This Week in Seabee History (Week of February 14)

Feb. 16, 2016 | By donrochon
Consolidated by Dr. Frank A. Blazich Jr., Historian, U.S. Navy Seabee Museum
VIRIN: 160216-N-ZY182-1488
Seabee Teams 501 and 502 were the first Seabees to arrive in the Republic of Vietnam, on Jan. 25, 1963. Team 501 was deployed at Dam Pau in central South Vietnam and 502 was deployed at Tri Ton, southwest of Saigon near the Cambodian border. Both teams were deployed in support of U.S. Army Special Forces. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

February 14

1946: 86th Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) inactivated on Okinawa. 1966: Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1 advance party arrived in Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam (RVN). 1968: Cmdr. D.N. Shockey, Civil Engineer Corps (CEC), was relieved as commanding officer of NMCB 9 by Cmdr. J.A. Wright, CEC, at a formal change of command ceremony held at Camp Hoover, Da Nang, RVN. 1968: NMCB 4 arrived at Da Nang, RVN.

February 15

1943: 6th Naval Construction regiment (NCR) commissioned. 1944: 24th NCR established. 1974: Underwater Construction Teams (UCT) 1 and 2 commissioned with Officers in Charge.

February 16

1942: The start of the Second World War sent naval survey teams up and down the Pacific coast looking for new locations for naval facilities. One team was looking for a site to build a naval base to support naval construction activities at advanced bases in the Pacific. The team came to Port Hueneme, California and recognized it as an ideal port, because it was the only Pacific deep water port between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Word of the discovery was sent to Admiral Ben Moreell, Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, who was busily putting together the new construction battalions. Port Hueneme therefore was tentatively selected as the site for the advanced base depot on the Pacific coast. On February 16, 1942, Admiral Moreell sent his recommendations to the Chief of Naval Operations and it was speedily approved. 1968: Seabee Team 5801 moved into their quarters at Chau Phu City, Chau Doc Province, RVN, a massive fort built by the French in 1882, serving as both living quarters and shop facilities.

February 17

1942: The first Seabee unit organized to build advanced base facilities overseas arrived at Bora Bora in the Society Islands to construct a fuel depot. These Seabees were called the Bobcats because the code name for Bora Bora was Bobcat. 1945: 4th Naval Construction Brigade inactivated. 1969: Seabee Teams 0103 and 0104 were assigned to the 21st NCR for 18 weeks of specialized training.

February 18

1968: Seabee Teams 0701 and 0702 arrived in Davisville, Rhode Island from Vietnam for reassignment to NMCB 7.

February 19

1943: 120th NCB formed at Casablanca. 1944: 10th and 11th Naval Construction Brigades commissioned. 1945: The D-Day assault on Iwo Jima was made by the 5th Amphibious Corps, which included all of Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) 133 and elements of Naval Construction Battalion 31. The NCB 133 operated on the Iwo Jima beaches during the initial stages of the assault, acting as a shore party for the U.S. Marines. While operating under heavy Japanese fire, the 133rd had the dubious honor of suffering more men killed or wounded in action than any other Seabee battalion in any previous or subsequent battle. 1966: The Navy began testing of the nuclear powered saltwater distillation plant at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. The plant was installed and serviced by Seabees. 1968: A small detail of Seabees from Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 301 distinguished themselves during the tense siege of Khe Sanh, Vietnam. On January 21, 1968, the North Vietnamese commenced concentrated rocket, mortar, and artillery attacks in preparation for their offensive to take the mountain outpost. The men of the detail repaired numerous rocket, artillery, and mortar holes in the airstrip. The runway crews exposed themselves to enemy fire during repairs. They learned to take cover whenever an aircraft landed because the enemy gunners exercised maximum effort to disabled planes and helicopters on the ground. The last of the detail returned to base camp on February 19, 1968. Members of the detail have been authorized to wear the Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon for assistance rendered to the 26th Marines during the siege of Khe Sanh.

February 20

1968: CBMU 201 arrived at Davisville, Rhode Island from Antarctica for reassignment to the 21st NCR. 1969: Main body of NMCB 58 departed Davisville, Rhode Island for Chu Lai, RVN.