The following is a guest post authored by Matt F., who is from the greater Boston area. Matt has a B.S. in Criminal Justice, and has a passion for history and all things awesome. To read more you can find him on WordPress. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlbumWeb. Fru did some light editing and made some minor contributions.

July 10, 1943. A swift breeze whistles in the eerily quiet summer night as waves crash against the side of a speeding customized 63-foot Air-Sea Rescue (ASR) boat heading for the beach off of Cape San Marco, Italy. At 3,000 meters out, one boat advances as it begins to lay down smoke covering the approach and ultimately shielding the size of the small force.

A handful of boats are filled with seven men each, one officer and six enlisted sailors.  They had one mission, to create as much noise as possible to grab the attention of the enemy troops stationed nearby. When the boats arrived in earshot of shore, they opened up with their weapons, firing rockets and .50 caliber machine guns, and setting off time-delay smoke pots floating beside the boats. They also blasted sounds from their loudspeakers that mimicked the chaos of a D-Day-style beach invasion.

The boats then turned around and headed back to sea while on the beach, alarms, spotlights, and German troops mobilized expecting a full-scale amphibious landing was kicking off before them. The diversionary mission was a success as Operation Husky, the real assault on Sicily, was commencing 100 miles west of their location.

As a result of this effort, an entire German reserve division remained on location as German commanders were unsure whether the mission was a probe to test the defenses, a diversion, or the start of the real thing.

The Beach Jumpers program was so secret that not even the man who would become to be known as “The Father of Naval Special Warfare” — Phil Bucklew — knew of them at the time of the operation, even though he was awarded a medal for valor in Operation Husky. Bucklew would later discover their exploits, however, when he was tasked with re-establishing the unit during the 1950s.

Over four days this past May 2017, the Beach Jumpers Association celebrated its 75th anniversary in Orlando, Florida. Beach Jumper Units (BJU’s) were highly classified special missions units designed to handle tactical cover and deception operations. They saw action during World War II, the Korean War, the Cuban missile crisis, parts of the Cold War, and during the Vietnam War.

The unit was formed under Admiral H. Kent Hewitt, the then-commander of amphibious forces and all U.S. naval forces in the western Mediterranean and northwest African waters. The unit was the brainchild of Lieutenant Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., a famous Hollywood actor turned naval officer. Fairbanks pitched the idea to Admiral Hewitt after the former spent some time with British commandos in an officer exchange program. Fairbanks was sold on the effectiveness of small unit deception tactics that he witnessed in the program.