This Week in Seabee History: June 28 – July 4

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

This World War II-era advertisement showcased the Seabees’ rhino ferry. It was a huge barge constructed from pontoons with two propelling units. In the first 10 days of the invasion of Normandy, 85 percent of all vehicular equipment was transported to shore using the rhino ferry. It was critical to defeating the Germans and proved to be a “bridge to victory,” as the ad says. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

June 28

1968: NMCB 7’s advance party, consisting of eight officers and 108 enlisted men, arrived at the Dong Ha Combat Base, RVN, to perform the Battalion Equipment Evaluation Program (BEEP) and effect a smooth turnover of Camp Barnes from NMCB 5.

1968: Main body of NMCB 40 begins arriving at Davisville, Rhode Island from Chu Lai, RVN.

1969: Seabee Teams 0103 and 0104 arrived in RVN.

1969: NMCB 9’s main body, consisting of 19 officers and 657 enlisted men, begins return to Naval Air Station Point Mugu, California, on two 707s, two Super DC-8s, and one C-141 cargo flight from Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa, Japan.

2003: Joint Army, Navy and Marine engineers finished construction of a 762-foot floating steel bridge in Zubaydiyah, Iraq. Seabees from NMCB 7, NMCB 133, Naval Construction Support Team 2 from Port Hueneme, ACB 1, and ACB 2 worked with their Army and Marine partners to construct and emplace the bridge.

2006: Capt. Darius Banaji, CEC, relieved Capt. Bill Finn, CEC as commanding officer, NCTC, at NCBC Gulfport, Mississippi.

2011: Cmdr. Pete Maculan, CEC, relieved Cmdr. Scot Sanders, CEC, as commanding officer, NMCB 5 at Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, California.

2013: The Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133 marked a transition in the battalion’s history with a change of command ceremony aboard Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport, June 28, 2013. During the ceremony, Cmdr. Nick Yamodis, CEC, relinquished command to Cmdr. Jeff Powell, CEC.

2016: Cmdr. Lance Flood, CEC, relieved Cmdr. Kemit Spears, CEC, as commanding officer of NMCB 1 during a change of command ceremony aboard NCBC, Gulfport, Mississippi, June 28.

June 29

1906: Congress passed a law restricting the office of Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks to officers of the CEC.

1942: The 9th Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) was established at NCTC Norfolk, Virginia.

2007: Rear Adm. Richard Cellon, CEC, relieved Rear Adm. Robert Phillips, CEC, as commander, 1st Naval Construction Division, Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Norfolk, Virginia.

June 30

1943: American armed forces stormed ashore on Woodlark and Kiriwina Islands in the western Solomon Sea. Seabees of the 20th and 60th NCBs landed on Woodlark on D-Day. In the jungle, the Seabees hacked out a network of trails in order to dispense supplies unloaded on the beach. Soon they converted the trails to coral roads. On Woodlark, the Seabees also built a 6,500-foot airstrip. They then completed two more airstrips on Kiriwina. From these airfields, allied bombers swept north to bomb New Guinea and Rabaul.

1943: The 98th NCB was formed at NCTC Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1946: The 31st NCB was inactivated at Sasebo, Japan.

1967: NMCB 53 was recommissioned at Davisville, Rhode Island and assigned to the 21st Naval Construction Regiment (NCR).

1968: Seabee Team 0101 arrived in Saigon, RVN.

1969: Seabee Teams 0605 and 0606 were assigned to the 21st NCR for 18 weeks of specialized training.

1976: NMCB 10 was decommissioned.

2008: Seabees assigned to Beach Master Unit (BMU) 1 guided a Lighter Amphibious Re-supply Cargo (LARC) from the surf at Red Beach Camp Pendleton, California during Joint Logistics Over-The-Shore (JLOTS) 2008. JLOTS 2008 established command and control of Army and Navy units, constructed a Life Support Area (LSA), conducted force protection operations, executed an in-stream offload of shipping from a sea echelon area, employed Offshore Petroleum Discharge System (OPDS), retrograde and safely redeploy allocated forces. (Courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

2010: Capt. John Korka, CEC, relieved Capt. James Worcester, CEC, as commander, 31st Seabee Readiness Group and Naval Facilities Expeditionary Logistics Center, Port Hueneme, California.

2016: Capt. Jeffrey Kilian, CEC, relieved Capt. James (Gordie) Meyer, CEC, as commander of the 3oth NCR during a change of command ceremony in Port Hueneme, California.

2016: Lt. Cmdr. Benjamin Wainwright, CEC, was relieved by Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Dunaway, CEC, as commanding officer of Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 1.

July 1

1942: The 11th NCB was established at Camp Bradford, Little Creek, Virginia.

