Home / COVER FEATURE / This Week in Seabee History (Week of December 31 – January 6)

This Week in Seabee History (Week of December 31 – January 6)

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

A Seabee recruiting brochure, circa 1942. On Jan. 5 of that year, the Bureau of Navigation (now the Naval Personnel Command) approved Admiral Ben Moreell’s request for authority to recruit skilled craftsmen and artisans to man a Naval Construction Force. The original authorization was for a Naval Construction Regiment composed of three Naval Construction Battalions. This approval, in effect, was the actual beginning of the Seabees. Authorizations for additional battalions soon followed in rapid sequence. The first Seabees were not raw recruits when they voluntarily enlisted because the emphasis in recruiting them was placed on experience and skill, so all they had to do was adapt their civilian construction skills to military needs. To obtain men with the necessary qualifications, physical standards were less rigid than in other branches of the armed forces. The age range for enlistment was 18-50, but after the formation of the initial battalions, it was discovered that several men past 60 had managed to join up, clearly an early manifestation of Seabee ingenuity. During the early days of the war, the average age of Seabees was 37. These first recruits were the men who had helped build Boulder Dam, the national highways, and New York City’s skyscrapers; who had worked in the mines and quarries and dug the subway tunnels; who had worked in shipyards and built docks and wharfs and even ocean liners and aircraft carriers. By the end of the war, 325,000 such men had enlisted in the Seabees. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

Throughout December

1917: The 12th Regiment (Public Works) was established at Great Lakes Naval Training Station, Illinois, to build and maintain naval facilities. The Naval Construction Force (NCF) detachments which built naval facilities in France in 1918, remained in the minds of planners during the interwar period and stimulated development in 1941-42 of the first naval construction battalions, the Seabees.

1942: Pontoon Assembly Attachment 1 commissioned. 32nd NCB commissioned. 45th NCB commissioned at Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia. CBD 1003, 1004 commissioned.

1943: Seabees of CBMU 549 were told they were to erect a “typical Seabee camp” for a new Hollywood movie, “The Fighting Seabees,” starring John Wayne and Susan Hayward. The Seabees were delighted that they would be seeing all the stars. They saw stars all right – only they were the overhead kind – visible from sunset to dawn. The men of CBMU 549, set for the luxuries of the film darlings, got the shock of their life when the first three days on their new job they worked around the clock, 24 hours a day. After arriving “on location,” the men were immediately put to work erecting tents, showers, heads, electric generators and a refrigeration plant. At the end of the week, the camp was complete in all details including water system, roadways and street lights.

1943: CBMU 533, 572, 573, 574, 575, 576, 577, 583 commissioned. CBMU 551 inactivated. Pontoon Assembly Attachment 2 commissioned. 19th Special NCB commissioned at NCTC Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia. CBD 1001, 1002, 1034 inactivated. CBD 1035, 1037, 1038, 1039, 1043 commissioned.

1944: Aviation, Construction, Ordnance, Repair, Navy (ACORN) 34 arrived at Clark Field, Luzon. CBMU 556, 576 inactivated. Pontoon Assembly Attachment 5 commissioned. 21st Special NCB commissioned at NCTC Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia. Construction Battalion Detachment (CBD) 1018, 1023 inactivated. CBD 1078 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: CBMU 506, 509, 510, 575, 585, 590, 591, 595, 596, 601, 603, 606, 608, 612, 624, 631, 636 inactivated. 25th NCR inactivated. 34th NCB inactivated on Okinawa. 20th Special NCB inactivated at Manus. CBD 1010, 1067, 1082, 1092, 1101 inactivated.

1946: CBD 1102, 1103, 1104, 1105, 1106, 1107, 1108, 1109, 1159 inactivated. CBD 1503, 1504 activated.

1947: Although the Seabees had operated from early 1942 as an NCF, it was not until this time that the Seabee Reserves were organized. At their inception, the Seabee Reserves were organized into divisions under the Naval District in which they were located. Each division usually represented a city, although in the larger cities there sometimes were several divisions. By 1949, the number of active duty Seabees had dwindled to 3,300. Then in June 1950 when the armies of North Korea invaded South Korea, it was the Seabee Reserves that enabled the NCF to quickly expand to over 14,000 for the emergency.

1947: CBD 1151, 1152, 1504, 1512 inactivated. CBD 1511 activated.

1957: 30th NCR inactivated.

1965: NMCB 10, the first full battalion to arrive in Vietnam, was relieved by NMCB 4 at Camp Shields, Chu Lai, RVN. NMCB 7 returned to Davisville, Rhode Island, from Rota, Spain.

1965: Direct Procurement Petty Officers Program was instituted.

1973: The talents of the men of Amphibious Construction Battalion (ACB) 2 were called upon during an emergency beach salvage operation in the Chesapeake Bay after three barges broke loose from a civilian tug. Together with the Coast Guard, ACB 2 struggled in turbulent weather to secure the barges and, as a result, successfully prevented damage to the bay’s bridges and the threat of a severe navigational hazard.

2006: For the first time ever, naval intelligence specialists were directly assigned to Seabee units beginning this month.

—————–

December 31

1942: 77th NCB formed at Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1943: The 96th NCB advance party arrived in the Azores. The main body arrived on Jan. 9, 1944. 140th NCB commissioned at Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia. 145th NCB commissioned at NCTC Camp Endicott, Davisville, Rhode Island.

