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THIS WEEK IN SEABEE HISTORY (Week of Dec. 20)

Consolidated by Dr. Frank A. Blazich Jr., Historian, U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

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1973: As part of Operation Deep Freeze 73, Seabees deployed to Antarctica to construct the six-story high Geodesic Dome at South Pole Station. The Antarctic deployment of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 71 resulted in the completion of the Siple Station project, erection of the Geodesic dome and other structures at the South Pole, as well as completion of numerous projects in the McMurdo Station area. The Geodesic dome covered and protected most of the buildings at South Pole Station. Above, the Caterpillar LGP D-8, custom built by Cat for Operation Deep Freeze. Specs included 54″-wide track pads, 16′ 10″-wide dozer blade, lengthened frame and ground pressure at only 3 psi. Seabees working bare-chested in the snow may have seemed strange. However, when the temperature rose above 0 degrees F and the wind was calm (as it often was in mid-summer) the sun was so intense that working shirtless was the preferred option.  (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

December 20

1943: 18th and 19th Naval Construction Regiments (NCRs) commissioned. 138th Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) decommissioned at Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1945: 3rd and 51st NCRs inactivated. 5th NCB inactivated. 87th NCB inactivated on Okinawa. 99th NCB inactivated at Samar, Philippines. 115th and 118th NCBs inactivated at Subic Bay, Philippines. 119th NCB inactivated at Manila, Philippines. 5th Special NCB inactivated at Samar, Philippines. 21st and 24th Special NCBs inactivated at Subic Bay, Philippines. 22nd Special NCB inactivated at Los Negros and Manus.

1967: Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3’s advance party of one officer and 24 enlisted men departed Camp Wilkinson for Port Hueneme, California.

1949: NMCB 8 officially disestablished at Construction Battalion Center (CBC), Port Hueneme, California. The disestablishment ceremony was held on 15 December.

December 21

1944: The first B-29 Superfortress bombers land at North Field on Tinian, the massive airbase being constructed by the 29th, 30th and 49th NCRs under the 6th NCB, commanded by Commodore Paul J. Halloran, CEC. Since July, the Seabees worked around the clock to construct North and West Fields on the island into the main B-29 bomber bases for the ensuing air campaigns against the Japanese home islands.

1945: 147th NCB inactivated on Okinawa.

December 22

1942: 53rd NCB commissioned at Camp Allen, Norfolk, Virginia.

Dec. 22-23, 1968: On the evening of the 22nd-23rd, Naval Support Activity Saigon Detachment Qui Nhon was attacked by a small group of Viet Cong. An explosion heavily damaged the barracks where the Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 302 detail was quartered. The explosion was followed by small arms fire from Viet Cong infiltrators on the base. Three CBMU 302 personnel were wounded. Chief Equipment Operator Sears was critically injured, while Construction Electrician (Telephone) 3rd Class Snyder and Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Turnage suffered light to moderate injuries.

1968: NMCB 1’s advance party of two officers and 18 men deployed via one C-141 from Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam, to Davisville, Rhode Island.

December 23

1943:  65th NCB inactivated at Camp Endicott, Davisville, Rhode Island.

1956: The last of the initial contingent of Seabees was evacuated from the South Pole Station by U.S. Navy aircraft. On Nov. 20, eight Seabees and 11 dogs landed at the geographic South Pole in aircraft of Air Development Squadron 6. There they constructed facilities and impacted snow for an airstrip.

1965: Team 1105 departed Pleiku, Pleiku Province, for Detachment Headquarters at Tan Son Nhut, thus ending the Seabee Team Program in support of the U.S. Army Special Forces and Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) Program.

1967: Equipment Operator (Construction) 3rd Class Nicholas G. Walz and Equipment Operator (Construction) 3rd Class Lester L. Williams of NMCB 3 died instantly as a result of a Viet Cong mining incident.

1969:  Three Seabees attached to Seabee Team 0103 were wounded in action when their front end load detonated a road mine, 10km northeast of My Tho.

December 24

1942: 54th NCB commissioned at Camp Bradford, Norfolk, Virginia. 56th NCB commissioned NCTC Norfolk, Virginia. 60th NCB formed at Camp Allen, Norfolk, Virginia.

December 26

1942: 58th NCB commissioned at Camp Allen, Norfolk, Virginia.

1943: Seabees of the 19th NCB joined the First Marine Division in the assault on Japanese-held Cape Gloucester, New Britain. During the battle, Seabees bulldozed paths to the Japanese lines so that American tanks could attack hostile positions. By New Year’s Day, the Japanese airstrips were captured. However, during this first week, continuous enemy air raids resulted in five men of the battalion killed and 24 wounded.

1944: CBMU 629 was split into four detachments of one officer and six men each. Three of the detachments worked with small boat units in their preparation for the Rhine River crossing, and one of the detachments worked with an Army Engineer unit. The first detachment became the first Seabee unit to enter Germany on 26 December. Later, they assembled pontoon barges on the Rhine at Remagen. These barges were to be used in connection with strengthening the Ludendorff Bridge. When that structure collapsed, work on the barges stopped.

Dec. 26-31, 1956: California has been a frequent beneficiary of Seabee firefighting forces. Forest and brush fires have been a special hazard during the state’s dry season. Seabees from the Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC), Port Hueneme, California, manned the fire lines in the Malibu Canyon – Zuma Point area and helped contain one of the worst brush fires in California history. Seabees fought the blaze alongside civilian firefighters. In addition, Seabees were busy putting out small fires that cropped up along the highway, digging trenches, cutting fire breaks in the valley and gulleys surrounding the Zuma Mountain Range, helping residents protect their homes from the ravenous flames.

 

 


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Consolidated by Dr. Frank A. Blazich Jr., Historian, Naval History and Heritage Command

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