1943: ACORN 9 arrived at Noumea, New Caledonia; the 9th NCR commissioned; the 100th NCB commissioned at NCTC Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1967: Senior Chief Petty Officer Joseph R. Herrara of NMCB 11 was driving a truck near the Danang Air Base in the RVN. Before the day was out, he was involved in one of those thriller episodes. At 0640, a lone Viet Cong trooper shot a poisonous dart at the Chief. The dart shattered the wing glass of the truck and deeply gashed his arm. As soon as he realized he was under attack, he turned off the ignition and bailed out. Then as he ran toward the back of the truck, a rifle bullet hit his belt loop. To protect himself from the enemy hidden in a grove of trees, Chief Herrara withdrew his pistol and ran across the road to a ditch. When he saw the enemy trooper, he fired four rounds and then chased him. As the Chief approached a sand mound, the enemy soldier hurled a hand grenade and the Chief, seeing an object flying through the air, dropped to the ground. The grenade landed about 30 feet from him. However, after a short wait, the grenade failed to explode. Chief Herrara rose and slowly approached the grenade. As he examined it, he noticed that the pin was still partially inserted and thus, it was prevented from detonating. Rather than press his luck further, he returned to his truck and signaled nearby Marines for help.

1968: Seabee Team 5801 arrived in Davisville, Rhode Island from RVN for reassignment to NMCB 58.

1969: Seabee Team 0411 moved from NCBC, Port Hueneme, California to Thailand where they began their deployment.

1969: Seabee Teams 0103 and 0104 deployed to RVN for duty at My Tho and Xuan Loc.

1972: The brig at NCBC, Port Hueneme, California closed its doors after 26 years of almost uninterrupted operation dating back to the end of World War II. During the war years, there were 11 brigs in the area. Not so many when you consider that the military population was over 27,000 at the time. With the reduction of operations and personnel at the war’s end, correctional facilities were reduced to one building. Operation of the brig was continuous from 1946, except for a brief 10-month hiatus from October 1949 until August 1950 when the brig was temporarily closed for economic reasons. The brig or correctional center, as it was officially called from 1969 until it closed, was closed because of the low prisoner population.

2015: Lt. Cmdr. Samuel Werschky was relieved by Lt. Cmdr. Elizabeth Durika of Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 202 during a change of command ceremony at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Virginia.

2016: Capt. Michael Saum, CEC, relieved Capt. Christopher Kurgan, CEC, as commander, Naval Construction Group 1, during a change of command ceremony at Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, California.

July 2

LIFE magazine July 2, 1965. Chief Johnny McCully, AIC of Seabee TEam 1104, is being assisted to a waiting helicopter. (Courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

1943: Lt. j.g. George Stephenson, CEC, and Lt. Irwin Lee, CEC, of the 24th NCB, were killed on Rendova in the Solomons, the first CEC officers to be killed in action in World War II.

1944: Less than a month after D-Day in France, while the Normandy invasion was still underway, the 81st NCB experienced one of those odd happenings of war on which legends are built. Early on the morning of July 2, Lt. Cmdr. Richard Anderson, Seabee medical officer for the recently-landed battalion, was visited in his foxhole by a breathless American military policeman. A woman in the nearby village of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont was about to have a baby and a doctor was urgently needed. Anderson immediately dispatched his assistant medical officer, Lt. Douglas Butman. Butman arrived at the house only to discover that the young woman had spontaneously delivered her child, a little girl, only moments before. The doctor immediately rendered the appropriate postnatal care. In the days that followed, the medical staff of the battalion paid many visits to the home of Henri and Marie Fouchard. Finally, the time came for christening the baby girl. The mother asked Commander Anderson if the baby could bear a part of his wife’s name. Anderson delightedly suggested the initials of his wife’s maiden name, C.B., for he knew that such a choice would serve a two-fold purpose. The initials would honor his wife and also would honor the battalion as “Sea Bee.” Thus, Sea Bee Paule Fouchard was christened in honor of an informal battalion of godfathers who had attended her birth at the height of fighting in Normandy.

1966: NMCB 62 was commissioned and was the first battalion assigned to the NCBC, Gulfport, Mississippi, after the Center’s mission was increased “to provide home base facilities for naval construction battalions.”

1969: Seabee Team 0913 returned to NAS Point Mugu, California on a DC-8 aircraft from Da Nang, RVN.

July 3

1965: Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 10 completes construction of the 8,000-foot Short Airfield for Tactical Support at Chu Lai, Republic of Vietnam, for the 1st Marine Air Wing.

2013: Lt. Cmdr. Jason Fahy, Civil Engineer Corps (CEC), relieved Lt. Cmdr. Charles Kubic, CEC, as commanding officer of Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 2, at the command’s headquarters at Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) Port Hueneme, California.

July 4

1942: Advance Base Depot (ABD), Davisville, Rhode Island, formally commissioned.

1968: Twelve Seabees reported to the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) for duty with Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 302 two days late. While bound for Vietnam, the aircraft was forced down by Russian jets on a small island near Japan. The American crew and passengers were detained for 48 hours before the U.S. military-chartered aircraft was released by the Russians. The incident occurred because the Russians claimed the aircraft had violated Soviet air space.

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