1945: Section II of 10th NCB inactivated at Samar, Philippines. Section I had inactivated at Manila, Luzon, Philippines on 15 November. 83rd NCB inactivated in Tangku, China. 91st NCB inactivated at Manicani Island. 100th NCB inactivated at Samar, Philippines.

1947: The organized construction battalion reserve was authorized by a Bureau of Personnel issued this date. It authorized the formation of 123 organized Seabee companies, each composed of five officers and 40 men. The full strength of the 123 companies, with authorized complements filled, was 615 officers and 4,920 men.

1947: 121st NCB inactivated on Saipan and redesignated at CBD 1504.

1970: While traveling by boat between Cho Moi and Binh Thuy in Vietnam, five Seabees of NMCB 74’s Detail Charlie were killed in action by Viet Cong forces. They were Builder 2nd Class Jerry B. Edmonds Jr.; Construction Electrician 3rd Class Harold E. Asher; Equipment Operator Constructionman Edger P. Beck; Constructionman Wayne Sterling Rushton; and Constructionman Frank Neubauer. The Seabees had been working on two projects at Cho Moi. The first project was the construction of a complete modern naval base which could support more advanced bases, and the second was the construction of concrete block housing for 80 families of RVN personnel.

1971: (Underwater Construction Team) UCT 1 returned from U.S. Naval Shipyard Norfolk/Portsmouth, Virginia.

—————-

From December to January

1992: On 10 December 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 Port of 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.”

—————–

January 1

1946: The Advance Base Depot, Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC), Davisville, Rhode Island is inactivated. Concurrently, the Naval Supply Depot, Newport, Davisville Annex was established. Also, the 1st Naval Construction Regiment (NCR) was inactivated.

1959: The homeport of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 10 was officially changed from Guam, Marianas Islands to Port Hueneme, California.

1967: NMCB 4’s advance party departed Port Hueneme, California for Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam (RVN).

1968: Seabee Team 0602 graduated from Seabee Team Training and was assigned to Officer in Charge, Construction Battalions, Pacific Detachment, RVN, deploying to Phouc Le, RVN.

1968: Seabee Team 0511 redeployed to Go Dau Ha Village, RVN.

1972: Seabee Team 7411 deployed to Tan An, RVN.

—————–

January 2

1942: Manila and Cavite, Philippines, fell to the Japanese.

1946: 141st Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) inactivated at Kwajalein Atoll.

—————–

January 3

1943: 61st NCB commissioned at Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1944: ACORN 18 arrived at Espiritu Santo. 10th NCR inactivated. (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.)

1968: Detail Bravo One of NMCB 7 departed for Hoi An, RVN to begin construction work at the Cords Hospital.

1973: A small team of Navy Seabees went to earthquake-riddled Managua in Nicaragua. Their task was to recover as much as possible of the classified equipment and materials buried in the rubble of what was once the United States Embassy. The four-man team from the State Department’s Naval Support Unit in Washington, D.C. made quick work of what was originally estimated to be a three-to-four week job. Within nine days, all of the equipment had been retrieved. Upon completion of that mission, the team then retrieved the major portion of the remaining office furniture and equipment from the wreckage. Following the work at the embassy, at the request of the wife of the Nicaraguan President, the Navy Construction Team proceeded to Managua’s El Retiro Hospital for a similar job. The Seabees immediately employed their technical expertise and equipment to recover the valuable operating room and surgical gear from the ruins of the big hospital. Recovery of this equipment not only saved the hospital substantial money, but also enabled the hospital to be used in the much needed medical treatment of the earthquake victims. The team departed from Nicaragua on January 18th. Use of this team provided another example of the varied talents of the Seabees, who are almost as well known for their humanitarian accomplishments as their combat construction feats.

—————–

January 4

1968: Equipment Operator 1st Class H.C. Cousineau was killed when struck by enemy fire while riding in a helicopter north of Tan Ky, RVN.

—————–

January 5

1942: The Bureau of Navigation (now the Naval Personnel Command) approved Admiral Ben Moreell’s request for authority to recruit skilled craftsmen and artisans to man a Naval Construction Force. The original authorization was for a Naval Construction Regiment composed of three Naval Construction Battalions. This approval, in effect, was the actual beginning of the Seabees. Authorizations for additional battalions soon followed in rapid sequence.

1943: ACORN 3 arrived at New Caledonia. 

—————–

January 6

1945: A Seabee whose unit was attached to a Marine Division doubled as a combat pilot during the invasion and battle for Cape Gloucester, New Britain. Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Chester J. Perkins of NCB 19 flew a total of 218 hours, 105 of them during combat as the pilot of a light, unarmed reconnaissance plane. He made daily flights over enemy territory to transport rations and supplies to isolated jungle patrols and to spot for artillery batteries. In addition, Perkins carried blood plasmas to Marines wounded during the invasion operations and dropped medical supplies while fighting was still in progress. Perkins operated mostly from crude, improvised landing strips, usually roadways and sand bars. On one occasion, a fusillade of enemy bullets pierced the cabin floor of his tiny plane. Fortunately, all of them missed him. For his outstanding accomplishments, Perkins was awarded the Navy Air Medal on Jan. 6, 1945.

1967: The first aircraft of the advance party of NMCB 133 arrived in RVN.

1968: The first advance party of eight officers and 137 Seabees of NMCB 8 departed the continental United States (CONUS) via C-130 aircraft for deployment to RVN.

1970: 21st NCR Detail Yankee of Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 1 departed Davisville, Rhode Island and deployed to Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) for test emplacement of the Project AFAR array.

 


Check Also

This Week in Seabee History (September 9 – 15)

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.