This Week in Seabee History (Week of January 14 – January 20)

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

Susan Hayward, Dennis O’Keefe and John Wayne on the set of “The Fighting Seabees” in 1943. The film’s world premiere was held simultaneously at seven Seabee camps across the country on Jan. 14, 1944. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

January 14

1943: 2nd Special NCB commissioned at Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1944: The world premiere of “The Fighting Seabees” was held simultaneously at seven Seabee camps across the country.

1968: Equipment Operator (Construction Equipment) Constructionman H.G. Hodges was killed, and Equipment Operator 3rd Class J.G. Stotko, was wounded, by an enemy grenade detonation while they were manning a defensive position at the “Project Beaver” helicopter repair facility project at Red Beach, Da Nang, Vietnam. Stotko was flown by medevac to the 1st Marine Medical Battalion where he was listed in good condition. Preliminary investigations indicated that Hodges shielded the force of the blast from Stotko while attempting to hurl the enemy grenade from the bunker. Subsequently, the Silver Star Medal with combat “V” was posthumously awarded to Hodges for his heroic action. These men were part of a 16-man security detail from NMCB 9 charged with manning the perimeter of the project site from December 25, 1967 to January 14, 1968.

1969: Seabee Team 0513 departed for Ben Tre, RVN.



January 15

1943: 4th Naval Construction Regiment (NCR) commissioned.

1944: 21st and 22nd NCRs commissioned.

1972: Seabee Team 7410 deployed.

1960: Men and equipment from the Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC), Port Hueneme, California, began work on Operation Packdown. In this operation, Seabees turned a 125-acre snow-covered meadow at Squaw Valley, California into a parking lot for the Winter Olympics. Since snowfall in the High Sierras, where Squaw Valley is located, can bury a car overnight, the compaction of the snow in the meadow was no small job. However, the parking lot was completed early in February and could accommodate between 10,000 and 12,000 of the cars that arrived daily February 18-28 for the Winter Games.
January 16

1943: 3rd Special Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) established at Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1968: Main body of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 53 departed Davisville, Rhode Island for Da Nang, Vietnam.

1991: Operation “Desert Storm,” the expulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait began in early 1991. On this day allies initiated a massive air campaign against Iraq. Before it was over, Allied aircraft flew more than 40,000 sorties against Iraqi targets. At this time planning went forward for the 3rd Naval Construction Regiment to move into Kuwait in the wake of advancing Allied forces to open roads and airfields and provide immediate battle-damage repair.
January 17

1968: The second advance party departed the continental United States (CONUS) via C-130 and C-118 aircraft to join the first advance party in Republic of Vietnam (RVN).

Jan. 17-19, 1968: NMCB 53 main body arrived at Da Nang, RVN.
January 18

1943: 75th NCB commissioned at Camp Endicott, Davisville, Rhode Island.

1947: As a part of Adm. Richard E. Byrd’s Antarctic expedition, Operation Highjump, 166 Seabees sailed from Port Hueneme, California, in December 1946. The Seabees sailed on the USS Yancey and the USS Merrick. The USS Yancey arrived alongside the ice of the Bay of Whales, Antarctica, on 18 January 1947, and the USS Merrick arrived shortly afterwards. The Seabee detachment, part of a total complement of 4,000 men and 13 ships, then proceeded with their assigned tasks at Little America 4 in Antarctica. They unloaded equipment and supplies, set up a temporary naval base, built housing, a mess hall and storage facilities. They also built a temporary airstrip, an emergency base further inland and a communications system. The Seabees did all this work during the Antarctic “summer,” with temperatures ranging from approximately 30 degrees above zero to 26 degrees below zero. [ADDITIONAL STORY: Read Rendezvous with Penguins: Seabee Construction of the South Pole Dome, by Dr. Frank Blazich.]

1965: NMCB 11 deployed from Port Hueneme, California, and simultaneously relieved NMCB 9 on Okinawa by turn-around airlift. The airlift of the two battalions by the U.S. Air Force marked the first time in the Seabees’ history that NMCBs have been deployed by air.

