For the Record: Doc Webb (UDT)

Courtesy of Tattoo Archive: Before Doc Webb came into the tattoo world he worked as a commercial artist for the Fox West Coast Theaters. He also worked in Seattle, Washington at local arcades making signs. While working at these arcades Doc Webb met tattooist Bob Kelton. As fate would have it before too long Doc Webb had a tattoo machine in his hands and he spent the next 40 plus years working as a tattooist. Doc Webb operated shops in Vallejo, California and in San Diego, California. In fact, he spent his entire tattoo career around the military and the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) flash sheet seen here is a classic example of Doc Webb’s tattooing style.

After disastrous allied amphibious landings during World War I the US knew they needed to upgrade their techniques for this type of battle. So on August 15, 1942 the UDT were established, with their training base at Little Creek, Virginia. The personnel for these early UDT teams came from the Seabees. Their assignment was to clear beaches and waters just off shore from any obstruction that would hinder a successful landing of an amphibious force. They pioneered combat swimming, underwater demolitions and the use of midget submarines.

These skills were extremely valuable during the Pacific and European campaigns during World War II. President John F. Kennedy was aware of the need for unconventional warfare and in the same speech where he talked about putting a man on the moon; he allocated $100 million to strengthening special operations forces. Underwater Demolition Teams were also used in places other than the battlefront. During the manned space flights in the late 1960s and 1970s UDT frogmen were the first to greet the newly arrived astronauts.

In 1983 the UDT’s were re-designated “Swimmer Delivery Vehicle Teams” (SDVT’s) and later re-designated SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams. Yes, you read correctly! The UDT’s were the precursor of the present day SEALs. The new name, SEALs, came about because of their ability to operate on the SEa-Air-Land.

Tattoo Archive © 2011



  1. Doc Webb UDT flash sheet, 1960s.
  2. Doc Webb business card, San Diego, 1970s .
  3. Membership card from Doc Webb’s Royal Order of Human Ink Pads, 1960s.
  4. Doc Webb and Trader Jim Gunkel, 1970s.
  5. Doc Webb shop front, 850 Fourth St. San Diego, 1970s.

This installment of For the Record was featured in Tattoo Artist Magazine issue #25. [divider]

More “FOR THE RECORD” Tattoo History Blogs: Tatts Thomas – Stencils  – History of Tattooing in ChicagoPelikan Ink Saint George & the Dragon – Thomas Edison and TattooingDoc WebbThe PIKETattoo PigmentsThe Zeis Studio FlashConey Island and TattoosPercy Waters MachineTattoo StampsThe Rose TattooJack Redcloud Bill the Beachcomber Sailor Jack Cripe – [divider]

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