Seabee History

This Week in Seabee History: January 6-12

Consolidated by Dr. Frank A. Blazich Jr., Historian, Naval History and Heritage Command

Early January

1991: U.S. Marines began to move north in preparation for the expected ground assault on the Iraqis. In support of this, the Seabees began to concentrate on building and maintaining roads to serve as the main supply routes throughout northern Saudi Arabia.

After months of constructing millions of square feet of aircraft aprons, camps for tens of thousands of Marines, and hundreds of acres of ammunition and supply points, the Seabees prepared to support the ground assault into Kuwait. NMCB 5 moved half its strength to Al Kabrit, 30 miles from the Kuwaiti border, and began construction of a Naval Construction Force Logistics Support Base from which the Seabees could provide the First Marine Expeditionary Force the construction support needed during the upcoming assault into Kuwait. The top construction priorities during this period were water, roads, and facilities for the Marine division assembly areas. Water was obtained by exploiting already-existing wells, and the Seabees built galley facilities for the 30,000 Marines of the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions. A 40,000 man capacity enemy prisoner of war camp was also built.

Petty Officer Second Class Michael Cowart smooths concrete during construction of a Marine camp in northern Saudi Arabia. Cowart is a member of the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Five operating during Operation Desert Storm in February 1991. Photographed by CWO2 Ed Bailey. (NHHC Photograph Collection, Navy Subject Files, Seabees)

 

The most formidable task facing the Seabees was the road network required by General Schwarzkopf’s “End Run” attack strategy. Spanning more than 30 miles of desert from Al Mishab to Al-Kabrit, the “End Run” strategy ultimately required more than 200 miles of roads west and north of the Kuwaiti border. Because of the need to deceive the Iraqis, much of the construction necessary had to be done at the last minute. Working in the wettest weather seen in Saudi Arabia in years, Seabees completed the necessary construction in approximately two weeks. Thousands of trucks moved million of gallons of water and fuel, and tons of supplies, ammunition and spare parts on this road network to support the two Marine divisions making the assault. By the time the assault was launched, Seabees were maintaining approximately 200 miles of roads near the Kuwaiti border. One of these roads was an east-west corridor from Ras Al Mishab through Al Kabrit, continuing past Al Qaraah for a total distance of almost 100  miles. This six-lane road was traversed daily by more than 500 heavy haulers and thousands of tactical vehicles.

Petty Officer Second Class Michael Cowart smooths concrete during construction of a Marine camp in northern Saudi Arabia. Cowart is a member of the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Five operating during Operation Desert Storm in February 1991. Photographed by CWO2 Ed Bailey. (NHHC Photograph Collection, Navy Subject Files, Seabees)

Petty Officer Second Class Michael Cowart smooths concrete during construction of a Marine camp in northern Saudi Arabia. Cowart is a member of the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Five operating during Operation Desert Storm in February 1991. Photographed by CWO2 Ed Bailey. (NHHC Photograph Collection, Navy Subject Files, Seabees)

January 6

1945: A Seabee whose unit was attached to a Marine Division doubled as a combat pilot during the invasion and battle for Cape Gloucester, New Britain. Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Chester J. Perkins of NCB 19 flew a total of 218 hours, 105 of them during combat as the pilot of a light, unarmed reconnaissance plane. He made daily flights over enemy territory to transport rations and supplies to isolated jungle patrols and to spot for artillery batteries. In addition, Perkins carried blood plasmas to Marines wounded during the invasion operations and dropped medical supplies while fighting was still in progress. Perkins operated mostly from crude, improvised landing strips, usually roadways and sand bars. On one occasion, a fusillade of enemy bullets pierced the cabin floor of his tiny plane. Fortunately, all of them missed him. For his outstanding accomplishments, Perkins was awarded the Navy Air Medal on Jan. 6, 1945.

1967: The first aircraft of the advance party of NMCB 133 arrived in RVN.

1968: The first advance party of eight officers and 137 Seabees of NMCB 8 departed the continental United States (CONUS) via C-130 aircraft for deployment to RVN.

1970: 21st NCR Detail Yankee (of UCT 1) departed Davisville, Rhode Island and deployed to Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) for test emplacement of the Project AFAR array.

January 7

1946: Last section of 38th NCB inactivates at Yokosuka, Japan; 17th Special NCB inactivated on Leyte, Philippines.

1970: Seabee Team 0410 returned to Construction Battalion Center (CBC), Port Hueneme, California from Vietnam.

January 8

1943: 64th Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) commissioned at Camp Bradford, Norfolk, Virginia.

1946: 47th Naval Construction Regiment (NCR) inactivated; 4th Special NCB inactivated at Okinawa.

1968: Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 8’s advance party arrived on board at Camp Wilkinson, RVN.

