United States Naval Construction Battalions, better known as the Navy Seabees, form the U.S. Naval Construction Force (NCF). Their nickname is a heterograph of the initials "C.B." from the words Construction Battalion. Depending upon how the word is used "Seabee" can refer to one of three things: all the enlisted personnel in the USN's occupational field 7 (OF-7), all officers and enlisted assigned to the Naval Construction Force (NCF), or the U.S. Navy's Construction Battalions (CBs). Seabees also serve outside the NCF. During WWII Seabees served in both the Naval Combat Demolition Units and the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs) as well as Cubs, Lions, Acorns and the United States Marine Corps. Today they can be found in many special task assignments, including the Naval Support Unit – Department of State, Camp David, many base Public Works, under both Commanders of the Naval Surface Forces Atlantic/Pacific fleets and USN diving commands.
|Naval Construction Battalions|
The Seabee logo
|Colors||Flag of the United States Navy (1864–1959)|
|Anniversaries||28 December 1941 requested|
5 March 1942 authorized
|Engagements||Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Los Negros, Tarawa, Guam, Peleliu, Saipan, Tinian, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Normandy, Khe Sanh, Dong Xoai, Chu Lai, Con Thien, Inchon, Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom|
|Admiral Ben Moreell|
Naval Construction Battalions were conceived of as a replacement for civilian construction companies working for the U.S. Navy after the United States was drawn into World War II with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. At that time the U.S. had roughly 70,000 civilians working on military installations overseas. International law made it illegal for them to resist enemy attack, as to do so would classify them as guerrillas, for which they could be summarily executed, which is exactly what happened when the Japanese invaded Wake Island.
Admiral Moreell's concept model of CBs was that of a USMC–trained battalion of construction tradesmen (a military equivalent of those civilian companies) that would be capable of any type of construction, anywhere needed, under any conditions or circumstances. It was quickly realized that this model could be utilized in every theater of operations, as it was seen to be flexible and adaptable. The use of USMC organization allowed for smooth co-ordination, integration or interface of both the NCF and Marine Corps elements. In addition, Seabee Battalions could be deployed individually or in multiples as the project scope and scale dictated. What distinguishes Seabees from Combat Engineers are the skill sets. Combat Engineering is but a sub-set in the Seabee toolbox. They have a storied legacy of creative field ingenuity, stretching from Normandy and Okinawa to Iraq and Afghanistan. Admiral Ernest King wrote to the Seabees on their second anniversary, "Your ingenuity and fortitude have become a legend in the naval service." Seabees believe that anything they are tasked with, they "Can Do" (the CB motto). They were unique at conception and remain so today. In the October 1944 issue of Flying magazine, the Seabees are described as "a phenomenon of World War II". In 2017, the Seabees celebrated their 75 years of service without having changed from Admiral Ben Moreell's conceptual model.
Naval construction history
CB Conceptual Formation
In the early 1930s, the idea that the Twelfth Regiment(Public Works) pioneered in 1917 was still in the minds of many Navy Civil Engineers. The planners of the Bureau of Yards and Docks (BuDocks) began providing for "Navy Construction Battalions" in their contingency war plans. In 1934 Captain Carl Carlson's version of the plan was circulated to the Navy Yards, this idea of "Navy Construction Battalions" would later be tentatively approved by Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral William Harrison Standley. In 1935, Rear Admiral Norman Smith, Chief of BuDocks, selected Captain Walter Allen, the War Plans Officer, to represent BuDocks on the War Plans Board. Captain Allen presented the bureau's concept of "Naval Construction Battalions" to the Board. The concept was later adopted for inclusion in the Rainbow war plans.
A flaw to this "Navy Construction Battalions" concept was that there would be dual control of the battalions; military control would be exercised by line Officers while any construction would be controlled by the Civil Engineer Corps officers. There was no provision for the military organization or military training, felt to requisite for creating unit morale, discipline, and cooperation. The pre-war plans only allowed for battalions to be formed to build training stations throughout CONUS and only afterwards be deployed to forward areas.
Rear Admiral Ben Moreell became the Chief of BuDocks in December 1937, a post he would hold through the war. By summer of 1941 civilian contractors were working on large naval bases at Guam, Midway, Wake, Pearl Harbor, Iceland, Newfoundland, and Bermuda. BuDocks decided there was a need to improve the Navy's supervision of these projects through the creation of "Headquarters Construction Companies". The men in these companies would report to the officers in charge of construction and would be draftsmen and engineering aids needed for the administrative functions of the inspectors and supervisors overseeing the contracted work. These companies would consist of two officers and 99 enlisted men, but were not to do any actual construction. Rear Admiral Chester Nimitz, Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, authorized the formation of the 1st Headquarters Construction Company, on 31 October 1941. Recruitment started in November and as history would have it the company was formed on 7 December with the men undergoing boot training at Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island. By 16 December 1941, four additional companies had been authorized, but 7 December happened, plans changed and with them the ratings needed by a change in mission.
World War II
In December 1941, Rear Admiral Ben Moreell, Chief of BuDocks, recommended establishing Navy Construction Battalions and on the 28th requested authority to carry this out. On 5 January 1942, he got the go-ahead from the Navy's Bureau of Navigation to recruit construction tradesmen for three naval construction battalions. When Admiral Moreell submitted his request to form those battalions the other four HQ construction companies had been approved and authorized, so HQ Companies 2 & 3 were combined to form the 1st Naval Construction Battalion that were then were deployed as the 2nd & 3rd Construction Detachments. The 1st NCB was commissioned on 21 January at Charleston So. Carolina. The 1st HQ Construction Company provided the nucleus for the formation of the 1st Naval Construction Detachment sent to Bora Bora in January 1942. Those men were part of Operation Bobcat and are known in Seabee history as the "Bobcats". The next HQ Companies 4 & 5 were combined to form the 2nd Naval Construction Battalion, and were deployed as the 4th and 5th Construction Detachments. While those four HQ Companies provided the nucleus for two construction battalions they were all deployed in a manner similar to the first construction detachment and this sort of thing continued through the 5th NCB. It was 6 NCB that was the first Battalion to deploy as a unit to the same place.
