Profiles of Courage Sponsored by Rahal-Miller
“Uncommon valor was a common virtue”.
This quote is attributed to Admiral Chester Nimitz, who led the Navy and the Marines through the brutal island-hopping battles of the South Pacific in World War Two. Although he was speaking of the Marines who took the black, sulfurous island of Iwo Jima, it well could have applied to any of the special military units that served throughout the war with Imperial Japan.
And none were more deserving that the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT), the famed “frogmen” who came into being for the purpose of allowing the Marines better chances of landing safely on the beaches of Pelelieu, Tarawa, Saipan, Tinian, Guam, and, if push came to shove, on the very shores of the home islands of Japan itself.
The leaders of the U. S. Navy had studied the disastrous landing that the British Navy made at Gallipoli in the First World War. They realized that, among other major problems, the small ships and craft that carried the troops in to battle there had to run a gauntlet of submerged obstacles, mines and natural obstructions, none of them marked on charts or known to the leaders. So in consultation with others, the “frogmen” of the Navy were born.
Sometimes called Underwater Demolition Teams, these fearless swimmers often went into action as individuals, seeking out not only obstructions that would devastate American landing craft on the many beaches in the Pacific, but sometimes going in to chart unknown reefs and channels leading to islands where, oftentimes, the latest map would be one drawn by Spanish or other explorers from centuries gone by.
Before the end of the war the UDT men were landing on beachheads in the dark of night, taking out gun emplacements, attaching limpet mines to the hulls of warships and troop transports and performing services that no other force could do.
Island by island, beachhead by beachhead, the Underwater Demolition Teams moved up toward the ultimate goal: the invasion of Japan itself. The Teams were ready, and they knew that they would often be responsible for the success of the landings, just as they had borne heavy responsibility on the islands of Pelelieu, Tarawa, Saipan, Guam. But the Enola Gay delivered her cargo….. the first atom bomb….. on Hiroshima, and ended the war.
The UDT, the “frogmen”, evolved through the years into the famous SEAL teams that are called on today to go into the places where our soldiers cannot go. They drop by parachute, they are inserted by helicopter, they await on the decks of Navy ships so that they can rescue men and women from the hands of pirates. The SEAL teams, and they are truly teams, go where ordered by their superior officers, all the way up to the President.
There is still a closeness between the early frogmen and the SEALS. The modern swimmer, clad in space age equipment and entering and leaving submarines while in the depths of the oceans of the world, realizes that he owes much to that solitary man, wearing only bathing trunks, goggles and swim fins, who made the beachheads safe in World War II, in the Korean War and in Vietnam.
Jackson County can count one of its native sons among those solitary men. Richard “Dick” Hinson grew to manhood here, becoming one with nature, particularly the rivers and springs. He learned much here, but with the advent of war he joined the U. S. Navy and became one of the first “frogmen” to serve his country.
Dick was trained to swim in combat conditions, to go into the beachheads on the many coral atolls of the great Pacific Ocean, and to be ready for that final thrust on the home islands of Imperial Japan, a thrust that, thankfully, never came.
When Dick Hinson came home he continued with his love of nature. He was proud of Jackson County and he wanted the good part to be here for generations that were yet unborn. In 2010 he was honored in a ceremony held on the old Hinson property, which is now a park area for all to enjoy. He sold the land to the State of Florida on the condition that the city lease it so that it would be protected and preserved.
And so it is today. It is protected and preserved. Its trails and caves and waters are there for us, as they were for Dick. And if you listen closely when you are there, you may imagine that you can hear the deep bass voice of Dick Hinson, the voice that gave him the nickname of “Bullfrog” among the members of the UDT-SEAL Association, the voice of the young adventurer in the war and the voice of the old man, returned from that war these long years, who wanted to be certain that Jackson County would retain its best.