous snakes, giant spiders, scorpions, leaches and venomous ants – all of them can be found in the RSSZ.

Because Viet Cong used RSSZ as staging and resupplying area for its units, in 1966 the command of American forces in Vietnam directed the SEAL Team there. On March 26th first actions started as part of operation „Jackstay” which, conducted without own losses seriously disorganized Viet Cong’s operations in the vicinity – the insurgents couldn’t feel safe there any more.

The success led to intensification of the SEAL Team’s actions in the RSSZ. The missions included harassing the opponent and reducing his mobility through ambushes, kidnapping communist officials, setting up listening posts, destruction of supplies, wells and fortifications.

Sailors serving in the SEAL Team at that time were experts in using such weapons as M16 rifle, 9mm Smith&Wesson pistols, .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, 40mm grenade launchers M79 and XM148 (rifle mounted), 57mm M18A1recoilless rifles, mortars – 60mm M19 and 81mm M29, machine pistols - .45 caliber M3A1 (grease gun) and Smith&Wesson M76. The sailors of the SEAL Team were also had a parachute training and were also trained in evacuating by helicopter, also using specialized gear. They were also trained in communications and using AN/PRC-25, AN/PRC-47 and Motorola radios.

The SEAL Team commandos usually used riverboats like the PBR, PCF „Swift” or the light „Boston Whaler” for surface transport. Designs developed especially for the SEAL Team, like LSSC, MSSC i HSSC (rebuilt from a LCM-6 landing craft) were also used. Air support was provided by UH-1 helicopters, usually from the HA(L)-3 „Seawolves”, and OV-10 aircraft from the VAL-4 „Black Ponies”. Additionally SEAL Team could be supported by boats operating on the rivers, US Navy vessels and also by US naval aviation.

As the operations of the SEALs in Vietnam expanded, the sailors of the SEAL Team were gaining grim reputation and the nickname „men with green faces” (from the popular face camouflage).

In the end of 1968 political decisions about “vietnamization” of the war were made ad the SEALs started shifting the focus to training of their South-Vietnamese counterparts. Using the lessons learned in Vietnam, development of new tactics, weapons and equipment started.

Displayed diorama shows a sailor from SEAL Team during an ambush. He is armed with a Mk 23 Mod. 0 machine gun (also known as the Stoner 63A Light Machine Gun) and also has a M18A1 Claymore mine bag, M26 shrapnel and M18 smoke grenades and a K-Bar knife. The sailor wears a uniform made of material covered with “tiger stripe” camouflage pattern, very popular in the Special Forces. His face is painted green with a special paint. His head is covered with a piece of olive drab dyed cloth. He wears tropical climate boots (also called jungle boots), especially developed for the Vietnam War.

construction report


SEAL Team - Instrukcja. IPS Computer Group. Warsaw 1993


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