Navy SEALs, UDT Frogmen and the Space Program
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.
Bill Shepherd became the first SEAL in space in 2000. The jump suit of the second SEAL astronaut Chris Cassidy is on display at the Museum along with one of The National Navy SEAL Museum’s memorial coins, which he carried with him on his space mission. The certificate accompanying the coin states how many miles the coin orbited the earth.