This Week in Seabee History: March 31 – April 6

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

This Week in Seabee History (Week of April 2)
On April 6, 1968, the Hill 494 Quarry Cantonment and Rock Production was dedicated as Camp DeShurley in honor of mortar crew leader Builder (Light) 3rd Class George R. DeShurley and the five other Seabees of Detail Echo, who killed in action in the defense of the facility on the morning of March 31 at Phu Loc, Republic of Vietnam. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

March 31

1943: 65th Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) commissioned at Freetown, Sierra Leone, from a merger of Construction Battalion Detachments (CBD) 1001 and 1002.

1945: ACORNs 7, 12, 25, and 26 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each ACORN to maintain the base after the initial construction was completed and the construction battalion had been withdrawn.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.)

1968: Seabee Team 0912 completed training at the 31st NCR, and deployed to Vietnam via C-118 aircraft.

1968: Detail Echo of NMCB 9 at Hill 494 Quarry Cantonment and Rock Production Facility came under attack at 0225, receiving approximately 25 rounds of mortar fire. Seabee mortar and U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) artillery fire was returned. Seven Seabees were wounded including Construction Mechanic (Construction) James F. Galati, who died as a result of his wounds at 1200 en route to Naval Support Activity Hospital, Da Nang. At 0710, the quarry cantonment sustained a second attack, receiving recoilless rifle fire and approximately 10 rounds of mortar fire, two rounds of which impacted within Detail Echo Mortar Position No. 2. Five Seabees were killed and one seriously injured. Killed in action while directing fire against the enemy were Builder (Light) 3rd Class George R. DeShurley, Builder (Light) Constructionman Mark E. Hodel, Builder (Light) 3rd Class Allan L. Mair, Builder (Light) 3rd Class John F. Peek and Builder (Heavy) Constructionman James R. Retzloff Jr. Subsequent investigations of the area from which enemy fire was initiated revealed that four Viet Cong positions were hit by the Seabee mortar crews’ return fire, killing at least nine of the enemy.

1968: Capt. John R. Fisher, CEC, relieved Capt. Charles W. Turner, CEC, as Commander, 30th NCR.


April 1

1944: 301st NCB activated at Advance Base Depot Port Hueneme, California. 27th Special NCB commissioned at NCTC Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1945: One of the largest Seabee stevedore assault operations in the Second World War was handled by 11th Special NCB at the invasion of Okinawa. The assignment began in February 1945 when the battalion was joined by two base companies of untrained personnel. Indoctrination of these recruits in the Seabee stevedore tradition, “keep the hook moving,” was started immediately. The big battalion was split into two divisions of nine nine-man teams each. The divisions separated, each going to a different staging area where the 18 teams were assigned to 18 different assault ships. Once at the staging area, each team loaded its assigned vessel and then rode that vessel to Okinawa. When the ships arrived off the coast of Okinawa on April 1, 1945, they were spread the entire length of the northern beaches. These were the beaches hit by the Third Amphibious Marines. Once landed, the Seabees unloaded on a 24-hour basis. Unloading was performed under extremely hazardous conditions. Enemy air raids persistently hammered at the shipping. Fourteen casualties were suffered by the 11th Special NCB during the early stages of the campaign. On the day after the invasion, April 2, 1945, six cranes, five bulldozers and a number of floodlight trailers were on the beaches as far north as Nago on the still bitterly contested Motobu peninsula. When the discharge of assault cargo was completed, the Seabee stevedores had a lull of about a week before the second echelon of supply ships arrived. However, during this week the men were not idle. They did excavation and construction work, roughed in roads and helped install anti-aircraft emplacements. Despite the week-long pause in stevedoring and the reduction of working time due to air raids, the end of April saw more than 70,000 tons of ammunition, guns, vehicles and supplies safely ashore and in the hands of the swift-moving assault forces.

Apr.1 – May 1, 1946: 33rd Special NCB inactivated at Leyte-Samar, Philippines.

1955: The gymnasium at NCBC, Port Hueneme, California, was dedicated in memory of Rear Adm. Ralph M. Warfield. The ceremonies were attended by high-ranking military leaders and other distinguished guests, including Rear Adm. John R. Perry, chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, and Mrs. Warfield, widow of the late admiral. The dedication was held at the gymnasium with eight companies of Seabees and a large group of civilian employees and military dependents in attendance. Prior to his death from a heart attack in 1939, Warfieldhad a most distinguished naval career.

