|Directed by||Lloyd Bacon|
|Produced by||Samuel G. Engel|
|Edited by||William Reynolds|
|Music by||Cyril J. Mockridge|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$2.1 million (US rentals)  |
The Frogmen is a 1951 American black-and-white World War II drama film from Twentieth Century Fox, produced by Samuel G. Engel, directed by Lloyd Bacon, that stars Richard Widmark, Dana Andrews, and Gary Merrill. The film's storyline is based on operations by United States Navy Underwater Demolition Teams, popularly known as "frogmen", against the Japanese Army and naval forces. It was the first such film about scuba diving and became a popular cultural hit.
Following the opening credits, The Frogmen has an on-screen written statement:
"This is a true story based on incidents which occurred in the latter part of World War II. It deals with one of the most hazardous and unique branches of the Armed Forces ... the Underwater Demolition Teams. This film could not have been produced without the active cooperation of the Department of Defense and the United States Navy".
Underwater Demolition Teams have been used since World War II for reconnaissance duties, clearing underwater obstacles planted by the enemy, advance landings on beaches, and offensive underwater attacks on enemy ships; they were the forerunners of the Navy SEALs.
At the 24th Academy Awards for films from 1951, the film was nominated for Best Cinematography (Black-and-White) for Norbert Brodine and Best Screenplay (Motion Picture Story) for Oscar Millard. However, the award for Cinematography went to A Place in the Sun (William C. Mellor) while the Story award went to Seven Days to Noon (Paul Dehn and James Bernard).
During World War II, Navy Lt. Cmdr. John Lawrence (Richard Widmark), a strict disciplinarian, is put in charge of Underwater Demolition Team 4 after its former leader, Lt. Cmdr. Jack Cassidy, is killed in action. The unit's men are distrustful of the professionally aloof Lawrence, and the relationship immediately takes a turn for the worse when they brawl with sailors aboard their transport ship. The ship's captain, Lt. Cmdr. Pete Vincent (Gary Merrill), understands the natural resentment the elite UDT men feel over the death of Cassidy, which they have transferred to Lawrence, and offers to go easy on the team at captain's mast. The "by-the-book" Lawrence, however, elects to hold his own mast and disciplines the entire team just before a dangerous reconnaissance mission to ascertain the safest landing beach during an upcoming invasion of a Japanese-held island. Lawrence is scornfully perceived as afraid when he splits up the platoon and puts team executive officer Lt. Klinger in charge of a diversion to the more dangerous beach, where the main landing is scheduled.
During the mission, Lawrence cuts his leg on coral, and the diversionary section's pick-up boat receives a direct hit from artillery during pick-up operations, killing Klinger and most of his men. Lawrence sees that two frogmen, including Chief Jake Flannigan (Dana Andrews), are still in the water, but rather than risk loss of the information already gathered, orders a rescue boat launched and continues back to the transport. The rescue succeeds in recovering the two swimmers, but Lawrence's apparently cowardly action increases the unit's ill will toward him. An embittered Flannigan and some of the others request transfer to another unit, but Lawrence insists that they first complete the next day's mission to clear the new landing site for the invasion.
The next morning, Lawrence, who is sick with coral poisoning, does not reveal his illness when he puts Flannigan in charge of the mission and stays behind. Convinced now that Lawrence is a coward, the men angrily but efficiently complete their task, although "Pappy" Creighton (Jeffrey Hunter), whose brother is a U.S. Marine, sneaks onto the beach with Flannigan to leave a sign "welcoming" the Marines. Creighton is shot after the prank, but Flannigan tows him to the pick-up boat. Back on the ship, Creighton is put in traction because of the bullets in his spine, and Flannigan confesses to Lawrence that the prank caused Creighton's injuries. Lawrence furiously upbraids Flannigan for giving in to the prank, and soon all of the men request transfers.
