How to go to the Navy SEALs Museum in Fort Pierce by parachute or underwater
The Navy SEALs are the backbone of U.S. special operations forces at sea, on land and in the air.
They have a long and distinguished track record of courageous, secret expeditions that have defined special ops since the team's inception during World War II.
Floridians have a unique opportunity to explore that history at the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, the birthplace of Navy frogmen, first known as "Scouts" and "Raiders."
From 1943 through 1946, thousands of volunteers were trained in Fort Pierce as members of the Naval Combat Demolition Units and Underwater Demolition Teams.
'Devils with Green Faces'
The early history of the SEALs defines them as a reconnaissance force, working with other branches of the armed forces to seize and establish beachheads for invasions. The earliest teams were commissioned in 1942 and more teams were added as World War II progressed in Europe, Africa and the Pacific.
Their mission was soon expanded to clear sea channels, erect markers for incoming assault crafts, then go ashore and clear beach obstacles for incoming forces. They have a long history of search and rescue and underwater expeditions that have shaped unconventional warfare throughout the world, but especially within the U.S. armed forces.
These Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) were not actually known as SEALs until 1962, when President John F. Kennedy recognized their value and commissioned them as Sea Air Land Teams, again expanding their mission beyond their traditional role.
During the Vietnam War, the SEALs were one of this country's most effective combat forces, gaining an almost mythical reputation among the Vietcong as the "Devils with Green Faces."
The UDT and SEALs' rich history is detailed in the artifacts and stories told at the Fort Pierce museum, from their vital role in D-Day to their heroic feats in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where it was SEALs, on a super-secret mission, that took down al-Quaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
Visit the museum
The museum, located in a peaceful oceanfront setting on State Road A1A in Fort Pierce, proudly boasts it is "the only museum in the world dedicated exclusively to the elite warriors of Naval Special Warfare."
The museum is devoted to UDT and SEAL teams but covers a wide range of special operations units with displays of weapons, uniforms, unique underwater and land vehicles used by U.S. special forces throughout their existence with a wealth of interpretive and historical information.
It's a small museum, but packed with stuff a military history buff will find fascinating.
What I liked best was outside -- the museum grounds contain a variety of transport vehicles of all vintages from helicopters to landing craft, including a lifeboat used by the SEALs to rescue an oil-tanker captain from Somali pirates in 2009.
And what a great place to bring your kids and teach them about how the U.S. military is protecting them with the fight on terrorism, as well as about the history of the heroes who have gone to war to defend their freedom.
Tongue in cheek, or maybe not, the museum's website offers directions for those who wish to arrive by parachute or slide up to the beach underwater:
"If you are using GPS, our coordinates are: Latitude: 27.8126468 Longitude: 80.4250437. If you plan to parachute in, prevailing winds are from the Southeast at 10 to 18 knots. For those of you who plan a SCUBA insertion, water temperatures range from 84° in the summer to under 70° in winter."
If you go
What: The National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum
Where: 3300 N. A1A on North Hutchinson Island, Fort Pierce
Directions: Take the North A1A Causeway from Fort Pierce, across the Indian River, and go 1.3 miles past Fort Pierce Inlet State Park. The museum is on your right (beachside).
Hours: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday; noon – 4 p.m. Sunday.
Admission: Adults $10, children 6 - 12 $5
Navy UDT-SEAL Museum: https://www.navysealmuseum.org/
Barefoot on Hutchinson Island: http://www.floridarambler.com/florida-best-beaches/cruisin-a1a-hutchinson-island-beaches-fish-explore/
Fort Pierce to Jensen Beach: Scenic drive through Old Florida: http://www.floridarambler.com/historic-florida-getaways/fort-pierce-to-jensen-beach-scenic-road/