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This Week in Seabee History (August 26 – September 1)

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

1 September 1942: The Seabees arrive on Guadalcanal The principal objective of the first phase of the struggle, the contest for Guadalcanal, was to deny to the enemy and to possess for ourselves the airfield that the Japanese had been constructing on the island since early May, the field soon to become known throughout the world as Henderson Field It was close to completion when our invasion forces struck, and making it operational, and keeping it that way during months of fierce combat, was the principal task assigned to the 6th Construction Battalion, the naval construction force assigned to our first real offensive move in the South Pacific. The 6th Battalion followed the Marines into Guadalcanal on September 1 and thereby became the first Seabees to engage in the combination of fighting and building for which they had been organized and trained. (Courtesy of Seabee Museum)

 

Operation “Desert Shield/Desert Storm”

On 2 August 1990 the armed forces of Iraq began the invasion and subsequent conquest of the Emirate of Kuwait. Under United Nations’ auspices, the United States and other member nations responded by deploying military forces to Saudi Arabia. The immediate goal was to forestall further Iraqi aggression; the long-range goal was to compel Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. The initial allied military undertaking to protect Saudi Arabia was dubbed Operation “Desert Shield.”

Among the U.S. forces deployed to the region was the First Marine Expeditionary Force. Seabees were to provide construction support for this force. On 7 August the Seabees began preparations to deploy four battalions to the region: Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4, 5, 7, and 40. On 13 August the first Seabees arrived in Saudi Arabia, an element of Amphibious Construction Battalion 1, comprising 210 personnel. These men immediately went to work unloading Marine Corps equipment and supplies from Maritime Prepositioned Force ships.

Seabees installing airfield matting at Wally World during Desert Shield/Desert Storm. (Courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

 

During the period 10-20 August, 100 Seabees of Amphibious Construction Battalion 2 departed Norfolk, Virginia, on amphibious ships bound for the Persian Gulf. While in the gulf these Seabees participated in numerous exercises with the Marines to prepare for an amphibious assault in the region.

The second wave of Seabees to arrive were personnel from Construction Battalion Units 411 and 415; they erected and maintained Fleet Hospital Five, a 500-bed hospital facility at Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia. Both units had female Officers in Charge, marking a first for the Seabees.

August 26

1943: 105th NCB formed at Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1944: 302nd NCB formed at Maui, Hawaii.

1967: Capt. J.M. Hill, CEC, relieved Cmdr. R.L. Foley, CEC, as commander, 32nd Naval Construction Regiment (NCR).

1968: Seabee William Darrah, State Department’s Naval Support Unit, was highly commended for heroic efforts in extinguishing what could have been a major fire at the U.S. Embassy in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Due to a curfew, the local fire department was unavailable. In response, the members of the embassy staff, U.S. news correspondents and private American citizens formed a bucket brigade, and managed to control and extinguish the fire. The U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia said, “By general agreement, the person who merits the highest praise is Seabee William B. Darrah, who knew his job thoroughly and showed great personal courage.”


August 27

1965: NMCB 8 transferred to Commander, Naval Construction Battalions, U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMCBPAC), from Commander, Naval Construction Battalions, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (COMCBLANT).

1970: Seabee Teams 0106 and 0107 departed Davisville, Rhode Island, for reassignment to OIC Construction Battalions, U.S. Pacific Fleet Detachment (CBPACDET), RVN, and deployment to Ham Tan and Tan An, respectively.

1971: Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 1 returned from U.S. Naval Ammunition Depot, Earle, Colts Neck, New Jersey.

2010: Capt. Joe Grealish, CEC, relieved Capt. Paul Webb, CEC, as commanding officer, ACB 2, at Joint Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Virginia.


August 28

1942: The 21st Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) was commissioned at Camp Bradford, Norfolk, Virginia.