Before all this could happen BuDocks had to address dual command of Construction Battalions. Naval regulations stated military command of naval personnel was strictly limited to line officers. BuDocks deemed it essential that these construction battalions be commanded by officers of the Civil Engineer Corps trained in construction. The newly formed Bureau of Naval Personnel (BuPers), successor to the Navy's Bureau of Navigation, strongly opposed this idea. Admiral Moreell took the issue directly to the Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox. Who, on 19 March 1942, gave authority for the Civil Engineer Corps to exercise military authority over all men assigned to construction units. Two weeks prior, on March 5, all construction battalion personnel were officially named Seabees by the Department of the Navy. Seabees have observed that date as their birth date since 1955; before that, December 28 was the date the NCF observed.
The first men in the Seabees were skilled tradesmen and were given advanced rank for their time in the trade. As a group they were the highest paid the United States had in uniform during WWII. To recruit men with years of experience, age and physical standards were less rigid accepting men up to age 50. During 1942 the average of age was 37. Even so- they all were put through the same physical training. After December 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered that CB recruits would come from the Selective Service System. However, men could enlist and then volunteer for the Seabees with a written statement that they were trade qualified.:136 This lasted until October 1943 when voluntary enlistment in the Seabees ceased until December 1944.:136 During this period the recruits were younger and much less skilled due to their age. By the end of the war 258,872 officers and enlisted had served in the Seabees never reaching their authorized number of 321,056.. The NCTC's provided them training in more than 60 skilled trades. Almost 11,400 officers would join the Civil Engineer Corps during World War II with 7,960 of them having served with the Seabees.
Recruits first three weeks of was at Camp Allen, in 1942. Camp Bradford at Little Creek, Virginia replaced Camp Allen which in turn was replaced by Camp Peary. Finally, all training was moved in 1944 to Camp Endicott, Rhode Island. The first five battalions were sent directly overseas because of the urgent need of war dictated construction needs. The newly formed battalions that followed, would be sent to one of the advance base depots and naval training centers (NTC) at Davisville, Rhode Island, Gulfport, Mississippi, or Port Hueneme, California. The Davisville advanced base depot became operational in June 1942, and on 11 August 1942 NTC Camp Endicott was commissioned. That Camp trained over 100,000 Seabees during World War II. Camp Rousseau at Port Hueneme became operational in May 1942. This base was responsible for staging about 175,000 Seabees directly to the Pacific. The other CB Camps were Camp Hollyday, Gulfport Mississippi, Camp Parks, Livermore, California, and Camp Lee-Stephenson, Quoddy Village, Eastport, Maine.
CBs sent to the Pacific were attached to one of the four Amphibious Corps: I, III, and V were USMC while VII was U.S. Army.
Advance bases The Navy wanted to enable open communications concerning advance base construction and development without being concerned the enemy had intercepted the transmissions and the Office of Naval Operations created a solution. These base construction operations were given a code name as a numbered metaphor for the size/type of base the Seabees were to construct and assigned to it the "unit" that would be the administration of that advanced base. These were Lion, Cub, Oak and Acorn with a LION being a large Fleet Base numbered 1–6. CUBs were Secondary Fleet Bases 1/4 the size of a Lion (numbered 1–12)) OAK and ACORN were the names given airfield units of new or captured enemy fields (primary and secondary in size). Cubs were quickly adopted as the primary type airfield with Oaks not being organized. The speed with which the Seabees were able to get a Cub operational caused the Navy to consider them a tactical component that was to be utilized as quickly as the Seabees could make it so. Camp Bedilion shared a common fence-line with Camp Rousseau at Port Hueneme. It was home to the Acorn Assembly and Training Detachment responsible for training and organizing Acorn units. Acorns were considered Seabee units. CBs constructed, repaired or upgraded 111 major airfields with the number of acorn fields not published. When the code was first created the Navy thought it would require two CBs to construct a Lion. By 1944 entire Construction Regiments were being used to build Lions. The projects and plans so grew and evolved that with the invasion of Okinawa the U.S. Navy had 4 Naval Construction Brigades of 55,000 Seabees on that island. This was not combat engineering. This was building the infra-structure required to take the war to Japan. Along the way, the Navy had realised that it also needed Advance Base Construction Depots (ABCDs) to get the job done. So the Seabees built them at 1. Nouméa, 2. Pearl Harbor, 3. Brisbane, 4. Milne Bay, 5. Samar, 6. Subic Bay, and 7. Okinawa. (ACORN = acronym for Aviation Construction Ordnance Repair Navy: each had a CBMU attached)
By the end of 1945 the Seabees had constructed over 300 different advanced bases on as many islands. Seabees served on six continents and hundreds of islands during WWII. In the Pacific they built 111 major airstrips, 441 piers, PT boat & seaplane bases, bridges, roads, communication centers, tanks for the storage of 100,000,000 US gal (380,000,000 l; 83,000,000 imp gal) of fuel, hospitals for 700,000 patients, and barracks for 1.5 million men.
Atlantic In the Atlantic CBs biggest job was the preparations for the assault on Europe and the Normandy landing. However, a long way from the beach 3 Seabee units took part in the crossing of the Rhine, CBMU 627, CBMU 628, and CBMU 629. For 629 it was front-line work. The three CBMUs were formed from the 114th CB.
