This Week in Seabee History: August 23 – 29

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

Operation “Desert Shield/Desert Storm”On 2 August 1990 the armed forces of Iraq began the invasion and subsequent conquest of the Emirate of Kuwait. Under United Nations’ auspices, the United States and other member nations responded by deploying military forces to Saudi Arabia. The immediate goal was to forestall further Iraqi aggression; the long-range goal was to compel Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. The initial allied military undertaking to protect Saudi Arabia was dubbed Operation “Desert Shield.”

Among the U.S. forces deployed to the region was the First Marine Expeditionary Force. Seabees were to provide construction support for this force. On 7 August the Seabees began preparations to deploy four battalions to the region: Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4, 5, 7, and 40. On 13 August the first Seabees arrived in Saudi Arabia, an element of Amphibious Construction Battalion 1, comprising 210 personnel. These men immediately went to work unloading Marine Corps equipment and supplies from Maritime Prepositioned Force ships.

Seabees installing airfield matting at Wally World during Desert Shield/Desert Storm. (Courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

During the period 10-20 August, 100 Seabees of Amphibious Construction Battalion 2 departed Norfolk, Virginia, on amphibious ships bound for the Persian Gulf. While in the gulf these Seabees participated in numerous exercises with the Marines to prepare for an amphibious assault in the region.

The second wave of Seabees to arrive were personnel from Construction Battalion Units 411 and 415; they erected and maintained Fleet Hospital Five, a 500-bed hospital facility at Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia. Both units had female Officers in Charge, marking a first for the Seabees.

August 25

2009: Groundbreaking ceremonies are held at Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, California, for construction of the new U.S. Navy Seabee Museum to replace the older facility which opened in 1956.

August 26

1943: 105th NCB formed at Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1944: 302nd NCB formed at Maui, Hawaii.

1967: Capt. J.M. Hill, CEC, relieved Cmdr. R.L. Foley, CEC, as commander, 32nd Naval Construction Regiment (NCR).

1968: Seabee William Darrah, State Department’s Naval Support Unit, was highly commended for heroic efforts in extinguishing what could have been a major fire at the U.S. Embassy in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Due to a curfew, the local fire department was unavailable. In response, the members of the embassy staff, U.S. news correspondents and private American citizens formed a bucket brigade, and managed to control and extinguish the fire. The U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia said, “By general agreement, the person who merits the highest praise is Seabee William B. Darrah, who knew his job thoroughly and showed great personal courage.”

August 27

1965: NMCB 8 transferred to Commander, Naval Construction Battalions, U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMCBPAC), from Commander, Naval Construction Battalions, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (COMCBLANT).

1970: Seabee Teams 0106 and 0107 departed Davisville, Rhode Island, for reassignment to OIC Construction Battalions, U.S. Pacific Fleet Detachment (CBPACDET), RVN, and deployment to Ham Tan and Tan An, respectively.

1971: Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 1 returned from U.S. Naval Ammunition Depot, Earle, Colts Neck, New Jersey.

2010: Capt. Joe Grealish, CEC, relieved Capt. Paul Webb, CEC, as commanding officer, ACB 2, at Joint Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Virginia.

August 28

1942: The 21st Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) was commissioned at Camp Bradford, Norfolk, Virginia.

1943: The 117th NCB was commissioned at Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1967: At 6:08 a.m., the Dong Ha Combat Base in the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) was subjected to an enemy rocket attack. Three of the rockets landed in the Seabee cantonment, Camp Barnes. One of the rockets made a direct hit on a C Company berthing hut. As a result of this direct hit, four men were killed: Builder (Concrete) 2nd Classs Jerry L. Newman, Builder (Concrete) Constructionman Jerome D. Patterson, Builder (Concrete) Constructionman Anthony K. Grasso, and Builder (Heavy) Construction Apprentice Richard J. Wager. Between August 28 and September 25, 1967, the Seabee camp at the Dong Ha Combat Base came under enemy artillery and rocket attack 47 times on 13 different days. All attacks came between 4 a.m. and 8 p.m, with the majority of them coming during daylight hours. As a result of these daytime attacks, construction work was greatly hampered, and sometimes came to a standstill while the Seabees sought cover.

1967: One man from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1 was killed by enemy sniper fire on Route 1.

2003: Local School girls displayed their new chalk boards donated by friends and family of U.S. Navy Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Four (NMCB-4). Navy Seabee units were participating in extensive reconstruction of schools, hospitals, and bridges throughout Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (Courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

August 29

1969: Seabee Team 0314 traveled to Guam, Mariana Islands, for orientation.

2005: Hurricane Katrina strikes the Gulf Coast. More than 3,000 Seabees from NMCBs 18, 40, 133, Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 202, Amphibious Construction Battalion (ACB) 2, and Mobile Utilities Support Equipment (MUSE) technicians assisted in the cleanup operations.

Sept. 7, 2005: U.S. Navy Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Seven (NMCB-7), removed debris at the Jones Park in Gulfport, Mississippi, in support of Hurricane Katrina Relief efforts. The Navy’s involvement in the Hurricane Katrina humanitarian assistance operations was led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in conjunction with the Department of Defense. (Courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

2013: Capt John Adametz, Civil Engineer Corps (CEC), relieved Capt. Darius Banaji, CEC, as commander, Naval Construction Group (NCG) 2 in a ceremony at Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) Gulfport, Mississippi.

August 23

1943: 87th Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) becomes part of ACORN 12. (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, Treasure Island and Majuro.

August 24

2010: In a posthumous frocking ceremony, Steelworker 2nd Class (DV) Robert D. Stethem was promoted to the honorary rank of master chief petty officer aboard the USS Stethem (DDG 63) in Yokosuka, Japan. (Stethem was a victim of the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 in June 1985, after being singled out from passengers as a U.S. Navy Sailor and killed by members of the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah, when their demands to release 766 Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners held by Israel were not met. He was returning home with fellow members of UCT 1 after completing a routine assignment in Greece. Stethem was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star.

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