The Seashore Rats

Santa Monica lifeguard Arthur Garrett swam by means of the black heaving ocean towards the fishing boat Patsy Jane. She was disabled, useless within the water, pitching and rolling on a 25-foot swell. There have been two aboard on that stormy evening of December 5, 1945: Chester Gannon, 30, and Dee Sharbono, 32. Garrett would have recognized nothing about them—simply that they wanted rescue.

Garrett was bare to the waist within the chilly Pacific and outfitted with solely a pair of yellow rescue tubes. Again then within the Nineteen Forties, the inflatable life-saving units had been nonetheless experimental, generally deflating throughout rescues, however they had been simpler to haul on lengthy swims than the heavier metal rescue cans that lifeguards dubbed Rescue Torpedoes.

Garrett’s coaching was to by no means take his eyes off the sufferer, on this case the wallowing fishing boat. However to get previous the break, as every enormous mountain of water rose up out of the ocean, he’d should dive beneath. Plunging into the murky, roiling darkness, the ocean turning colder as he neared the underside, Garrett would have felt the ability of every wave because it handed overhead, briefly sucking him backward. Diving underneath giant waves, lifeguards be taught to claw their fingers into the sandy sea backside to carry themselves regular. The primary rule of ocean security is to respect the ocean, and also you be taught it shortly, swimming underneath a wave 4 instances your peak.

Behind Garrett, the waves thundered ashore onto Santa Monica Seashore, kicking up a salty mist within the darkness. The swells had spilled over the heavy rocks of the Santa Monica breakwater as in the event that they had been pebbles and had beached seven small vessels on the sand. Farther south, in Redondo Seashore, the waves had washed out the sand beneath a theater, forcing work crews to hurriedly prop it up with heavy beams of timber. The Hermosa Seashore pier had been shut down after the surging waves broke off the top part, then washed it ashore like driftwood.

The wind screamed round Garrett as he moved by means of the Santa Monica Bay, with the sky darkish above him and the ocean darkish under. Ultimately, after a 500-yard swim, he reached the Patsy Jane, rearing and groaning underneath the fury of the wind and the brutal blows of the ocean.

Garrett fitted the 2 fishermen with the rescue tubes and dragged them by means of the storm-tossed waters to a rescue boat. The duty required a stage of stamina, ocean savvy, and braveness that would appear superhuman to most, however Garrett was notably effectively fitted to the mission. He’d simply returned residence from the Pacific Theater, the place he’d served in an elite, pioneering unit of maritime warriors.

William “Wild Invoice” Donovan, founding father of the Workplace of Strategic Companies, a precursor to the CIA.


On July 11, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt signed an order appointing William “Wild Invoice” Donovan to create America’s first spy company, which might come to be known as the Workplace of Strategic Companies (OSS). A precursor to the CIA, the company was divided into branches together with Counterintelligence, Particular Operations, Analysis and Evaluation, and Morale Operations. Donovan, a World Struggle I Medal of Honor winner turned Wall Road lawyer, additionally envisioned a Maritime Unit, stuffed with skilled swimmers who may perform reconnaissance and sabotage missions by sea.

Certainly one of Donovan’s first recruits into the Maritime Unit was a 34-year-old Hollywood dentist named Dr. Jack Taylor. With shiny blue eyes and sun-streaked brown hair, the good-looking Santa Monica native was famend for his dental experience however noticed the work merely as a way to finance his ardour for journey. Keen to flee the tedium of dental work, the licensed pilot would take unique holidays equivalent to mining for gold within the Yukon Territory, the place he as soon as narrowly escaped being buried alive inside a gold mine. A consummate thrill seeker, Taylor was notably keen on sailboat racing. He was a founding father of the Santa Monica Yacht Membership and had piloted his personal boat solo throughout giant stretches of the Pacific Ocean.

Some known as this bunch seaside rats, however they referred to themselves as watermen.

