This Week in Seabee History: April 21 – 27

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

April 23, 1970: NMCB-121 Delta Company personnel pouring the concrete cap on an aircraft shelter for MAG-16, DaNang, Vietnam. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

April 21

1945: ACORN 50 was decommissioned and Naval Air Base Kobler was commissioned. Used during World War II, 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each ACORN to maintain the base after the initial construction was completed and the construction battalion had been withdrawn.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 war, ACORNs were sent to such places at Guadalcanal, Espiritu Santo, Green Island, Rendova, Treasury Island, and Majuro.

1966: A Naval Support Unit of Seabees was established in the Department of State. This assignment came about in 1964, because cleverly concealed microphones and listening devices were discovered in the United States embassy in Moscow. As a result of this discovery, Seabees were sent to the newly built U.S. embassy in Warsaw. They proceeded to tear up floors and walls, and there too discovered ingeniously hidden microphones and listening devices. Consequently, the Department of State decided to use Seabees to keep an eye on foreign contract construction at American diplomatic missions in Soviet-bloc countries and also to perform maintenance duties and minor repair construction. The program was later extended to American diplomatic missions in the Far East and in Africa. These informal arrangements were made more permanent with the organization of the Department of State Naval Support Unit.

Replica of the Great Seal which contained a Soviet bugging device, on display at the NSA’s National Cryptologic Museum. Via Wikipedia

 

Replica of the Great Seal which contained a Soviet bugging device concealed inside a gift given by the Soviets to the US Ambassador to Moscow on August 4, 1945 on display at the National Cryptologic Museum in 2005. Via Wikipedia

 

1969: Cmdr. R.D. Gaulden, Civil Engineer Corps (CEC), commanding officer of NMCB 4, relieved Cmdr. J.J. Lee, CEC, commanding officer of NMCB 12 at Camp Adenir, Da Nang, RVN.

1971: NMCB 3 main body flights, consisting of three passenger flights and one cargo flight, departed Da Nang, RVN, for Port Hueneme, California.


April 22

1943: 91st NCB established at Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1971: Cmdr. Henry E. Keppel, Jr., CEC, commanding officer of Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 302, relieved Cmdr. J.D. Kirkpatrick, CEC, commanding officer of NMCB 74, as camp commander of Construction Battalion Center (CBC), Bien Hoa, RVN; main body of NMCB 71 returned to Davisville, Rhode Island, from deployment to Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico.

1991: Following the Iraqi defeat, the Kurdish minority living in northwestern Iraq rebelled in an attempt to win independence. The Iraqi government responded harshly and a gigantic refugee problem developed as hundreds of thousands of Kurds fled their villages into the mountains. The United Nations intervened to protect the Kurds and an Allied-occupied, protected enclave was established around Zakho, Iraq. A relief operation, Operation “Provide Comfort,” was launched to provide facilities for the refugees until they could return to their villages.

On 11 April, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, deployed at Rota, Spain, was ordered to send its Air Detachment to Zakho. This was followed on April 22 with orders for the battalion to recall all its details and to redeploy its main body to Zakho. While in Iraq, NMCB 133 was under the tactical command of the U.S. Army 18th Construction Brigade, consisting of the U.S. Army 94th Heavy Engineer Battalion, a British Army engineer squadron, a Dutch engineer battalion, and several smaller U.S. Army logistical units. NMCB 133’s camp was established in a walled compound which was also the headquarters of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the 18th Engineer Brigade. The Seabees were immediately over-tasked and went to a 12-hour day schedule, providing support to the refugee camps in the area. Work consisted of latrine construction, electrical and water-well support, road grading, forklift support, berm construction, and wash-rack construction. In general, the work could best be described as emergency service relief work.

Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133 (NMCB-133) gather near an M-151 light utility vehicle after arriving in Iraq for Operation Provide Comfort, a multinational effort to aid Kurdish refugees in southern Turkey and northern Iraq. The Seabees were dispatched to Iraq from their base at U.S. Naval Station, Rota, Spain.

