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This Week in Seabee History (Week of December 10 – December 16)

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

Rear Adm. R.O. Glover, 7th Fleet Forces commander, awards the Navy Silver Star to Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Malcolm A. Peppo, 113th Naval Construction Battalion, for his actions during a Japanese attack on Dec. 15, 1944. While unloading stores from an LST during the assault on Mindanao, Philippine Islands, Peppo’s ship was attacked by a kamikaze plane. Because the ship was being unloaded, its bow doors were open and its ramp was down, making it helpless to maneuver. When the anti-aircraft gun crew looked up and saw the suicide plane headed straight for the beached vessel, the men instinctively abandoned their positions and scattered. Peppo, however, jumped into the vacated gun emplacement and fired at the oncoming plane until it crashed. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

December 10

1945: 37th and 39th NCRs inactivated; 302nd NCB inactivated at Intrepid Point, Hawaii.

1967: Seabee Team 0407 officially relieved by Seabee Team 0809 in the city of Can Tho, Phong Dinh Province, RVN; main body of NMCB 58 arrived in RVN.

1969: NMCB 53 was disestablished at Davisville, Rhode Island; Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) requested assignment of one diving officer to the staff of the Commander 21st NCR and one diving officer to 31st NCR to coordinate and manage a nucleus of Atlantic and Pacific area underwater construction teams.

1970: Seabee Team 0318 deployed to Ben Tre, RVN via government aircraft.

1992: Amphibious Construction Battalion 1 arrived at Mogadishu as part of the Naval Support Element in Somalia. Within a short time ACB 1 unloaded five of the U.S. Marines’ Maritime Pre-positioning Force ships, refurbished the port, and provided fuel and water for military forces in Somalia.

Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1 and 40 began deploying to Somalia on 10 December. Within 30 days both battalion main bodies had arrived. The 30th Naval Construction Regiment (Operational) was activated to provide command and control for the two deployed battalions. By the end of December, Seabees from NMCB 1 were convoying personnel and equipment to Baledogle, Bardera, and Baidoa to effect airfield repairs and improvements and construct base camp facilities for the deploying U.N. coalition forces. The Seabees arrived in Baledogle on 31 December and joined forces with Marines from Marine Support Wing Squadron 372 to establish landing and staging areas for CH-53 helicopters and a taxiway and turnaround pad for C-130 aircraft. The Seabees used 240,000 square feet of AM2 metal matting to construct the facility.

Near Bardera, Seabees from NMCB 1 restored a water source to a refugee camp by installing a new pump on the bank of the Jubba River. Seabees from NMCB 40 completed Operation “Clean Sweep” in Mogadishu, which consisted of removing debris (trash and car hulks) from critical areas of the city. They also prepared a site for a 300-bed Army evacuation hospital and installed 90,000 square feet of airfield at the Mogadishu airport. NMCB 40 participated in the amphibious landing at the Portof Kismayo. They quickly completed repairs to the Kismayo airfield, which allowed the rapid deployment of follow-on coalition forces to that city. Finally, the Seabees provided construction support for President George Bush’s visit to Somalia on 1 January. In addition to their tasking in support of the coalition forces, the Seabees carried out numerous civic action projects in support of the Somali people during the course of Operation “Restore Hope.”

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December 11

1966: Main body of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 7 arrived in Davisville, Rhode Island from Phu Bai, Republic of Vietnam (RVN).

1967: Cmdr. Ward W. DeGroot III, commanding officer of NMCB 58 relieved Cmdr. Paul R. Gates, commanding officer of NMCB 1 at Camp Haskins, North, RVN.

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December 12

1942: 55th Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) commissioned at Camp Endicott, Davisville, Rhode Island.

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December 13

1945: 130th NCB inactivation completed on Okinawa, Japan.

1963: Opening ceremonies were held for a 6,000-foot military airfield located at Nakhon Phanom in northeast Thailand. The airfield was near the Mekong River which divides Thailand and Laos. The construction of this airfield was the first major project undertaken by the Seabees in Southeast Asia. The men of NMCB 3 began the project, which included the clearing of 235 acres of heavy monsoon forest, in August 1962.