The globe-trotting dentist was an ideal match for Donovan’s daring unit of swim saboteurs. Along with being a world-class sailor, Taylor had served as a Santa Monica Seashore lifeguard in his teenagers and had damaged quite a few swim data in highschool. Into his 30s, he remained an avid pores and skin diver and counted a lot of Santa Monica’s lifeguards, divers, spear fishermen, and surfers as associates.

They rode the waves of Malibu on longboards and dove for giant bull lobsters on the Venice Breakwater. They used domestically made rubber swim fins and dive masks, which a lot of the world had nonetheless by no means heard of. They devised their very own moist fits earlier than the time period was even invented, carrying woolen underwear within the winter months. They went fishing for sharks (which had been focused for his or her liver oil) and chased the barracuda that swarmed L.A.’s waters in these days. The royalty of the watermen had been the Santa Monica Bay lifeguards, who obtained to do all of it on a authorities wage.

Some known as this bunch seaside rats, however they referred to themselves as watermen. They had been precisely the type of males Wild Invoice was searching for.

lieutenant jack taylor served in the oss

Dentist turned Lieutenant Jack Taylor combed Santa Monica’s seashores to search out the most effective recruits.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

After Japan’s assault on Pearl Harbor, Los Angeles and its seashores shortly moved onto a wartime footing. Air raid sirens blared, and searchlights scanned the evening sky. Blackouts and anti-aircraft weapons grew to become widespread alongside the coast. In February 1942, a Japanese submarine surfaced off Santa Barbara and shelled an oil set up. Los Angeles too had common reviews of Japanese subs offshore. Native seashores had been fenced off and transformed into army encampments to organize for a possible Japanese invasion. Malibu grew to become a fortress, its picket pier used as a lookout publish. The Coast Guard moved its headquarters into the pool home of the Adamson property, army convoys rumbled by means of city, and barbed wire surrounded Surfrider seaside. Most surfers discovered new spots, however it’s stated that one diehard continued to paddle out to the purpose break by moonlight.

With America at warfare, the OSS Maritime Unit ramped up its recruiting efforts. Merely competent swimmers wouldn’t do; the unit’s recruiters needed the best within the nation, together with Olympic-caliber swimmers and college champions. The OSS combed the navy and Coast Guard for high swimmers, and—virtually actually because of Dr. Jack Taylor’s affect—started scouring the seashores of Los Angeles for ocean lifeguards and watermen.

Think about The Soiled Dozen, besides as a substitute of convicts, the recruits had been muscular, suntanned seaside rats.

Think about The Soiled Dozen, besides as a substitute of convicts, the recruits had been muscular, suntanned seaside rats, with sand of their hair, salt water of their ears, and surfboards underneath their arms. They had been the unlikeliest secret weapon within the warfare in opposition to the Axis, a bunch of hardy younger swimmers extra comfy within the ocean than on land.

Arthur Garrett joined the Coast Guard, lengthy known as the guardians of the ocean, earlier than being recruited into the OSS. As an ocean lifeguard, Garrett was an impressive swimmer, in high form, and educated in regards to the Pacific, its highly effective waves, swift currents, stinging jellyfish, and lethal nice white sharks. He was additionally a frontrunner. Lifeguards carried themselves with dignity and satisfaction as educated professionals and metropolis representatives. Garrett’s fellow lifeguard John Tabor, who in 1942 grew to become the county’s first African American lifeguard, recollects being taught to be a “position mannequin” for his “fellow residents.” Recognizing Garrett’s management potential, the OSS made him an officer, assigning him to organize his males for an audacious type of maritime warfare that had by no means been tried.

Twenty-one-year-old Robert Scoles was a part of Hermosa Seashore’s crack lifeguard squad, which was credited with tons of of rescues and acknowledged as one in all California’s best crews. He surfed at Hermosa Seashore in his free time and swam laps within the pool. “He was stunning to observe within the water,” a pal would later say. He was poised to compete within the 1942 Olympics. “However the warfare put an finish to that,” Scoles would recall. His father had volunteered in France within the early days of World Struggle I, and Scoles felt the same patriotic responsibility. Like Garrett, he joined the Coast Guard, the place he was approached by a recruiter for the OSS.