1968: Cmdr. R.A. Bowers, commanding officer, NMCB 53, relieved Cmdr. L.D. Lawson, commanding officer, NMCB 7, as commanding officer, Camp Adenir. The first two flights of NMCB 7 main body departed for Davisville, Rhode Island.

1970: Main body of NMCB 40 departed Davisville, Rhode Island, for deployment at Camp Moscrip, Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico.

1972: Seabee Team 7410 deployed to Yap Island, Pacific Trust Territory.

Jan. 18-20, 1968: NMCB 7 main body departed Vietnam for Davisville, Rhode Island, aboard eight C-141 aircraft.

Jan. 18-20, 1972: NMCB 62 main body departed Naval Station, Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, for Construction Battalion Center (CBC), Gulfport, Mississippi. NMCB 74 main body arrived in Camp Moscrip, Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico (PR).
January 19

1965: NMCB 9 departed Okinawa by air transportation to Port Hueneme, California.

Jan. 19-21, 1968: Main body of NMCB 7 arrived at Davisville, Rhode Island, from Da Nang, RVN.
January 20

1943: 4th Special NCB formed at NCTC Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1945: 36th Special NCB formed at Advance Base Depot (ABD), Port Hueneme, California.

1965: The first deployment by air of an entire Seabee battalion took place when NMCB 11 flew from Point Mugu, California, to Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. This method of transportation saved a full month of travel time for each Pacific deployment. NMCB 8, Detachment Echo, completed a mission vital to fleet operations in defense of the Eastern Mediterranean. Originally begun in January 1963 by NMCB 6, Project Judy involved building an entire Naval Communications Station in a swamp area near Marathon, Greece, a rural community situated on the shores of the Aegean Sea, approximately 25 miles from Athens. Interestingly enough, the community of Marathon is near the site of the famous Battle of Marathon fought between the Greeks and the Persians, circa 490 BC.

1967: Equipment Operator 3rd Class Francis E. Camden Jr. and Construction Mechanic Constructionman Merlin E. Boon, NMCB 62, were killed and 17 others wounded when a Viet Cong mortar attack hit the Phu Bai military enclave, Camp Campbell.

1968: NMCB 53 relieved NMCB 7 at Camp Adenir, RVN.

1969: Main body of NMCB 1 arrived at Davisville, Rhode Island, from Da Nang, RVN.

1969: Seabee Team 7102 was assigned to the 21st NCR for 18 weeks of specialized training.

1970: Main body of NMCB 71 arrived at Davisville, Rhode Island, from Camp Moscrip, Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, for reassignment to the 21st NCR.

1972: NMCB 74 main body departed CBC, Gulfport, Mississippi. NMCB 62 main body arrived at CBC, Gulfport, Mississippi. NMCB 74 relieved NMCB 62 as Atlantic Fleet Alert Construction Battalion at Camp Moscrip. Cmdr. Frank M. Newcomb, CEC, was relieved as Commander, 32nd Naval Construction Regiment (NCR), by Cmdr. James D. Kirkpatrick, CEC. Camp Moscrip was turned over to NMCB 74 by NMCB 62.

Jan. 20-27, 1969: NMCB 5 main body departed CONUS by air for Camp Hoover, Da Nang, RVN.

Late January

1990: Devastating floods struck central Tunisia, displacing families and destroying railroad lines and bridges. As part of Exercise “Atlas Rail,” Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3’s Air Detachment worked jointly with Tunisian army engineers to repair flood-damaged rail lines.

A truck convoy moves out to a U.S. Navy Seabee construction site. The Seabees are in Tunisia to repair a flood-damaged railroad during exercise Atlas Rail. (Photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Stephen L. Batiz)
U.S. Navy Seabees take part in exercise Atlas Rail, a Seabee project to repair a flood-damaged railway. (Photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Stephen L. Batiz)


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