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Draper Laurence Kauffman
Born (1911-08-04)4 August 1911
Died 18 August 1979(1979-08-18) (aged 68)
Place of birth San Diego, California
Place of burial United States Naval Academy Cemetery
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1941–1973
Rank Rear Admiral
Commands held Naval Combat Demolition Unit
Underwater Demolition Team 5
USS Gearing (DD-710)
Destroyer Division 122
USS Bexar (APA-237)
USS Helena (CA-75)
Destroyer Flotilla Three
Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy
U.S. Naval Forces in the Philippines
9th Naval District
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Navy Cross (2)
Navy Distinguished Service Medal (2)[1]
Relations James L. Kauffman (father)

Rear Admiral Draper Laurence Kauffman (4 August 1911 – 18 August 1979)[2] was a pioneering underwater demolition expert, who served during the 1960s as 44th Superintendent of the United States Naval Academy. During World War II, he organized the first U.S. Navy Demolition Teams, which later gave rise to the SEALs. His wartime service also included participation in the invasions of Saipan, Tinian, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.[3]

Childhood and educationEdit

Draper L. Kauffman, the son of Vice Admiral and Mrs. James L. Kauffman, was born in San Diego, California, on 4 August 1911. He attended St. Albans School in Washington, D.C., and Kent School in Kent, Connecticut and was appointed to the United States Naval Academy from Ohio in 1929.[4]

Kauffman graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1933, but poor eyesight denied him a commission in the regular Navy.

World War IIEdit

Volunteer service in Europe, 1940-1941Edit

Employed by the United States Lines Steamship Company, his travels in Europe alerted him to the danger of Nazi Germany. In February 1940, he joined the American Volunteer Ambulance Corps in France. On 16 June, he was captured by the Germans and held prisoner for two months.

Released in August, he made his way to England and was commissioned a sub-Lieutenant in the British Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, later rising to Lieutenant. At the height of the Blitz on London (1940–1941), he served as a bomb and mine disposal officer, and achieved a high degree of proficiency in bomb disposal techniques.[4]

U.S. Navy service, 1941-1945Edit

Securing a U.S. Naval Reserve commission a month before Pearl Harbor, Kauffman was rushed to Hawaii after the Japanese attack, and there disarmed an enemy bomb, the first to be recovered intact for study. For this action, the Navy awarded him a Navy Cross.

In January 1942, he was assigned the task of organizing a U.S. Naval Bomb Disposal School at the Washington Navy Yard. This school is the forefather to the Explosive Ordnance Disposal School (NAVSCOLEOD) and the Underwater Building at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, which is run by the Navy and trains all services EOD technicians. As an additional duty he assisted the U.S. Army in setting up a comparable school at Aberdeen, Maryland.

In June 1943, he organized the first U.S. Navy Demolition Teams, which later became the well-known Underwater Demolition Teams (the forerunner of the SEALs) and received orders as the first commanding officer of the Naval Combat Demolition Unit, Naval Amphibious Training Base, Fort Pierce, Florida. While there, he also organized and was the first chairman of the Joint Army-Navy Experimental and Testing Board (JANET).

In April 1944, he was ordered to the Pacific Fleet and served at the Naval Combat Demolition Training and Experimental Base, Maui, Hawaii as the commanding officer of Underwater Demolition Team 5 (UDT 5); as senior staff officer, Underwater Demolition Teams, Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet; and as Underwater Demolition Training Officer, Amphibious Training Command, Pacific Fleet.

As commander of UDT 5, he participated in the invasion of Saipan, and received a second Navy Cross for leading his team in a daylight reconnaissance of fortified enemy beaches under heavy fire, and on 10 July 1944, leading a night reconnaissance of heavily defended beaches at Tinian island.

During World War II, Kauffman also participated in the assaults on Iwo Jima and Okinawa as Commander Underwater Demolition Teams. On two occasions, he had to transfer from a damaged ship to another to carry on operations. In one such occasion at Iwo Jima in 1945, after an enemy aircraft bombed his ship and started a raging fire, he directed fire control efforts in the face of exploding ammunition.[4]

Cold War naval careerEdit

His first postwar assignment came in February 1946 when he was assigned to Joint Task Force One, the organization which conducted "Operation Crossroads", the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll. Later under the CNO, as head of the Defense and Protection Section, he established the U.S. Navy Radiological Safety School, and aided in setting up a comparable school for the Army.

From October to December 1947, he was assigned to the carrier Valley Forge (CV-45) and was aboard her during her round-the-world cruise in 1948. Following a month's instruction at the Fleet Sonar School in Key West, Florida, he commanded the destroyer Gearing (DD-710) from December 1948 until July 1950, when he entered the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. Upon completion of the logistics course in June 1951, he remained for two years as a member of the Strategy and Tactics Staff.[4]

In June 1953, he assumed command of Destroyer Division 122. In 1954, Kauffman served in the Strategic Plans Division under the CNO, and in 1955 was appointed Aide to the Under Secretary of the Navy and later Secretary of the Navy, Thomas S. Gates, Jr..

In August 1957, he assumed command of the attack transport Bexar (APA-237) which he commanded until August 1958 when he was ordered to duty as Assistant Chief of Staff for Plans on the staff of the Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet. In January 1960, he commanded the heavy cruiser Helena (CA-75).

In July 1960, Kauffman was selected as Rear Admiral, and he became Commander Destroyer Flotilla Three (later redesignated Cruiser Destroyer Flotilla Three). In 1962, he became Chief of the Strategic Plans and Policy Division.

In 1965, he became the 44th Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he served for three years. His next assignment was as the Commander of the U.S. Naval Forces in the Philippines, and Representative of the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific, a billet once filled 25 years earlier by his father.

In June 1970, he became commandant of the 9th Naval District, headquartered at Great Lakes Naval Station, Illinois, with an additional duty as Commander of the Station.

Rear Admiral Kauffman retired from the Navy on 1 June 1973. He died in 1979.


The Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate Kauffman (FFG-59), launched in 1987, was named in honor of Draper Kauffman and his father, Vice Admiral James L. Kauffman (1887–1963).[5] His roles as the founder of U.S. Naval Bomb Disposal and as the founder of the UDT/SEALs were also commemorated in the creation of the Kauffman EOD Training Complex at Eglin AFB, Florida, and the Draper L. Kauffman Naval Special Warfare Operations Facility in Norfolk, Virginia.[6] His great-niece named her first-born child after her great uncle.

See alsoEdit


  1. "Military Times Hall of Valor : Awards for Draper Laurence Kauffman". Retrieved 30 August 2010. 
  2. "Draper Kauffman : USNA Cemetery".,%20D.%20L.pdf. Retrieved 30 August 2010. 
  3. Kauffman, Elizabeth (2004). America's First Frogman: The Draper Kauffman Story. U.S. Naval Institute Press. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Rear Admiral Draper L. Kauffman, Bio File, Operational Archives, Naval Historical Center.
  5. "USS Kauffman - History". Retrieved 30 August 2010. 
  6. "NAVEODTECHDIV - History". Retrieved 30 August 2010. 
Academic offices
Preceded by
C.S. Minter Jr.
Superintendent of United States Naval Academy
Succeeded by
Lawrence Heyworth Jr.

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