This Week in Seabee History (Week of June 11)

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

June 11

1965: In Costa Rica, three members of a detachment from Mobile Construction Battalion (MCB) 1 saved the lives of three Costa Ricans who were stranded by a six-foot-deep mud flow during a flood control project. No deaths or injuries were reported and property damage was light in the San Jose and Cartago area, where a flood in December 1963 had left nearly 5,000 homeless.

2010: Cmdr. William Whitmire, Civil Engineer Corps (CEC), assumed command of Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) Gulfport, Mississippi after reliving Capt. Stephanie Jones, CEC.

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June 12

1943: ACORN 2 dissolved. (Used during World War II, an ACORN was a tailored unit designed to carry out the rapid construction and subsequent operation of a landplane and seaplane advance base. Each ACORN had a construction battalion attached to it, as well as trained personnel to operate the control tower, field lighting, aerological unit, transportation, medical, berthing, and messing facilities. A Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) also accompanied each ACORN to maintain the base after the initial construction was completed and the construction battalion had been withdrawn. During the war, ACORNs were sent to such places at Guadalcanal, Espiritu Santo, Green Island, Rendova, Treasury Island, and Majuro.)

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June 13

1944: The 16th, 21st, 22nd Naval Construction Regiments (NCR) were inactivated; the 2nd Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) was inactivated.

1966: Approximately 60 Seabees from Construction Battalion Center (CBC) Port Hueneme, California were sent to help fight the fire in the Los Padres National Forest, 35 miles northeast of Santa Barbara.

2008: Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Miller, CEC, relieved Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Stoddard, CEC, as commanding officer, Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 1, Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Norfolk, Virginia.

2008: Cmdr. Stephanie Jones, CEC, relieved Capt. Darius Banaji as commander, NCTC, CBC Gulfport Mississippi.

 

2008: Capt. James Worcester, CEC, relieved Capt. Kelly Schmader as commanding officer, Naval Facilities Expeditionary Logistics Center (NFELC) and as commander, 31st Seabee Readiness Group, Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, California.

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June 15

1944: Operation Forager, as the Marianas campaign in World War II was named, began on June 15, 1944, when 20,000 Marines and Seabees were put ashore on the beaches of Saipan. Seabees of the 121st NCB formed the shore party on the main invasion beach. By June 18, Marines captured Aslito, the main Japanese airfield on Saipan, and that very day, Seabees went to work repairing the bomb damage to the runways. Four days later, the first American fighter planes landed on the strip, and four months later, the Seabees had lengthened and widened the runways so that B-29s could take off for their first bombing of Japan. Japanese troops counterattacked against Aslito airfield and halted the Seabee construction work, but the Seabees grabbed up their arms and held them off. By July 9, Saipan was secured.

1945: The 18th NCB inactivated at Tinian; 45th NCB inactivated at Camp Parks, Shoemaker, California.

USS Robert Stethem (DDG-63), named in honor of Steelworker 2nd Class Robert Stethem, circa 1995. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

1968: Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 74’s second flight advance party of three officers and 35 enlisted men arrived at Camp Shields, Chu Lai, Republic of Vietnam (RVN).

Steelworker 2nd Class Robert Stethem preparing for a dive while part of UCT-1 in the early 1980s. Stethem was killed by terrorists in Beirut, Lebanon, following the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 on June 15, 1985. He was posthumously awarded both the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, and was later made an honorary Master Chief Constructionman in a ceremony aboard USS Stethem (DDG-63). (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

1985: Steelworker 2nd Class (DV) Robert Stethem is killed by terrorists in Beirut, Lebanon following the hijacking of TWA Flight 847. He received posthumously both the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, and was promoted to honorary Master Chief Constructionman on August 24, 2010, in Yokosuka, Japan aboard the USS Stethem, named in his honor.

1991: On the island of Luzon, Philippines, Mount Pinatubo erupts, destroying Clark Air Base and burying Naval Station Subic Bay and Naval Air Station Cubi Point in a thick layer of ash. In the ensuing Operation Fiery Vigil, members of NMCBs 3, 4, 5, and CBMU 302 work to clear the naval facilities. By October 1991, the Seabees moved 251,000 tons of ash from over 50 miles of paved surfaces.

2010: After 672 hours of around-the-clock work, NMCB 7’s Detachment Horn of Africa (HOA) successfully drilled its first freshwater well in the village of Adgia Falima, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia. This was the first of seven hand-pump operated wells scheduled to be drilled in the Dire Dawa and Shinele regions during its deployment.

 

2012: Cmdr. La Tanya Simms, CEC, is relieved by Cmdr. Jeff Kilian, CEC, as commanding officer of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4 during a change of command ceremony at Naval Base Ventura County, California.

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June 16

1943: ACORN 4 dissolved.

1945: The 138th NCB was inactivated at Camp Parks, Shoemaker, California.

1968: Seabee Team 0808 departed Bangkok, Thailand via government aircraft for the continental U.S. (CONUS).

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June 17

1833: USS Delaware was the first ship to enter the first completed U.S. Navy drydock at the Norfolk Navy Yard. William P.S. Sanger, then a civil engineer apprentice, served as resident engineer during construction of the drydock.

1881: In response to a letter of April 12, 1881 from Civil Engineer Benjamin F. Chandler, CEC, U.S. Attorney General Wayne MacVeagh established that the Navy civil engineers were, in fact, officers belonging to the Navy’s staff corps, thereby entitled to be retired from active duty and placed on the retired list.

1942: The 7th NCB was commissioned at NCTC Camp Allen, Norfolk, Virginia.

1943: ACORN 3 was dissolved.

1968: The Moreell Wing of the CEC-Seabee Museum was dedicated at Port Hueneme, California. The u-shaped structure, composed of steel Butler buildings, houses the thousands of artifacts and memorabilia collected by Admiral Ben Moreell during his 29-year career in the United States Navy. Most of the souvenirs housed in the wing were collected during World War II when Admiral Moreell became the Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks and founded and commanded the Seabees.

1970: NMCB 7’s main body, consisting of 20 officers and 633 enlisted men, departed Chu Lai, RVN for Davisville, Rhode Island.