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This Week in Seabee History: February 23-29

Feb. 24, 2020 | By ggranger

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

February 23

1801: The land for the Brooklyn (New York) Navy Yard was purchased and the yard established on this date.

1943: 87th NCB formed at NCTC Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1968: Cmdr. Paul R. Gates, Civil Engineer Corps (CEC), USN, was relieved as Commanding Officer of NMCB 1 by Cmdr. Thomas J. Mitchell, CEC, USN, at CBC Davisville, Rhode Island.

VIRIN: 170222-N-ZY182-3791

Early 1980s

One of the major projects for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command and the major project for the Seabees in the 1970s and early 1980s was the construction of a naval complex on the atoll of Diego Garcia, part of the British Indian Ocean Territory. Diego Garcia, one of the 52 coral atolls of the Chagos Archipelago, was located in the Indian Ocean 960 miles south of India and 7 miles south of the equator. The 6,700 acre, heavily vegetated atoll was horseshoe-shaped with a perimeter of approximately 40 miles and average elevations of 3 to 7 feet. The annual rainfall was approximately 100 inches. In the early 1980s the construction effort at Diego Garcia rapidly shifted from Seabees to private contractors. The last full Seabee battalion, NMCB 62, departed the atoll in July 1982. While Seabees remained in detachments, contractor personnel took over the projects yet to be accomplished on Diego Garcia. Thus, what began as simply a communication station on a remote atoll became a major fleet and U.S. armed forces support base by the 1980s. By 1983 the only Seabee unit remaining on Diego Garcia was a detachment of NMCB 62. The departure of this detachment in September 1983 ended twelve years of priority effort on the island that included some 220 projects for the Navy and Air Force, valued in excess of $200 million. The work the Seabees completed on Diego Garcia since 1971 represented the largest peacetime construction effort in their history.

February 24

1881: The President of the United States conferred relative rank on civil engineers and equal precedence to officers of the line in the Navy for the first time. For the fixed number of 10 CEC officers, one had the relative rank of captain, two with relative rank of commander, three with relative rank of lieutenant commander, and four with the relative rank of lieutenant.

1970: Seabee Team 4004 departed Davisville, Rhode Island, for reassignment to Officer in Charge (OIC) Construction Battalion Pacific Detachment (CBPACDET), RVN, and deployment to Xuan Loc, RVN.

February 25

1944: 137th NCB broken up at Advance Base Depot (ABD) Gulfport, Mississippi, to form CBMU 595, 596, 597, and 598. 25th Special NCB commissioned at NCTC Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1970: Cmdr, J.J. Godsey, CEC, USN, relieved Capt. C.R. Whipple, CEC, USN, as Commanding Officer, NMCB 3 and Commander, 30th NCR, at a change of command ceremony at Camp Kinser, Okinawa.

1972: Seabee Team 1022 departed CBC, Port Hueneme, California, for duties in the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI).

1972: Seabee Team 1021 departed CBC, Port Hueneme, California, to Guam for duties in the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI).

February 26

1966: The first element of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3 s advance party arrived at Rosemary Point, Chu Lai, Republic of Vietnam (RVN), to construct a Seabee cantonment.

1970: NMCB 1 s advance party of two officers and 21 enlisted men departed Camp Haskins North for CBC, Davisville, Rhode Island.

1970: NMCB 5 s advance party arrived in Camp Haskins North from Port Hueneme, California.

February 27

1942: Advance Base Depot (ABD) Davisville, Rhode Island, is established as a unit of the Naval Operating Base, Rhode Island. This was the first of a total of four advance base depots established during World War II.  Camp Thomas, also at Davisville, was established on this day as well.

Feb. 27 Mar. 2, 1971: The main body of Construction Battalion Unit (CBU) 201 arrived at Davisville, RI from Antarctica for reassignment to the 21st NCR.

February 28

1968: Cmdr. R.M. Fluss, Civil Engineer Corps (CEC), United States Navy (USN), commanding officer of NMCB 4, relieved Cmdr. W.W. Degroot, III, CEC, USN, commanding officer of NMCB 58, as commanding officer of Camp Haskins.

1969: Cmdr. H.A. Crisp relieved Cmdr. R.D. Keegan as commanding officer of NMCB 6.

1972: CBU 201 arrived at Davisville, RI from Antarctica for reassignment to the 21st Naval Construction Regiment (NCR).

1972: The Seabee camp on the tiny atoll of Diego Garcia in the middle of the Indian Ocean was dedicated in memory of a young Seabee who lost his life while assisting in the construction of a communications facility. The Seabee site was named Camp Cummins in honor of Navy Utilities Third Class Charles Stuart Cummins, who died on December 30, 1971, of burns suffered while working on a desalinization barge boiler on the atoll.