Into Enemy Waters
August 23rd, 2022
Into Enemy Waters by Andrew Dubbins details the origins and heroic missions of World War II’s most elite and daring unit of warriors, told through the eyes of one of its last living members, 95-year-old George Morgan. As a wiry, 17-year-old lifeguard from New Jersey when he joined the Navy’s new combat demolition unit, he was tasked to blow up enemy coastal defenses ahead of landings by Allied forces. His first assignment: Omaha Beach on D-Day.
When he returned stateside, Morgan learned that his service was only beginning. Outfitted with swim trunks, a dive mask, and fins, he was sent to Hawaii and then on to deployments in the Pacific as a member of the elite and pioneering Underwater Demolition Teams. GIs called them “half fish, half nuts.” The frogmen morphed into the Navy SEALS.
Led by maverick Naval Reserve Officer Draper Kauffman, Morgan would spend the fierce final year of the war swimming up to enemy controlled beaches to gather intel and detonate underwater barriers. He’d have to master the sea, muster superhuman grit, and overcome the demons of Omaha Beach.
Moving closer to Japan, the enemy’s island defenses were growing more elaborate and its soldiers more fanatical. From the black sand beaches of Iwo Jima to the shark infested reefs of Okinawa, to the cold seas of Tokyo Bay, teenaged George Morgan was there before most, fighting for his life.
Readers will want to read this as a preface to the Navy Seals.
Elise Cooper: Why did you write it?
Andrew Dubbins: I was visiting the National WWII Museum in New Orleans since I was a student of WWII history. Walking into an exhibit on the Pacific Theatre I saw a swim fin. First time I ever heard of these WWII demolition teams. They swam into enemy beaches, scouting before the allied forces landed. I did some research and decided to write this book.
EC: What do you want Americans to know?
AD: I do not think the UDT teams got the credit they were owed, probably because it was a top-secret unit. The commander issued a media blackout. Secrecy requirement was necessary. At the end of the war the media blackout was lifted.
EC: What skills did it take to be a frogman?
AD: People with demolition experience like miners and construction workers along with good swimmers were recruited. They would blow up underwater obstacles and scout the underwater terrain. It was easier to teach swimmers demolition, so lifeguards and championship swimmers were enlisted. They had to go through Hell Week which has a lot of similarities to the Navy Seals training of today: swimming in rough ocean, jogging on the soft sand, and going through the swamps. In Hawaii they did advanced training with a heavier emphasis on stealth swimming without breaking the surface of the water. They needed to hold their breath and not use masks since it reflected the light. They had to haul explosives on their back, which meant they needed to be in excellent physical condition.
EC: Similarities between the SEALs and Frogmen?
AD: Some SEALs who read the book told me a lot of what was done is still practiced. SEALs are trained in different tactics. Hell Week today is much more rigorous. Many of the Frogmen never lifted a weight in their life and instead used raw strength and courage back then.
EC: How would you describe George Morgan?
AD: Humble and could never understand why I was interested in his story, which was typical of The Greatest Generation. He was so courageous and made so many sacrifices. He gave up a baseball career, but it was a time when duty and country came first. He wanted to be remembered as a good father and husband.
EC: What was the role of Draper Kaufman?
AD: He is considered the father of demolition. He was an early instructor, the founder of the Fort Pierce training base with the naval combat demolition units. He led the first major reconnaissance by the frogmen around Normandy. This is where many tactics were developed including using fishing reels to measure ocean depth. They devised a method to pick up swimmers at high speed. To this day Navy SEALs call him the “grandpappy bullfrog.”
EC: The role of WWII?
AD: The term was coined by newspaper men during WWII. They pioneered maritime war tactics and played a major role in scouting the Pacific Theatre.