I’ve been taking a look back into the past lately in an attempt to better understand the roots of the Navy’s Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT). UDT history is something that’s only covered very briefly in SEAL training, surprisingly enough.
One name that I couldn’t avoid bumping into while digging through the archives was Draper Kauffman. You see, Draper is an example of the fighting spirit housed in any man who pursues his life’s goals without taking “No” for an answer. Draper’s father was a Navy Admiral, but it didn’t do him much good to have that connection when the Navy denied his commission after graduating from the Naval Academy in 1933 due to poor eye-sight. This is where I’ll try hard not to make a long story longer.
After being forced out of the Navy, Draper became a crew member on a New York-based steamship, and soon found himself overseas in Germany, just as Hitler was forging the country into what the world would soon see in the 1940s. When Germany declared war on the rest of Europe, Draper volunteered in France as an ambulance driver, was captured briefly and held by the Germans at Luneville. He was set free as Germany was not at war with America, and went on to serve as an officer in the British Navy, where he became experienced in demolitions as a bomb disposal officer for the British.
The U.S. Navy would later recruit him back into their ranks, as he had proven himself as a man of action within the British officer ranks and an expert at bomb disposal. The long road to a U.S. Navy commission was finally over, but his Navy journey was just about to get started.