by David KaplanWhile in Florida these past few weeks, my wife and I, at the suggestion of a friend, visited The National Navy UDT – Seal Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida. UDT, stands for Underwater Demolition Team. If you’ve forgotten about the heroism of Navy frogmen who recovered our nation’s astronauts in the open oceans of the world, this museum is a wonderful reminder.
Narrative from UDT Museum website –
Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) frogmen, precursors to the Navy SEALs, played a key role in the Gemini and Apollo space missions. It was the job of the Navy frogmen to leap into the water from a helicopter to recover space capsules that had just ended a fiery thousand mile an hour drop from space to splashdown in the ocean. The frogmen have reported the capsules were still steaming when they swam up to them.
After splashdown, frogmen would then wrestle a flotation collar around the capsule to keep it from sinking. It was a physically demanding job. The Navy’s strongest swimmers trained for months using training devices like the one in our collection. After ensuring the flotation device was secure, the frogmen would pop the hatch of the capsule to ensure the astronauts were okay. After decontaminating them, the frogmen made sure the astronauts were safely lifted into the rescue helicopter.
In addition to the training modules, the Museum houses the wet suit of frogman LT (jg) David Kohler US Navy SEAL (Ret) worn on the July 24, 1975 Apollo–Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) Recovery Mission in the Pacific. The mission was a symbol of détente and was the first joint U.S.–Soviet space flight, and the last flight of an Apollo spacecraft.