This Week in Seabee History (Week of Jan. 1)

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

A Seabee recruiting brochure, circa 1942. On Jan. 5 of that year, the Bureau of Navigation (now the Naval Personnel Command) approved Admiral Ben Moreell’s request for authority to recruit skilled craftsmen and artisans to man a Naval Construction Force. The original authorization was for a Naval Construction Regiment composed of three Naval Construction Battalions. This approval, in effect, was the actual beginning of the Seabees. Authorizations for additional battalions soon followed in rapid sequence.  The first Seabees were not raw recruits when they voluntarily enlisted because the emphasis in recruiting them was placed on experience and skill, so all they had to do was adapt their civilian construction skills to military needs. To obtain men with the necessary qualifications, physical standards were less rigid than in other branches of the armed forces. The age range for enlistment was 18-50, but after the formation of the initial battalions, it was discovered that several men past 60 had managed to join up, clearly an early manifestation of Seabee ingenuity. During the early days of the war, the average age of Seabees was 37.  These first recruits were the men who had helped build Boulder Dam, the national highways, and New York City’s skyscrapers; who had worked in the mines and quarries and dug the subway tunnels; who had worked in shipyards and built docks and wharfs and even ocean liners and aircraft carriers. By the end of the war, 325,000 such men had enlisted in the Seabees.  (Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

January 1

1946: The Advance Base Depot, Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC), Davisville, Rhode Island is inactivated. Concurrently, the Naval Supply Depot, Newport, Davisville Annex was established. Also, the 1st Naval Construction Regiment (NCR) was inactivated.

1959: The homeport of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 10 was officially changed from Guam, Marianas Islands to Port Hueneme, California.

1967: NMCB 4’s advance party departed Port Hueneme, California for Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam (RVN).

1968: Seabee Team 0602 graduated from Seabee Team Training and was assigned to Officer in Charge, Construction Battalions, Pacific Detachment, RVN, deploying to Phouc Le, RVN.

1968: Seabee Team 0511 redeployed to Go Dau Ha Village, RVN.

1972: Seabee Team 7411 deployed to Tan An, RVN.

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January 2

1942: Manila and Cavite, Philippines, fell to the Japanese.

1946: 141st Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) inactivated at Kwajalein Atoll.

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January 3

1943: 61st NCB commissioned at Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1944: ACORN 18 arrived at Espiritu Santo. 10th NCR inactivated. (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.)

1968: Detail Bravo One of NMCB 7 departed for Hoi An, RVN to begin construction work at the Cords Hospital.

1973: A small team of Navy Seabees went to earthquake-riddled Managua in Nicaragua. Their task was to recover as much as possible of the classified equipment and materials buried in the rubble of what was once the United States Embassy. The four-man team from the State Department’s Naval Support Unit in Washington, D.C. made quick work of what was originally estimated to be a three-to-four week job. Within nine days, all of the equipment had been retrieved. Upon completion of that mission, the team then retrieved the major portion of the remaining office furniture and equipment from the wreckage. Following the work at the embassy, at the request of the wife of the Nicaraguan President, the Navy Construction Team proceeded to Managua’s El Retiro Hospital for a similar job. The Seabees immediately employed their technical expertise and equipment to recover the valuable operating room and surgical gear from the ruins of the big hospital. Recovery of this equipment not only saved the hospital substantial money, but also enabled the hospital to be used in the much needed medical treatment of the earthquake victims. The team departed from Nicaragua on January 18th. Use of this team provided another example of the varied talents of the Seabees, who are almost as well known for their humanitarian accomplishments as their combat construction feats.

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January 4

1968: Equipment Operator 1st Class H.C. Cousineau was killed when struck by enemy fire while riding in a helicopter north of Tan Ky, RVN.

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January 5

1942: The Bureau of Navigation (now the Naval Personnel Command) approved Admiral Ben Moreell’s request for authority to recruit skilled craftsmen and artisans to man a Naval Construction Force. The original authorization was for a Naval Construction Regiment composed of three Naval Construction Battalions. This approval, in effect, was the actual beginning of the Seabees. Authorizations for additional battalions soon followed in rapid sequence.

1943: ACORN 3 arrived at New Caledonia. 

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January 6

1945: A Seabee whose unit was attached to a Marine Division doubled as a combat pilot during the invasion and battle for Cape Gloucester, New Britain. Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Chester J. Perkins of NCB 19 flew a total of 218 hours, 105 of them during combat as the pilot of a light, unarmed reconnaissance plane. He made daily flights over enemy territory to transport rations and supplies to isolated jungle patrols and to spot for artillery batteries. In addition, Perkins carried blood plasmas to Marines wounded during the invasion operations and dropped medical supplies while fighting was still in progress. Perkins operated mostly from crude, improvised landing strips, usually roadways and sand bars. On one occasion, a fusillade of enemy bullets pierced the cabin floor of his tiny plane. Fortunately, all of them missed him. For his outstanding accomplishments, Perkins was awarded the Navy Air Medal on Jan. 6, 1945.

1967: The first aircraft of the advance party of NMCB 133 arrived in RVN.

1968: The first advance party of eight officers and 137 Seabees of NMCB 8 departed the continental United States (CONUS) via C-130 aircraft for deployment to RVN.

1970: 21st NCR Detail Yankee of Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 1 departed Davisville, Rhode Island and deployed to Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) for test emplacement of the Project AFAR array.

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January 7

1946: Last section of 38th NCB inactivates at Yokosuka, Japan; 17th Special NCB inactivated on Leyte, Philippines.

1970: Seabee Team 0410 returned to Construction Battalion Center (CBC), Port Hueneme, California from Vietnam.

 

 


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