You might think that the Navy Diver (ND) rating has been around decades, but in point of fact it was only in 2006 that the Navy officially established the rating. The difficulty in conceptualizing the rating and its history is that quite a few other ratings also take part in diving operations. All seven of the ratings that make up the Naval Construction Force, for example, perform underwater construction duties, and of course SEALS engage in a huge variety of operations involving diving. Perhaps the best way to think of the rating is that NDs are the undisputed experts in all aspects of non-combat diving: salvage, maintenance and repair, recovery, rescue operations, clearance, research, diving equipment, best practices, and so forth.

Nonetheless, if you had to trace the origins of the rating to a seminal point, you could do a lot worse than pointing to the creation of three types of amphibious combat units created by the U.S. Navy to address problems inherent in conducting amphibious landings: Navy Scouts and Raiders, Navy Combat Demolition Units, and Navy Underwater Demolitions Teams.

Scouts and Raiders were a collaborative reconnaissance units formed about eight months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Though their training—which consisted of swimming, running, hand-to-hand combat classes, gunnery, radio operations, and more—was related more to actions performed once on a beachhead, they were the forerunners of the other two units. They took part in Operation Torch, earning eight Navy Crosses for their valor.

Navy Combat Demolition Units (NCDU) began with a single group of thirteen volunteers who were about to complete their training at the Dynamiting and Demolition School in Virignia. Operating as a six-man team (one officer, five enlisted), they were trained in ship salvage, mine detection, rocket disposal, and assault demolition techniques for clearing beach obstacles. Along with the Army’s beach Sappers, who were responsible for making paths through barbed wire emplacements and destroying walls and tank traps, they played a critical role at clearing the way for troops both Omaha and Utah Beaches on D-Day.

The creation of Naval Underwater Teams was a direct result of the disastrous landings at Tarawa in the Pacific Theater in November, 1943 when in the aftermath Rear Admiral Richmond Turner issued a directive to form nine Underwater Demolition Teams tasked with clearing beaches ahead of force landings. The teams, drawn from the six-man NCDU squads, consisted of around 100 men. Drawing on some of the hard lessons learned at Normandy, the teams did an outstanding job and suffered low casualty rates as they laid the groundwork for the invasions of Tinian, Saipan, Peleliu, Guam, Lingayen and Leyte Gulfs. Iwo Jima, Borneo, and Okinawa.

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