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This Week in Seabee History (Week of April 10)

April 11, 2016 | By donrochon
Consolidated by Dr. Frank A. Blazich Jr., Historian, U.S. Navy Seabee Museum
VIRIN: 160411-N-ZY182-1880
Seabees constructing a power station during World War II. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

April 10

1963: During the Cuban Missile Crisis,Equipment Operator (Construction Equipment) 3rd ClassGeorge J. Denich, Jr., a 21-year old Reserve Seabee assigned to Mobile Construction Battalion (MCB) 7 as a heavy equipment operator, was killed in an accident on a 280-foot hill at Guantanamo Bay. When the accident occurred, Denich was operating a mobile crane in the construction of fortified defensive positions for Guantanamo BayNaval Base. On June 26, 1963, a memorial plaque was placed on the hill, which was then named Denich Hill in honor of the dead Seabee. 1967: Seabee Team 0808 departed for Port Hueneme, California for training and eventual deployment to Thailand. 1967: NMCB 71 arrived at Chu Lai, Republic of Vietnam (RVN). 1968: NMCB 71's commanding officer took command of Camp Miller, RVN. 1970: Seabee Team 0312 returned to CONUS (continental U.S.) via government aircraft. 1971: The USS Marvin Shields (DE-1066) was commissioned at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Washington. The destroyer escort was named in tribute of Construction Mechanic 3rd ClassMarvin Shields, a member of Seabee Team 1104. Shields was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his personal valor during combat action in the Battle of Dong Xoai in Vietnam. This Medal of Honor was the first ever awarded to a Seabee and the first awarded to a United States Navy man in the Vietnam War. 2003: Seabees cross the Diyala River into Baghdad, Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

April 11

1943: ACORN 5 arrived at Espiritu Santo. (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each Acorn to maintain the base after the initial construction was completed and the construction battalion had been withdrawn.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 World War II, Acorns sent to such places at Guadalcanal, Espiritu Santo, Green Island, Rendova, Treasury Island, and Majuro.) 1945: 60th Naval Construction Battalion (NCB)inactivated at Camp Parks, Shoemaker, California. 1966: Recommissioning ceremony for the 20th Naval Construction Regiment (NCR) held at Gulfport, Mississippi under command of Cmdr. N. L. Martinson, Civil Engineer Corps (CEC). 1967: NMCB 9 main body, consisting of 716 personnel, returned to CONUS on 10 C-141 aircraft. Seven flights terminated at Naval Air Station, Point Mugu, California, one flight at Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina, and two flights at McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey. 1967: NMCB 1 main body deployed to Da Nang, RVN on seven C-141 aircraft from NAS Quonset Point, Rhode Island. 1969: Three members of Seabee Team 0604 were ambushed at a project site in Long An Province, RVN. The Seabees came under rocket, grenade, automatic and small arms fire. They were able to radio for help, however, and the enemy forces were routed by helicopter gunship fire and ground troop support. One Seabee, Construction Mechanic 2nd ClassPeter L. Stith, was wounded. He was evacuated by gunship but died before reaching the hospital. 1969: Main body of Construction Battalion Unit (CBU) 201 arrived in Davisville, Rhode Island from Antarctica. 1970: NMCB 7 change of command ceremony. Cmdr. P. Oliver, Jr., Civil Engineer Corps (CEC), relieved Cmdr. J.C. Rickels, CEC. 2008: Cmdr. Dean VanderLey, CEC, relieved Cmdr. Steve Hamer, CEC, as commanding officer,NMCB 4at Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, California.

April 12

1946: 14th NCB inactivated on Okinawa. 1967: Cmdr. R.M. Fluss, CEC, relieved Cmdr. W.A. Walls, CEC, as commanding officer of NMCB 4.

April 13

1945: Seabees of the 130th NCB on Okinawa started building a two-lane road from the beach to the camp area. It was built in 24 hours. On the third day ashore the Seabees were working around the proverbial clock when antiaircraft fire opened up, pausing briefly twice daily for fueling and greasing. This system worked very well until the night the enemy aircraft came in and strafed Kadena without the usual formality of the anti-aircraft batteries going into action. After this incident, the 'Bees sweated out air raids, sometimes five or six a night, under their tractors and prayed for cloudy weather. After about a week of these ideal conditions, prayers for cloudy weather were answered and there was no dust for several weeks. Clay became a thick gooey mud which a carryall could load but could not dump. Coral turned from solid to liquid. But in spite of the 16-inches of rain that fell, the Seabees built a four-lane traffic circle and kept traffic moving through it at an average of 900 vehicles per hour. 1967: NMCB 1 arrived at Da Nang, RVN. 1968: First flight of NMCB 133 arrived at Phu Bai airport, RVN to relieve NCMB 121. 1969: Seabee Teams 0310 and 0311 returned to CONUS via government aircraft.

April 14

1945: 55th NCB inactivated at Camp Parks, Shoemaker, California. 1969: Fire destroyed the headquarters building of the 21st NCR at Davisville, Rhode Island. In addition to firemen, about 300 Seabees courageously manned fire hoses in a vain attempt to save the structure. During the fire, Seabees rescued important property from the building. There were no serious injuries, but many of the Seabees and firemen suffered from smoke inhalation. 1969: Team 0913 completed reconstruction of a defensive berm around Fire Base Diamond III in response to an emergency request. Five hours later, the fire base came under intensive attack with 198 enemy killed in action, 18 U.S. killed in action, and 13 Americans wounded. The defensive berm was credited with saving numerous lives and possibly preventing overrunning of the fire base. 1970: Seabee Team 0413 withOfficer in ChargeLt. j.g.W.R. Riggs, CEC, departed Construction Battalion Center, Port Hueneme, California for training and indoctrination on Guam before proceeding to their final deployment site.

April 15

1944: ACORN 14 dissolved and was absorbed into Naval Air Base, Hawkins Field, Tarawa; ACORN 17 dissolved and was absorbed into Naval Air Base, Mullinix Field, Tarawa; ACORN 16 dissolved and was absorbed into Naval Air Base, Apamama. 1946: 1st Special NCB inactivated at Kyushu, Japan. 1952: NMCB 9 activated. 1954: Monday, April 15, 1954, was a banner day for the Naval Construction Battalion Center at Port Hueneme, California. On this day, the first permanent buildings ever constructed on the Center were completed and dedicated. The barracks were named Thomas Barracks in honor of the late Capt. Robert E. Thomas, CEC. He served26 years in the Navy and was the first Director of the Pacific Division of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, the predecessor of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific. In January 1943, he died in a plane crash near San Francisco. Mrs. Robert E. Thomas, along with her son, Cmdr. Robert E. Thomas, Jr., CEC, unveiled the commemorative plaque in honor of her husband. 1966: NMCB 7 deployed to Hue Phu Bai, RVN. 1969: The 21st NCR headquarters was relocated temporarily in Building 101, CBC, Davisville, Rhode Island. 1971: NMCB 3 turned over Camp Haskins South to the U.S. Army 57th Transport Battalion.

April 16

1944: 4th Naval Construction Brigade commissioned. 1967: NMCB 3s pre-advance party arrived at Phu Bai, RVN, to select a new advance base camp site.

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