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This Week in Seabee History (June 10 – June 16)

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

USS Robert Stethem (DDG-63), named in honor of Steelworker 2nd Class Robert Stethem, circa 1995. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

 

June 10

1944: Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia disestablished.

1965: The first Seabee killed in action in Vietnam, Steelworker 2nd Class William C. Hoover, was killed at the Battle of Dong Xoai. Although wounded in the initial Viet Cong mortar barrage, Hoover quickly went to his assigned defensive post and began firing at the enemy. He was subsequently killed in the fighting. For his heroism, Hoover was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star. Also killed in the battle was Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin C. Shields, the first Seabee to receive the Medal of Honor. Both men were members of Seabee Team 1104.

 

2010: Utilitiesman Constructionman James Thomas, left, and other Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 25, worked with fabricated sheet metal at a construction site at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. NMCB-25, deployed from Fort McCoy, Wis., was supporting Joint Task Force Guantanamo and Naval Station Guantanamo Bay by completing construction projects to improve facilities on the base. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

 

2014: Cmdr. Kemit Spears, Civil Engineer Corps (CEC), relieved Cmdr. Chad Brooks, CEC, as commanding officer of NMCB 1 during a change of command ceremony at Camp Shields in Okinawa, Japan.

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June 11

1965: In Costa Rica, three members of a detachment from Mobile Construction Battalion (MCB) 1 saved the lives of three Costa Ricans who were stranded by a six-foot-deep mud flow during a flood control project. No deaths or injuries were reported and property damage was light in the San Jose and Cartago area, where a flood in December 1963 had left nearly 5,000 homeless.

2010: Cmdr. William Whitmire, Civil Engineer Corps (CEC), assumed command of Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) Gulfport, Mississippi after reliving Capt. Stephanie Jones, CEC.

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June 12

1943: ACORN 2 dissolved. (Used during World War II, 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 war, ACORNs were sent to such places at Guadalcanal, Espiritu Santo, Green Island, Rendova, Treasury Island, and Majuro.)

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June 13

1944: The 16th, 21st, 22nd Naval Construction Regiments (NCR) were inactivated; the 2nd Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) was inactivated.

1966: Approximately 60 Seabees from Construction Battalion Center (CBC) Port Hueneme, California were sent to help fight the fire in the Los Padres National Forest, 35 miles northeast of Santa Barbara.

2008: Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Miller, CEC, relieved Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Stoddard, CEC, as commanding officer, Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 1, Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Norfolk, Virginia.

2008: Cmdr. Stephanie Jones, CEC, relieved Capt. Darius Banaji as commander, NCTC, CBC Gulfport Mississippi.

2008: Capt. James Worcester, CEC, relieved Capt. Kelly Schmader as commanding officer, Naval Facilities Expeditionary Logistics Center (NFELC) and as commander, 31st Seabee Readiness Group, Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, California.

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June 15

1944: Operation Forager, as the Marianas campaign in World War II was named, began on June 15, 1944, when 20,000 Marines and Seabees were put ashore on the beaches of Saipan. Seabees of the 121st NCB formed the shore party on the main invasion beach. By June 18, Marines captured Aslito, the main Japanese airfield on Saipan, and that very day, Seabees went to work repairing the bomb damage to the runways. Four days later, the first American fighter planes landed on the strip, and four months later, the Seabees had lengthened and widened the runways so that B-29s could take off for their first bombing of Japan. Japanese troops counterattacked against Aslito airfield and halted the Seabee construction work, but the Seabees grabbed up their arms and held them off. By July 9, Saipan was secured.

1945: The 18th NCB inactivated at Tinian; 45th NCB inactivated at Camp Parks, Shoemaker, California.

1968: Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 74’s second flight advance party of three officers and 35 enlisted men arrived at Camp Shields, Chu Lai, Republic of Vietnam (RVN).

 

Steelworker 2nd Class Robert Stethem preparing for a dive while part of UCT-1 in the early 1980s. Stethem was killed by terrorists in Beirut, Lebanon, following the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 on June 15, 1985. He was posthumously awarded both the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, and was later made an honorary Master Chief Constructionman in a ceremony aboard USS Stethem (DDG-63). (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

 

1985: Steelworker 2nd Class (DV) Robert Stethem is killed by terrorists in Beirut, Lebanon following the hijacking of TWA Flight 847. He received posthumously both the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, and was promoted to honorary Master Chief Constructionman on August 24, 2010, in Yokosuka, Japan aboard the USS Stethem, named in his honor.

1991: On the island of Luzon, Philippines, Mount Pinatubo erupts, destroying Clark Air Base and burying Naval Station Subic Bay and Naval Air Station Cubi Point in a thick layer of ash. In the ensuing Operation Fiery Vigil, members of NMCBs 3, 4, 5, and CBMU 302 work to clear the naval facilities. By October 1991, the Seabees moved 251,000 tons of ash from over 50 miles of paved surfaces.

 

2006: Seabees prepared a site for the construction of a bridge in Fallujah, Iraq. Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Four Zero (NMCB-40) were tasked with rebuilding a damaged bridge used heavily by Iraqi citizens. NMCB-40 was deployed providing support to Coalition Multi-National Forces throughout Iraq. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

2010: After 672 hours of around-the-clock work, NMCB 7’s Detachment Horn of Africa (HOA) successfully drilled its first freshwater well in the village of Adgia Falima, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia. This was the first of seven hand-pump operated wells scheduled to be drilled in the Dire Dawa and Shinele regions during its deployment.

2012: Cmdr. La Tanya Simms, CEC, is relieved by Cmdr. Jeff Kilian, CEC, as commanding officer of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4 during a change of command ceremony at Naval Base Ventura County, California.

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June 16

1943: ACORN 4 dissolved.

1945: The 138th NCB was inactivated at Camp Parks, Shoemaker, California.

1968: Seabee Team 0808 departed Bangkok, Thailand via government aircraft for the continental U.S. (CONUS).

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June 9-25 1952: Operation Crippled Chick

One of the most incredible Seabee feats of the Korean War took place on the small island of Yo Do in the Bay of Wonsan. In communist hands again in 1952, Wonsan was a key supply and transportation center for the enemy. As such, carrier-based aircraft strikes against Wonsan and points deeper in the interior were numerous and constant. Planes were hit by enemy fire daily leaving their pilots with the unhappy choice of either ditching at sea or attempting to land in enemy-held territory. The need for an emergency airstrip was critical and, under the code name Operation “Crippled Chick,” a detachment of Seabees came to the rescue. Put ashore on Yo Do Island, they were given 35 days to construct a runway. Working under constant artillery bombardment from neighboring enemy positions, they managed to complete the 2,400-foot airstrip in only 16 days. By a prearranged signal, “Steak is Ready,” the Seabees signaled that the job was done, and nine damaged aircraft landed on the new field that same day.

 

ACB1 – Operation Crippled Chick crew, Korea, 1952 — at Yo-Do Island, Wonsan, Korea. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

 

Crew with ACB-1 working on emergency airstrip at Yo-do Island, June 1952 — at Yo-Do Island, Wonsan, Korea. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

 


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This Week in Seabee History (September 9 – 15)

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