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This Week in Seabee History (Aug. 28)

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

Guadalcanal1

This photo, taken in 1943 during World War II, shows the 100th Naval Construction Battalion preparing an airstrip for coral on Guadalcanal. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

August 28

1942: The 21st Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) was commissioned at Camp Bradford, Norfolk, Virginia.

1943: The 117th NCB was commissioned at Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1967: At 6:08 a.m., the Dong Ha Combat Base in the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) was subjected to an enemy rocket attack. Three of the rockets landed in the Seabee cantonment, Camp Barnes. One of the rockets made a direct hit on a C Company berthing hut. As a result of this direct hit, four men were killed: Builder (Concrete) 2nd Classs Jerry L. Newman, Builder (Concrete) Constructionman Jerome D. Patterson, Builder (Concrete) Constructionman Anthony K. Grasso, and Builder (Heavy) Construction Apprentice Richard J. Wager. Between August 28 and September 25, 1967, the Seabee camp at the Dong Ha Combat Base came under enemy artillery and rocket attack 47 times on 13 different days. All attacks came between 4 a.m. and 8 p.m, with the majority of them coming during daylight hours. As a result of these daytime attacks, construction work was greatly hampered, and sometimes came to a standstill while the Seabees sought cover.

1967: One man from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1 was killed by enemy sniper fire on Route 1.

August 29

1969: Seabee Team 0314 traveled to Guam, Mariana Islands, for orientation.

2005: Hurricane Katrina strikes the Gulf Coast. More than 3,000 Seabees from NMCBs 18, 40, 133, Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 202, Amphibious Construction Battalion (ACB) 2, and Mobile Utilities Support Equipment (MUSE) technicians assisted in the cleanup operations.

2013: Capt John Adametz, Civil Engineer Corps (CEC), relieved Capt. Darius Banaji, CEC, as commander, Naval Construction Group (NCG) 2 in a ceremony at Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) Gulfport, Mississippi.

August 30

1945: On V-J Day, August 14, 1945, 13 construction battalions and three special battalions were awaiting assignment to Japan, where they were to aid United States naval forces at Hiroshima, Kabayana, Yokosuka, Omura, Nagasaki, Sasebo, and Kure. That day, 16 officers and 541 men of Naval Construction Battalion 136 embarked on 12 medium landing ships at Guam; reported at Iwo Jima on August 21; and arrived at Yokosuka naval base on August 30. As the first Seabees to land in Japan, they established their camp at the site of the navigation school within the Japanese naval base. After construction a galley and a mess hall, the Seabees were assigned numerous other tasks. They repaired housing, electric and telephone systems and roads at the naval base, graded fields and remodeled buildings for the fleet recreation area, and repaired housing and surfaced an airstrip at Kisarazu airfield. In addition to the 136th NCB, CBMU 602 also arrived in Japan on August 30, 1945. The maintenance unit arrived at Yokosuka from Guam. Its task was to maintain runways and roads at the Marine Corps air base. Furthermore, the Seabees constructed a 2,000-man galley, restored barracks and facilities for personnel, constructed a chapel and recreation facilities, completed a sawmill, public works shops, a cold-storage plant, and a chlorination plant for water treatment, and installed hot-water showers in all barracks.

1954: In Korea, Seabees of CBMU 101 were assigned the task of replacing a 22-foot bridge. The bridge was an old Korean structure of rapidly deteriorating logs and hand-driven piles. It created a hazardous condition for heavily loaded military vehicles. The problem faced by the Seabees was to remove the old bridge in the shortest possible time and replace it with a structure capable of carrying loads up to 30 tons. The Seabees, using heavy I-beams and timbers, laid out and completely prefabricated the new bridge. All material was precut and predrilled. The structure was assembled and each individual piece was marked. The Seabees then disassembled the bridge and loaded the parts in order on a low-bed trailer. At seven in the morning of August 30, 1954, all equipment was moved out in sequence to the old bridge. Rain fell in a downpour throughout the day. However, by four o’clock that afternoon, the old bridge was removed, the approaches broken away, the I-beams laid in, concrete abutment tops poured, cross beams bolted on, decking spiked down, and approaches filled and graded. The road was reopened to traffic that evening.