Marine Corps, Seabees outside the NCF
USMC historian Gordon L. Rottman wrote "that one of the biggest contributions the Navy made to the Marine Corps during WWII was the creation of the Seabees". In turn, the Corps would be influential upon the CB organization and its history. The Bureau of Yards and Docks original request of 28 December 1941 was for the authorization of three naval construction battalions. :Paragraph 13 When those three battalions were formed the seabees did not have a fully functional base of their own. So, upon leaving navy boot camp, recruits were sent to National Youth Administration camps in Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Virginia to receive military training from the Marine Corps.:138 In 1942 the marines issued USMC duffel bags and uniforms to Battalions 18, 19 , and 25. In the records of both the 18th and 19th NCBs they each claim to have been the first CB authorized to wear the USMC uniform. They both received their military training and USMC issue at Marine Training Center, New River, N.C. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. How many other battalions received the USMC issue is not recorded but it is known that the 25th, 31st, 43rd, 76th, 121st and 133rd NCBs did also. The Marine Corps listed CBs on their Table of organization: "D-Series Division" for 1942, "E-Series Division" for 1943, and "Amphibious Corps" for 1944/45.
Starting with the 1st Naval Construction Detachment (a.k.a. Bobcats), the Marines redesignated them the 3rd Battalion 22nd Marines. They were the very first Seabees and that was only the beginning. They joined the 22nd Marines in September 1943 and were put through intensive combat training. Soon afterwards part of the 4th Construction Detachment was assigned to the 5th Marine Defense Battalion on Funafuti for two years.
In 1942 the Marine Corps wanted one CB for each Marine Division, but was told no because of war priorities.Paragraph 39 However, by autumn 1942, things changed with CBs 18, 19 and 25 being assigned to the Marine Corps as combat engineers. Each battalion was posted to composite engineer regiments and redesignated as the 3rd Battalion of that Regiment. (See 16th Marine Regiment, 17th Marine Regiment, 18th Marine Regiment, 19th Marine Regiment, and 20th Marine Regiment.) In August 1942, C company 18th NCB was transferred to the C.B. replacement group, FMF, San Diego. The rest of the 18th embarked from the FMF Base Depot, Norfolk, VA, en route to Guadalcanal where they would replace the 6th CB with the 1st Marine Division. In the fall of 1943 two sections of the 6th Special CB were sent to the Russell Islands with the 4th Marines Advance Depot. In November, the 14th CB landed with the 2nd Raider Battalion on Guadalcanal. Earlier in June the 24th NCB supported the landing of the 9th Marine Defense battalion on Rendova. The 33rd CB had 202 men posted to the 1st Pioneers as shore party to the 5th Marines on Peleliu. Along with them were 241 from the 73rd CB. Also attached to the 1st Pioneers was the entire 17th Special CB (colored). The 47th sent a detachment to Enogi Inlet on Munda supporting the 1st and 4th Marine Raiders. On Bougainville Commander Brockenbrough of the 71st CB was shore party commander for the 3rd Marine Division. The 71st was supported by elements of the 25th, 53rd, and the 75th CBs. The 75th had a 100-man detachment volunteer to land with a Company of 3rd Marines at Cape Torokina. The 53rd also provided shore parties for the 2nd Raider Battalion on green beach and the 3rd Raider Battalion on Puruata Island. The 121st was formed at NCB Training Center of the Marine Training Center – Camp Lejuene, New River, NC. There it was attached to the 4th Marine Division as 3rd Battalion 20th Marines.:
In 1944 the Marine Engineer Regiments were inactivated. Even so, Marine Divisions still had a CB posted to them. For Iwo Jima, the 133rd and 31st NCBs were attached to the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions. The Marines were short of Marine "Pioneers" and the Seabees were "tasked" with the assignment. The 133rd was posted to the 23rd Marines as their shore party. C Co 31st CB was a component of the 5th Shore Party Regiment and was on the beach on D-day. The 31st CB's demolitions echelon was under divisional control through D+10 with the 5th Marine Division. The overall command of the Iwo Jima shore parties was the 8th Marine Field Supply Depot. A chief and 25 heavy equipment operators from the 8th CB volunteered for a detail required by the 8th Depot for the assault. For Okinawa it was the 58th, 71st, 130th, and 145th NCBs that were attached to the 6th, 2nd, and 1st Marine Divisions.
With Iwo Jima secured the 5th Marine Div. returned to Camp Tarawa where it was joined by the 116th CB. In August Japan fell and 116th CB went with the 5th Marine Div. as part of the occupation force. V-J day found thousands of Japanese troops still in China and the Third Marine Amphibious Corps was sent there to get them back to Japan. A portion of the 33rd Naval Construction Regiment was assigned to III Marine Amphib. Corps for this mission: the 83rd, 96th, 122nd CBs and the 33rd Special CB.
Seabee Battalions were also tasked individually to the four Amphibious Corps. The 19th CB was assigned to the I Marine Amphibious Corps (I MAC) prior to being made an element of the 17th Marines. The 53rd CB was posted to I MAC and designated the "Naval Construction Battalion 1st M.A.C.". Then, when I MAC was redesignated III Amphibious Corps the battalion became an element of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade until the brigade was deactivated 9 September 1944. For Guam, III Amphibious Corps had the 2nd Special CB, 25th and 53rd CBs. Lt. Cmdr. Whelan of the 25th CB was shore party commander for the 3rd Marines on beaches Red 1 and Red 2. V Amphibious Corps (VAC) had the 23rd Special and 62nd CBs on Iwo Jima. On Tinian the 6th Naval Construction Brigade incorporated VAC's insignia as a part of the Brigade's indicating the entire brigade was attached to V Amphibious Corps.
