Frogmen Aboard The USS Burrfish In 1944, The Night Before Their Capture By Japanese Forces

May 19, 2021

In this recently colorized photo from 1944, an underwater demolitions team of frogmen shares a meal aboard the USS Burrfish, a Balao-class Navy submarine.

Image colorized by Ahmet Asar.

World War II truly exemplified the definition of a “world war.” Fought on multiple continents by both land and sea, the Axis and Allied powers waged brutal warfare upon one another through any means necessary. The theater of the Pacific which spanned thousands of miles, dotted with hundreds of atolls and islands, made for especially difficult fighting terrain. One branch of American forces that played an especially crucial role in these adverse conditions were the frogmen and UDT (underwater demolition team) of the Navy. These brave soldiers trained to swim miles, in the dark, sometimes wearing shoes to complete their missions. One particular team lost three of their men never to be found again despite seven decades of searching.

UDT & The Frogmen’s Role

An LCPR carries frogmen to their drop-off point during a World War II mission in the Pacifi c Theater. Preceding the Battle of Iwo Jima, frogmen exited the LCPRs about 700 yards offshore and swam the rest of the way in. (

Primarily, the UDT and their Frogmen counterparts would conduct clandestine surveillance missions around the many Japanese military bases established on tiny Pacific islands. Outfitted with minimalist gear, these soldiers would swim miles in pitch black ocean, hundreds of feet deep, often without any moonlight to light their way.