This Week in Seabee History: March 8- 14

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

On this Day in Seabee History: 12 March 1942 – The Navy shipped out scores of trucks with vital materials and equipment to be used for the the construction of Advance Base Depot Port Hueneme. This photograph, taken in November 1943 shows the expansion at Camp Rousseau that would eventually include 190 barracks to house 32 men on double-tiers, 15 officer’s quarters, 25 administration and storage buildings, 25 heads, 5 brigs, and 5 sick bays. This more than doubled the size of the base that was farm land with a port before the Navy arrived.


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.


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.


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.


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.


March 12

1963:  The village elder who recruited labor for Seabee Team 0502 in Chau Doc Province in the Republic of Vietnam was assassinated by the Viet Cong and his mutilated body left at the team project site.

Mar. 12-16, 1966: NMCB 1 main body arrived at Da Nang, RVN.

1967:  Seabee Team 0805 returned to the continental U.S. from Vietnam for leave before rejoining the battalion.


March 13

1946: 53rd Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) arrived at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands to take part in Operation Crossroads. Operation Crossroads was the Department of Defense’s first large-scale atomic weapons research testing program. The 53rd NCB built observation towers, piers, communication towers, and general facilities to prepare the site. The battalion dredged the lagoon of Bikini to allow ships to enter and anchor for the bomb blast. It also built a recreational area for the members of the Armed Forces engaged in the testing. Thus, Seabees were used to build a facility that helped to usher in the Atomic Age.

1972: Seabee Team 0415, under Lt. C.D. Christopher, departed Palau and returned to Port Hueneme four days later.


March 14

1966: Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1 arrived in the Republic of Vietnam (RVN), the first Atlantic battalion to take part in the war, deployed by direct airlift from Davisville, Rhode Island to Da Nang, which was now standard transportation for incoming and outgoing Seabee battalions. Its primary tasks during this tour of duty were the construction of the Camp Haskins complex for the 30th Naval Construction Regiment (NCR) headquarters (later to also house the 3rd Naval Construction Brigade with its transfer to Da Nang from Saigon in August 1967), a Seabee battalion camp, and a cantonment for the Force Logistic Support Group. In addition, detachments constructed a light antiaircraft Hawk missile installation and installed three large concrete box culverts at Chu Lai.

2008: A renaming ceremony was held March 14 2008 to unveil Seabee Betty Drive, the main street transiting Camp Covington on Naval Base Guam, in honor of the late Vicenta Chargualaf Peredo, affectionately known as “Seabee Betty.” Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5 Seabees, officers, family and friends were on hand to recognize and honor the many acts of kindness Peredo provided to deployed Seabees over the years resulting in strengthening bonds between military members and the local community.

A renaming ceremony was held to unveil Seabee Betty Drive in honor of the late Vicenta Chargualaf Peredo. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

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