When the war ended the Seabees had an unique standing with the U.S. Marine Corps. Seabee historian William Bradford Huie wrote "that the two have a camaraderie unknown else-wheres in the United States military". Even though they are "Navy" the Seabees adopted USMC fatigues with a Seabee insignia in place of the EGA. During WWII a number of CBs adapted USMC insignia for their units, these included CBs 5, 18, 19, 25, 31, 53, 71, 117 and the 6th Brigade. The insignia each modified were the seahorse (5th Marine Rgt), Corps Castle (2nd Engineer Bn), the Eagle, Globe and Anchor, a divisional shield (3rd Marine Div.), a spearhead (5th Marine Div.), the eagle globe and anchor, a divisional shield (3rd Marine Div.), the USMC Bulldog, and an alligator with three stars (V Amphibious Corps).
see Notes: 2.1 a–e
Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDU)s, Seabees outside the NCF
In early May 1943, a two-phase "Naval Demolition Project" was directed by the Chief of Naval Operations "to meet a present and urgent requirement". The first phase began at Amphibious Training Base (ATB) Solomons, Maryland with the establishment of Operational Naval Demolition Unit No. 1. Six Officers and eighteen enlisted men reported from NTC Camp Peary dynamiting and demolition school, for a four-week course on May 14. Those Seabees, lead by Lieutenant Fred Wise CEC, were immediately sent to participate in the invasion of Sicily.
Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDUs) consisted of one junior CEC officer and five enlisted and were numbered 1–216. After that first group had been trained Lt. Commander Draper Kauffman was selected to command the program that had been set up in Camp Peary's "Area E" where the Seabee dynamiting and demolition school opened. Between May and mid-July six NCDU classes were the first men graduated from the school at Camp Peary before the program was moved to Fort Pierce. The first class at Fort Pierce began in mid-July. Despite the move to Fort Pierce, Camp Peary remained Kauffman's manpower source. "He would go up to Camp Peary's dynamite school, assemble the (Seabees) in the auditorium and say, 'I need volunteers for hazardous, prolonged and distant duty." Fort Pierce had two Seabee units assigned to the school, Construction Battalion Detachment (CBD) 1011 and Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 570. Their jobs were the construction and maintenance of the various obstacles needed for the demolitions class to practice their training. The men in those classes referred to themselves as "Demolitioneers".
The Navy had 34 NCDUs in England for the Invasion of Normandy. All told they suffered 53 percent casualties on Normandy. While waiting for D-day the NCDUs trained with the 146th, 277th and 299th Combat Engineer Battalions. Each NCDU had 5 men from a combat engineer battalion attached to the team. In the beginning the first 10 NCDUs were split into 3 groups. The whole thing was a bit ad-hoc as they had no commanding officer, but the senior officer was the leader of group III, Lt Smith (CEC). He served in that capacity unofficially for the entire group. His group III did a lot of experimental demolitions work and developed the Hagensen Pack. As more teams arrived a NCDU Command was created for Normandy. Afterwards four NCDUs that were on Utah were joined by nine others for Operation Dragoon.
With Europe invaded Admiral Turner requisitioned all available NCDUs from Fort Pierce for integration into the UDTs for the Pacific. Thirty NCDUs had been sent to the Pacific prior to Normandy while three had gone to the 8th Fleet in the Mediterranean. NCDUs 1–10 were staged at Turner City, Florida Island in the Solomons during January 1944. NCDU 1 went briefly to the Aleutians in 1943. NCDUs 4 and 5 were the first to see combat by helping the 4th Marines at Green island and Emirau Island. A few were temporarily attached to UDTs. Later NCDUs 1–10 were combined to form Underwater Demolition Team Able. This team was disbanded with NCDUs 2 and 3 plus 19, 20, 21 and 24 being assigned to MacArthur's 7th Amphibious Force and were the only NCDUs remaining at the war's end. The other men from Team Able were assigned to numeric UDTs.
see Notes: 2.2 a-e
Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT)s, Seabees outside the NCF
Prior to Operation Galvanic and Tarawa, V Amphibious Corps had identified coral as an issue for future amphibious operations. Rear Admiral Kelly Turner, commander V Amphibious Corps had ordered a review to get a grip on the problem. VAC found that the only people having any applicable experience with the material were men in the Naval Construction Battalions. Lt. Thomas C. Crist of C Co CB 10 was sent back to Pearl Harbor from Canton Island where he had been involved in a lagoon coral head clearance project. His being in Pearl Harbor was pivotal in UDT history. While there he learned of the Admiral Turner's interest in coral blasting and made contact. The Admiral tasked Lt. Crist to develop a method for blasting coral under combat conditions and putting together a team to do it. Lt. Crist started by getting men he had blasted coral with in CB 10. By the end of November 1943 he had close to 30 officers and 150 enlisted gathered at Waipio Amphibious Operating Base on Oahu.
Earlier that month the Navy learned a hard lesson about underwater obstructions with coral and tides during the invasion of Tarawa. It prompted Admiral Turner to request the creation of nine Underwater Demolition Teams to deal with the problem. Six would be assigned to VAC in the Central Pacific while the other three would go to III Amphibious Corps in the South Pacific. Admiral Turner chose the terms "under water" to distinguish from the Fort Pierce program. UDTs 1 & 2 were completely Seabees according to the UDT Archives with Seabees making up the vast majority of the men in teams 1–9, 13 and 15. How many Seabees were in UDT 10 is not cited in the records nor is anything stated for UDT 12. Seabees were roughly 20% of UDT 11. UDT officers were mostly CEC. At formation UDT 10 was assigned 5 officers and 24 enlisted, trained as OSS Operational Swimmers. The group was multi-service: Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy (Maritime Unit: Operational Swimmer Group II). but, the OSS was not allowed to operate in the Pacific Theater. Admiral Nimitz needed swimmers and did approve their transfer from the OSS to his operational and administrative control. The MU men brought with them the swimfins they had trained with and the Seabees made them a part of UDT attire as quickly as the Supply dept. could get them. In the Seabee dominated teams the next largest group of UDT volunteers came from the joint Army-Navy Scouts and Raiders school that was also in Fort Pierce and the Navy's Bomb disposal School.
