Navy SEALs are the backbone of U.S. Special Forces, and their story is told here at the National Navy Seal Museum on the beach in Fort Pierce.
SEALs 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.
And 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 Viet Cong 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 bin Laden.
Visit the Navy UDT-SEAL Museum
The museum, located in a lovely oceanfront setting on State Road A1A in Fort Pierce, proudly states 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 the stuff a military history buff will find fascinating.
What I liked best was actually outside — the grounds contain a variety of transport vehicles of all vintages from helicopters to landing craft. For example, they have 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.
The grounds are a good place for “younger kids to burn off some energy,” as one TripAdvisor reviewer said.
Avalon State Park: Swimming with the SEALs
Watch your step. This beach was a training ground for underwater demolition teams preparing for the Normandy invasion on D-Day.
Now its a state park with a pristine beach a short walk from the National Navy SEAL Museum.
But danger lurks. Beach obstacles made of concrete and steel were embedded under the surf for the training, and some are still there. Perhaps that’s why there were so few people enjoying the beach when we visited.
Otherwise, the beach has a firm sandy bottom. Just watch where your step.
These underwater obstacles serve as shelter for fish, making Avalon State Park beach a popular destination for anglers just north of the Fort Pierce Inlet, where an impressive variety of gamefish flow in and out with the tides. A fishing license may be required.
The park has four picnic pavilions, each with its own grill, tucked into the sea oats a short walk from the parking lot.
The National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum, 3300 North A1A, North Hutchinson Island, Fort Pierce, Florida 34949. Phone: 772-595-5845. Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10-4; Sunday 12-4; Closed Mondays. Admission: Adults (ages 13 and over), $15.00; Children (ages 6 – 12), $7.00; Children (Under 6), Free TripAdvisor Reviews
Avalon State Park, State Road A1A North, North Hutchinson Island FL 34949. Phone: 772-468-4007. Hours: 8 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year. Admission: $2 per vehicle.
Honoring SEALs who lost their lives
Upcoming events at the Navy SEAL Museum:
- The John Hopper Memorial Heroes on the Bluff. September 16-17, 2023
- SEAL Snipers at Morning, Pirates Take Warning, October 4, 2023
- 38th Annual Muster and Music Festival, November 3-4, 2023
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Bob Rountree is a beach bum, angler and camper who has explored Florida for decades. No adventure is complete without a scenic paddle trail or unpaved road to nowhere. Bob co-founded FloridaRambler.com with fellow journalist Bonnie Gross 14 years ago.