This Week in Seabee History: June 14 – 20

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

19 June 1968 – NMCB 58’s main body redeployed from Hoi An to Camp Haskins North, RVN. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)


June 9-25 1952: Operation Crippled Chick

One of the most incredible Seabee feats of the Korean War took place on the small island of Yo Do in the Bay of Wonsan. In communist hands again in 1952, Wonsan was a key supply and transportation center for the enemy. As such, carrier-based aircraft strikes against Wonsan and points deeper in the interior were numerous and constant. Planes were hit by enemy fire daily leaving their pilots with the unhappy choice of either ditching at sea or attempting to land in enemy-held territory. The need for an emergency airstrip was critical and, under the code name Operation “Crippled Chick,” a detachment of Seabees came to the rescue. Put ashore on Yo Do Island, they were given 35 days to construct a runway. Working under constant artillery bombardment from neighboring enemy positions, they managed to complete the 2,400-foot airstrip in only 16 days. By a prearranged signal, “Steak is Ready,” the Seabees signaled that the job was done, and nine damaged aircraft landed on the new field that same day.


June 15

1944: Operation Forager, as the Marianas campaign in World War II was named, began on June 15, 1944, when 20,000 Marines and Seabees were put ashore on the beaches of Saipan. Seabees of the 121st NCB formed the shore party on the main invasion beach. By June 18, Marines captured Aslito, the main Japanese airfield on Saipan, and that very day, Seabees went to work repairing the bomb damage to the runways. Four days later, the first American fighter planes landed on the strip, and four months later, the Seabees had lengthened and widened the runways so that B-29s could take off for their first bombing of Japan. Japanese troops counterattacked against Aslito airfield and halted the Seabee construction work, but the Seabees grabbed up their arms and held them off. By July 9, Saipan was secured.

1945: The 18th NCB inactivated at Tinian; 45th NCB inactivated at Camp Parks, Shoemaker, California.

1968: Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 74’s second flight advance party of three officers and 35 enlisted men arrived at Camp Shields, Chu Lai, Republic of Vietnam (RVN).

Steelworker 2nd Class Robert Stethem preparing for a dive while part of UCT-1 in the early 1980s. Stethem was killed by terrorists in Beirut, Lebanon, following the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 on June 15, 1985. He was posthumously awarded both the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, and was later made an honorary Master Chief Constructionman in a ceremony aboard USS Stethem (DDG-63). (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

1985: Steelworker 2nd Class (DV) Robert Stethem is killed by terrorists in Beirut, Lebanon following the hijacking of TWA Flight 847. He received posthumously both the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, and was promoted to honorary Master Chief Constructionman on August 24, 2010, in Yokosuka, Japan aboard the USS Stethem, named in his honor.

1991: On the island of Luzon, Philippines, Mount Pinatubo erupts, destroying Clark Air Base and burying Naval Station Subic Bay and Naval Air Station Cubi Point in a thick layer of ash. In the ensuing Operation Fiery Vigil, members of NMCBs 3, 4, 5, and CBMU 302 work to clear the naval facilities. By October 1991, the Seabees moved 251,000 tons of ash from over 50 miles of paved surfaces.

2006: Seabees prepared a site for the construction of a bridge in Fallujah, Iraq. Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Four Zero (NMCB-40) were tasked with rebuilding a damaged bridge used heavily by Iraqi citizens. NMCB-40 was deployed providing support to Coalition Multi-National Forces throughout Iraq. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

2010: After 672 hours of around-the-clock work, NMCB 7’s Detachment Horn of Africa (HOA) successfully drilled its first freshwater well in the village of Adgia Falima, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia. This was the first of seven hand-pump operated wells scheduled to be drilled in the Dire Dawa and Shinele regions during its deployment.

2012: Cmdr. La Tanya Simms, CEC, is relieved by Cmdr. Jeff Kilian, CEC, as commanding officer of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4 during a change of command ceremony at Naval Base Ventura County, California.


June 16

1943: ACORN 4 dissolved.

1945: The 138th NCB was inactivated at Camp Parks, Shoemaker, California.

1968: Seabee Team 0808 departed Bangkok, Thailand via government aircraft for the continental U.S. (CONUS).