The first underwater demolition team commanders were Cmdr. E.D. Brewster (CEC) UDT 1 and Lt. Crist (CEC) UDT 2. (Lt. Crist was replaced because Admiral Conolly wanted Line Officers with combat experience) When Teams 1 and 2 were formed they were "provisional" with 180 men total. The core of these teams came from the Seabees Lt. Crist had already gathered in Hawaii with seven different CBs represented in UDT 2. They wore fatigues with life-vests and were not expected to leave their boats similar to the NCDUs. However, at Kwajalein Fort Pierce protocol was changed. Admiral Turner ordered daylight reconnaissance, and Ens. Lewis F. Luehrs and Seabee Chief Bill Acheson wore swim trunks under their fatigues. They stripped down, spent 45 minutes in the water in broad daylight. When they got out were taken directly to Admiral Turner's flagship, still in their trunks, to report. Admiral Turner concluded that daylight reconnaissance by individual swimmers was the way to get accurate information on coral and underwater obstacles for upcoming amphibious operations. This is what he reported to Admiral Nimitz. At Engebi Cmdr. Brewster was wounded and all of the men with Ens. Luehrs wore swim trunks under their greens. The success of those UDT 1 Seabees not following Fort Pierce protocol rewrote the UDT mission model and training regimen. Ensign Luehrs and Chief Acheson were each awarded a Silver Star for their exploit and they unintentionally created the UDT's "naked warriors" image. Diving masks were not common in 1944 and a few men had tried using goggles at Kwajalein. They were a rare item in the Hawaiian sports stores so Lt Crist and Seebee Chief Howard Roeder and put in a request to supply for them. A fortuitous observation spotted a diving mask ad in a magazine, which generated a priority dispatch to the States appropriating the store's entire stock.
Three days after requesting the creation of UDTs Admiral Turner also requested the creation of a "Naval Combat Demolition Training & Experimental Base" at Kihei, Hawaii. The actions of UDT 1 were immediately incorporated in the training which made it distinctly different from that at Fort Pierce. The first head of training was Seabee Lt. Crist. He was in that position briefly from when UDTs 1 & 2 were decommissioned until he was made Commander of UDT 3. When UDT 3 returned from Leyte in November 1944 the team became the training instructors of the Oahu school and Lt. Crist was again Officer in charge of training. Under Lt Crist the 2 month training course was broken into four 2 week blocks. With an overall emphasis on swimming and reconnaissance the teams also covered night ops, problems of control, small arms, bivouacking, small unit tactics, along with coral and lava blasting. The team would remain in these jobs until April 1945 when it was sent to Fort Priece to do the same job there. Lt Crist had been promoted to Lt. Cmdr and was sent back to Hawaii but his Team 3 Seabees would train teams 12-22. Teams 12, 13 and 14 all had men from Team Able. UDT 14 is called the first "all fleet team" even though Seabees from Team Able were attached and the Commander and XO were both CEC (Ltjg A.B. Onderdonk and Ltjg C.E. Emery). Seabees of UDTs 13 and 15 would be on the beach at Iwo Jima. They scouted prior to D-day, helped direct the first landing craft to the correct beaches on D-day and helped clear the beaches of debris on D-plus 2. UDT 15, formed completely of NCDUs made it a Seabee team too. After July 1944 new UDTs were completely USN with no Army or USMC. In 1945 CBMU 570 was tasked to support UDT coldwater training at ATB Oceanside, CA
On Guam UDT 8 requested permission to build a base. It was approved by Capt. Grayson AdComPhibsPac but disapproved by the Marine Island Commander. Team 8 took it's needs to fellow Seabees in the battalions on Guam to appropriate everything needed to build their base. The curshed coral paving only got done the night before Admiral of the Fleet, Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet did a base inspection of Teams 8 and 10. The Admiral gave the UDT base a glowing review.
At wars end 34 teams had been formed with teams 1–21 having actually been deployed. The Seabees provided over half of the men in the teams that saw service. The U.S. Navy did not publicize the existence of the UDTs until post war and when they did they gave credit to Lt. Commander Kauffman and the Seabees. During WWII the Navy did not have a rating for the UDTs nor did they have an insignia. Those men with the CB rating on their uniforms considered themselves Seabees that were doing underwater demolition. They did not call themselves "UDTs" or "Frogmen" but rather "Demolitioneers" which had carried over from the NCDUs and LtCdr Kauffmans recruiting them from the Seabee dynamiting and demolition school. UDTs had to meet the military's standard age guidelines, Seabees older could not volunteer. In preparation for the invasion of Japan the UDTs created a cold water training center and mid-1945 UDT men had to meet a new physical standard. UDT 9 lost 70% of the team to this change. see Notes: 2.3 a-v
African American Service: the Seabee stevedores
In February 1942 CNO Admiral Harold Rainsford Stark recommended African Americans for ratings in the construction trades. In April the Navy announced it would enlist African Americans in the Seabees. Even so, there were just two regular CBs that were "colored" units, the 34th and 80th NCBs. Both had white Southern officers and black enlisted. Both battalions experienced problems with that arrangement that led to the replacement of the officers.
The Navy had a huge need for cargo handlers. The lack of stevedores for unloading ships in combat zones was creating a problem. On 18 September 1942 authorization was granted for the formation of a different type of CB denoted by the tag "Special" for cargo handling. By wars end 41 Special Construction Battalions were commissioned of which 15 were "colored". Those Special CBs later became the first fully integrated units in the U.S. Navy. The wars end also brought the decommissioning of every one of those units. The Navy's contemporary version of these units are Navy Cargo Handling Battalions of the Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group (United States).
