Legends of Diving Articles


Commander Francis Douglas Fane
One of the Originators of UDT Demolitions

Doug Fane was born in Aberdeen Scotland November 16th 1909. His father drowned when he was young. He immigrated to the United States in 1911 and became a Natural Citizen in 1934. Doug was involved with the Merchant
Dick Bonin and Doug Fane

Marine at the young age of 16. He worked himself up to a rating of Master in the US Merchant Marine from 1936 to 1940.

He joined the Naval Reserves and received a JG Commission in 1940. Fane served on various vessels and saw combat action in various hot spots during the Second World War. After three years he volunteered for Extra Hazardous duty, this being the US NAVY Underwater Demolitions Teams. There was one problem the 33 yr old Fane had to overcome before he reported to duty: HE COULD NOT SWIM.

He took two weeks of leave in 1943 and learned to swim at a YMCA in Chicago before reporting to training at Ft. Pierce, Fla. It wasn’t long before his fellow divers were calling him “Red Dog Fane” because of his red hair and ruggedness.

He was promoted to Lt. in 1945 and put in charge of UDT UNIT 13. He and his team were one of the first into Japan. After the war the chief of Naval Operations dispatched Lt Cmdr Fane to Europe to investigate combat diving operations. He did a complete survey and this was the beginning of Research, Development, Test and Evaluation within the UDT and later the Seal Teams. He brought back from Europe several Frogman specialists as consultants to the UDT program.

Upon returning to Little Creek, Lt. Cmdr Fane found out the Navy had planned on dissolving the UDT Program. He played a major role in saving UDT Teams.

Fane was instrumental in locating Dr. Christian Lambertsen who had developed the Lambertsen Amphibious Respiratory Unit.

This closed circuit rebreather (used by both the OSS and later the UDT)was an underwater breathing system that did not release any bubbles when exhaled. Fane went on to set up UDT Training facilities in the Virgin Islands, developing the diver lockout in submarines.

In 1948 Fane was shown an article in the December 1948 edition of Science Illustrated. The article, written by James Dugan, described a breathing device co-invented by Jacques Cousteau. Fane immediately wanted to know how to get his hands on one. Here is the story told in Lt. Cmdr Fane’s words.

“My submarine medical officer showed me a magazine (telling how Fredric Dumas, Cousteau’s diving buddy) had gone 300 feet underwater. I read it and got on the next plane to DC and told my buddy in the Joint Chief of Staff.
Doug Fane (right) shows the first use of the Cousteau/Gagnan "AQUALUNG" in the United States tested in wreck demolitions and the U.S. Naval Submarine base, New London, CT in 1948
He said write your own ticket. You are going to France to meet these people. Then get your ass back here with as much information you find on diving. That’s how I met Cousteau and Dimitri Rebikoff,who had worked for him. Rebikoff introduced me to Admiral Yves Le Prieur ( who had invented the constant flow underwater breathing apparatus in 1926.)

Cousteau is boasting now of 50 years of his invention. It was no invention they had lungs 50 years before him. Le Prieur had been training French school children in a swimming pool on his lung in the early 30’s.When people said Cousteau is making his fame on your lung he said, “Well It’s for France” But this shows you how things go, how people use each other. La Prieur, I found did more for diving.”

In France Fane was met at the airport by Simone (Cousteau’s wife) and Rebikoff. Simone hugged Fane and Rebikoff hugged them both. He had walked into a budding rivalry between Cousteau and Rebikoff.

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