This Week in Seabee History (Week of Dec. 25)

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

A portion of an Army bridge being pushed into place on the Rhine River near the Remagen bridgehead in December 1944. Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 629 was split into four detachments of one officer and six men each, with three of the detachments working with small boat units in their preparation for the Rhine River crossing, and one of the detachments working with an Army Engineer unit.  The first Seabees to enter Germany, they later assembled pontoon barges to be used in connection with the strengthening of the Ludendorff Bridge.  (Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

December 26

1942: 58th Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) commissioned at Camp Allen, Norfolk, Virginia.

1943: Seabees of the 19th NCB joined the First Marine Division in the assault on Japanese-held Cape Gloucester, New Britain. During the battle, Seabees bulldozed paths to the Japanese lines so that American tanks could attack hostile positions. By New Year’s Day, the Japanese airstrips were captured. However, during this first week, continuous enemy air raids resulted in five men of the battalion killed and 24 wounded.

1944: Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 629 was split into four detachments of one officer and six men each. Three of the detachments worked with small boat units in their preparation for the Rhine River crossing, and one of the detachments worked with an Army Engineer unit. The first detachment became the first Seabee unit to enter Germany on 26 December. Later, they assembled pontoon barges on the Rhine at Remagen. These barges were to be used in connection with strengthening the Ludendorff Bridge. When that structure collapsed, work on the barges stopped.

Dec. 26-31, 1956: California has been a frequent beneficiary of Seabee firefighting forces. Forest and brush fires have been a special hazard during the state’s dry season. Seabees from the Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC), Port Hueneme, California, manned the fire lines in the Malibu Canyon – Zuma Point area and helped contain one of the worst brush fires in California history. Seabees fought the blaze alongside civilian firefighters. In addition, Seabees were busy putting out small fires that cropped up along the highway, digging trenches, cutting fire breaks in the valley and gullies surrounding the Zuma Mountain Range, helping residents protect their homes from the ravenous flames.

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December 27

1945: 10th NCB inactivated. 50th Naval Construction Regiment (NCR) inactivated. 19th, 27th and 78th NCBs inactivated on Okinawa. 30th and 133rd NCBs inactivated on Guam. 19th Special NCB inactivated at Samar, Philippines.

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December 28

1941: In a letter to the Bureau of Navigation dated 28 December, the Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks wrote that construction work on advance bases in combat zones could be carried on satisfactorily only by the utilization of military personnel under direct military command. Adm. Moreell recommended that “early steps should be taken toward the organization of such military construction forces if they are to be trained and available at the times their services will be required.” Moreell pointed out in this letter that not less than 12 construction companies of 226 men each should be available for assignment to duty at locations outside the continental limits at an early date in order that the advance base construction program might be carried forward with all possible speed and vigor. He recommended that these companies be grouped into three battalions, with an additional headquarters unit of 168 men for each battalion. These latter units would be composed of cooks, bakers, pharmacist mates and all the other ratings necessary to make the battalion a complete operating unit if thrown into the field on its own. A proposed personnel organization, drawn in detail, was submitted for approval.

1945: 36th Special NCB inactivated at Okinawa.

1967: One flight of the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 53 advance party arrived on board Camp Adenir and 27 personnel of the NMCB 7 advance party departed for Davisville, Rhode Island.

1971: Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 1 departed Davisville, Rhode Island, for deployment to U.S. Navy Shipyard Norfolk/Portsmouth, Virginia.

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December 29

1942: 59th NCB commissioned at Camp Bradford, Norfolk, Virginia.

1945: 72nd NCB inactivated at Sasebo, Japan. 139th NCB inactivated at Okinawa.

1967: Seabee Team 0910 returned to the main body at Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam (RVN), via Boeing 707 aircraft, from leave in the U.S. after completing a six-month deployment to Thailand in November.

1968: NMCB 1’s second advance party of 74 men deployed via aircraft to the West Coast Continental United States (CONUS).

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December 30

1942: 62nd NCB commissioned at Camp Endicott, Davisville, Rhode Island.

1968: NMCB 5’s advance party arrived at Camp Hoover, Da Nang, RVN.

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December 31

1942: 77th NCB formed at Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1943: The 96th NCB advance party arrived in the Azores. The main body arrived on Jan. 9, 1944. 140th NCB commissioned at Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia. 145th NCB commissioned at NCTC Camp Endicott, Davisville, Rhode Island.

1945: Section II of 10th NCB inactivated at Samar, Philippines. Section I had inactivated at Manila, Luzon, Philippines on 15 November. 83rd NCB inactivated in Tangku, China. 91st NCB inactivated at Manicani Island. 100th NCB inactivated at Samar, Philippines.

1947: The organized construction battalion reserve was authorized by a Bureau of Personnel issued this date. It authorized the formation of 123 organized Seabee companies, each composed of five officers and 40 men. The full strength of the 123 companies, with authorized complements filled, was 615 officers and 4,920 men.