Of particular note were the actions of the 17th Special at Peleliu 15–18 September 1944. On D-day, the 7th Marines were in a situation where they did not have enough men to man the lines and get the wounded to safety. Coming to their aid were the 2 companies of the 16th Marine Field Depot (colored) and the 17th Special Seabee (colored). The Japanese mounted a counter-attack at 0200 hours on D-day night. By the time it was over nearly the entire 17th had volunteered to hump ammunition to the front lines on the stretchers they brought the wounded back on. They volunteered to man the line where the wounded had been, man 37mm that had lost their crews and volunteered for anything the marines needed. The 17th remained with the 7th Marines until the right flank had been secured D-plus 3. According to the Military History Encyclopedia on the Web, were it not for the "Black Marine shore party personal" the counterattack on the 7th Marines would not have been repulsed.
- On Peleliu, shore party detachments from the 33rd and 73rd CBs received Presidential Unit Citations as did the primary shore party (1st Marine Pioneers). The Commander of the 17th Special CB (colored) received the same commendatory letter as the Company Commanders of the 7th Marine Ammo Co. (colored) and the 11th Marine Depot Co. (colored). Before the battle was even over, Major General Rupertus, USMC wrote to each:
"The negro race can well be proud of the work preformed [by the 11th Marine Depot Company / 7th Marine Ammunition Company / 17th Special CB]. The wholehearted co-operation and untiring efforts which demonstrated in every respect that they appreciated the privilege of wearing a marine uniform and serving with the marines in combat. Please convey to your command these sentiments and inform them that in the eyes of the entire division they have earned a 'well done'." The Department of the Navy made an official press release November 28, 1944 of the 17th CB's copy of this letter.
Seabee North Slope Oil Exploration 1944
A Construction Battalion Detachment (CBD) was formed from "screening Camp Peary and the NCF for geologists, petroleum engineers, driller (oil), tool pushers, roustabouts and roughnecks" and later designated 1058. Many of the enlisted and officers were chosen for their arctic experience with CB 12 and CB 66. Once chosen the detachment was assembled at Camp Lee Stephenson. The original plan in 1944 had been to send them to the recaptured oil fields of New Guinea with the assignment to get those fields back in production. This changed when Congress earmarked $1,000,000 for Operation Pet 4 and it was decided to send the unit to Alaska to determine if there was actually oil in NPR 4 (U.S. Navy Petroleum Reserve No. 4). NPR-4 had been created and placed in the oil reserve in 1923. The area is known today as the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. The detachment's mission was to complete a detailed geologic study at Umiat and Cape Simpson, begin core hole and deep well drilling, as well complete aerial and overland pipeline surveys. In 1944, a base camp was constructed a Point Barrow. Four D-8s with twenty sleds of supplies were readied for the 330 mile trek to Umiat once the ground froze to support them. After those supplies were delivered the Cats returned to get the heavy well equipment. During the summer of 1945 the Seabees drilled a 1,816-foot wildcat designated Seabee #1 before being shut down by the cold. The well site was near 4 known seeps at Umiat in the very south-east of NPR 4. The rock in the area was from the Upper Cretaceous and a stratum of it was named the "Seabee Formation". On the coast the Seabees drilled test holes at Cape Simpson and Point Barrow. In March 1946 civilians took over for the Seabees some of whom had been members of CBD 1058 and were hired immediately upon discharge to continue in the same job they had performed for the Navy." The Navy drew upon the cold weather experience it gained from CBD 1058 and applied it in Operation Highjump and Operation Deep Freeze. – Today Seabee #1 is a USGS monitor well.
Twice the Seabees have been tasked with large scale land surveys. The first was done by CBD 1058 for a proposed NPR 4 pipeline route to Fairbanks. They also had a group of USN geologists assigned to map the Reserve's geology. In doing this work they would discover the large Aupuk Gas Seep near the Aupuk Creek fork with the Colville River. The second would be done by a Seabee team from MCB 10. That group was sent to Vietnam in 1956 to survey and map that country's entire road network. This work would be heavily drawn upon during the Vietnam conflict.
see Notes: 2a–2wa
WWII Cold War interlude – Siberia, China
When the Japanese signed the surrendered CB 114 was in the Aleutians. In September 1945 the battalion was ordered to send a detachment to the USSR to build a Naval Advance Base (a Fleet Weather Central). It was located 10 miles (16 km) outside Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on the Kamchatka Peninsula and code named TAMA. The original agreement gave the Seabees 3 weeks to complete the camp. Upon arrival the Russians told the Seabees they had 10 days and were amazed that the Seabees did it. It was one of two that Stalin agreed to. The other was near Khabarousk, Siberia in buildings provided by the Russians. For mail Petropavlovsk was assigned Navy number 1169, FPO San Francisco.
With the fall of Japan Operation Beleaguer was initiated for the repatriation of thousands of displaced citizens in China as well as getting the remnants of the Japanese Army home. Part of the 33rd CB Regiment was involved; CBs 83, 96, 122 and 32nd Special. These units landed at Tsingtao and Tangku in November 1945 attached to the 6th Marine Division. CB 42 and A Co. 33rd Special landed at Shanghai TAD to Naval Advance Base Unit 13. With the war over, the discharge of all men eligible for discharge left only enough men for one CB and the two Specials. The men were consolidated in the 96th and the other units were decommissioned. In December the 96th started construction of airfields at Tsingtao and Chinwangtao to support III Marine Amphibious Corps operations. On 20 May 1946 orders were issued for CB III Marine Amphibious Corps to inactivate 96 CB on 1 August. Before that happened the 6th Marine Division was renamed the 3rd Marine Brigade which existed only until 10 June. At that time the 96th CB was transferred to the 4th Marines of the 1st Marine Division and were deactivated from them in August. An unknown CBMU was supposed to take over the maintenance of the airfields, but Operation Beleaguer was close to completing its mission.
