This Week in Seabee History: August 30 – September 5

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

 

5 September 2005 – A U.S. Navy equipment operator assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Seven (NMCB-7), cleared debris at Jones Park in Gulfport, Mississippi. The Seabees were supporting the U.S. Coast Guard, Fish and Wildlife Commission and the Sheriff’s Department to get the city of Gulfport and its waterways back on their feet after Hurricane Katrina. 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. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)


August 30

1945: On V-J Day, August 14, 1945, 13 construction battalions and three special battalions were awaiting assignment to Japan, where they were to aid United States naval forces at Hiroshima, Kabayana, Yokosuka, Omura, Nagasaki, Sasebo, and Kure. That day, 16 officers and 541 men of Naval Construction Battalion 136 embarked on 12 medium landing ships at Guam; reported at Iwo Jima on August 21; and arrived at Yokosuka naval base on August 30. As the first Seabees to land in Japan, they established their camp at the site of the navigation school within the Japanese naval base. After construction a galley and a mess hall, the Seabees were assigned numerous other tasks. They repaired housing, electric and telephone systems and roads at the naval base, graded fields and remodeled buildings for the fleet recreation area, and repaired housing and surfaced an airstrip at Kisarazu airfield. In addition to the 136th NCB, CBMU 602 also arrived in Japan on August 30, 1945. The maintenance unit arrived at Yokosuka from Guam. Its task was to maintain runways and roads at the Marine Corps air base. Furthermore, the Seabees constructed a 2,000-man galley, restored barracks and facilities for personnel, constructed a chapel and recreation facilities, completed a sawmill, public works shops, a cold-storage plant, and a chlorination plant for water treatment, and installed hot-water showers in all barracks.

1954: In Korea, Seabees of CBMU 101 were assigned the task of replacing a 22-foot bridge. The bridge was an old Korean structure of rapidly deteriorating logs and hand-driven piles. It created a hazardous condition for heavily loaded military vehicles. The problem faced by the Seabees was to remove the old bridge in the shortest possible time and replace it with a structure capable of carrying loads up to 30 tons. The Seabees, using heavy I-beams and timbers, laid out and completely prefabricated the new bridge. All material was precut and predrilled. The structure was assembled and each individual piece was marked. The Seabees then disassembled the bridge and loaded the parts in order on a low-bed trailer. At seven in the morning of August 30, 1954, all equipment was moved out in sequence to the old bridge. Rain fell in a downpour throughout the day. However, by four o’clock that afternoon, the old bridge was removed, the approaches broken away, the I-beams laid in, concrete abutment tops poured, cross beams bolted on, decking spiked down, and approaches filled and graded. The road was reopened to traffic that evening.

1967: During a Viet Cong mortar attack on the Phu Bai combat base, the battalion’s camp (NMCB 3) was hit by one 105mm howitzer round from friendly artillery. The round impacted in the enlisted berthing area killing Construction Mechanic 1st Class J.W. Wilkinson and Yeoman 3rd Class D.C. Coker, and wounding nineteen others.

1967: The NMCB 5 pre-deployment party arrived at Camp Barnes for a five day visit with NMCB 11.

1969: Seabee Team 0313 deployed to Cao Lanh, RVN via government aircraft.

1970: NMCB 1’s advance party departed CONUS by air for Camp Moscrip, Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico.

1971: CBU 415 established at NAS Oceana, Virginia.


August 31

1842: The Bureau of Yards and Docks was established, one of five bureaus set up in the reorganization of the U.S. Navy. Captain Lewis Warrington, senior member of the expiring Board of Naval Commissioners, was appointed the first Chief of the Bureau. William P.S. Sanger, appointed civil engineer for the Board in 1836, was transferred to become the first civil engineer on the Bureau staff. The new Bureau received responsibility for the Navy yards, then seven in number.

1944: The 3rd NCB was inactivated (ordered disbanded on July 12, 1944).

1970: NMCB 7 was disestablished as an active Naval Construction Force (NCF) unit at Davisville, Rhode Island; NMCB 121 was decommissioned at Gulfport, Mississippi.