1943: The 117th NCB was commissioned at Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1967: At 6:08 a.m., the Dong Ha Combat Base in the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) was subjected to an enemy rocket attack. Three of the rockets landed in the Seabee cantonment, Camp Barnes. One of the rockets made a direct hit on a C Company berthing hut. As a result of this direct hit, four men were killed: Builder (Concrete) 2nd Classs Jerry L. Newman, Builder (Concrete) Constructionman Jerome D. Patterson, Builder (Concrete) Constructionman Anthony K. Grasso, and Builder (Heavy) Construction Apprentice Richard J. Wager. Between August 28 and September 25, 1967, the Seabee camp at the Dong Ha Combat Base came under enemy artillery and rocket attack 47 times on 13 different days. All attacks came between 4 a.m. and 8 p.m, with the majority of them coming during daylight hours. As a result of these daytime attacks, construction work was greatly hampered, and sometimes came to a standstill while the Seabees sought cover.

1967: One man from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1 was killed by enemy sniper fire on Route 1.

2003: Local School girls displayed their new chalk boards donated by friends and family of U.S. Navy Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Four (NMCB-4). Navy Seabee units were participating in extensive reconstruction of schools, hospitals, and bridges throughout Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (Courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

August 29

1969: Seabee Team 0314 traveled to Guam, Mariana Islands, for orientation.

2005: Hurricane Katrina strikes the Gulf Coast. More than 3,000 Seabees from NMCBs 18, 40, 133, Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 202, Amphibious Construction Battalion (ACB) 2, and Mobile Utilities Support Equipment (MUSE) technicians assisted in the cleanup operations.

Sept. 7, 2005: U.S. Navy Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Seven (NMCB-7), removed debris at the Jones Park in Gulfport, Mississippi, in support of Hurricane Katrina Relief efforts. The Navy’s involvement in the Hurricane Katrina humanitarian assistance operations was led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in conjunction with the Department of Defense. (Courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

 

2013: Capt John Adametz, Civil Engineer Corps (CEC), relieved Capt. Darius Banaji, CEC, as commander, Naval Construction Group (NCG) 2 in a ceremony at Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) Gulfport, Mississippi.


August 30

1945: On V-J Day, August 14, 1945, 13 construction battalions and three special battalions were awaiting assignment to Japan, where they were to aid United States naval forces at Hiroshima, Kabayana, Yokosuka, Omura, Nagasaki, Sasebo, and Kure. That day, 16 officers and 541 men of Naval Construction Battalion 136 embarked on 12 medium landing ships at Guam; reported at Iwo Jima on August 21; and arrived at Yokosuka naval base on August 30. As the first Seabees to land in Japan, they established their camp at the site of the navigation school within the Japanese naval base. After construction a galley and a mess hall, the Seabees were assigned numerous other tasks. They repaired housing, electric and telephone systems and roads at the naval base, graded fields and remodeled buildings for the fleet recreation area, and repaired housing and surfaced an airstrip at Kisarazu airfield. In addition to the 136th NCB, CBMU 602 also arrived in Japan on August 30, 1945. The maintenance unit arrived at Yokosuka from Guam. Its task was to maintain runways and roads at the Marine Corps air base. Furthermore, the Seabees constructed a 2,000-man galley, restored barracks and facilities for personnel, constructed a chapel and recreation facilities, completed a sawmill, public works shops, a cold-storage plant, and a chlorination plant for water treatment, and installed hot-water showers in all barracks.

1954: In Korea, Seabees of CBMU 101 were assigned the task of replacing a 22-foot bridge. The bridge was an old Korean structure of rapidly deteriorating logs and hand-driven piles. It created a hazardous condition for heavily loaded military vehicles. The problem faced by the Seabees was to remove the old bridge in the shortest possible time and replace it with a structure capable of carrying loads up to 30 tons. The Seabees, using heavy I-beams and timbers, laid out and completely prefabricated the new bridge. All material was precut and predrilled. The structure was assembled and each individual piece was marked. The Seabees then disassembled the bridge and loaded the parts in order on a low-bed trailer. At seven in the morning of August 30, 1954, all equipment was moved out in sequence to the old bridge. Rain fell in a downpour throughout the day. However, by four o’clock that afternoon, the old bridge was removed, the approaches broken away, the I-beams laid in, concrete abutment tops poured, cross beams bolted on, decking spiked down, and approaches filled and graded. The road was reopened to traffic that evening.