June 17

1833: USS Delaware was the first ship to enter the first completed U.S. Navy drydock at the Norfolk Navy Yard. William P.S. Sanger, then a civil engineer apprentice, served as resident engineer during construction of the drydock.

1881: In response to a letter of April 12, 1881 from Civil Engineer Benjamin F. Chandler, CEC, U.S. Attorney General Wayne MacVeagh established that the Navy civil engineers were, in fact, officers belonging to the Navy’s staff corps, thereby entitled to be retired from active duty and placed on the retired list.

1942: The 7th NCB was commissioned at NCTC Camp Allen, Norfolk, Virginia.

1943: ACORN 3 was dissolved.

1968: The Moreell Wing of the CEC-Seabee Museum was dedicated at Port Hueneme, California. The u-shaped structure, composed of steel Butler buildings, houses the thousands of artifacts and memorabilia collected by Admiral Ben Moreell during his 29-year career in the United States Navy. Most of the souvenirs housed in the wing were collected during World War II when Admiral Moreell became the Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks and founded and commanded the Seabees.

1970: NMCB 7’s main body, consisting of 20 officers and 633 enlisted men, departed Chu Lai, RVN for Davisville, Rhode Island.

2009: Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11 offloaded CONEX boxes from the Liberty Maritime Corp. owned M/V Alliance New York. The equipment was being staged for transport to Camp Mitchell, Spain. NMCB-11 off-loaded the new Table of Allowance for the Naval Construction Force (NCF) in Rota, Spain. The new equipment helped re-establish Camp Mitchell as a main body site for forward-deployed Seabee units to better outfit NCF units for deployment. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

June 18

1943: The 97th NCB formed at NCTC Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1946: The 143rd NCB was inactivated at Samar Island, Philippines.

1968: In support of the U.S. Navy’s Civic Action Programs, Seabee Team 0911 returned to CONUS via C-118 aircraft, upon the completion of a six-month deployment to northern Thailand.

2014: A member of the Afghan National Engineer Brigade (NEB) proudly displayed his certificate of training to fellow brigade members at a graduation ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan. The brigade received training in carpentry, masonry, plumbing, and other engineering skills taught by members of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Two Five (NMCB 25). Members of NMCB 25 were in Afghanistan performing partnering operations to develop and sustain the specialty and general engineering capabilities of the NEB in order to provide critical engineer skill sets to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

2015: Lt. Cmdr. Justin Spinks, CEC, relieved Lt. Cmdr. Jason Fahy, CEC, as commanding officer of UCT 2 aboard Naval Base Ventura County, California.


June 19

1943: The 96th Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) was commissioned at Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) Camp Endicott, Davisville, Rhode Island; the 12th Special NCB was formed at NCTC Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1968: Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 58’s main body redeployed from Hoi An to Camp Haskins North, Republic of Vietnam (RVN).


June 20

1967: NMCB 11’s temporary Enlisted Men (EM) Club placed a “Dairy Queen” machine in operation, and commenced serving chocolate and vanilla ice cream to eager Seabees and Marines.

1967: Seabee Team 0307 arrived in the continental U.S. (CONUS) from Vietnam; Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 301 main body leaves Construction Battalion Center (CBC), Port Hueneme, California for Da Nang, RVN, with the primary mission of maintaining the advance airfields in the I Corps area.

1968: Dong Ha Combat Base in Vietnam came under enemy artillery fire resulting in the destruction of the Dong Ha (Ammunition Supply Point (ASP). Three NMCB 5 personnel, Builder (Heavy) 2nd Class R.D. Eastman, Construction Mechanic (Automotive) 3rd Class B.E. Hall, and Builder (Concrete) 3rd Class F.J. Rupert were injured as a result of the action. Camp Barnes received major structural damages to all shop areas and damages varying from slight to major in the berthing and administrative areas.

2007: Capt. Robert McLean III, Civil Engineer Corps (CEC), relieved Capt. Eric Odderstol, CEC, as commander, 22nd Naval Construction Regiment (NCR), CBC Gulfport, Mississippi.

2008: Capt. Kelly Schmader, CEC, assumed command of the 30th NCR from Capt. Katherine (Kate) Gregory, CEC, at Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, California.

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