“You suppose you can swim to Catalina?” the recruiter requested.

Scoles’s long-distance swim document was 22 miles, and Catalina Island is about 20 from the tip of Palos Verdes. “Sure,” the younger lifeguard answered.

Fellow Hermosa Seashore lifeguard Jim Eubank grew up in Inglewood and began working at a younger age after his father deserted the household. To assist put meals on the desk throughout the Despair, he rode his bike to the ocean to show himself to swim and have become a lifeguard. He received a couple of rough-water swim meets and was quickly competing in opposition to the world’s finest, like Buster Crabbe, who received gold within the 1932 Olympics and starred within the movie Tarzan. Eubank joined the Coast Guard in 1942, whereas his sweetheart Vera—a music pupil—volunteered to supply music remedy for wounded servicemen getting back from the warfare. Eubank spent a couple of boring months on the Coast Guard base as a swim teacher, when he heard a loudspeaker announcement requesting volunteers for a brand new particular outfit known as the OSS Maritime Unit. He was warned the work can be hazardous and that members had a ten % likelihood of survival. Vera couldn’t fathom why he’d volunteer, however she agreed to marry him when he obtained residence.

Twenty-four-year-old lifeguard Frank Donahue had grown up in Santa Monica and spent his teen years browsing subsequent to the Santa Monica Pier, skin-diving for lobster and abalone and fishing off the coast on one of many many business trawlers that used to crowd the Santa Monica Bay. Donahue had an curiosity within the movie enterprise, and his job as a Santa Monica lifeguard supplied some publicity to Hollywood. Stars like Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, and Cary Grant frequented the seashores stretching from Santa Monica Canyon to Venice, usually attending costume events on the huge Santa Monica Seashore mansion of silent movie star Marion Davies. Off-duty lifeguards generally made slightly additional money as Hollywood stuntmen, diving off cliffs or the masts of sailboats, or combating sea monsters within the film Reap the Wild Wind. The Malibu lifeguard squad hosted huge moonlight bonfires at Burnt Pants Seashore, named after a lifeguard who walked over sizzling coals making an attempt to impress the revelers however fell on his bottom. One bonfire common was an aspiring actress named Marilyn Monroe, whose boyfriend was a lifeguard. Regardless of the attract of the silver display screen, Donahue opted for the safer route of legislation college. He was in his first 12 months when World Struggle II broke out, and the OSS got here calling.

Joe Stepner was a pure match for the OSS, one of many metropolis’s few lifeguards who’d been shot at. Years earlier, Los Angeles had purchased the water rights to the Owens Valley, diverting water from native farms and pumping it to Angelenos. Town dispatched lifeguards to patrol the world’s reservoir, Crowley Lake, the place offended locals had been capturing on the lifeguard boats. The lifeguard chief despatched Stepner, who was six foot 4, and one other lifeguard, who was a former heavyweight wrestling champion, to the lake. Each had labored Venice Seashore, the place a giant a part of the job was controlling the massive seaside crowds. (Lifeguards prided themselves on dealing with unruly beachgoers themselves, by no means calling in legislation enforcement.) By means of a mixture of diplomacy and brawling, the 2 put an finish to the Owens Valley shootings.

Though not a Los Angeles native, Hank Weldon was a pool lifeguard throughout highschool in Oklahoma. He had simply enlisted in a navy officer’s coaching program when “Wild Invoice” Donovan arrived on the base searching for swimmers. Weldon determined to take the OSS take a look at, which concerned diving to the underside of a pool, fetching a manhole cowl, and inserting it in a canoe on the floor with out tipping it over. Weldon, who’d additionally performed faculty soccer at Villanova, handed the take a look at and shortly discovered himself a member of the OSS.

In whole, a couple of dozen Los Angeles–space lifeguards had been recruited into the 226-member OSS Maritime Unit, contributing their ocean data and abilities to the elite group of swim commandos. As soon as often known as watermen, they might quickly purchase a brand new wartime nickname: frogmen.

a member of the oss's maritime unit swims underwater with an early scuba device and flexible fins developed specially for the clandestine service

An OSS Maritime Unit swimmer utilizing an early scuba gadget and versatile fins.

