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The SEAL trident, also known as “The Bird,” is a hard-earned merit. The mark of a full-fledged SEAL, it can be worn only by those who pass all necessary training and maintain high standards. / Alamy

The most fearsome combat personnel in the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Navy SEALs, evolved from Underwater Demolition Teams first organized on Aug. 15, 1942.

As amphibious landings became a regular part of American offensive operations in Europe and the Pacific during World War II, UDTs preceded landing forces, gathering intelligence and removing natural or created obstacles. After the war, scuba gear became a part of UDT equipment. During the Korean War in the 1950s, parachuting, land combat skills, guerrilla warfare and counterinsurgency were added to the UDT’s repertoire.

President John F. Kennedy’s focus on the importance of unconventional warfare increased the prominence of U.S. Army Special Forces. Around that time, in January 1962, the Navy combined UDT skills in its first Sea, Air and Land teams: SEAL Team One based at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado near San Diego, California, and Seal Team Two at NAB Little Creek, Virginia.

In May 1983 the last of the UDTs were assimilated as SEAL delivery vehicle teams within Naval Special Warfare Group 3 at Coronado. As with the Special Forces, the SEALs evolved their approach to warfare and sharpened their skills in Vietnam.

The SEALs boast the most demanding physical and mental training in existence.

The Navy declares: “Then comes the hard part — the job of essentially taking on any situation or foe that the world has to offer.” Often tapped to undertake the military’s toughest small-unit direct-action missions, the SEALs have adopted this mantra: “The only easy day was yesterday.” V

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