This Week in Seabee History (Week of March 5)

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

TWiSH (3-5-17)

As part of an open house held to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Civil Engineer Corps and 25th Birthday of the Seabees in 1967, the 31st Naval Construction Regiment created a model Vietnamese Village at Port Hueneme, Calif. The program for the open house on March 4 featured a simulated Viet Cong attack on the village, a concert by the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Band, and a drill team exhibition by Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11.  (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

March 5

1942: The designation of construction battalions as Seabees and the use of the distinctive insignia on major items of construction equipment were officially approved by Rear Adm. Ben Moreell.

1955: It was in 1955 that the Seabees first celebrated their birthday on March 5. Before that the birthday had been celebrated on December 28, the date in 1941 that authority was requested from the Chief of the Bureau of Navigation to recruit enlisted personnel for the Seabee units. However, because so many men were usually on leave for the Christmas holidays and because of the heavy financial strain that attended the holidays, it was almost impossible for everyone to participate in a suitable celebration. Therefore, Rear Adm. John R. Perry, Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, decided to change the celebration date to March 5, the date the personnel of the construction battalions were granted official permission to assume the name Seabees. Rear Adm. Perry felt this would assure a more favorable observance of the birthday.

1961: Reserve Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (NMCB) 12 and 22 activated.

1968: NMCB 6 officers and men celebrated the 101st birthday of the Civil Engineer Corps (CEC) and the 26th of the Seabees with the cutting of a 1,300 pound birthday cake, measuring four feet by eight feet by two feet.

1969: Rear Adm. G. Dillon, CEC, U.S. Navy (USN), relieved Rear Adm. J.V. Bartlett, CEC, USN, as Commander, Third Naval Construction Brigade.

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March 6

1947: 104th Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) reactivated, eventually being reestablished in October 1950 as Amphibious Construction Battalion (ACB) 1.

1968: Cmdr. Paul R. Gates, CEC, USN, relieved Cmdr. Anson C. Perkins, CEC, USN, as commander of the 21st Naval Construction Regiment (NCR).

1970: Seabee Teams 0103 and 0104 departed Vietnam for Davisville, Rhode Island.

1971: NMCB 3 Detail Borealis at Ca Mau, Republic of Vietnam (RVN), received eight rockets and heavy small arms fire. BU2 F.D. Lupo, USN, was killed inaction and four other Seabees were wounded.

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March 7

1967: EOC J.C. Haines, CET3, L.R. Riddle, and CMH3 R.E. Kasper, NMCB 4, were killed in action in a mine explosion on the road from An Hoa to Da Nang, RVN.

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March 8

1968: Camp Barnes received 10 rounds of enemy rocket and artillery fire. The action resulted in three deaths, CN E.E. Nevins, CEW2 J.P. Hartlage II, and BUL2 J.W. Borders, and eight wounded.

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March 9

1942: Camp Allen, Norfolk, Virginia, established.

1950: A detachment of 105th NCB arrived in the Caribbean for a practice invasion. The occasion was marred by squalls and heavy surf conditions, making the battalion’s job of invading the beach and setting up pontoon causeways doubly hard. The battalions had to make three tries for the beach before their task, to put ashore the Army’s Third Division, was accomplished.

1951: NMCB 4 commissioned at Norfolk, Virginia.

1971: Seabees of NMCB 40’s advance party waded ashore at the remote atoll of Diego Garcia in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The Seabees were there to begin the highly-significant undertaking of building a Navy Communications Station. Up to this time, Diego Garcia had been a relatively unknown tropical atoll whose only industry was copra. Commissioning ceremonies for the Naval Communications Station, Diego Garcia, were conducted two years later on March 20, 1973.

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March 10

1920: Public Works Officers were first assigned to each of the naval districts.

1968: BUH3 Frank G. Goelz, USN, was killed in an accidental fall while engaged in constructing a pile bent as part of repairs to Liberty Bridge, Da Nang, RVN. Memorial services for Petty Officer Goelz were held at Camp Hoover on March 11 and at Liberty Bridge on March 12.

1968: Detail Charlie of Construction Battalion Mobile Unit (CBMU) 301 was working at the Navy-Marine camp at Cua Viet, RVN, when the camp was attacked by enemy rockets, mortars and artillery. During the attack, one of the incoming rounds detonated ammunition and gasoline stores located on the landing ramp at the river. The resulting explosions caused a fire which burned for 14 hours. Most of the damage to the camp was caused by concussion although shrapnel fell everywhere. When the attack was over, the men of Detail Charlie worked to control the fire. After that they restored the electrical and water supply systems in the camp. The following day, March 11, an ordnance disposal crew picked up approximately 10 tons of live ammunition in the camp area. 33 men of the unit’s man body at Dong Ha were sent to Cua Viet to work with the 16 men of Detail Charlie in the restoration work. Within a week the Seabees had the buildings and facilities restored and the ramp was again handling logistic materials.

1972: Seabee Team 0416, under Lt.j.g. R.A. Heisler, departed Kusaie, RVN, and arrived in Port Hueneme, California, on March 17, 1972.

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March 11

1941: A manufacturing and assembly plant for Quonset huts was established at Quonset Point, Rhode Island.

1945: Many times in the Second World War the Seabees were called on to do odd jobs of an urgent and extemporaneous nature. These jobs were dictated by the demands of combat operations. When the German lines in France were breached, the United States Army asked the Seabees to operate landing craft, pontoon causeways, and rhino ferries to help breach the Rhine River Barrier. The Naval Construction Force (NCF) accepted the challenge on March 11, 1945. The task was assigned to detachments from CBMU 627, 628 and 629. At ports in Normandy, the Seabees loaded their landing craft and pontoons on mammoth trucks and hauled them across France and the German borderlands to the Rhine River. The Rhine’s swift and tricky currents had baffled armies since the time of Julius Caesar. However, the Seabees made the crossing with comparative ease. They first crossed the Rhine at Bad Neuenahr near Remagen. On March 22, Gen. George S. Patton put his armored forces across the Rhine at Oppenheim in a frontal assault which swept away the Germans. The Seabees participated in the operation. In addition, the Seabees built pontoon ferries similar to their famous Rhino ferries to move tanks across the river in pairs. In all, the Seabees operated more than 300 craft as ferry service which shuttled thousands of troops into the heart of Germany.

1968: Seabee Teams 0310 and 0311 were transferred to Commander, 31st NCR for Seabee Team Training prior to deployment to the RVN.