Combat Divers – An Illustrated History of Special Forces Divers, Michael G. Welham

Combat Divers – An Illustrated History of Special Forces Divers, Michael G. Welham

The world of the modern combat diver is a secretive one, with very little public information available about their missions or capabilities. Welham has set himself the formidable task of producing as comprehensive as possible a view of the world’s Special Forces divers, how they are organised, trained, equipped and if possible used.

We start with a look at the original development of the combat diver, from the first experiments to their use during the Second World War. We then look at suspected Soviet operations along the coast of Sweden during the Cold War.

After this we move onto the modern world. We start with a look at all of the known Special Forces units with divers – some well documented examples such as the US Navy Seals, other rather more secretive. This is followed by a chapter looking at the relatively small number of women know to have qualified for these units, which had higher standards than most Special Forces units – normally starting with the already high requirements of those units, then adding underwater skills. Next comes a chapter looking at selection and training, the one area that most Special Forces units seem to be happy to talk about. It’s fair to say that most of these units have pretty similar training regimes, although one or two stand out for asking for extra.

We then move onto a series of chapters covering more general topics – methods of infiltration, the roles and equipment used by divers, the underwater vehicles available to them and the weapons they use. I found the vehicles section particularly interesting, with a mix of increasingly high tech vehicles available to transport divers in and out of their target areas – vastly improved from the ‘chariots’ and ‘X Craft’ of the Second World War.

The chapter on Marine Mammals at War starts with a rather dystopian account of trained killer dolphins being used to kill suspected enemy divers, before moving on to the thankfully rather less brutal western use of trained mammals (normally for some sort of search function).

This is a useful guide to the often rather murky world of the military diver, bringing together what public information is available, combined with the author’s in-depth knowledge of this world to give as detailed as possible account of an important but secretive part of the military world.

1 – Frogmen: The Beginning
2 – Experimental Diving
3 – Combined Operations Pilotage Parties
4 – Far East Operations
5 – Scandinavia Targeted
6 – Special Forces Diver Units
7 – Female Military Divers
8 – Special Forces Diver Selection and Training
9 – Combat Diver Infiltration Options
10 – Anti-Terrorism and Piracy
11 – Mine and Bomb Disposal
12 – Swimmer Delivery Vehicles and Dry Deck Shelters
13 – Mini-Submarines
14 – Combat Divers’ Equipment
15 – Weapons Underwater
16 – Marine Mammals at War
17 – Remote and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles
18 – Undersea Spying and Sabotage
19 – The Future

Author: Michael G. Welham
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 304
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2023

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