While Lawrence is discussing the transfer requests with Vincent, a torpedo hits the ship but does not detonate. Lawrence volunteers to disarm the torpedo, which has lodged in the sick bay next to Creighton's bed, and with Flannigan's help, succeeds. Soon after, Lawrence receives orders to blow up a Japanese submarine pen, and tells the men that although it will be their last mission together, he is proud to have served with them. Although Flannigan voices disdain that Lawrence will again dodge dangerous duty, Lawrence leads the mission, which is discovered when one of the men accidentally trips a signal wire. Japanese sentries shoot at the men as they plant the charges, and Lawrence is stabbed in hand-to-hand combat with a Japanese diver. He orders Flannigan to leave him behind, but Flannigan tows him to safety. The mission is a success, and soon Lawrence is recuperating beside Creighton. Finally won over by Lawrence's bravery, the men show their acceptance of him by asking him to sign the portrait they have drawn of Cassidy to present to his widow.
Producer Paul Short of Allied Artists protested the use of the title The Frogmen by Twentieth Century-Fox, asserting that he had established prior claim to it. Eventually, Short dropped his claim and Twentieth Century-Fox was allowed to use the title. Short's production was never made. Several major studios were interested in producing films about the Underwater Demolition Teams, but only Twentieth Century-Fox obtained an exclusive guarantee of cooperation from the U.S. Navy.
Henry Hathaway, one of the studio's most well received directors, was originally set to direct the film, which was to feature Millard Mitchell in a starring role. Richard Conte was also originally set to play "Pete Vincent", while Jack Elam was first cast as "Sleepy", and Craig Hill was set to play "Lt. J. G. Franklin". Assistant director Dick Mayberry briefly filled in for director Lloyd Bacon when Bacon fell ill with influenza.
Producer Sam Engel wrote an original story, titled "Frogmen in Korea", as an intended follow-up to The Frogmen, but the project soon dissolved. A one-hour television remake of The Frogmen, titled Deep Water, was broadcast in May 1957 on the 20th Century-Fox Hour. The program was directed by Roy Del Ruth and starred Ralph Meeker (Lawrence), James Whitmore (Flannigan), and Richard Arlen (Vincent).
Because working conditions for The Frogmen were deemed too "riotous" for women, all female roles were written out of the screenplay and none appeared in the completed film. Jack Warden makes an uncredited appearance in the beginning of the film as a crew member of the transport ship. Co-star Gary Merrill, in the role of the captain of UDT-4's transport ship, delivers the line of dialog, "Looks like you've got what amounts to a legal mutiny on your hands", that is virtually identical to a line that he spoke two years earlier in the World War II Army Air Force drama Twelve O'Clock High .
The filming of the submarine sequence took place on the deck of USS Kleinsmith (APD-134) while the ship was off Key West, FL on 11 January 1951. Much of the boat and high-speed transport scenes were shot between 15 January and 6 February 1951 from the deck of Kleinsmith, while the ship was off St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.  USS Taconic (AGC-17) appeared as the command ship. As spoken in dialog, the submarine's name sounds like "USS Jackass 259", but is actually "USS Jack SS-259". The real USS Jack (SS-259) was not actually used in the film, as it was out of commission at the time.
Many United States Navy SEALs have cited this film as their inspiration for joining the SEAL Teams, including Richard Marcinko (the first Commanding Officer of SEAL Team Six and Red Cell), the Medal of Honor recipient Michael E. Thornton, and Dennis Chalker.[ citation needed ]
The United States Navy Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) Teams, commonly known as Navy SEALs, are the U.S. Navy's primary special operations force and a component of the Naval Special Warfare Command. Among the SEALs' main functions are conducting small-unit special operation missions in maritime, jungle, urban, arctic, mountainous, and desert environments. SEALs are typically ordered to capture or to kill high level targets, or to gather intelligence behind enemy lines.
A frogman is someone who is trained in scuba diving or swimming underwater in a tactical capacity that includes military, and in some European countries, police work. Such personnel are also known by the more formal names of combat diver, combatant diver, or combat swimmer. The word frogman first arose in the stage name The Fearless Frogman of Paul Boyton in the 1870s and later was claimed by John Spence, an enlisted member of the U.S. Navy and member of the OSS Maritime Unit, to have been applied to him while he was training in a green waterproof suit.
Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT), or frogmen, were amphibious units created by the United States Navy during World War II with specialized non-tactical missions. They were predecessors of the navy's current SEAL teams.
The SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) is a manned submersible and a type of swimmer delivery vehicle used to deliver United States Navy SEALs and their equipment for special operations missions. It is also operated by the Royal Navy's Special Boat Service, which operates three SDVs.
The United States Naval Special Warfare Command (USNSWC), also known as, is the naval component of United States Special Operations Command, the unified command responsible for overseeing and conducting the nation's special operations and missions.
USS Kleinsmith (APD-134), ex-DE-718, was a Crosley-class high speed transport for the United States Navy. She was named for Chief Watertender Charles Kleinsmith (1904–1942), who was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism during the Battle of Midway.
The Russian commando frogmen, informally called "frogmen" in civilian media, are a Russian Naval Spetsnaz unit under operational subordination to the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). It is the special forces unit of the Russian Naval Infantry and is composed of highly trained and elite marines within the Naval Infantry. By virtue of belonging to the Russian Naval Infantry, frogmen fall under the Coastal Troops of the Russian Navy service arm. The Russian Navy proper does not field any special forces or special operations units. Russian FSB special forces Alpha Group and Vympel also have frogman units in their respective naval components.
The Kopaska is the premier frogman and underwater demolition unit of the Indonesian Navy. The unit's motto is in Sanskrit: Tan Hana Wighna Tan Sirna. The unit's main duties are underwater demolition, destroying main underwater installations, reconnaissance, prisoner snatches, preparing beaches for larger naval amphibious operations, and counter-terrorism. During peacetime, the unit also deploys a team to serve as security personnel for VIPs and VVIPs. The personnel of Kopaska are recruited from Indonesian Navy seamen. Like other Indonesian special forces, Kopaska is trained to be able to conduct operations in the sea, including underwater, on land and airborne.
USS Begor (DE-711/APD-127) was a Crosley-class high speed transport of the United States Navy.
USS Hopping (DE-155) was a Buckley-class destroyer escort in service with the United States Navy from 1943 to 1947. In 1944, she was converted to a Charles Lawrence-class high speed transport and redesignated "APD-51". She was sold for scrap in 1966.
Submarine Command is a 1951 American war film directed by John Farrow and starring William Holden, Don Taylor, Nancy Olson, William Bendix, and Darryl Hickman. It is notable for being one of the first films to touch on post traumatic stress disorder. Holden invested $20,000 of his own money into the film. The film received a mixed reception: it was panned by some critics for its brooding melodrama whilst being praised by others.
Roy H. Boehm was born in Brooklyn, New York and was a veteran of 30 years of military service in the United States Navy, serving in three wars and various clandestine operations. Boehm was a mustang officer who rose up from the enlisted ranks and was commissioned to develop and lead what would become the US Navy SEALs as the first Officer In Charge of SEAL Team Two.
Destination Gobi is a 1953 American Technicolor World War II film released by 20th Century-Fox. It was produced by Stanley Rubin, directed by Robert Wise and stars Richard Widmark and Don Taylor.
The National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum, also known as the Navy SEAL Museum, is located in St. Lucie County, just outside Fort Pierce, Florida. It houses exhibits to inform and educate on the role of Navy Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) and Sea, Air, Land (SEAL) teams. The museum also preserves the history of the SEALs.
The US employs divers in several branches of the armed forces, including the navy, army, marines, air force and coast guard.
USS Hollis (DE-794/APD-86) was a Buckley-class destroyer escort in service with the United States Navy from 1944 to 1947 and from 1951 to 1956. She was scrapped in 1975.
Operation Thunderhead was a highly classified combat mission conducted by U.S. Navy SEAL Team One and Underwater Demolition Team 11 (UDT-11) in 1972. The mission was conducted off the coast of North Vietnam during the Vietnam War to rescue two U.S. airmen said to be escaping from a prisoner of war prison in Hanoi. The prisoners, including Air Force Colonel John A. Dramesi were planning to steal a boat and travel down the Red River to the Gulf of Tonkin.
John Pitts Spence was an American diver for the United States Navy and World War II veteran who is widely credited as the country's first combat frogman. Spence was the first enlisted man to be recruited into a clandestine group, operated by General William "Wild Bill" Donovan of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which would become known as the frogmen. The group was a predecessor of the present-day United States Navy SEALs.