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This Week in Seabee History: December 2-8

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

Seabees constructed tent city as part of Operation Sea Signal. Joint Task force 160 constructed facilities to improve the quality of life of migrants at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, December 1994. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

Throughout December

1994: The main effort in Cuba was Operation “Sea Signal” during which Joint Task Force 160 constructed facilities to improve the quality of life of Cuban migrants at Guantanamo. By order of the 2nd Naval Construction Brigade, the 22nd Naval Construction Regiment (Forward Element) deployed to Guantanamo with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4 and an air detachment from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7. As directed by the U.S. Atlantic Command, the senior leadership of the 22nd Naval Construction Regiment (Forward Element) met with engineers from the Naval Facilities Engineering Command’s Atlantic Division to develop preliminary designs for the $35 million Quality of Life Improvement Program for 20,000 Cuban migrants.

The original plan called for the construction of 37 migrant villages arranged in 11 village clusters at two locations: Radio Range and McCalla Field, approximately seven miles apart. Migrant riots in Panama led to a decision to return 7,000 refugees to Guantanamo Bay; this resulted in both an accelerated construction schedule and an enlargement of project scope for the Seabees. A detachment from the Air Force’s 820th Red Horse construction unit was mobilized from Nellis Air Force Base to assist the Seabees. When the project concluded the two tent cities constructed were capable of housing almost 20,000 people. This multi-national, joint-service work-force completed an astonishing 100,000 man-days of construction effort in a harsh environment while scheduling their construction projects around the migrants and their daily operations.


December 2

1942: 44th NCB commissioned at Camp Bradford, Norfolk, Virginia. 51st NCB commissioned at Camp Endicott, Davisville, Rhode Island.

1945: 32nd NCR inactivated.

1966: A change of command ceremony was held on board Camp Haskins, Da Nang, RVN at which Cmdr. Daniel N. Shockey relieved Cmdr. Richard E. Anderson as commanding officer of NMCB 9.

1966: Seabee Team 0509 deployed to Vietnam.

1968: NMCB 9 main body, consisting of 14 officer and 499 men, deployed to Camp Kinser, Okinawa, on two 707s and one Super DC-8 from NAS Point Mugu, California.

Dec. 2 & Dec. 5, 1946: The USS Yancey and USS Merrick, respectively, departed Port Hueneme, California to take part in Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s Antarctic expedition, Operation Highjump. Aboard these ships were 166 Seabee members of the expedition. The mission of Operation Highjump was to map the frozen continent, train personnel, and test gear under cold weather conditions. Seabee tasks at Little American Four included unloading equipment and supplies, setting up a temporary naval base, and building housing, a mess hall and storage facilities. In addition, they built a temporary airstrip, an emergency base further inland, and a communications system. These men were the first Seabees to serve in Antarctica.

1969: The main body of NMCB 4 moved from Vietnam to CBC, Port Hueneme, California.


December 3

1945: 98th NCB inactivated at Sasebo, Japan. 135th NCB inactivated at Okinawa.

1945: 25th Special NCB inactivated at Milne Bay.

1966: NMCB 74 recommissioned at ceremony at CBC Gulfport, Mississippi, with Cmdr. Gordon W. Schley.

1966: NMCB 3 begins departure from Chu Lai, RVN on eight C-141 aircraft.

1971: Lt. Cmdr. D. Plunnecke was relieved as executive officer of NMCB 74 by Lt. Cmdr. S.J. Quigley.


December 5

1945: 7th Naval Construction Regiment (NCR) inactivated. 13th Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) inactivated on Okinawa. 43rd NCB inactivated at Nagasaki, Japan. 116th NCB inactivated at Sasebo, Japan.

1966: Seabee Team 0910 departed the main body at Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam (RVN) via C-118 aircraft for the 31st NCR to commence military and technical training.

