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

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

TWiSH (3-5-17)
As part of an open house held to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Civil Engineer Corps and 25th Birthday of the Seabees in 1967, the 31st Naval Construction Regiment created a model Vietnamese Village at Port Hueneme, Calif. The program for the open house on March 4 featured a simulated Viet Cong attack on the village, a concert by the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Band, and a drill team exhibition by Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

 

March 4

1911: All Navy public works construction was placed under the Bureau of Yards and Docks by an act of Congress.

1967: NMCB 71’s advance party consisting of 7 officers and 102 enlisted men was airlifted on two C-141 aircraft from Davisville, Rhode Island, to Chu Lai, RVN.

1970: Rear Adm. J. G. Dillon, CEC, USN, was relieved by Rear Adm. A.R. Marschall, CEC, USN, as commander of the 3rd Brigade.

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The formation of the Seabees before March 5

On December 28, 1941,  Rear Admiral Ben Moreell, Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks (BUDOCKS), requested specific authority to activate, organize, and man a unique, very special organization that would support the Navy and Marines in remote locations and defend themselves if attacked — the Naval Construction Battalions. On January 5, 1942,  he was given that authority and the original Battalions were formed at a new Naval base in Davisville, Rhode Island.

The first naval construction unit to actually deploy from the United States left Davisville, Rhode Island, less than two weeks later on January 17, 1942. It was designated the First Construction Detachment. The 296 men arrived at Bora Bora on February 17, 1942.

On March 5, all Construction Battalion personnel were officially named Seabees by the Navy Department. Admiral Moreell personally furnished them with their motto Construmus Batumius, or We Build, We Fight. A logo, the Fighting Bee, was created by a Rhode Islander at Davisville.

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March 5

1942: The designation of construction battalions as Seabees and the use of the distinctive insignia on major items of construction equipment were officially approved by Rear Adm. Ben Moreell.

1955: It was in 1955 that the Seabees first celebrated their birthday on March 5. Before that the birthday had been celebrated on December 28, the date in 1941 that authority was requested from the Chief of the Bureau of Navigation to recruit enlisted personnel for the Seabee units. However, because so many men were usually on leave for the Christmas holidays and because of the heavy financial strain that attended the holidays, it was almost impossible for everyone to participate in a suitable celebration. Therefore, Rear Adm. John R. Perry, Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, decided to change the celebration date to March 5, the date the personnel of the construction battalions were granted official permission to assume the name Seabees. Rear Adm. Perry felt this would assure a more favorable observance of the birthday.

1961: Reserve Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (NMCB) 12 and 22 activated.

1968: NMCB 6 officers and men celebrated the 101st birthday of the Civil Engineer Corps (CEC) and the 26th of the Seabees with the cutting of a 1,300 pound birthday cake, measuring four feet by eight feet by two feet.

1969: Rear Adm. G. Dillon, CEC, U.S. Navy (USN), relieved Rear Adm. J.V. Bartlett, CEC, USN, as Commander, Third Naval Construction Brigade.

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March 6

1947: 104th Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) reactivated, eventually being reestablished in October 1950 as Amphibious Construction Battalion (ACB) 1.

1968: Cmdr. Paul R. Gates, CEC, USN, relieved Cmdr. Anson C. Perkins, CEC, USN, as commander of the 21st Naval Construction Regiment (NCR).

1970: Seabee Teams 0103 and 0104 departed Vietnam for Davisville, Rhode Island.

1971: NMCB 3 Detail Borealis at Ca Mau, Republic of Vietnam (RVN), received eight rockets and heavy small arms fire. BU2 F.D. Lupo, USN, was killed inaction and four other Seabees were wounded.

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March 7

1967: EOC J.C. Haines, CET3, L.R. Riddle, and CMH3 R.E. Kasper, NMCB 4, were killed in action in a mine explosion on the road from An Hoa to Da Nang, RVN.

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March 8

1968: Camp Barnes received 10 rounds of enemy rocket and artillery fire. The action resulted in three deaths, CN E.E. Nevins, CEW2 J.P. Hartlage II, and BUL2 J.W. Borders, and eight wounded.

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March 9

1942: Camp Allen, Norfolk, Virginia, established.

1950: A detachment of 105th NCB arrived in the Caribbean for a practice invasion. The occasion was marred by squalls and heavy surf conditions, making the battalion’s job of invading the beach and setting up pontoon causeways doubly hard. The battalions had to make three tries for the beach before their task, to put ashore the Army’s Third Division, was accomplished.

1951: NMCB 4 commissioned at Norfolk, Virginia.

1971: Seabees of NMCB 40’s advance party waded ashore at the remote atoll of Diego Garcia in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The Seabees were there to begin the highly-significant undertaking of building a Navy Communications Station. Up to this time, Diego Garcia had been a relatively unknown tropical atoll whose only industry was copra. Commissioning ceremonies for the Naval Communications Station, Diego Garcia, were conducted two years later on March 20, 1973.

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March 10

1920: Public Works Officers were first assigned to each of the naval districts.

1968: BUH3 Frank G. Goelz, USN, was killed in an accidental fall while engaged in constructing a pile bent as part of repairs to Liberty Bridge, Da Nang, RVN. Memorial services for Petty Officer Goelz were held at Camp Hoover on March 11 and at Liberty Bridge on March 12.

1968: Detail Charlie of Construction Battalion Mobile Unit (CBMU) 301 was working at the Navy-Marine camp at Cua Viet, RVN, when the camp was attacked by enemy rockets, mortars and artillery. During the attack, one of the incoming rounds detonated ammunition and gasoline stores located on the landing ramp at the river. The resulting explosions caused a fire which burned for 14 hours. Most of the damage to the camp was caused by concussion although shrapnel fell everywhere. When the attack was over, the men of Detail Charlie worked to control the fire. After that they restored the electrical and water supply systems in the camp. The following day, March 11, an ordnance disposal crew picked up approximately 10 tons of live ammunition in the camp area. 33 men of the unit’s man body at Dong Ha were sent to Cua Viet to work with the 16 men of Detail Charlie in the restoration work. Within a week the Seabees had the buildings and facilities restored and the ramp was again handling logistic materials.

1972: Seabee Team 0416, under Lt.j.g. R.A. Heisler, departed Kusaie, RVN, and arrived in Port Hueneme, California, on March 17, 1972.


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