August marked the 79th anniversary of the first special operations raid directly supported by submarines.

Decades later, submarine special operations have become a staple of the Navy SEAL Teams and one of the U.S. military’s most valuable capabilities.


The First Underwater Commandos

US Marines on USS Nautilus before Makin Island raid
U.S. Marines aboard USS Nautilus just before launching the raid on Makin Island, August 17, 1942. (USMC)

In August 1942, U.S. Marine Raiders conducted the first amphibious attack ever launched from submarines.

During the raid on Makin Island, the USS Nautilus and USS Argonaut landed 200 Marine commandos on the small Japanese-held island with the goal of destroying enemy installations, capturing prisoners, and gathering intelligence.

Although the raid was neither a success nor a failure — the Marine Raiders achieved some objectives but failed on others — it paved the way for future special operations from submarines.


Submarine Operations

US Marines on USS Argonaut before Makin Island raid
U.S. Marines aboard USS Argonaut upon their return from the Makin Raid, in Pearl Harbor on August 26, 1942. (USMC)

Since World War II, advances in submarine and combat diving technology have allowed for far more complex submarine operations involving commandos.