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This Week in Seabee History (February 25 – March 3)

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

This Week in Seabee History for week of February 26
U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps insignia, circa 1905. On March 2, 1867, an act of Congress provided that civil engineers should be appointed by the President, by and with the consent of the Senate. Previously, all civil engineers in the Navy were civilian employees. This is considered the date of establishment for the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

Early 1980s

One of the major projects for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command and the major project for the Seabees in the 1970s and early 1980s was the construction of a naval complex on the atoll of Diego Garcia, part of the British Indian Ocean Territory. Diego Garcia, one of the 52 coral atolls of the Chagos Archipelago, was located in the Indian Ocean 960 miles south of India and 7 miles south of the equator. The 6,700 acre, heavily vegetated atoll was horseshoe-shaped with a perimeter of approximately 40 miles and average elevations of 3 to 7 feet. The annual rainfall was approximately 100 inches. In the early 1980s the construction effort at Diego Garcia rapidly shifted from Seabees to private contractors. The last full Seabee battalion, NMCB 62, departed the atoll in July 1982. While Seabees remained in detachments, contractor personnel took over the projects yet to be accomplished on Diego Garcia. Thus, what began as simply a communication station on a remote atoll became a major fleet and U.S. armed forces support base by the 1980s. By 1983 the only Seabee unit remaining on Diego Garcia was a detachment of NMCB 62. The departure of this detachment in September 1983 ended twelve years of priority effort on the island that included some 220 projects for the Navy and Air Force, valued in excess of $200 million. The work the Seabees completed on Diego Garcia since 1971 represented the largest peacetime construction effort in their history.


February 25

1944: 137th NCB broken up at Advance Base Depot (ABD) Gulfport, Mississippi, to form CBMU 595, 596, 597, and 598. 25th Special NCB commissioned at NCTC Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1970: Cmdr, J.J. Godsey, CEC, USN, relieved Capt. C.R. Whipple, CEC, USN, as Commanding Officer, NMCB 3 and Commander, 30th NCR, at a change of command ceremony at Camp Kinser, Okinawa.

1972: Seabee Team 1022 departed CBC, Port Hueneme, California, for duties in the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI).

1972: Seabee Team 1021 departed CBC, Port Hueneme, California, to Guam for duties in the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI).


February 26

1966: The first element of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3’s advance party arrived at Rosemary Point, Chu Lai, Republic of Vietnam (RVN), to construct a Seabee cantonment.

1970: NMCB 1’s advance party of two officers and 21 enlisted men departed Camp Haskins North for CBC, Davisville, Rhode Island.

1970: NMCB 5’s advance party arrived in Camp Haskins North from Port Hueneme, California.


February 27

1942: Advance Base Depot (ABD) Davisville, Rhode Island, is established as a unit of the Naval Operating Base, Rhode Island. This was the first of a total of four advance base depots established during World War II.  Camp Thomas, also at Davisville, was established on this day as well.

Feb. 27 – Mar. 2, 1971: The main body of Construction Battalion Unit (CBU) 201 arrived at Davisville, RI from Antarctica for reassignment to the 21st NCR.


February 28

1968: Cmdr. R.M. Fluss, Civil Engineer Corps (CEC), United States Navy (USN), commanding officer of NMCB 4, relieved Cmdr. W.W. Degroot, III, CEC, USN, commanding officer of NMCB 58, as commanding officer of Camp Haskins.

1969: Cmdr. H.A. Crisp relieved Cmdr. R.D. Keegan as commanding officer of NMCB 6.

1972: CBU 201 arrived at Davisville, RI from Antarctica for reassignment to the 21st Naval Construction Regiment (NCR).

1972: The Seabee camp on the tiny atoll of Diego Garcia in the middle of the Indian Ocean was dedicated in memory of a young Seabee who lost his life while assisting in the construction of a communications facility. The Seabee site was named Camp Cummins in honor of Navy Utilities Third Class Charles Stuart Cummins, who died on December 30, 1971, of burns suffered while working on a desalinization barge boiler on the atoll.


March 1

1943: 63rd Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) commissioned at Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1945: 2nd NCR inactivated.

1946: 64th NCB inactivated on Samar, Philippines.

1956: Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 101 inactivated.

1968: Seabee Team 7101 graduated from Seabee Team Training and was assigned to Officer in Charge (OIC), Construction Battalions, Pacific Detachment, RVN, deploying to My Tho, RVN.

1968: NMCB 58 deployed to Hoi An and established a tent camp within the 2nd Republic of Korea (ROK) Marine Brigade Tactical Area of Responsibility (TAOR). Cmdr. W.W. DeGroot, III, CEC, USN, NMCB 58’s commander, established headquarters in the tent camp.

1968:  Cmdr. R.E. Fluss, CEC, USN, relieved Cmdr. W.W. DeGroot III, CEC, USN, as commanding officer of NMCB 58 at Camp Haskins North, RVN.


March 2

1867: By an act of Congress, it was provided that civil engineers should be appointed by the President, by and with the consent of the Senate.  Previously, all civil engineers in the Navy were civilian employees. This is considered the birthday for the establishment of the Civil Engineer Corps.

1943: 6th Special NCB formed at Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1969: NMCB 8 advance party arrived at Camp Haskins South, RVN.


March 3

1867: William P.S. Sanger is commissioned as an officer and Chief Civil Engineer of the Navy.

1871: An act of Congress gave the Navy’s civil engineers, at the President’s discretion, eligibility for relative officer rank and equal precedence with officers of the line.

1899: In an amendment to the act passed on this date, Congress abolished relative rank for the members of the Navy’s staff corps granting them regular rank without changing their titles.

1962: The Seabee-installed and serviced PM-3A nuclear power plant at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica went critical. In July the plant began delivering electric power to the McMurdo station thus relieving that station of the dependence on fuel oil shipments and at the same time alleviating the fire hazard caused by the use of oil-burning devices.

1969: The main body of NMCB 53 departed Davisville for Da Nang, RVN.

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