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CMDR. DOUG FANE

NAVY UDT LEADER

 

One of the true pioneers in military combat diving has died. Cmdr. Doug Fane a leader of the U.S. Navy Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT), helped prevent disbanding the UDT, evaluated and developed advanced diving equipment, launched new diving techniques, and shared his expertise in several other aspects of diving and the public.

 

Francis Douglas Fane was born November 16, 1909 in Aberdeen, Scotland. He immigrated to the United States with his family in 1911 and became a naturalized U.S. Citizen in Boston, MA, in 1934. He shipped out to sea on a freighter at age 16. Fane worked his way up through Vessel Navigator and Master in the U.S. Merchant Marine from 1936 to 1940.

 

In 1940 he received a commission as a Lt. JG in the U.S. Navy Reserves. He served on board a destroyer, cruiser, aircraft carrier, ammunition vessel and amphibious assault ship. Fane was involved in combat action in the Aleutian Islands, Sicily, the Marshall Islands, the Marinas and New Guinea. He became an expert in cargo handling and munitions.

After serving 34 months in the U.S. Navy, Lt. JG. Fane volunteered for “extra-hazardous duty.” This turned out to be with the U.S. Navy Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT). Before reporting for training at Ft. Pierce, Florida, the 33-year-old Fane had to learn how to swim. He earned the nickname of “Red Dog Fane,” because of his red hair and toughness.

 

Promoted to Lt., Fane was in command of UDT-13 in 1945. He and his team were one of the first units into Japan. After the end of World War II, the Chief of Naval Operations dispatched Lt. Cmdr. Fane to Europe to investigate combat diving activities. Fane conducted a detailed survey of all diving operations and developments, shipped critical diving equipment to the U.S. and brought combat diving specialists to advise the U.S. Navy UDT. This was the beginning of Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E) within the UDT and later the SEAL Teams.

 

Upon returning to the UDT operations at Little Creek (part of the Norfolk Amphibious Base), Lt. Cmdr. Fane discovered that the U.S. Navy planned to dissolve UDT. He had a major involvement in saving UDT Teams.


Fane was instrumental in making many advancements in UDT equipment and diving operations during the late 1940s. He searched out technologies conducted by the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during WWII. Fane located Dr. Christian Lambertsen, who had developed the Lambertsen Amphibious Respiratory Unit (LAUR). This closed-circuit oxygen rebreather was used by both the OSS and later the UDT as an underwater breathing system that did not release tell-tale exhaled bubbles.

 

Lt. Cmdr. Fane helped establish UDT training facilities in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Fane led groups of UDT divers in developing diver lockout from submarines, use of diver transport vehicles, closed-circuit breathing systems, underwater navigation techniques and other innovations.

 

Lt. Cmdr. Fane recruited Lt. Fennimore Johnson, a highly-respected underwater still photographer and cinematographer, to document UDT operations in St. Thomas. These valuable visual aids greatly helped the advancement of the UDT. He saw what the Italians and British had accomplished with their diver transport vehicles during World War II. Lt. Cmdr. Fane built on these successes to advance diver transport vehicles and operational techniques even further. This led to the development of the SEAL Delivery Vehicles (SDVs) and of today.

 

In mid-1949, Lt. Cmdr. Fane searched out the co-inventor of the Aqua-Lung, engineer Emile Gagnan. Fane convinced him to bring two of his Aqua-Lungs to Little Creek, where Fane and his UDT tested the new underwater air breathing systems called SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus). Lt. Cmdr. Fane was able to get the Aqua-Lung accepted by the U.S. Navy UDT.

 

Lt. Cmdr. Fane was Senior UDT Officer in Korea during 1951-1952. He led several hazardous missions in South Korea, and behind the lines in North Korea up to 60 miles of the Chinese border. UDT perfected their skills in guerrilla warfare and use of explosives for sabotage.

 

Upon return to the U.S., Lt. Cmdr. Fane was assigned to the UDT base in Coronado, CA. He continued his research and development of advanced diving equipment for UDT.

 

Lt. Cmdr. Fane shared his expertise in diving with other organizations. During the early 1950s, Lt. Cmdr. Fane worked closely with early scientific diving pioneers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, including Dr. Andreas Rechnitzer, Connie Limbaugh, Jim Stewart and Willard Bascom. Fane taught them about various aspects of diving, including the proper use of the new Aqua-Lung Scuba System.

The Scripps scientific diving team then taught two early sport diving specialists from the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department … Al Tillman and Bev Morgan. Tillman and Morgan founded the first sport scuba training program in the United States, the Los Angeles County Underwater Instructors Association, the first sport scuba training program in the United States in 1954. Also from Fane’s sharing of early scuba skills, Tillman, Dr. Rechnitzer and others formed the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) in 1960.

