This Week in Seabee History (Week of March 13)

Consolidated by Dr. Frank A. Blazich Jr., Historian, U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

 

WW2 Seabees LST

Seabees assigned to the 113th Naval Construction Battalion unload Tank Landing Ship 717 (LST 717) on White Beach in Mindoro, Philippines in February 1945. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum.)

March 13

1946: 53rd Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) arrived at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands to take part in Operation Crossroads. Operation Crossroads was the Department of Defense’s first large-scale atomic weapons research testing program. The 53rd NCB built observation towers, piers, communication towers, and general facilities to prepare the site. The battalion dredged the lagoon of Bikini to allow ships to enter and anchor for the bomb blast. It also built a recreational area for the members of the Armed Forces engaged in the testing. Thus, Seabees were used to build a facility that helped to usher in the Atomic Age.

1972: Seabee Team 0415, under Lt. C.D. Christopher, departed Palau and returned to Port Hueneme four days later.

March 14

1966: Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1 arrived in the Republic of Vietnam (RVN), the first Atlantic battalion to take part in the war, deployed by direct airlift from Davisville, Rhode Island to Da Nang, which was now standard transportation for incoming and outgoing Seabee battalions. Its primary tasks during this tour of duty were the construction of the Camp Haskins complex for the 30th Naval Construction Regiment (NCR) headquarters (later to also house the 3rd Naval Construction Brigade with its transfer to Da Nang from Saigon in August 1967), a Seabee battalion camp, and a cantonment for the Force Logistic Support Group. In addition, detachments constructed a light antiaircraft Hawk missile installation and installed three large concrete box culverts at Chu Lai.

March 15

1942: 1st NCB commissioned at Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) Camp Allen, Norfolk, Virginia.

1945: ACORN 27 decommissioned. (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 were sent to such places at Guadalcanal, Espiritu Santo, Green Island, Rendova, Treasury Island, and Majuro.)  Also on this date, the 147th NCB was commissioned at NCTC Camp Endicott, Davisville, Rhode Island.

1966: NMCB 58 commissioned at Construction Battalion Center (CBC), Davisville, Rhode Island with Cmdr. Ward W. DeGroot, III, Civil Engineer Corps (CEC), as commanding officer.

1967: NCMB 1 advance party consisting of 107 personnel deployed to Da Nang, RVN on two C-141s from Naval air Station (NAS) Quonset Point, Rhode Island.

1969: Capt. J.E. Powell, CEC, relieved Capt. J.R. Fisher, CEC, as commander, 30th NCR.

1970: Camp Rhodes, Quang Tri, Republic of Vietnam, closed by NMCB 74 Detail Alpha. Camp Rhodes, named in honor of Lt. Joseph J. Rhodes, CEC, USNR, was officially dedicated on September 18, 1968.

March 16

1968: Seabee Team 5802 deployed to a new employment site at Soc Trang, RVN.

1970: Seabee Teams 0103 and 0104 arrived at Davisville, Rhode Island from Vietnam for reassignment to NMCB 1;  NMCB 5 main body departed the continental United States (CONUS) by air for Camp Haskins North, Da Nang, RVN.

1971: Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 1 departed Davisville, Rhode Island for deployment to Keflavik, Iceland.

1972: Seabee Team 13308 disestablished.

March 17

1943: Camp Allen and Camp Bradford, Norfolk, Virginia disestablished.

1969: NMCB 8 main body deployment from CBC Port Hueneme, California to Camp Haskins South, Da Nang, RVN via Air Force MAC charter aircraft.

March 18

1964: The first men assigned to a Well Drilling Team arrived in Vietnam. Made up of men from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 9, the team was employed in support of two well-drilling programs – one sponsored by the U.S. Army Special Forces and the other sponsored by the United States Operations Mission. In addition to supplying potable water to rural areas of Vietnam, the team trained Vietnamese to perform drilling operations. Before the phase-out of this program, five Well Drilling Teams were sent to Vietnam. The Seabees trained their Vietnamese Army counterparts in drilling techniques. The well drilling ended in December 1965.

1966: The 20th and 21st NCRs were reestablished as part of the United States military buildup for the Vietnam War. The 20th NCR was headquartered at the CBC, Gulfport, Mississippi and the 21st NCR at the CBC, Davisville, Rhode Island. These regiments were tasked with the coordination and administration of the technical and military training of the battalions during their stays at the two centers.

1970: NMCB 1’s main body flights departed Camp Haskins North, RVN for CBC, Davisville, Rhode Island.

March 19

1942: The Secretary of the Navy authorized officers of the Civil Engineer Corps to exercise military command over all officers and enlisted men assigned to construction units. Prior to this date, military command of naval personnel was limited to line officers.

1967: The commanding officer, operations officer, supply officer, Alpha Company commander, and one chief petty officer of NMCB 11 departed Port Hueneme, California to act as an Advance Planning Group for the battalion deployment.

1969: NMCB 3 relieved by NMCB 8 at Camp Haskins South, RVN; NMCB 3 main body returned to CONUS via government and commercial aircraft.

 

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