Home / COVER FEATURE / This Week in Seabee History (April 8 – April 14)

This Week in Seabee History (April 8 – April 14)

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

This Week in Seabee History (Week of April 9)
USS Marvin Shields (DE-1066) was commissioned at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Washington on April 10, 1971. The destroyer escort was named in tribute of Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin Shields, a member of Seabee Team 1104. Shields was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his personal valor during combat action in the Battle of Dong Xoai in Vietnam. This Medal of Honor was the first ever awarded to a Seabee and the first awarded to a United States Navy man in the Vietnam War. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

During the 1980s

The Seabees provided support for the Fleet Hospital program. These Fleet Hospitals were rapidly deployable systems of expandable shelters, pre- positioned worldwide, and assembled/erected by Seabees. Of the 23 hospitals required, 8 would be built and supported by active-duty Seabees, eight by Reserve Seabees, and the remainder programmed for future years. The Reserve Naval Construction Force participated in a field test of a partial hospital in Operation “Golden Shield” during 1986. Active-duty Seabees supported a follow-on test and evaluation of a complete 200-bed hospital in April and May 1987.

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April 8

1942: 2nd NCB commissioned.

1946: 28th NCB inactivated on Okinawa.

1967: Main body of NMCB 71, consisting of 16 officers and 684 enlisted men, departed Davisville, Rhode Island on C-141 aircraft for duty at Chu Lai, RVN.

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April 9

1966: Rear echelon of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1 transported on three C-130 aircraft from Davisville, Rhode Island to Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam (RVN).

1967: Main body of NMCB 40 arrived at Davisville, Rhode Island from Chu Lai, RVN.

1971: Seabee Team 0105 departed Bac Lieu, RVN.

1971: Main body of NMCB 40 departed Davisville, Rhode Island for deployment to Diego Garcia, Reindeer Station.

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April 10

1963: During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Equipment Operator (Construction Equipment) 3rd Class George J. Denich, Jr., a 21-year old Reserve Seabee assigned to Mobile Construction Battalion (MCB) 7 as a heavy equipment operator, was killed in an accident on a 280-foot hill at Guantanamo Bay. When the accident occurred, Denich was operating a mobile crane in the construction of fortified defensive positions for Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. On June 26, 1963, a memorial plaque was placed on the hill, which was then named Denich Hill in honor of the dead Seabee.

1967: Seabee Team 0808 departed for Port Hueneme, California, for training and eventual deployment to Thailand.

1967: NMCB 71 arrived at Chu Lai, RVN.

1968: NMCB 71’s commanding officer took command of Camp Miller, RVN.

1970: Seabee Team 0312 returned to CONUS (continental U.S.) via government aircraft.

1971: The USS Marvin Shields (DE-1066) was commissioned at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Washington. The destroyer escort was named in tribute of Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin Shields, a member of Seabee Team 1104. Shields was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his personal valor during combat action in the Battle of Dong Xoai in Vietnam. This Medal of Honor was the first ever awarded to a Seabee and the first awarded to a United States Navy man in the Vietnam War.

A starboard bow view of the frigate USS MARVIN SHIELDS (FF-1066) underway. (Photo by PH3 John Cross)

2003: Seabees cross the Diyala River into Baghdad, Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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April 11

1943: ACORN 5 arrived at Espiritu Santo. (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.)

1945: 60th Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) inactivated at Camp Parks, Shoemaker, California.

1966: Recommissioning ceremony for the 20th Naval Construction Regiment (NCR) held at Gulfport, Mississippi under command of Cmdr. N. L. Martinson, Civil Engineer Corps (CEC).

1967: NMCB 9 main body, consisting of 716 personnel, returned to CONUS on 10 C-141 aircraft. Seven flights terminated at Naval Air Station, Point Mugu, California, one flight at Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina, and two flights at McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey.

1967: NMCB 1 main body deployed to Da Nang, RVN on seven C-141 aircraft from Naval Air Station (NAS) Quonset Point, Rhode Island.

1969: Three members of Seabee Team 0604 were ambushed at a project site in Long An Province, RVN. The Seabees came under rocket, grenade, automatic and small arms fire. They were able to radio for help, however, and the enemy forces were routed by helicopter gunship fire and ground troop support. One Seabee, Construction Mechanic 2nd Class Peter L. Stith, was wounded. He was evacuated by gunship but died before reaching the hospital.

1969: Main body of Construction Battalion Unit (CBU) 201 arrived in Davisville, Rhode Island, from Antarctica.

1970: NMCB 7 change of command ceremony. Cmdr. P. Oliver, Jr., CEC, relieved Cmdr. J.C. Rickels, CEC.

2008: Cmdr. Dean VanderLey, CEC, relieved Cmdr. Steve Hamer, CEC, as commanding officer, NMCB 4 at Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, California.

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April 12

1946: 14th NCB inactivated on Okinawa.

1967: Cmdr. R.M. Fluss, CEC, relieved Cmdr. W.A. Walls, CEC, as commanding officer of NMCB 4.

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April 13

1945: Seabees of the 130th NCB on Okinawa started building a two-lane road from the beach to the camp area. It was built in 24 hours. On the third day ashore the Seabees were working around the proverbial clock when antiaircraft fire opened up, pausing briefly twice daily for fueling and greasing. This system worked very well until the night the enemy aircraft came in and strafed Kadena without the usual formality of the anti-aircraft batteries going into action. After this incident, the ‘Bees sweated out air raids, sometimes five or six a night, under their tractors and prayed for cloudy weather. After about a week of these ideal conditions, prayers for cloudy weather were answered and there was no dust for several weeks. Clay became a thick gooey mud which a carryall could load but could not dump. Coral turned from solid to liquid. But in spite of the 16-inches of rain that fell, the Seabees built a four-lane traffic circle and kept traffic moving through it at an average of 900 vehicles per hour.

1967: NMCB 1 arrived at Da Nang, RVN.

1968: First flight of NMCB 133 arrived at Phu Bai airport, RVN, to relieve NCMB 121.

1969: Seabee Teams 0310 and 0311 returned to CONUS via government aircraft.

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April 14

1945: 55th NCB inactivated at Camp Parks, Shoemaker, California.

1969: Fire destroyed the headquarters building of the 21st NCR at Davisville, Rhode Island. In addition to firemen, about 300 Seabees courageously manned fire hoses in a vain attempt to save the structure. During the fire, Seabees rescued important property from the building. There were no serious injuries, but many of the Seabees and firemen suffered from smoke inhalation.

1969: Team 0913 completed reconstruction of a defensive berm around Fire Base Diamond III in response to an emergency request. Five hours later, the fire base came under intensive attack with 198 enemy killed in action, 18 U.S. killed in action, and 13 Americans wounded. The defensive berm was credited with saving numerous lives and possibly preventing overrunning of the fire base.

1970: Seabee Team 0413 with Officer in Charge Lt. j.g. W.R. Riggs, CEC, departed Construction Battalion Center, Port Hueneme, California, for training and indoctrination on Guam before proceeding to their final deployment site.


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This Week in Seabee History (November 11 – 17)

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

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