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Custom Challenge Coin of the Month – September 2017

What makes a military challenge coin unique? Well, certainly the unit they represent brings something to the table. Each unit’s distinctive heraldry certainly sets the tone for a coin design. Then there are the choice of materials – shine, durability, and value all need to be considered. Colors are another consideration: does the austerity of plain unadorned metal make drive home the point? Will a black and white design make a bigger impact? What about the unit’s traditional colors? Of course the old red, white, and blue is always in the back of your mind… or what about a monochrome? If the coin design calls for heraldic devices, the choice to let them remain raw debossed metal or paint them in their traditional color scheme comes up. Add to all that the manifold choices in words and lettering – embossed, debossed, serif, sans-serif, all caps, small caps, or standard title – along with what is actually said, which can range from the simple and time-trusted unit motto to a word or phrase with special significance to the coin’s initial recipients.

Or, if the situation calls for it, the coin might be shaped like a diving flipper. There is a catch though, if you are considering this bold design option: you better be a Navy SEAL.

Navy SEALS and the UDT

This month’s featured military challenge coin celebrates the boldest and the best the Navy has to offer. Growing out of the increasing need for a land-and-sea unconventional warfare task force, the SEALs have become renowned the world over for their unstoppable ingenuity, their humble heroism and their indefatigable grit. When the mission calls for the SEALs, it’s because they are the only ones who can get the job done.

This stunning “flipper” coin calls to mind the time before personal submersibles and reliable underwater communications systems, when SEALs and their predecessors in the Underwater Demolition Teams. Beginning with their establishment during World War II, the Underwater Demolition Teams were tasked with solving logistic problems up and ahead of other forces. Most often this meant destroying shallow-water obstacles, but occasionally other missions would surface that required their unique training to complete.

Even at this time, some rogue inventors in the Office of Strategic Services skunkworks, led by Dr. Chris Lambertsen, were working on the next generation of strategic precision maritime operations. When presented with Dr. Lambertson’s eponymous Lambertsen Amphibious Respiratory Unit (LARU), Lieutenant Commander Draper Kauffman, the leader of the specialist Naval Combat Demolition Unit (NCDU) trainings then taking place, decided to pass on the yet-untested new technology.

Nonetheless, Dr. Lambertsen persisted. His vision of self-contained breathing systems for use underwater, along with his keen understanding of the dynamics of combat swimming, would not quit. In some ways, Dr. Lambertson’s determination was just as fundamental to the birth of the SEALs as was the skill and combat-proven wisdom of men like LCDR Kauffman. If anything characterized the men involved in the early days of the UDTs, it was the definite desire to finish what they started.

Luckily for Dr. Lambertsen, there were other men serving in the UDTs who were willing to hear him out. LTDR Francis “Doug” Fane was a man interested in pushing the limits of existing diving techniques. Dr. Lambertson’s LARU intrigued LTDR Fane. Despite the fact that both the Navy Experimental Diving Unit and the Navy Dive School had turned Dr. Lambertsen Down, LTDR Fane asked Dr. Lambertson to demonstrate his LARU to a UDT training at Naval Amphbious Base Little Creek in January 1948. A short while later, they would prove the utility of Dr. Lambertson’s inventions by performing a successful lock-out and re-entry on the underway submarine USS Grouper. The possibilities were immediately apparent. Widespread adoption of SCUBA technology developed soon afterward, with a focus (largely owed to that Office of Strategic Services connection) on “unconventional warfare.” Realizing that this aspect was not in fitting with the original mission of the UDTs, it was decided to create a new unit that would focus on a new set of skills to deal with the challenges in a new kind of world. The SEALs would have to wait for the election of President John F. Kennedy to move from the drawing board to the battlefield.

Once they arrived, a new era of modern warfare arrived with them.

Navy SEAL Challenge Coin

This month’s Navy challenge coin impresses with its heft as well as its handy bottle-opener end. Its smooth black faces call out the debossed and polished brass details while evoking the austerity and pride of the SEALs.

The first face features a history of SEALs in images. On the upper left hand side, we have the original Underwater Demolition Teams badge featuring a trident crossed with a rifle and anchor. This badge was only authorized between 1970 and 1971, after which it was replaced with the more familiar emblem featuring an eagle clasping the rifle. This badge is found to the right of the first version.

Under these badges, we can see the charging boat crossed by rifles of an Enlisted Expeditionary Warfare Specialist to the left and the boat crossed by a sabre and a rifle of a Special Warfare Combat Craft Crewman to the right. The details come across bright and crisp, evoking their inspirations faithfully.

The other side says it all: “Failure is not an option.”

This unique coin is available for purchase at the UDT Seal Store in Virginia Beach, Virginia or online at All profits from the UDT store go to the UDT-SEAL Association and the Navy SEAL Foundation.

Custom Military Challenge Coins To Your Specifications

When you want to honor a unit or an individual with a custom challenge coin, Unit Coins has more than enough options to guarantee your coin is completely unique. At the same time, we understand the power of tradition. Custom-shaped coins such as this month’s “flipper” help tell your unit’s unique story in a way that can sometimes say much more than you think. Our custom military challenge coin design team will help you create a coin that will tell that story for generations to come. Quality materials, quality craftmanship, and quality people make Unit Coins the custom mint of choice for every design, from the simple to the elaborate. Give our friendly staff a call today for a free design consultation!

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