Catalina Island Museum

The mission of the OSS frogmen was to insert into enemy territory by sea for the needs of espionage and reconnaissance, to move and provide resistance fighters, to sabotage enemy transport and coastal defenses utilizing underwater demolition, and to develop particular maritime gear and techniques that may very well be utilized by different U.S. army items.

The boys educated at a number of top-secret amenities. One, known as Space D, was in a bug-infested swamp a couple of miles south of Quantico, Virginia, on the Maryland facet of the Potomac River. There, trainees discovered to deal with small boats, together with kayaks and canoes. They studied navigation, currents, tides, nautical charts, and the artwork of explosives. Taylor served as the varsity’s chief teacher. The skilled yachtsman taught recruits tips on how to crew and sail an vintage sailboat moored on the Potomac, and he organized evening drills, requiring trainees to sneak out of the water previous armed sentries. Coaching was rigorous and harmful. Two trainees drowned when their boat capsized within the Potomac.

One other OSS coaching facility was situated on Treasure Island within the Bahamas, the place the recruits practiced blowing up replicas of enemy obstacles above the colourful coral reef and connected limpet mines to a sunken shipwreck. At any time when sharks approached the swimmers, the boys cleverly emptied a sack containing darkish blue powder to simulate the ink spray of a squid. The trainees additionally encountered an aggressive four-foot barracuda, which so usually adopted the swimmers, they gave him a reputation: Horace.

OSS recruits additionally needed to full the grueling Marine Raider Coaching Course at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County, which emphasised seaside infiltration and small boat operations within the excessive surf.

Underwater coaching was held at a secret OSS base on the leeward facet of Catalina Island, dubbed Space WA. The boys slept on the grounds of a former all-boys boarding college situated at Toyon Bay. Two and a half miles by water from the port of Avalon, the hidden cove was chosen for its seclusion, hemmed in by steep cliffs with no highway in or out of the world. Even Catalina residents and different service members stationed on the island knew nothing of the bottom’s existence.

Within the clear blue waters off Catalina, the OSS frogmen practiced underwater demolition and experimented with state-of-the-art gear equivalent to one-man submersibles, collapsible kayaks, a two-man surfboard outfitted with a quiet electrical motor that may very well be launched from submarines, watches with luminous dials, M-3 submachine weapons in watertight covers, waterproof flashlights, compasses, depth gauges, and ordnance. Catalina was like a weapons laboratory for the frogmen, lifeguard Robert Scoles recollects: “Most of our OSS new weapons had been within the experimental stage, and we had been in a position to be taught as we used them.”

The OSS males built-in the gear pioneered by the Santa Monica Bay lifeguards and watermen, together with skin-diving masks with a round glass window and black rubber swim fins designed by one in all Jack Taylor’s fellow yachtsmen in L.A., an Olympic swimmer named Owen Churchill. On a go to to the island of Tahiti, Churchill had watched native boys swimming with rubber fins bolstered with metallic bands. He tracked down a French inventor who’d designed his personal pair and negotiated a license to make them within the U.S., initially utilizing tire rubber. (To this present day, Churchill’s fins stay a favourite amongst physique surfers and boarders.) If a misplaced fin was to scrub ashore on an enemy seaside, the Germans or Japanese may discover the identify of the odd webfoot contraption stamped on the rubber—“Churchills”—together with Churchill’s tackle in Los Angeles: 3215 West Fifth Road.

The boys additionally educated in martial arts, cryptography, map studying, and radio communications. Quite a lot of the trainees had been Japanese People and Korean POWs, who’d volunteered to function linguists.