1966: Four personnel of NMCB 8 were wounded in an enemy mining and booby trap incident, approximately 10 miles south of Chu Lai, RVN on Route No. 1. Two men were wounded when the five ton wrecker in which they were riding was blown up by a command detonated mine. Two other NMCB 8 personnel were wounded at the scene when a Vietnamese detonated a booby trap believed to be a fragmentation grenade. All four casualties were air evacuated to the First Medical Battalion Hospital in Chu Lai, and were stabilized in good condition.

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December 14

1942: ACORN 6 commissioned. (In World War II, Navy ACORN units, composed of Seabees and other components such as aircraft maintenance units, etc., were put together to design, construct, operate and maintain forward landplane and seaplane bases and operational facilities.)

1945: The Construction Battalion Center (CBC) Port Hueneme, California, consisting of the U.S. Naval Advance Base Depot and the U.S. Naval Training and Distribution Center, was established as the center for Seabee activity in the postwar Navy.

1956: Chief Builder Charles A. Bevilacqua erects a 15-foot tall, orange-and-black striped bamboo pole, topped with a 16-inch mirrored glass ball atop the newly completed garage at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. This “ceremonial” South Pole is still in use today.

1967: Detail Foxtrot of NMCB 5 came under enemy fire while deployed at site A-3, RVN. The resultant enemy action resulted in Builder (Heavy) Constructionman Roger E. Huestis being killed in action, and Builder (Concrete) 2nd Class Wiliam D. Thompson wounded in action. Thompson later died as a result of wounds received in this action on December 15, 1967.

1969: Seabee Teams 0810 and 0811 deployed from Vietnam to CBC Port Hueneme, California.

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December 15

1942: When the Seabees were first established, the United States Navy recruited skilled construction workers and taught them how to use advanced base equipment and how to fight. Because they were skilled in their trades, the men were offered petty officer rates based on their experience and their age. However, on December 15, 1942, direct voluntary enlistment in the Seabees was ended in compliance with a Presidential Order requiring all the military services to obtain their manpower through Selective Service. By that time, about 60 battalions had been assembled.

1942: ACORN 2 arrived at Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu; 48th NCB commissioned at Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1944: One of the heroes of the World War II was Seabee Machinist Mate 3rd Class Malcolm Peppo of the 113th NCB.  While unloading stores from an LST during the assault on Mindanao, Philippine Islands, Peppo’s ship was attacked by a Japanese kamikaze plane.  Because the ship was being unloaded, its bow doors were open and its ramp was down, making it helpless to maneuver.  When the anti-aircraft gun crew looked up and saw the suicide plane headed straight for the beached vessel, the men instinctively abandoned their positions and scattered.  Peppo, however, jumped into the vacated gun emplacement and fired at the oncoming plane until it crashed.  For his courageous actions, Peppo was awarded the Silver Star.

1945: 8th Naval Construction Brigade inactivated; 52nd Naval Construction Regiment (NCR) inactivated; 71st NCB inactivated on Okinawa, Japan.

1967: Seabee Team 0309 returned to the main body at Camp Wilkinson. (Camp Wilkinson was the Seabee camp at the Gia Le Combat Base near Phu Bai, RVN.

1969: Construction Battalion Unit (CBU) 401 was established at the Public Works Center, Great Lakes, Illinois. It was a pilot unit in the Seabees Ashore Program and was to provide assistance to all United States Navy activities at Great Lakes in their self-help efforts. Depending on the size and complexity of projects assigned, it provided skilled supervisions of non-Seabee ratings, Seabee equipment, and its own manpower to enhance living spaces and expand and improve recreational facilities.

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December 16

1942: 1st Special NCB commissioned at Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) Camp Bradford, Norfolk, Virginia.

1943: ACORN 11 dissolved.

1967: Seabee Team 0407 arrived in the continental U.S. (CONUS) following successful deployment to Can Tho, RVN.

1970: Cmdr. Roy D. Gaulden was relieved as commanding officer of NCMB 4 by Cmdr. J.A. Ruscyk.

1970: Camp Kinser, Okinawa was officially rededicated as Camp Marvin G. Shields, in honor of Seabee Medal of Honor winner Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin G. Shields. Rear Admiral S.R. Smith presided over the ceremony. Honored guests included Mrs. Virginia Castellery, petty officer Shields’ mother, and Brig. Gen. R.H. Barrow, commanding general of USMC Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Okinawa.

 


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