It was originally anticipated that the Seabees would remain at Zakho for three months. It turned out, however, that they were able to leave after only eight weeks because during that period upwards of 300,000 Kurds were convinced that it was safe to return to their homes. The displaced persons camps near Zakho which had held as many as 60,000 Kurds at the midpoint of the deployment, saw this number drop to less than 15,000 by the time NMCB 133 departed.


April 23

1971: The flag of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3 was relocated from Camp Haskins South, Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam (RVN) to Construction Battalion Center (CBC), Port Hueneme, California.


April 24

1945: The 69th Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) was the only full battalion assigned to Germany during the Second World War. On April 6, 1945 the first echelon of the 69th NCB left London, England for Ostend, Belgium, where they docked on April 7. The next day the men and equipment left Ostend as part of a convoy, crossed Belgium and part of Holland, and then crossed the Mass River near Venlo, Holland. The Seabees moved to Verden, Germany on April 24, and after the fall of Bremen on April 27 they proceeded to that city. It was here that the first echelon was joined by the rest of the battalion. After setting up camp at Lettow-Vorbeck-Kaserne, a few miles outside of Bremen, the Seabees immediately set to work re-roofing buildings where artillery had made huge gaps, installing plumbing and lighting, setting up shops and offices, and installing and repairing power lines. Seabees from the battalion repaired harbor facilities at the nearby port of Bremerhaven.

A page from The 69th Naval Construction Battalion’s cruisebook. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

1968: NMCB 9’s advance party, consisting of one officer and 35 enlisted personnel, returned to Naval Air Station (NAS), Point Mugu, California on C-118 aircraft from Da Nang, RVN.

1970: Seabee Team 0413 arrived at their deployment site on Kusai Island, Ponape District, Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI).


April 25

1945: ACORN 46 decommissioned and Naval Air Base Marpi Field, Saipan commissioned. (Used during World War II, 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 war, ACORNs were sent to such places at Guadalcanal, Espiritu Santo, Green Island, Rendova, Treasury Island, and Majuro.)

1946: 93rd NCB inactivated at Samar, Philippines.

1965: As NMCB 10 prepared to mount out from Okinawa for the RVN, planning groups of two officers and three enlisted men from NMCB 9, and three officers and three enlisted men from NMCB 3, arrived at Danang to perform preliminary engineering and material procurement for Seabee projects then being programmed and scheduled for I Corps (ICTZ), Vietnam.

1967: NMCB 11 main body departed from Point Mugu Naval Air Station, California aboard MAC C-130 aircraft for Dong Ha Forward Combat Base, RVN.


April 26

1943: 9th Special NCB commissioned at Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1967: NMCB 11 main body consisting of 16 officers and 637 enlisted personnel deployed from CBC, Port Hueneme, California to the Dong Ha Forward Combat Base, RVN, via 11 Military Airlift Command C-130 aircraft.

1970: Seabee Team 0412 with Lt. j.g. J.A. Werner, Civil Engineer Corps (CEC) as Officer in Charge (OIC) departed CBC, Port Hueneme, California for training and indoctrination on Guam, before proceeding to their final deployment site on Koror Island, Palau District, TTPI.

1971: Seabee Team 4006 departed Davisville, Rhode Island for reassignment to OIC, Naval Construction Battalion, Pacific Fleet (CBPAC) Detachment (DET) RVN and deployment to Tan An, RVN.


April 27

1969: Disaster strikes area in and around ammunition supply point (ASP) 1, Da Nang when it erupted, as if it was a volcano. This was the largest ASP in I Corps area. NMCB 4 provided firefighting detail to assist NMCB 5. NMCB 5’s Camp Hoover was adjacent to the huge ASP. NMCB 5’s Camp Hoover was 90 percent destroyed; however, only two Seabees were wounded due to the immediate action taken during the initial explosions.

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Consolidated by U.S. Navy Seabee Museum, Historian, Naval History and Heritage Command