1970: Seabee Team 7102 arrived at Davisville, Rhode Island from Vietnam for reassignment to NMCB 7.

1973: Seabees of NMCB 71 complete construction of a geodesic dome at the new Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. Over the next few decades, the dome becomes the iconic image of the South Pole station.

January 9

1969: Seabee Team 0914 completed training at the 31st NCR and deployed to Camp Kinser, Okinawa, on a C-118 aircraft from Naval Air Station (NAS) Point Mugu, California.

January 10

1942: The first man received at Quonset Point, Rhode Island for the newly formed construction force was Shipfitter 1st Class Robert Thomas Adams, USNR, from Newport, Rhode Island. He arrived on January 10, 1942. Adams was not the first man enlisted, but because of the alphabetical sequence of his name, he appears in the original construction battalion books as the first Seabee.

1943: 68th NCB commissioned at Camp Bradford, Norfolk, Virginia.

1946: 37th Special NCB inactivated at Oahu, Hawaii.

1967: Seabee Team 0510 deployed to the Republic of Vietnam (RVN).

January 11

1959: The men of Mobile Construction Battalion (MCB) 10 boarded the USNS Daniel Sultan at Guam, Mariana Islands for transfer to their homeport at the Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC), Port Hueneme, California. MCB 10 was established on Guam in 1952. This establishment was actually a re-designation of the last active World War II Naval Construction Force unit, the 104th Naval Construction Battalion, under its new mission concept as a “mobile” land-based construction battalion. Until its recent disestablishment in July 1976, MCB 10 was the only construction battalion in continuous operation since World War II.

1967: Five NMCB 8 personnel were wounded in an enemy mining incident approximately 12 miles south of Chu Lai, RVN on a road leading from Route 1 to the 2/7 Marines Echo Company area. The vehicle involved was well sand-bagged and as a result, the personnel injuries were relatively slight. The two men in the cab of the vehicle were air evacuated to the First Medical Battalion.

1968: NMCB 7’s Detail Alpha Nine returned from Khe Sanh, RVN to Camp Adenir after being relieved by NMCB 53 personnel; Seabee Team 0602 arrived in Saigon, RVN. The team moved by convoy to Phuoc Tuy Province, RVN on January 22, 1968.

1971: NMCB 4 main body departed Okinawa for the continental U.S. (CONUS).

2005: NMCB 40 Seabees arrived in Sri Lanka in response to the December 26, 2004 tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia. Other Seabees from NMCB 7, 30th NCR, and Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 2 arrived within days to Sri Lanka and Thailand to provide disaster relief and survey port facilities.

January 12

1967: Seabee Team 0807 deployed from Port Hueneme, California to Diem Khanh, RVN.

1968: Steelworker (Fabricator) 3rd Class J.R. Couch, USN, drowned while swimming near Red Beach, Da Nang Bay, RVN. His body was recovered on January 16 by a U.S. Marine Combined Action Platoon near Nam O Point.

1972: Seabee Team 6206 returned to the Construction Battalion Center (CBC), at Gulfport, Mississippi.

This Week in Seabee History: December 2-8

Consolidated by Dr. Frank A. Blazich Jr., Historian, Naval History and Heritage Command

Throughout December

1994: The main effort in Cuba was Operation “Sea Signal” during which Joint Task Force 160 constructed facilities to improve the quality of life of Cuban migrants at Guantanamo. By order of the 2nd Naval Construction Brigade, the 22nd Naval Construction Regiment (Forward Element) deployed to Guantanamo with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4 and an air detachment from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7. As directed by the U.S. Atlantic Command, the senior leadership of the 22nd Naval Construction Regiment (Forward Element) met with engineers from the Naval Facilities Engineering Command’s Atlantic Division to develop preliminary designs for the $35 million Quality of Life Improvement Program for 20,000 Cuban migrants.

The original plan called for the construction of 37 migrant villages arranged in 11 village clusters at two locations: Radio Range and McCalla Field, approximately seven miles apart. Migrant riots in Panama led to a decision to return 7,000 refugees to Guantanamo Bay; this resulted in both an accelerated construction schedule and an enlargement of project scope for the Seabees. A detachment from the Air Force’s 820th Red Horse construction unit was mobilized from Nellis Air Force Base to assist the Seabees. When the project concluded the two tent cities constructed were capable of housing almost 20,000 people. This multi-national, joint-service work-force completed an astonishing 100,000 man-days of construction effort in a harsh environment while scheduling their construction projects around the migrants and their daily operations.

December 2

1942: 44th NCB commissioned at Camp Bradford, Norfolk, Virginia. 51st NCB commissioned at Camp Endicott, Davisville, Rhode Island.

1945: 32nd NCR inactivated.