On Catalina, the OSS frogmen went on lengthy runs into the mountains to construct their endurance and took part in a five-day survival course. Provided with solely a knife and fishing wire, they hunted Catalina’s wild boar, skinned its wild goats, and fished with their naked palms, all whereas dodging the buffalo that roamed the island. The boys additionally educated in martial arts, cryptography, map studying, and radio communications. Quite a lot of the trainees had been Japanese People and Korean POWs, who’d volunteered to function linguists and fighters behind enemy traces with a purpose to drive the Japanese out of East Asia.

To follow infiltrating enemy seashores undetected, the frogmen carried out stealthy mock raids on Avalon, Two Harbors, and different areas on Catalina Island. (Eighty years later, scuba divers nonetheless discover bullet casings round Avalon’s previous on line casino.) Approaching by sea, the frogmen used the breaststroke and sidestroke, which reduce splash, they usually camouflaged themselves underneath the piles of brown-green seaweed that thrive in Catalina’s nutrient-rich salt water. Lifeguard Hank Weldon would recall an train designed to check the boys’s stealth. “They gave us a bunch of dummy TNT at excessive tide, dropped us off a couple of half mile offshore, and instructed us to plant all of it alongside the coast whereas our commanding officers stored watch. One of many commanding officers stated he thought he noticed one thing, however they didn’t see us. When daylight got here, the tide went out and all you can see was the dummy TNT all alongside the shore.”

In the meantime, Taylor was investigating a newfangled gadget that promised to reshape clandestine operations. On the evening of November 18, 1942, on the stately artwork deco Shoreham Resort in Washington, D.C., a small group of army servicemen gathered across the lodge’s giant indoor pool as Taylor slipped on a face masks, inserted a tube into his mouth, then buckled on the Lambertsen Amphibious Respiratory Unit (LARU). A primitive model of scuba, the gadget had been invented by Christian Lambertsen, who stood poolside among the many spectators at Taylor’s demonstration. The 25-year-old College of Pennsylvania medical pupil had constructed the contraption in his storage utilizing a bicycle pump and an previous World Struggle I fuel masks. He had examined the gadget in a chamber stuffed with anesthetic fuel and introduced a canary and a canine inside. First the canary fell off its perch, then the canine fell over. When he bent over to examine on the canine, he too handed out and collapsed. Lambertsen decided that the anesthetic fuel that stuffed the chamber had seeped into the LARU’s respiration bag, and he’d been fine-tuning the gadget ever since. Taylor submerged into the pool and commenced swimming laps, with out as soon as lifting his head above water.

A swimming pool was one factor, however Taylor knew that the underwater gear would want to carry up in opposition to the ocean’s tough waves and corrosive salt water. Whereas visiting residence on private go away, he rode a ship out to sea with lifeguard George Peterson and anchored off the shore of Santa Monica. Taylor peered over the facet as Peterson donned one other scuba-like contraption known as Browne’s Lung, then swam across the boat underwater for 20 minutes. (He may have gone longer, however the water was too chilly.) Quickly, OSS Maritime Unit trainees had been testing the LARU and different underwater respiration units off Catalina and within the Bahamas. They had been making historical past—among the many first to make use of scuba gear within the ocean.

an mu swimmer negotiates anti submarine concertina wire nets during underwater training

A Maritime Unit swimmer navigating anti-submarine nets.


After their coaching, a lot of the OSS frogmen had been dispatched to the Pacific, the place they had been built-in into the navy’s Underwater Demolition Groups (UDT). The UDT had been created after America’s disastrous assault on Tarawa in November 1943, when U.S. touchdown craft grew to become caught on the island’s shallow coral reef, forcing the Marines to wade a half mile to shore underneath withering Japanese hearth. Decided to stop additional lack of life throughout island assaults, the navy resolved to deploy swimmers forward of Allied forces to scout enemy seashores and blow up coastal defenses and pure limitations as wanted.

When the OSS males reached the UDT coaching base on Maui, most of their navy counterparts had been nonetheless swimming barefoot or in athletic sneakers. The OSS males helped introduce swim fins, demonstrating how the fins elevated velocity and maneuverability within the water, particularly over coral reefs. Though the OSS males had educated within the LARU respiration gadget on Catalina, the navy determined that the gear would decelerate the swimmers and loaded the primitive scuba gear into storage in Honolulu. Thus, the OSS males’s new uniform grew to become streamlined: swim trunks, fins, and dive masks.