1967: During a Viet Cong mortar attack on the Phu Bai combat base, the battalion’s camp (NMCB 3) was hit by one 105mm howitzer round from friendly artillery. The round impacted in the enlisted berthing area killing Construction Mechanic 1st Class J.W. Wilkinson and Yeoman 3rd Class D.C. Coker, and wounding nineteen others.

1967: The NMCB 5 pre-deployment party arrived at Camp Barnes for a five day visit with NMCB 11.

1969: Seabee Team 0313 deployed to Cao Lanh, RVN via government aircraft.

1970: NMCB 1’s advance party departed CONUS by air for Camp Moscrip, Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico.

1971: CBU 415 established at NAS Oceana, Virginia.


August 31

1842: The Bureau of Yards and Docks was established, one of five bureaus set up in the reorganization of the U.S. Navy. Captain Lewis Warrington, senior member of the expiring Board of Naval Commissioners, was appointed the first Chief of the Bureau. William P.S. Sanger, appointed civil engineer for the Board in 1836, was transferred to become the first civil engineer on the Bureau staff. The new Bureau received responsibility for the Navy yards, then seven in number.

1944: The 3rd NCB was inactivated (ordered disbanded on July 12, 1944).

1970: NMCB 7 was disestablished as an active Naval Construction Force (NCF) unit at Davisville, Rhode Island; NMCB 121 was decommissioned at Gulfport, Mississippi.

2014: U.S. Navy Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Two Five (NMCB 25), Task Force Ultimus, directed a Skytrac Military 11,000-pound Telehandler Telescopic Forklift as part of a U.S. Central Command mission in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Seabees, together with 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, Task Force Volunteer executed and coordinated efforts to utilize concrete jersey barriers to increase the stand-off distance between vehicles and personnel to assist Afghan National Security Forces. (Courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

September 1

1942: Officers and men of the 6th NCB landed on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. These were the first Seabees to land on any enemy held island in World War II and the first to engage the enemy in combat. The 6th Seabees tackled their most important job: repairing the airstrip then named Henderson Field. It was a never-ending job, for as fast as the builders leveled the strip and put down Marston matting, the Japanese would send bombers overhead to drop high explosive bombs on the strip. As the fighting around the island increased, the Seabees developed a system of repairing the damaged airstrip in minutes. Less than 40 minutes after Japanese bombers swooped down and strafed the field, the Seabees, waiting with previously-loaded trucks, would dart out on the strip and completely fill in the bomb holes. Many times the Seabees worked furiously to repair the field while crippled U.S. Marine interceptors circled overhead waiting to land. Several times while ducking bullets, the Seabees worked on one end of the field making repairs as the Japanese infantry fought with U.S. Marine defenders at the other end. On several occasions the Seabees fought beside the U.S. Marines in hand-to-hand combat against the Japanese troops.

1943: The 1st Naval Construction Regiment (NCR) was inactivated.

1944: Port Directors School established at Davisville, Rhode Island; it was discontinued on Dec. 31, 1944.

1965: Capt. Nelson Anderson, CEC, relieved Capt. Harold Liberty, CEC, as commander, 30th NCR.

1969: The first Reserve Naval Construction Brigade was established under the command of Rear Admiral George Reider, CEC.

1969: Seabee Teams 0705 and 0706 deployed to the RVN for assignment to Officer in Charge, Construction Battalions, Pacific (CBPAC) for duty at Thu Duc and Lai Thieu.


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