Cold War: Operation Crossroads
In early 1946 the 53rd NCB was still attached to III Marine Amphibious Corps and was deployed for the preparations of the nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll as a component of Operation Crossroads. At Bikini the battalion was assigned to Task Group 1.8 and designated TU 1.8.6. The project list included observation and communication towers, general base facilities, and dredging the lagoon. On 3 August the battalion was decommissioned with the men transferred to CBD 1156 that was commissioned on Bikini. The TU 1.8.6 designation continued with them. The Battalion remained on the atoll for nine days after the second nuclear test when it was detached from the Marine Corps and deactivated there.
UDT 3 was designated TU 1.1.3 for the operation. On 27 April 1946, 7 officers and 51 enlisted embarked the USS Begor (APD-127) at the Seabee's base, Port Hueneme, for transit to Bikini. Afterwards in 1948 the displaced natives put in a request to the U.S. Navy to blast a channel for access to the island Kili they had been relocated on. This was given to the Seabee detachment on Kwajelin who placed a request for UDT 3. The King of the Bikinians was so pleased he held a going-away feast for the UDTs.
In January 1947, CBs 104 and 105 were reactivated to join CB 103. The 121st CB was inactivated 31 December 1947 and re-designated CBD 1504. CBMU 650 was at Attu in 1947. The Seabees were officially organized in the Naval Reserve during that month also. The 30th NCR was home-ported on Guam. It comprised 16 Construction Battalion Detachmnents, numbered 1501-13, and NCB 103. In 1949, when the 103rd was made a Mobile Construction Battalion CBs 104 and 105 were made Amphibious Construction Battalions. Between 1949 and 1968 CBs were organized into these two types of battalions MCBs or ACBs. In June 1950 the Naval Construction Force numbered approximately 2,800 active duty. Most of the 30th's CBDS were formed in 1947 and all were decommissioned by January 1953. They were the last NCF units whose mission was base Public Works.
Cold War: Korea
The outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 led to a call-up of more than 10,000 men from the Seabee Naval Reserve program. Seabees landed at Inchon with the assault troops dealing with enormous tides and enemy fire while installing causeways within hours. Their actions there and elsewheres illustrated their necessity. During the Korea the authorized size of a CB was 550 men. When the truce was declared there was no CB demobilization as there had been at the end of WWII.
During the Korean War, the U.S. realized the need an air station in this region. Cubi Point in the Philippines was selected. Civilian contractors were approached for bids. After seeing the Zambales Mountains and the maze of jungle, they claimed it could not be done. The Navy then turned to the Seabees. The first to arrive was CBD 1802 to do the surveying. MCB 3 arrived on 2 October 1951 to get the project going and was joined by MCB 5 in November. Over the next five years, MCBs 2, 7, 9, 11 and CBD 1803 all contributed to the effort. They leveled a mountain to make way for a nearly 2-mile long (3.2 km) runway. NAS Cubi Point turned out to be one of the largest earth-moving projects in the world, equivalent to the construction of the Panama Canal. Seabees there moved 20 million cubic yards (15 million cubic metres) of dry fill plus another 15 million that was hydraulic fill. The $100 million facility was commissioned on 25 July 1956, and comprised an air station and an adjacent pier that was capable of docking the Navy's largest carriers. Adjusted-for-inflation, today's price-tag for what the Seabees built at Cubi Point would be $906,871,323.53. (that excludes the rest of the Naval Base at Subic Bay).
The first Seabees to be referred to as Seabee Teams were CBD 1802 and CBD 1803. Someone in the U.S. State Department learned of these men and adopted the idea as a way for making "good use" of the Seabees in the Cold War. They could be sent as "U.S. Good Will Ambassadors" to third world nations as a means to combat the spread of Communism and promote "Good Will", a military version of the Peace Corps. These 13 man teams would construct schools, drill wells or build clinics creating a positive image or rapport for the U.S. in the developing world. They were utilized by the United States Agency for International Development and were in S.E. Asia by the mid 1950s. Then in the early sixties the U.S. Army Special Forces were being sent into rural areas of South Vietnam to develop a self-defense force to counter the Communist threat and making use of the Seabee teams at these same places made perfect sense to the CIA. So twelve "Seabee teams with Secret Clearances were sent to Vietnam to assist the U.S. Army's Special Forces in the CIA funded Civilian Irregular Defense Group program (CIDG)" in the years 1963–1965. By 1965 the U.S. Army had enough engineers in theater to end the Seabees involvement with the Special Forces. At first they were called Seabee Technical Assistance Teams or STAT and were limited to two teams in the country at a time. Teams after STAT 1104 were renamed Seabee Teams and by 1969 there were 17 teams in the country concurrently. In total 128 teams were sent to Vietnam with STAT 1104 being the most decorated group of Seabees ever. As a group the Seabee Teams received many awards for heroism. Teams were sent to other nations as well. The Royal Thai government requested STATs in 1963 and ever since the Seabees have continued to deploy teams.
Construction Civic Action Details or CCAD with the same purpose as Seabee Teams. The CCAD designation is not found in the record prior to 2013 and there is no explanation stating why these construction crews are called "details" and not "detachments".CCADs or "See-Kads" are larger civic action units of 20–25 Seabees
Cold War: Antarctica
On 2 and 5 December 1946, 166 Seabees sailed from Port Hueneme on the USS Yancey and USS Merrick assigned to Operation Highjump. They were part of Admiral Richard E. Byrd's Antarctic expedition. The U.S. Navy was in charge with "Classified" orders "to do all it could to establish a basis for a (U.S.) land claim in Antarctica". The Navy sent the Seabees to do the job starting with the construction of Little America (exploration base) IV as well as a runway for aerial mapping flights. This Operation was vastly larger than IGY Operation Deep Freeze that followed.
Operation Deep Freeze
In 1955, Seabees began deploying yearly to the continent of Antarctica as participants in Operation Deep Freeze. Their mission was to build and expand scientific bases located on the frozen continent and further establish a land claim for the U.S. (Fig. 19). The first "wintering over" party included 200 Seabees who distinguished themselves by constructing a 6,000-foot (1,800 m) ice runway on McMurdo Sound. Despite a blizzard that undid the entire project, the airstrip was completed in time for the advance party of Deep Freeze II to become the first to fly into the South Pole by plane. MCB 1 was assigned for Deep Freeze II.
