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This Week in Seabee History (February 4 – February 10)

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

This Week in Seabee History
The Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, desalinization plant circa 1964. In reprisal for the arrest of Cuban fishermen who entered Florida coastal waters, the Cuban government cut off the water supply to the United States naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This action severed the base’s last link with Cuba on the other side of the boundary fence. On the same day the United States authorized construction of a $10 million seawater desalinization and power plant at Guantanamo. Within hours, Seabees commenced site preparation. The plant was built in record time, and by late July was producing fresh water. Full operation was achieved in January 1965 when the plant’s three flush-type evaporator units were producing a total of 2,250,000 gallons of water a day, and its turbine generators were producing a total of 15,000 kilowatts a day. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

 

Early February

1991: By early February 1991, 2,800 Seabees and 1,375 pieces of equipment had been deployed to the region in support of Operation “Desert Shield.” Upon their arrival in Saudi Arabia, the Seabees built critically needed facilities at the four airfields where the Marine Air Combat Element had deployed. This entailed construction of parking aprons, as well as base camps to house the Marines pouring into the area. Next, the Seabees built ammunition supply points for the large amounts of ordnance being transported to the region. Once these needs were met, the Seabees shifted emphasis to improving living conditions in the Marine camps.

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February 4

1967: NMCB 121 commissioned at CBC, Gulfport, Mississippi.

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February 6

1943: 85th Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) commissioned in Norfolk, Virginia (exact camp unknown).

1943: Acorn Training Detachment commissioned, Port Hueneme, California.  (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.)

1946: Last elements of 46th NCB inactivated at Shanghai, China.

1964: In reprisal for the arrest of Cuban fishermen who entered Florida coastal waters, the Cuban government cut off the water supply to the United States Naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This action severed the base’s last link with Cuba on the other side of the boundary fence. On the same day the United States authorized construction of a $10 million seawater desalinization and power plant at Guantanamo. Within hours, Seabees commenced site preparation. The plant went up in record time, and by late July was producing fresh water. Full operation was achieved in January 1965. Three flush-type evaporator units were producing a total of 2,250,000 gallons of water a day. Additionally, turbine generators produced a total of 15,000 kilowatts a day.

1967: Last flight of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB 4) main body arrived at Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam (RVN).

1967: UTP2 James O. Miller was mortally wounded at the NMCB 8 detachment site at Tam Ky, RVN, when an 82mm mortar round exploded about five feet outside his berthing hut. Miller died several hours later after being evacuated to a hospital in Chu Lai.

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February 7

1943: 66th NCB commissioned at Camp Endicott, Davisville, Rhode Island.

1968: NMCB 3’s seventh flight to the continental U.S. (CONUS) received two small arms rounds while taking off from Phu Bai Airport, RVN; Lt. Cmdr. Daniel B. Leonard, Civil Engineer Corps (CEC), relieved Lt. Cmdr. Stanley P. Stewart, CEC, as executive officer of NMCB 40.

1969: Seabee Teams 0101 and 0102 arrived in Davisville, Rhode Island from RVN for reassignment to NMCB 1.

1974: NMCB 71 turned over the new Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station to Commander, Naval Support Force Antarctica. This ended the involvement of Seabees at construction and facility maintenance at the South Pole. Thereafter the National Science Foundation contracted out all construction and maintenance work at the South Pole. (Read Rendezvous with Penguins: Seabee Construction of the South Pole Dome for more information.)

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February 8

1943: 69th NCB commissioned at Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia; 88th NCB activated at Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) Camp Endicott, Davisville, Rhode Island.

1967: Main body of NMCB 6 with 22 officers and 619 men departed Da Nang, RVN for Construction Battalion Center (CBC), Davisville, Rhode Island. (One flight terminated at Travis Air Force Base, California.)

1967: Main body of NMCB 133 arrived in RVN.

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February 9

1943: The Acorn Assembly and Training Detachment was established at Port Hueneme, California. The chief functions of the unit were the organization, outfitting, and staging of Acorns. 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 World War II, Acorns sent to such places at Guadalcanal, Espiritu Santo, Green Island, Rendova, Treasury Island, and Majuro.

1943: 78th NCB commissioned at NCTC Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1970: Seabee Team 0105 departed Vietnam for CONUS for team training.

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February 10

1943: 84th NCB commissioned at NCTC Camp Endicott, Davisville, Rhode Island.

1945: 137th NCB commissioned at Advance Base Depot (ABD) Camp Thomas, Davisville, Rhode Island.

1968: Capt. R.D. Thorson, commander, 31st Naval Construction Regiment (NCR) presided over an awards ceremony held at CBC, Port Hueneme, California, where 12 NMCB 4 officers and men received decorations. The recognition included one Bronze Star with combat “V” that was awarded to Cmdr. R.M. Fluss, commanding officer, NMCB 4, six Navy Commendation Medals, and five Navy Achievement Medals. Fluss presented Meritorious Achievement Certificates-Vietnam (MACV) to 92 NMCB 4 personnel for meritorious service during the battalion’s Da Nang, RVN, deployment.

 


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