1967: During a Viet Cong mortar attack on the Phu Bai combat base, the battalion’s camp (NMCB 3) was hit by one 105mm howitzer round from friendly artillery. The round impacted in the enlisted berthing area killing Construction Mechanic 1st Class J.W. Wilkinson and Yeoman 3rd Class D.C. Coker, and wounding nineteen others.

1967: The NMCB 5 pre-deployment party arrived at Camp Barnes for a five day visit with NMCB 11.

1969: Seabee Team 0313 deployed to Cao Lanh, RVN via government aircraft.

1970: NMCB 1’s advance party departed CONUS by air for Camp Moscrip, Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico.

1971: CBU 415 established at NAS Oceana, Virginia.

August 31

1842: The Bureau of Yards and Docks was established, one of five bureaus set up in the reorganization of the U.S. Navy. Captain Lewis Warrington, senior member of the expiring Board of Naval Commissioners, was appointed the first Chief of the Bureau. William P.S. Sanger, appointed civil engineer for the Board in 1836, was transferred to become the first civil engineer on the Bureau staff. The new Bureau received responsibility for the Navy yards, then seven in number. 

1944: The 3rd NCB was inactivated (ordered disbanded on July 12, 1944).

1970: NMCB 7 was disestablished as an active Naval Construction Force (NCF) unit at Davisville, Rhode Island; NMCB 121 was decommissioned at Gulfport, Mississippi.

September 1

1942: Officers and men of the 6th NCB landed on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. These were the first Seabees to land on any enemy held island in World War II and the first to engage the enemy in combat. The 6th Seabees tackled their most important job: repairing the airstrip then named Henderson Field. It was a never-ending job, for as fast as the builders leveled the strip and put down Marston matting, the Japanese would send bombers overhead to drop high explosive bombs on the strip. As the fighting around the island increased, the Seabees developed a system of repairing the damaged airstrip in minutes. Less than 40 minutes after Japanese bombers swooped down and strafed the field, the Seabees, waiting with previously-loaded trucks, would dart out on the strip and completely fill in the bomb holes. Many times the Seabees worked furiously to repair the field while crippled U.S. Marine interceptors circled overhead waiting to land. Several times while ducking bullets, the Seabees worked on one end of the field making repairs as the Japanese infantry fought with U.S. Marine defenders at the other end. On several occasions the Seabees fought beside the U.S. Marines in hand-to-hand combat against the Japanese troops.

1943: The 1st Naval Construction Regiment (NCR) was inactivated.

1944: Port Directors School established at Davisville, Rhode Island; it was discontinued on Dec. 31, 1944.

1965: Capt. Nelson Anderson, CEC, relieved Capt. Harold Liberty, CEC, as commander, 30th NCR.

1969: The first Reserve Naval Construction Brigade was established under the command of Rear Admiral George Reider, CEC.

1969: Seabee Teams 0705 and 0706 deployed to the RVN for assignment to Officer in Charge, Construction Battalions, Pacific (CBPAC) for duty at Thu Duc and Lai Thieu.

September 2

1942: The 22nd NCB was commissioned at Camp Allen, Norfolk, Virginia.

1943: The 128th NCB was activated at NCTC Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia; the 131st NCB was commissioned at NCTC Camp Peary.

1968: Lt. Cmdr. H.W. Filbry, CEC, relieved Lt. Cmdr. M.H. Harper, CEC, as commanding officer of CBMU 302. CBMU 302 was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation during the change of command ceremony for the period ending Jan. 1, 1968.

1969: Typhoon Doris severely damaged the Quang Tri Camp of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74 and various other camps and civilian communities in the Republic of Vietnam. A quirk of fate some might say, because half of the battalion’s main body was still at home port in Gulfport, Mississippi when the Gulf coast was hit by Hurricane Camille on August 19, 1969. After Camille, this half joined the other half already in Vietnam just in time to encounter Typhoon Doris. Thus, nearly half of the Seabees of the battalion suffered through two severe tropical storms within two weeks, each storm on a different side of the world.

September 3

1967: At Dong Ha, RVN, five miles south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), a combined Viet Cong–North Vietnamese Army rocket attack detonated 20,000 tons of ammunition and 40,000 gallons of aviation fuel near NMCB 11’s camp. The explosions rocked the base for eight hours, and this represented the largest ammunition disaster in recorded history. Miraculously, no Americans or South Vietnamese were killed.


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