This Week in Seabee History: February 16-22

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

Beginning in February

1981: When President Ronald W. Reagan became president, his ranch, Rancho Del Cielo in Santa Barbara, California, required upgraded security measures. Subsidizing the 31 Naval Construction Regiment, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3 was assigned to the ranch upgrades named Project Rimstone. The Seabees built multiple service buildings as well as helicopter landing pad and a heliport.  The Seabees of this detail received Presidential letters of Commendation. For Ronald Reagan, the house served as a sanctuary during his presidency.

After the completion of Project Rimstone, the Reagan’s hosted a barbecue for the Seabees. (Photo courtesy of ReaganLibrary.gov)
Trees were planted to hide the new facilities from view of the ranch. (Photo courtesy of ReaganLibrary.gov)

February 16

1942: The start of the Second World War sent naval survey teams up and down the Pacific coast looking for new locations for naval facilities. One team was looking for a site to build a naval base to support naval construction activities at advanced bases in the Pacific. The team came to Port Hueneme, California and recognized it as an ideal port, because it was the only Pacific deep water port between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Word of the discovery was sent to Admiral Ben Moreell, Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, who was busily putting together the new construction battalions. Port Hueneme therefore was tentatively selected as the site for the advanced base depot on the Pacific coast. On February 16, 1942, Admiral Moreell sent his recommendations to the Chief of Naval Operations and it was speedily approved.

1968: Seabee Team 5801 moved into their quarters at Chau Phu City, Chau Doc Province, RVN, a massive fort built by the French in 1882, serving as both living quarters and shop facilities.

February 17

1942: The first Seabee unit organized to build advanced base facilities overseas arrived at Bora Bora in the Society Islands to construct a fuel depot. These Seabees were called “the Bobcats” because the code name for Bora Bora was “Bobcat.”

1945: 4th Naval Construction Brigade (NCB) inactivated.

1969: Seabee Teams 0103 and 0104 were assigned to the 21st NCR for 18 weeks of specialized training.


February 18

1968: Seabee Teams 0701 and 0702 arrived in Davisville, Rhode Island, from Vietnam for reassignment to NMCB 7.


February 19

1943: 120th Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) formed at Casablanca.

1944: 10th and 11th Naval Construction Brigades commissioned.

1945: The D-Day assault on Iwo Jima was made by the 5th Amphibious Corps, which included all of NCB 133 and elements of NCB 31. The NCB 133 operated on the Iwo Jima beaches during the initial stages of the assault, acting as a shore party for the U.S. Marines. While operating under heavy Japanese fire, the 133rd had the dubious honor of suffering more men killed or wounded in action than any other Seabee battalion in any previous or subsequent battle.

1966: The Navy began testing of the nuclear powered saltwater distillation plant at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. The plant was installed and serviced by Seabees.

1968: A small detail of Seabees from Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 301 distinguished themselves during the tense siege of Khe Sanh, Republic of Vietnam (RVN). On January 21, 1968, the North Vietnamese commenced concentrated rocket, mortar, and artillery attacks in preparation for their offensive to take the mountain outpost. The men of the detail repaired numerous rocket, artillery, and mortar holes in the airstrip. The runway crews exposed themselves to enemy fire during repairs. They learned to take cover whenever an aircraft landed because the enemy gunners exercised maximum effort to disabled planes and helicopters on the ground. The last of the detail returned to base camp on February 19, 1968. Members of the detail have been authorized to wear the Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon for assistance rendered to the 26th Marines during the siege of Khe Sanh.

This week in seabee history
Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 301 Seabees working at Khe Sanh in 1968.  (Photos courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

February 20

1968: CBMU 201 arrived at Davisville, Rhode Island, from Antarctica for reassignment to the 21st Naval Construction Regiment (NCR).

1969: Main body of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 58 departed Davisville, Rhode Island, for Chu Lai, RVN.


February 21

1801: The Philadelphia Navy Yard was established after the second of three land purchases, which established the yard.

1944: 28th Special NCB formed at Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1972: The NMCB 4 main body of 219 men under Cmdr. J.A. Ruscyk departed Rota, Spain, for Construction Battalion Center (CBC), Port Hueneme, California.


February 22

1943: 86th NCB commissioned at NCTC Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1968: EON2 H.H. Aguayo was injured when the tractor in which he was riding hit a mine on Route No. 1, south of Phu Bai, RVN.

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