The OSS swimmers noticed motion within the Central Pacific, Burma, Indonesia, and the South China Sea. Swimming into closely fortified Japanese seashores, they usually encountered fierce enemy gunfire. Happily, their bobbing heads made for troublesome targets. Additionally they found that bullets slowed down a couple of toes under the ocean floor, permitting them to dive beneath the sinking ordnance. (Some swimmers caught the bullets and stored them as souvenirs. Others would later drill a gap within the sniper bullets, lace string by means of them, and put on them as necklaces.)

Lifeguards Garrett, Scoles, and Weldon had been all deployed to the Palau islands, the place America had its sights on the enemy stronghold of Peleliu, gateway to the Philippines.

Weldon’s platoon was assigned to mark Japanese anti-boat mines for the navy’s soon-to-arrive touchdown craft. He’d always remember the eerie expertise of shifting by means of the water above the large mines, which had been anchored to the ocean backside and floated underwater like balloons. “A accomplice and I ended up treading water for a few hours over a reside mine,” he’d later recount. “We lastly obtained aid, and one other minesweeper discovered the mine and blew it up.”

wwii frogman attaches demolition to underwater obstacle

A frogman attaching underwater demolition.

Nationwide Navy SEAL Museum

Throughout a day mission off Peleliu, Garrett stood on the bridge of the World Struggle I–period destroyer Rathburne as his workforce of swimmers scouted the island’s seashores in broad daylight. Garrett’s position as an ensign was to observe the swim mission and direct the American protecting hearth. Excessive-caliber shells from a line of navy warships slammed into Peleliu’s shoreline to maintain the Japanese pinned down whereas the frogmen had been within the water.

A message crackled over the radio from a fellow officer in a touchdown craft near shore, who reported seeing Japanese troops dragging one thing out of a cave. Garrett instructed the gunnery officer, who scanned the world together with his binoculars however didn’t see any enemy troopers. Then the officer within the touchdown craft exclaimed, “It’s a howitzer—a giant one!”

Spouts of water erupted as if from hearth hydrants throughout the Rathburne. The captain gunned the destroyer’s engines and steered her out of the world at flank velocity. Garrett requested about his officer aboard the touchdown craft. The captain—centered on the lives of his personal crew—dryly replied, “Let him catch up.” Happily, spotters aboard a close-by destroyer pinpointed the howitzer, and the navy gunners blew it off the cliff.

Scoles was supposed to affix a historic operation off Peleliu—the first-ever deployment of U.S. fight swimmers from a submarine. However his commander yanked him on the final minute as a result of he needed solely navy males, and Scoles had come from the Coast Guard. On the evening of August 11, 1944, the OSS commandos painted their faces black, climbed onto the deck of the U.S. submarine Burrfish, and paddled ashore in a rubber raft. Dodging Japanese shore patrols, they measured and scouted the enemy seaside. After they had been completed, a workforce member tapped his Ka-Bar knife on a coral head as a sign to the submarine’s sonar operator, then the group swam throughout the water again to the sub. Off the island of Yap in Micronesia, the identical 5 OSS males once more deployed from the Burrfish, however this time solely two returned. The others had been captured by the Japanese, interrogated, tortured, and by no means seen once more.

Garrett, Scoles, and Weldon subsequent shipped to the Philippines, the place they had been assigned to reconnoiter the seashores for military troops led by Common Douglas MacArthur. Weldon helped destroy Japanese artillery markers and detonated boat lanes for invasion ships utilizing a paddle board to haul the explosives. Scoles was dragging explosives by means of the water to explode seaside obstructions on the island of Leyte when a Japanese mortar splashed down beside him. The underwater pulse launched him upward and pushed one other close by swimmer 10 toes underwater earlier than he surfaced, spitting blood. “Once you get hit by an explosion like that,” Scoles’s accomplice later stated, “water goes in each orifice: the ears, nostril, rectum, and tears issues up slightly bit.” Miraculously, each males survived the highly effective blast.