1947: 121st NCB inactivated on Saipan and redesignated at CBD 1504.

1970: While traveling by boat between Cho Moi and Binh Thuy in Vietnam, five Seabees of NMCB 74’s Detail Charlie were killed in action by Viet Cong forces. They were Builder 2nd Class Jerry B. Edmonds Jr.; Construction Electrician 3rd Class Harold E. Asher; Equipment Operator Constructionman Edger P. Beck; Constructionman Wayne Sterling Rushton; and Constructionman Frank Neubauer. The Seabees had been working on two projects at Cho Moi. The first project was the construction of a complete modern naval base which could support more advanced bases, and the second was the construction of concrete block housing for 80 families of RVN personnel.

1971: (Underwater Construction Team) UCT 1 returned from U.S. Naval Shipyard Norfolk/Portsmouth, Virginia.

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December

1917: The 12th Regiment (Public Works) was established at Great Lakes Naval Training Station, Illinois, to build and maintain naval facilities. The Naval Construction Force (NCF) detachments which built naval facilities in France in 1918, remained in the minds of planners during the interwar period and stimulated development in 1941-42 of the first naval construction battalions, the Seabees.

1942: Pontoon Assembly Attachment 1 commissioned. 32nd NCB commissioned. 45th NCB commissioned at Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia. CBD 1003, 1004 commissioned.

1943: Seabees of CBMU 549 were told they were to erect a “typical Seabee camp” for a new Hollywood movie, “The Fighting Seabees,” starring John Wayne and Susan Hayward. The Seabees were delighted that they would be seeing all the stars. They saw stars all right – only they were the overhead kind – visible from sunset to dawn. The men of CBMU 549, set for the luxuries of the film darlings, got the shock of their life when the first three days on their new job they worked around the clock, 24 hours a day. After arriving “on location,” the men were immediately put to work erecting tents, showers, heads, electric generators and a refrigeration plant. At the end of the week, the camp was complete in all details including water system, roadways and street lights.

1943: CBMU 533, 572, 573, 574, 575, 576, 577, 583 commissioned. CBMU 551 inactivated. Pontoon Assembly Attachment 2 commissioned. 19th Special NCB commissioned at NCTC Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia. CBD 1001, 1002, 1034 inactivated. CBD 1035, 1037, 1038, 1039, 1043 commissioned.

1944: Aviation, Construction, Ordnance, Repair, Navy (ACORN) 34 arrived at Clark Field, Luzon. CBMU 556, 576 inactivated. Pontoon Assembly Attachment 5 commissioned. 21st Special NCB commissioned at NCTC Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia. Construction Battalion Detachment (CBD) 1018, 1023 inactivated. CBD 1078 commissioned. (In World War II, Navy ACORN units, composed of Seabees and other components such as aircraft maintenance units, etc., were put together to design, construct, operate and maintain forward landplane and seaplane bases and operational facilities.)

1945: CBMU 506, 509, 510, 575, 585, 590, 591, 595, 596, 601, 603, 606, 608, 612, 624, 631, 636 inactivated. 25th NCR inactivated. 34th NCB inactivated on Okinawa. 20th Special NCB inactivated at Manus. CBD 1010, 1067, 1082, 1092, 1101 inactivated.

1946: CBD 1102, 1103, 1104, 1105, 1106, 1107, 1108, 1109, 1159 inactivated. CBD 1503, 1504 activated.

1947: Although the Seabees had operated from early 1942 as an NCF, it was not until this time that the Seabee Reserves were organized. At their inception, the Seabee Reserves were organized into divisions under the Naval District in which they were located. Each division usually represented a city, although in the larger cities there sometimes were several divisions. By 1949, the number of active duty Seabees had dwindled to 3,300. Then in June 1950 when the armies of North Korea invaded South Korea, it was the Seabee Reserves that enabled the NCF to quickly expand to over 14,000 for the emergency.

1947: CBD 1151, 1152, 1504, 1512 inactivated. CBD 1511 activated.

1957: 30th NCR inactivated.

1965: NMCB 10, the first full battalion to arrive in Vietnam, was relieved by NMCB 4 at Camp Shields, Chu Lai, RVN. NMCB 7 returned to Davisville, Rhode Island, from Rota, Spain.

1965: Direct Procurement Petty Officers Program was instituted.

1973: The talents of the men of Amphibious Construction Battalion (ACB) 2 were called upon during an emergency beach salvage operation in the Chesapeake Bay after three barges broke loose from a civilian tug. Together with the Coast Guard, ACB 2 struggled in turbulent weather to secure the barges and, as a result, successfully prevented damage to the bay’s bridges and the threat of a severe navigational hazard.

2006: For the first time ever, naval intelligence specialists were directly assigned to Seabee units beginning this month.

 


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