2014: U.S. Navy Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Two Five (NMCB 25), Task Force Ultimus, directed a Skytrac Military 11,000-pound Telehandler Telescopic Forklift as part of a U.S. Central Command mission in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Seabees, together with 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, Task Force Volunteer executed and coordinated efforts to utilize concrete jersey barriers to increase the stand-off distance between vehicles and personnel to assist Afghan National Security Forces. (Courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)




September 1

1942: Officers and men of the 6th NCB landed on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. These were the first Seabees to land on any enemy held island in World War II and the first to engage the enemy in combat. The 6th Seabees tackled their most important job: repairing the airstrip then named Henderson Field. It was a never-ending job, for as fast as the builders leveled the strip and put down Marston matting, the Japanese would send bombers overhead to drop high explosive bombs on the strip. As the fighting around the island increased, the Seabees developed a system of repairing the damaged airstrip in minutes. Less than 40 minutes after Japanese bombers swooped down and strafed the field, the Seabees, waiting with previously-loaded trucks, would dart out on the strip and completely fill in the bomb holes. Many times the Seabees worked furiously to repair the field while crippled U.S. Marine interceptors circled overhead waiting to land. Several times while ducking bullets, the Seabees worked on one end of the field making repairs as the Japanese infantry fought with U.S. Marine defenders at the other end. On several occasions the Seabees fought beside the U.S. Marines in hand-to-hand combat against the Japanese troops.

1943: The 1st Naval Construction Regiment (NCR) was inactivated.

1944: Port Directors School established at Davisville, Rhode Island; it was discontinued on Dec. 31, 1944.

1965: Capt. Nelson Anderson, CEC, relieved Capt. Harold Liberty, CEC, as commander, 30th NCR.

1969: The first Reserve Naval Construction Brigade was established under the command of Rear Admiral George Reider, CEC.

1969: Seabee Teams 0705 and 0706 deployed to the RVN for assignment to Officer in Charge, Construction Battalions, Pacific (CBPAC) for duty at Thu Duc and Lai Thieu.


September 2

1942: The 22nd NCB was commissioned at Camp Allen, Norfolk, Virginia.

1943: The 128th NCB was activated at NCTC Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia; the 131st NCB was commissioned at NCTC Camp Peary.

1968: Lt. Cmdr. H.W. Filbry, CEC, relieved Lt. Cmdr. M.H. Harper, CEC, as commanding officer of CBMU 302. CBMU 302 was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation during the change of command ceremony for the period ending Jan. 1, 1968.

1969: Typhoon Doris severely damaged the Quang Tri Camp of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74 and various other camps and civilian communities in the Republic of Vietnam. A quirk of fate some might say, because half of the battalion’s main body was still at home port in Gulfport, Mississippi when the Gulf coast was hit by Hurricane Camille on August 19, 1969. After Camille, this half joined the other half already in Vietnam just in time to encounter Typhoon Doris. Thus, nearly half of the Seabees of the battalion suffered through two severe tropical storms within two weeks, each storm on a different side of the world.


September 3

1967: At Dong Ha, RVN, five miles south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), a combined Viet Cong–North Vietnamese Army rocket attack detonated 20,000 tons of ammunition and 40,000 gallons of aviation fuel near NMCB 11’s camp. The explosions rocked the base for eight hours, and this represented the largest ammunition disaster in recorded history. Miraculously, no Americans or South Vietnamese were killed.


September 4

1942: 23rd Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) commissioned at Camp Allen, Norfolk, Virginia. 24th NCB commissioned at Camp Bradford, Norfolk, Virginia.

1943: Camp Lee-Stephenson established at Eastport (Quoddy Village), Maine.

2009: Capt. Allen M. Stratman, CEC, relieved Capt. Jeffrey T. Borowy, CEC, as commander, 25th Naval Construction Regiment (NCR), at Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC), Gulfport, Mississippi.


September 5

1943: 126th NCB formed at Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1969: Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3 advance party deployed to Camp Kinser, Okinawa, via government aircraft.

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