1966: A change of command ceremony was held on board Camp Haskins, Da Nang, RVN at which Cmdr. Daniel N. Shockey relieved Cmdr. Richard E. Anderson as commanding officer of NMCB 9.

1966: Seabee Team 0509 deployed to Vietnam.

1968: NMCB 9 main body, consisting of 14 officer and 499 men, deployed to Camp Kinser, Okinawa, on two 707s and one Super DC-8 from NAS Point Mugu, California.

Dec. 2 & Dec. 5, 1946: The USS Yancey and USS Merrick, respectively, departed Port Hueneme, California to take part in Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s Antarctic expedition, Operation Highjump. Aboard these ships were 166 Seabee members of the expedition. The mission of Operation Highjump was to map the frozen continent, train personnel, and test gear under cold weather conditions. Seabee tasks at Little American Four included unloading equipment and supplies, setting up a temporary naval base, and building housing, a mess hall and storage facilities. In addition, they built a temporary airstrip, an emergency base further inland, and a communications system. These men were the first Seabees to serve in Antarctica.

1969: The main body of NMCB 4 moved from Vietnam to CBC, Port Hueneme, California.

December 3

1945: 98th NCB inactivated at Sasebo, Japan. 135th NCB inactivated at Okinawa.

1945: 25th Special NCB inactivated at Milne Bay.

1966: NMCB 74 recommissioned at ceremony at CBC Gulfport, Mississippi, with Cmdr. Gordon W. Schley.

1966: NMCB 3 begins departure from Chu Lai, RVN on eight C-141 aircraft.

1971: Lt. Cmdr. D. Plunnecke was relieved as executive officer of NMCB 74 by Lt. Cmdr. S.J. Quigley.

December 5

1945: 7th Naval Construction Regiment (NCR) inactivated. 13th Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) inactivated on Okinawa. 43rd NCB inactivated at Nagasaki, Japan. 116th NCB inactivated at Sasebo, Japan.

1966: Seabee Team 0910 departed the main body at Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam (RVN) via C-118 aircraft for the 31st NCR to commence military and technical training.

1967: At a convoy passing site, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3 personnel were involved when four mines exploded simultaneously. (They were believed to have been command-detonated dud bombs.) Several Seabees were knocked down by the blast and one carried 40 feet through the air. Unbelievably, no casualties were sustained.

1967: Rear Admiral James V. Bartlett, commander of the 3rd Naval Construction Brigade, dedicated Camp Wilkinson in memory of Construction Mechanic 1st Class J.W. Wilkinson, killed during a mortar attack on the Phu Bai/Gia Le bases. Camp Wilkinson was the Seabee camp at the Gia Le Combat Base near Phu Bai, Vietnam.

2004: Al Asad, Iraq – Third Marine Air Wing Commanding General, Brig. Gen. Keith J. Stalder, thanks Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Two Three (NMCB-23) for the renovation of the new flight line at Al Asad Airport in Iraq. The activated reservist Seabees of NMCB-23 repaired nineteen impact craters to expand flight line operations and help rebuild Iraq. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. William L. Dubose III)

2004:    Al Asad, Iraq – Third Marine Air Wing Commanding General, Brig. Gen. Keith J. Stalder, thanks Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Two Three (NMCB-23) for the renovation of the new flight line at Al Asad Airport in Iraq. The activated reservist Seabees of NMCB-23 repaired nineteen impact craters to expand flight line operations and help rebuild Iraq. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. William L. Dubose III)

2004: Al Asad, Iraq – Third Marine Air Wing Commanding General, Brig. Gen. Keith J. Stalder, thanks Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Two Three (NMCB-23) for the renovation of the new flight line at Al Asad Airport in Iraq. The activated reservist Seabees of NMCB-23 repaired nineteen impact craters to expand flight line operations and help rebuild Iraq. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. William L. Dubose III)

December 6

1945: 15th Special NCB inactivated on Kwajalein.

1966: NMCB 74 commissioned.

1966: Family and friends turn out to welcome home Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74 from deployment. The battalion re-commissioned December 6, 1966, at the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport and adopted the motto “Does More.” Since 1966, NMCB 74 has seen four deployments to Vietnam, deployed around the world to conduct humanitarian and civic action construction, earned nine “Best of Type” awards, four Peltier Awards, and the Presidential Unit Citation. (Courtesy U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

1971: A training complex built by and for Seabees at Port Hueneme, California was dedicated and named in honor of a fallen United States Marine comrade, Captain John V. Francis. Francis was the assistant military training officer for the 31st NCR in 1969 and 1970. On February 10, 1970, he, along with 12 others, was killed in a helicopter crash while on an inspection tour of Seabee units assigned to Vietnam.