A serious stormed over to the frogmen. “Why didn’t you salute?” he barked. It wasn’t till a few days later that Weldon discovered that the person in moist khakis was maybe essentially the most well-known military commander of all time.

Santa Monica Bay lifeguard Arthur Garrett joined the scouting mission at Leyte and was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry. His commendation learn: “Within the face of enemy rifle, machine gun and mortar hearth Ensign Garrett bravely ready the way in which for the operations of fight troops contributing drastically to the success of this mission.”

On October 20, 1944, Weldon and a handful of UDT males had been strolling on the seaside at Leyte, carrying their sacks, after they handed a person wading to shore in his khaki uniform, surrounded by photographers. The younger frogmen had no concept who the individual was or the explanation he was being photographed, they usually walked on.

A serious stormed over to the frogmen. “Why didn’t you salute?” he barked.

“What for?” Weldon replied.

The person being photographed was Common Douglas MacArthur, who’d fled the Philippines two years earlier and was now a part of a rigorously choreographed publicity stunt to accompany his well-known message to the world: “I’ve returned.”

douglas macarthur lands leyte

Common Douglas MacArthur’s rigorously choreographed touchdown at Leyte, Philippines.


It wasn’t till a few days later that Weldon discovered that the person in moist khakis was maybe essentially the most well-known military commander of all time.

The frogmen had been creating a fame as roguish and irreverent, the issue kids of the navy. Throughout operations on Guam, one workforce had planted an indication on the seaside to remind the Marines who had reached the island first. “Marines Welcome!” it stated. “Courtesy UDT.”

Santa Monica Bay lifeguard Frank Donahue was serving as a coaching officer when he overheard a navy admiral insulting the frogmen and their talents. Donahue simply smiled. Then, later that evening, he and a few fellow frogmen swam out and positioned blasting caps across the admiral’s boat. When the admiral set sail the subsequent morning, it was to a refrain of thunderous booms. When questioned in regards to the incident, Donahue stated he’d simply needed to reveal the vulnerability of the admiral’s vessel.

Though the swimmers had been rebellious at instances, their wartime contributions quickly grew to become thought to be important. Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner, who commanded amphibious forces within the Pacific, would later write: “Their efforts at all times diminished losses to troops and boats’ crews and drastically facilitated the touchdown of males and cargo. Their worth to the Amphibious forces was immense.”

So useful had been the swimmers, they had been usually borrowed by different Allied nations. In February 1945, Hermosa lifeguard Jim Eubank discovered himself in Burma conducting recon for British touchdown forces. His workforce hitched rides on PT boats earlier than switching to kayaks, then swam the final leg by means of Japanese waters. On one seaside, Eubank noticed 20-foot-long saltwater crocodiles within the shallows and felt one thing brush in opposition to him within the water. He was completely terrified, till realizing it was only a college of fish. At evening, the OSS males rode patrol boats upriver deep behind enemy traces, silently drifting previous Japanese camps, observing troopers gathered round their fires.

On one dangerous mission, Eubank and his accomplice, John Sales space, needed to transport Burmese brokers ashore. They gave the Burmese males opium in alternate for intel on Japanese positions. “We weren’t dope sellers,” Eubank later clarified. “This was warfare.”

The intel proved pointless. As they paddled in a raft towards the drop-off level, Japanese troopers leapt from the timber and opened hearth. Happily, the OSS males made it again to the ship, the place they heard a radio report that Japanese forces had repelled an American invasion. “However truly it was simply me and Sales space,” Eubank later stated.

