Located in Saint Lucie County near Fort Pierce, Florida, the National Navy SEAL Museum and Memorial commemorates the birthplace of the United States Navy SEAL program, recognized as one of the most elite military fighting forces in the world. The Sea, Land, and Air Teams of the United States Navy, commonly abbreviated to SEALs, serve as the Navy’s main special operations force. During World War II, the increased need for covert reconnaissance at landing beaches led to the 1942 opening of the Amphibious Scout and Raider School at Fort Pierce, which trained Scouts and Raiders forces, Naval Combat Demolition Units, and Underwater Demolition Teams, commonly referred to as UDTs.
From 1943 through 1946, these special operations troops were referred to as Navy “Frogmen,” trained in parachuting, scuba, and underwater demolition tactics. Following the end of World War II, UDTs continued to serve important roles in the Korean War, though they maintained a low operational profile among American troops in the conflict due to the involvement of spy missions in their operations.
Though the birth of the current SEAL program is attributed to a May 1961 speech by United States President John F. Kennedy, which acknowledged the increasing need for new tactics against guerilla warfare and allocated $100 million in federal government funds to the development of military special operations forces, the SEAL program had been in development since the end of conflict on the Korean peninsula. Recommendations for initiation of new covert measures date back as far as 1958, with official suggestions proposed in response to increasing tensions in South Vietnam and Cuba in 1960. An official OPNAV Unconventional Activities Working Group was established in September of 1960, with authorization of the first SEAL Units in December of the following year. Today, the SEAL program operates as a volunteer force recruited through the CIA’s Special Operations Group and is recognized as one of the leading special operations forces in the world, with all troops trained to operate in all environments.
The idea for a Navy SEAL museum is credited to former World War II Frogman Albert Stankie, who assembled a collection of personal artifacts related to UDT servicemen. Stankie’s citizen organization secured the former Fort Pierce Treasure Museum site as a permanent facility for their collections, which was dedicated and opened to the public in 1985. In 2008, the museum was recognized as a National Museum, the only museum of its kind in the state of Florida.
Today, the museum houses a variety of exhibits intended to educate visitors about the roles and operations of the Navy’s SEAL and UDT Teams and chronicle the history of the SEAL program from its World War II origins. Outside the museum, the UDT-SEAL Memorial serves as the only worldwide memorial for Navy SEAL members. The memorial is arranged around a nine-foot bronze sculpture of a SEAL soldier, with black granite panels surrounding a reflecting pool that list the names of all UDT and SEAL squadron members who have died in combat.
The museum’s collections include a variety of artifacts dating from the inception of the Frogmen program through the present-day operations of the SEALs, including aircraft, watercraft, and personal soldier memorabilia. An exhibit presents the MV Maersk Alabama lifeboat, which in 2009, was captured by Somali pirates who held Captain Richard Phillips hostage for five days. A HAL-3 SEAWOLF Helicopter, commissioned as part of a one-of-a-kind rapid reaction armed helicopter squadron, is showcased, along with two vehicles used during Operation Desert Storm. Also on display are a Mark V Special Operations Craft used for reconnaissance and coastal patrol, a Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, a Patrol Boat Riverine used for operations in Vietnam, and several SEAL Delivery Vehicle submersibles, including the MARK IX and MARK VII.
Several Apollo spacecraft training devices are housed at the museum, chronicling UDT teams’ roles as recovery forces for the Gemini, Apollo, and Mercury space programs. Obstacles used for training in World War II prior to the landing at Normandy are presented, along with a large collection of rare equipment and weapons used by SEAL and UDT forces throughout the 20th century. A recreation of Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound used on the CBS program 60 Minutes may be viewed, along with a wall exhibit honoring recipients of the Medal of Honor.
Ongoing Programs and Events
A variety of special events are held at the museum throughout the year, including an annual three-day Muster and Music Festival held near Veteran’s Day, featuring live music, demonstrations, and a 5K run/walk. The annual Legends Invitational Golf Tournament pairs sports legends with Navy SEAL captains, and a Tipsy Turtle Invitational serves as a charity fundraiser.
3300 N Hwy A1A, Fort Pierce, FL 34949, Phone: 772-595-5845