1966:    Family and friends turn out to welcome home Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74 from deployment. The battalion re-commissioned December 6, 1966, at the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport and adopted the motto “Does More.” Since 1966, NMCB 74 has seen four deployments to Vietnam, deployed around the world to conduct humanitarian and civic action construction, earned nine “Best of Type” awards, four Peltier Awards, and the Presidential Unit Citation. (Courtesy U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

1966: Family and friends turn out to welcome home Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74 from deployment. The battalion re-commissioned December 6, 1966, at the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport and adopted the motto “Does More.” Since 1966, NMCB 74 has seen four deployments to Vietnam, deployed around the world to conduct humanitarian and civic action construction, earned nine “Best of Type” awards, four Peltier Awards, and the Presidential Unit Citation. (Courtesy U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

December 7

1942: 47th NCB commissioned at Camp Bradford, Norfolk, Virginia.

1943: 14th NCR inactivated; 135th NCB commissioned at Naval Construction Training Center (NCTC) Camp Endicott, Davisville, Rhode Island.

1945: 3rd Naval Construction Brigade inactivated; 24th NCR inactivated; 9th NCB inactivated on Okinawa; 102nd NCB inactivated at San Fernando, Philippines; 113th NCB inactivated at Mindoro, Philippines; 122nd NCB inactivated at Tsingtao, China.

December 8

1943: 20th Special NCB commissioned at NCTC Camp Peary, Magruder, Virginia.

1945: 51st NCB inactivated on Saipan.

1954: One of the largest auctions of used and unused naval equipment ever offered for sale was held 7-8 December 1954. Materiel valued at $8.1 million went up for auction including automotive, construction and industrial equipment as well as spare parts. Among the countless items being offered were 650 trucks, 54 cranes, rock crushers, scrapers, air compressors, pole trailer, cranes, graders, bucket loaders, winches, pumps, and generators, 20 February 1946. (Courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

1954:    One of the largest auctions of used and unused naval equipment ever offered for sale was held 7-8 December 1954. Materiel valued at $8.1 million went up for auction including automotive, construction and industrial equipment as well as spare parts. Among the countless items being offered were 650 trucks, 54 cranes, rock crushers, scrapers, air compressors, pole trailer, cranes, graders, bucket loaders, winches, pumps, and generators, 20 February 1946. (Courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

1954: One of the largest auctions of used and unused naval equipment ever offered for sale was held 7-8 December 1954. Materiel valued at $8.1 million went up for auction including automotive, construction and industrial equipment as well as spare parts. Among the countless items being offered were 650 trucks, 54 cranes, rock crushers, scrapers, air compressors, pole trailer, cranes, graders, bucket loaders, winches, pumps, and generators, 20 February 1946. (Courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

1966: NMCB 7 main body returned to Davisville, Rhode Island in 14 C-130 aircraft flights.

1967: Main body of NMCB 58 departed Davisville, Rhode Island for Camp Haskins, North, Da Nang, RVN.

1969: Headquarters of the 30th NCR moved from Vietnam to Okinawa, Japan. This move was the result of the reduction of the Naval Construction Force in Vietnam, which was the result of de-escalation of U.S. activity in Southeast Asia.

1969: Cmdr. C.R. Whipple, commanding officer of NMCB 3, relieved Capt. J.E. Powell, as commander, 30th NCR, at Camp Kinser, Okinawa.

2002: Typhoon Pongsona hits Guam, inflicting considerable damage. NMCB 74 assisted in relief efforts on the island.

2002: Builder 2nd Class Chad Johnson loads debris onto a dump truck during recovery efforts from damages incurred at U.S. Naval Forces Marianas from the effects of Super Typhoon Pongsona, that passed over the Island of Guam on December 8, 2002. (U.S. Navy photo)

2002:    Builder 2nd Class Chad Johnson loads debris onto a dump truck during recovery efforts from damages incurred at U.S. Naval Forces Marianas from the effects of Super Typhoon Pongsona, that passed over the Island of Guam on December 8, 2002. (U.S. Navy photo)

2002: Builder 2nd Class Chad Johnson loads debris onto a dump truck during recovery efforts from damages incurred at U.S. Naval Forces Marianas from the effects of Super Typhoon Pongsona, that passed over the Island of Guam on December 8, 2002. (U.S. Navy photo)

This Week in Seabee History (September 16-22)

This Week in Seabee History (September 16-22)

General Westmoreland at Quang Tri Air Facility for an inspection trip, 22 September 1967 in Quảng Trị, Vietnam. Two days after General Westmoreland ordered an alternate airfield built near the Demilitarized Zone because the Dong Ha air facilities were being subjected to an unceasing steady bombardment, Seabees moved into what then became known as Site X in Quang Tri. The airfield project included construction of a 3,500 ft. runway with 300-foot overruns at each end, a 20,000 square yard parking apron, and a 90,000 square yard helicopter facility together with living and support cantonments for 500 men. (Courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)