Taylor so resented being caught within the U.S. as an teacher that he threatened to switch to the navy until the OSS gave him an abroad task. The request was granted, and the previous Hollywood dentist was deployed to Cairo in the summertime of 1943, the place he labored with archaeologist spies to assemble a watercraft flotilla for missions within the Aegean Sea. Subsequent, he teamed with actor Sterling Hayden, who was a fellow OSS commando, to determine a Maritime Unit department in southern Italy to provide Josip Tito’s anti-fascist guerrillas. Whereas in Italy, Taylor additionally led a collection of daring covert operations, together with rescuing a airplane of American medics and nurses that had crashed within the Albanian mountains.

In October 1944, Taylor was a part of a four-man OSS workforce that parachuted into Austria to spy on the Nazis. Captured by the Gestapo in November 1944, Taylor was despatched to the Mauthausen focus camp. There, the previous adventurer skilled horrors that shook him to the core. Struggling hunger and dysentery, he was compelled to construct a crematorium that will incinerate fellow inmates. Taylor was scheduled for execution on 4 events, however different prisoners took his place, wanting the American to outlive the warfare and report on the Nazis’ atrocities. Taylor was on the verge of dying in Might 1945 when eventually a U.S. armored division liberated the camp.

In the meantime within the Pacific, after Okinawa’s seize in June 1945, the OSS frogmen started coaching for the invasion of Japan, the place they anticipated a gargantuan battle within the coldest seas they’d ever skilled. However the U.S. deployment of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Japan’s subsequent give up, meant that the swimmers may lastly return residence.

the oss maritime unit from the base at galle, ceylon, used the “sleeping beauty,” a manned submersible of british design

The OSS Maritime Unit from the bottom at Galle, Ceylon.


President Harry Truman dissolved the OSS and its Maritime Unit on the finish of the warfare, however their legacy lives on. The early scuba experiments, swim reconnaissance, and underwater demolition techniques had been codified into manuals. Finally, the frogmen’s specialised methods had been handed right down to their most well-known successor: the Navy SEALs.

As for the unit’s Santa Monica Bay lifeguards, most returned to civilian life after the warfare.

Jack Taylor retired from the army in 1945 however was briefly reactivated a 12 months later to function a main witness within the trial of the Waffen-SS guards who ran the focus camp the place he’d been imprisoned. Taylor’s testimony was essential to their conviction, a tribute to the inmates who’d sacrificed their lives to avoid wasting him. He suffered post-traumatic stress dysfunction from his wartime experiences and died in 1959, crashing a personal airplane close to his residence in Southern California.

Frank Donahue, the maverick who’d practically blown up an admiral, transitioned seamlessly into the movie business, first trapping sharks for Hollywood productions, then screenwriting and performing. He was a technical adviser and actor within the 1951 movie The Frogmen, which launched People to the daring exploits of the World Struggle II fight swimmers.

Jim Eubank married Vera and have become a profitable actual property developer. Hank Weldon joined the Los Angeles Police Division, the place he labored throughout the Watts Rise up. Reportedly the final surviving member of the OSS Maritime Unit, Weldon handed away in 2018 at age 95.

Arthur Garrett and Robert Scoles returned to ocean lifeguarding. Scoles later grew to become a schoolteacher and scuba teacher. (Many frogmen obtained concerned in diving after the warfare, serving to form the game’s growth.) Pulling from some previous navy diving manuals and his reminiscences of OSS coaching, Scoles launched L.A. County’s first-of-its-kind scuba diving certification program. He additionally cofounded a program known as Junior Lifeguards. Its authentic mission was to assist the latchkey children who hung round Scoles’s guard station and loitered underneath the pier, however it might finally evolve into an organized summer time camp.

I participated within the camp as a child, operating within the tender sand to the Santa Monica Pier, swimming to a buoy 200 yards out within the Pacific, studying tips on how to plunge underneath waves, paddle a surfboard, and navigate rip currents. I by no means obtained to satisfy Scoles or any of the lifeguard frogmen, however I love them. Theirs is a legacy of serving to strangers: first as younger lifeguards rescuing distressed swimmers, then as frogmen, swimming ashore to guard hundreds of squaddies they’d by no means meet, and, in Scoles’s case, as academics, main children like me into the Pacific, the place we will nonetheless swim as a free individuals.•

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