 

Lt. Cmdr. Fane helped UDT incorporate parachute jumping as another combat insertion means. During training operations at the U.S. Navy Station in El Centro, CA. Lt. Cmdr. Fane and Dr. Robert Fulton developed the Fulton Pickup for diving boats to recover divers from the water at high speed.

 

Recognizing the need for qualified diving medical support, Lt. Cmdr. Fane was able to add the second Diving Medical Officer (Dr. Charles Aquadro) to his UDT. Their collaboration greatly advanced diving with air, oxygen, mixed-gas (helium and oxygen) and tri-mix (helium-oxygen-nitrogen).

In 1952 an U.S. Air Force B-36 bomber crashed off San Diego, CA. Lt. Cmdr. Fane was asked to use a new experimental tri-mix to make the 252-foot dive using mixed-gas scuba. Fane used underwater explosives to successfully blow up classified equipment aboard the B-36.  But after long decompression in the water and running out of the tri-mix gas, he was hit with the bends and had to decompress in a surface decompression chamber.

 

He continued his evaluation and modification of the Italian Seahorse and Trass diver transport vehicles. During 1952-1955, Lt. Cmdr. Fane worked with Calvin Congwer, an engineer at Aerojet-General in Los Angeles, to development of diver transport vehicles – the Swimmer Propulsion Unit (SPU) and the Minisub MK VII. Lt. Cmdr. Fane also worked with a very talented engineer and underwater photographer, Dimitri Rebikoff, to incorporate the Rebikoff Pegasus diver transport vehicle into UDT.

Lt. Cmdr. Fane and his UDT divers were involved in the first dives under the Arctic ice using air scuba during 1953. This was part of the Defense Early Warning (DEW) Line across North America, to detect missiles launched from the Soviet Union.

 

Doug Fane was promoted to full Commander in 1953. He became Commanding Officer of UDT 1 in Coronado, California.

 

During 1954, Cmdr. Fane led a team of UDT divers in shark research near Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands and diving research following atomic bomb testing in the South Pacific. He was Technical Advisor on several underwater motion pictures and television shows.


In 1956 Cmdr. Fane and Dan Moore wrote an excellent book about the UDT, titled The Naked Warriors. The historical book documents UDT during World War II and the Korean War. The book was republished in 1993 by the U.S. Naval Institute. MGM produced a feature movie based on Fane’s book, called The Underwater Warriors.  Dan Dailey played Cmdr. Fane and Zale Parry played Doug Fane’s wife. Cmdr. Fane was Technical Consultant on the film. Cmdr. Fane helped the producer of The Underwater Warriors, (Ivan Tors) during the pilot of the popular television series, Sea Hunt.  Lloyd Bridges played the part of Mike Nelson. Zale Parry was Technical Advisor, played many of the surface women parts and did all the underwater women stunts.


In 1958, Cmdr. Fane was military Intelligence Advisor to the Republic of China (Taiwan).

 

After a career in the U.S. Navy, Cmdr. Fane retired in 1960. Much of the vision and hard work of Cmdr. Fane was the foundation for the U.S. Navy SEAL Team, which was formally launched in January 1962 by President Kennedy.

 

Fane and another UDT officer (Lt. Jon Lindbergh) formed a commercial diving company. Lindbergh is a graduate of Stanford University, an underwater engineer, an early pioneer in commercial deep saturation diving (with Ocean Systems Inc.) and is considered a leading expert in aquaculture. Jon Lindbergh is the second son of aviator, Charles Lindbergh.

 

In the early 1960s Fane spent considerable time in Japan and Southeast Asia. He was a correspondent to publishing companies and radio stations. Cmdr. Fane became Editor of The Asian Oceanologist (based in Japan).He was an Instructor and Dean of Faculty at Yokahama Gaigo Business College in Japan.

 

Cmdr. Fane was Director of the Southeast U.S. and Caribbean Section of World Life Research of Colton, CA. Dr. Bruce Halstead, Executive Director of World Life Research, had been involved in the shark studies in the South Pacific in which Fane participated.

 

Cmdr. Fane received many honors and awards during his distinguished career, including numerous military commendations and medals: Presidential Unit Citation; Navy Unit Citation, European Medal with one star; Asiatic-Pacific Medal with three stars; Commendation For Bravery; Combat Service Medals with stars for European, Pacific and Korean Wars; the U.S. Special Operations Command Award; and many others.

He also received an Award from the Los Angeles County Underwater Instructors Association for his important contribution to the development to sport diving.

 

Biography provided by Edward C. Cargile, associate of Cmdr. Fane’s.

 

 

 

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