1967: At a convoy passing site, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3 personnel were involved when four mines exploded simultaneously. (They were believed to have been command-detonated dud bombs.) Several Seabees were knocked down by the blast and one carried 40 feet through the air. Unbelievably, no casualties were sustained.

1967: Rear Admiral James V. Bartlett, commander of the 3rd Naval Construction Brigade, dedicated Camp Wilkinson in memory of Construction Mechanic 1st Class J.W. Wilkinson, killed during a mortar attack on the Phu Bai/Gia Le bases. Camp Wilkinson was the Seabee camp at the Gia Le Combat Base near Phu Bai, Vietnam.

2004: Al Asad, Iraq – Third Marine Air Wing Commanding General, Brig. Gen. Keith J. Stalder, thanks Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Two Three (NMCB-23) for the renovation of the new flight line at Al Asad Airport in Iraq. The activated reservist Seabees of NMCB-23 repaired nineteen impact craters to expand flight line operations and help rebuild Iraq. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. William L. Dubose III)

December 6

1945: 15th Special NCB inactivated on Kwajalein.

1966: NMCB 74 commissioned.

1966: Family and friends turn out to welcome home Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74 from deployment. The battalion re-commissioned December 6, 1966, at the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport and adopted the motto “Does More.” Since 1966, NMCB 74 has seen four deployments to Vietnam, deployed around the world to conduct humanitarian and civic action construction, earned nine “Best of Type” awards, four Peltier Awards, and the Presidential Unit Citation. (Courtesy U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

1971: A training complex built by and for Seabees at Port Hueneme, California was dedicated and named in honor of a fallen United States Marine comrade, Captain John V. Francis. Francis was the assistant military training officer for the 31st NCR in 1969 and 1970. On February 10, 1970, he, along with 12 others, was killed in a helicopter crash while on an inspection tour of Seabee units assigned to Vietnam.


December 7

1942: 47th NCB commissioned at Camp Bradford, Norfolk, Virginia.

1943: 14th NCR inactivated; 135th NCB commissioned at Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) Camp Endicott, Davisville, Rhode Island.

1945: 3rd Naval Construction Brigade inactivated; 24th NCR inactivated; 9th NCB inactivated on Okinawa; 102nd NCB inactivated at San Fernando, Philippines; 113th NCB inactivated at Mindoro, Philippines; 122nd NCB inactivated at Tsingtao, China.


December 8

1943: 20th Special NCB commissioned at NCTC Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1945: 51st NCB inactivated on Saipan.

1954: One of the largest auctions of used and unused naval equipment ever offered for sale was held 7-8 December 1954. Materiel valued at $8.1 million went up for auction including automotive, construction and industrial equipment as well as spare parts. Among the countless items being offered were 650 trucks, 54 cranes, rock crushers, scrapers, air compressors, pole trailer, cranes, graders, bucket loaders, winches, pumps, and generators, 20 February 1946. (Courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

1966: NMCB 7 main body returned to Davisville, Rhode Island in 14 C-130 aircraft flights.

1967: Main body of NMCB 58 departed Davisville, Rhode Island for Camp Haskins, North, Da Nang, RVN.

1969: Headquarters of the 30th NCR moved from Vietnam to Okinawa, Japan. This move was the result of the reduction of the Naval Construction Force in Vietnam, which was the result of de-escalation of U.S. activity in Southeast Asia.

1969: Cmdr. C.R. Whipple, commanding officer of NMCB 3, relieved Capt. J.E. Powell, as commander, 30th NCR, at Camp Kinser, Okinawa.

2002: Typhoon Pongsona hits Guam, inflicting considerable damage. NMCB 74 assisted in relief efforts on the island.

2002: Builder 2nd Class Chad Johnson loads debris onto a dump truck during recovery efforts from damages incurred at U.S. Naval Forces Marianas from the effects of Super Typhoon Pongsona, that passed over the Island of Guam on December 8, 2002. (U.S. Navy photo)

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