1966: Recommissioning ceremony for 21st NCR held at Davisville, Rhode Island, with Cmdr. David M. Feinman, CEC, in command. NMCBs 1, 6, 7, 49 and 58, while homeported in Davisville, were assigned to the regiment. Main body of NMCB 3 arrived at Chu Lai, RVN.

1967: NMCB 128 commissioned at Construction Battalion Center (CBC), Gulfport, Mississippi.

1968: NMCB 5’s change of command ceremony held with Cmdr. R.B. Wilson, CEC, relieving Cmdr. E.J. Williams Jr., CEC. Seabee Teams 0408 and 0409 arrived in RVN after completing training at CBC, Port Hueneme, California. NMCB 10 advance party, Lt. R.E. Andrews, CEC, officer in charge, one officer and 28 men departed for Port Hueneme.

1969: Main body of NMCB 7 arrived at Davisville, Rhode Island, from Dong Ha, RVN.

Apr. 1-18, 2003: Amphibious Construction Battalions 1 and 2 completed construction of an Elevated Causeway System/Modular (ELCAS/M), a 1,400-foot pier, for the first time in a combat operation, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom at Camp Patriot, Kuwait.


April 2

1946: 90th Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) inactivated at Yokosuka, Japan.

1967: Cmdr. J.F. O’Leary, Civil Engineer Corps (CEC), relieved Cmdr. P.A. Phelps, CEC as commanding officer, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 8, during change of command ceremonies at the battalion’s campsite in Vietnam.

1969: Seabee Team 0811 deployed from Construction Battalion Center (CBC), Port Hueneme, California, to Bac Lieu, Republic of Vietnam (RVN), via government aircraft. Seabee Team 0810 deployed from CBC, Port Hueneme, California, to Can Tho, RVN, via government aircraft.

1971: The Chief of Naval Operations announced the award of the Meritorious Unit Commendation to Team 1015 for the period of January to September 1970.

Apr. 2-3, 1967: The second increment of the NMCB 11 Advance Party consisting of one officer and 99 enlisted men departed for Dong Ha Forward Combat Base, RVN.

Apr. 2-6, 1969: NMCB 7 main body consisting of 642 enlisted men and 22 officers departed Camp Barnes, RVN, for the continental U.S. (CONUS).


April 3

1944: 30th Special NCB organized at Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1967: NMCB 4 began construction of the Liberty Bridge at Da Nang, RVN with a 22-man crew.


April 4

1943: Camp Endicott, Davisville, Rhode Island is formally dedicated with Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox in attendance. The 84th NCB lead the review of battalions for the SecNav.

1968: Main body of NMCB 71 departed Davisville, Rhode Island for Chu Lai, RVN.

2003: U.S. Navy Seabees assigned to Amphibious Construction Battalions One and Two smoothed the beaches for future operations at Camp Patriot, while constructing an Elevated Causeway System Modular (ELCAS (M)). The ELCAS is an expeditionary pier facility for use where port facilities are damaged or nonexistent, or where surf conditions preclude direct discharge of cargo and equipment ashore. ELCAS (M) provides the capability to off-load containers from beyond the surf zone to shore via wheeled vehicles on the elevated roadway structure. Seabees from Amphibious Construction Batallion 1 (ACB-1) and ACB-2 were deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the multi-national coalition effort to liberate the Iraqi people, eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, and end the regime of Saddam Hussein. (Courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

April 5

1968: NMCB 6 main body of 21 officers and 585 enlisted men arrived in Davisville, Rhode Island.

1968: Seabee Team 0408 arrived in Ca Dau Ha, RVN and Seabee Team 0409 arrived in Vinh Long, RVN to begin engineering construction support.


April 6

1943: 8th Special NCB formed at NCTC Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1966: Main body of NMCB 7 departed Davisville, Rhode Island for assignment to the 30th NCR for duty at Phu Bai, RVN.

1966: NMCB 7 main body moved from Construction Battalion Center Davisville, RI to Hue – Phu Bai, RVN.

1968: In the Republic of Vietnam, the Hill 494 Quarry Cantonment and Rock Production was dedicated as Camp DeShurley by Rear Adm. J.V. Bartlett, CEC, commander, 3rd Naval Construction Brigade, and Cmdr. J.A. Wright, CEC, commanding officer of NMCB 9, in honor of mortar crew leader Builder (Light) 3rd Class George R. DeShurley and the five other Seabees of Detail Echo, killed in action in the defense of the facility on the morning of March 31 at Phu Loc.

1968: Construction Mechanic (Heavy) 2nd Class Teddy “J” Baker and Construction Mechanic Constructionman Michael D. Chascsa, of NMCB 4, were wounded while riding a truck which struck a land mine in Mai Lang, RVN.