Despite the adverse conditions, Seabees added to their list of accomplishments such things as snow-compacted roads, underground storage, laboratories, and living areas. One of the most notable achievements was MCB 1s construction of Antarctica's first nuclear power plant in 1962, which got them a Navy Unit Commendation. Another, in 1975, was the construction of the Buckminster Fuller Geodesic dome at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station by NMCB 71. with a diameter of 164 ft (50 m) and 52 ft (16 m) high. This became a symbolic icon of the United States Antarctic Program until it was replaced by the new elevated station. When that happened the Dome was disassembled and sent to CBC Port Hueneme for storage.
Cold War: CIA and Naval Intelligence/Communication support
- After the Seabees left Camp Peary the CIA moved into the base and now refer to the it as "the Farm".
- During WWII NAS Tanapag, Saipan was a "giant forward propaganda base for the U.S. Navy and the Office of War Information" (OWI). In 1947 Construction Battalion Detachment 1510 began maintaining NAS Tanapag for the NTTU (Naval Technical Training Unit). In 1948 CBD 1510's 256 men were transferred to CBD 1504 about the same time 1504 relieved CB 121 as island Public Works. That year the CIA began using the NTTU as a cover and made access highly restricted to it operation. The CIA station had Capitol Hill constructed to administer its operations at a cost of $28 million. The station covered the entire Northern half of Saipan including both Kagman Field and Marpi Point Field as well as four radio towers. "Brig. Gen. Edward G. Lansdale, Pentagon expert on guerrilla warfare, shared with Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, President Kennedy's military adviser, on "Resources for Unconventional Warfare in SE. Asia."....that the "CIA maintains a field training station on the island of Saipan ... the installation is under Navy cover and is known as the Naval Technical Training Unit. The primary mission of the Saipan Training Station is to provide physical facilities and competent instructor personnel to fulfill a variety of training requirements including intelligence tradecraft, communications, counter-intelligence and psychological warfare techniques. Training is performed in support of CIA activities conducted throughout the Far East area." The Seabees cease listing the Public Works assignments at NAS Tanapag in 1953 while the CIA remained until 1962. However, MCB 9 deployed to Saipan in 1954 with one of their projects being the up-grading of the Public Works shops. MCB 10 Det Bravo deployed to Saipan from July 1957 until February 1958 with projects unlisted.
- A year before the Bay of pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis the CIA took an urgent/immediate project to the Seabees. The agency wanted two 220' radio towers with a supporting airstrip, dock, and quonsets erected on Swan Island, built asap, with no construction plans for the Seabees. The station would be independent and self powered. Det Tango of MCB 6 was given the project. LSTs 1046 and 1056 were loaded at Quonset Point with all the men and materials required. The Seabees had the CIA's "Radio Swan" on the air in short order.
- The CIA had a station at the Subic Bay Naval Base.
- CIA redacted memorandum dated 14 June 1968 discusses the use on Naval Construction Personal/Seabees on a project.
Naval Intelligence: NAVFACs
Public works Seabees maintained Naval Facilities (NAVFACs) tracking Soviet submarines. The Navy built 22 NAVFACs for its Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS). They were in service 1954-79. In the 1980s technology reduced the number of tracking stations to 11 with advent of the Integrated Underwater Surveillance System (IUSS). Seabees were still assigned to the base Publics Works for each NAVFAC. NAVFAC tracking facilities were finally undone by further advances in tech, the end of the Cold War and disclosures by John Walker to the Soviets.
The Seabees have also been tasked building Naval Communication facilities. One at Nea Makri Greece was built by MCB 6 in 1962 and later upgraded by NMCB 133. Naval Communications Station Sidi Yahya is another going back to WWII and CB 120. Still another that has had on-going Seabee support is NavCommSta Guam. It started out on the island as the Joint Communications Agency (JCA) in 1945. Notes: 7a-7b
Cold War: Vietnam
Seabees deployed to Vietnam twice in the 1950s. First in June 1954 as elements of Operation Passage to Freedom and then two years later to map and survey the nation's roads. Seabee teams 501 and 502 arrived on 25 January 1963 and are regarded as the first Seabees of the Vietnam War. They were sent to Dam Pau and Tri Ton to build camps for the Special Forces.In 1964 ACB 1 was the first CB in the theatre. Beginning in 1965 Naval Construction Regiments (NCRs) deployed throughout Vietnam. Seabees supported the Marines at Khe Sanh and Chu Lai combat base in addition to building numerous aircraft-support facilities, roads, and bridges. They also worked with and taught construction skills to the Vietnamese. In June 1965, Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin G. Shields of Seabee Team 1104 took part in the Battle of Dong Xoai. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and is the only Seabee to be awarded the medal. Those Seabee "Civic Action Teams" continued throughout the Vietnam War and often were fending off enemy forces alongside their Marine and Army counterparts. Teams typically built schools, clinics, or drilled wells. In 1966 Seabees repaired the airfield at Khe Sahn in four days, with 3,900 feet of 60-foot-wide aluminum matting. General Westmoreland "called it one of the most outstanding military engineering feats in Vietnam." Lt. Joseph J. Rhodes of MCB 121 was the first CEC KIA (23 October 1967). MCB 4 had a detail at Con Thien whose actions on 8 May 1967 were a close replication of Dong Xoai. The det had 11 men wounded.
In 1968 the Marine Corps requested that the Navy make a name change to the CBs. The Marines were using "MCB" for Marine Corps Base while the Navy was using "MCB" for Mobile Construction Battalions. The Navy then added "Naval" to MCB creating the NMCBs that now exist. During that year the 30th Naval Construction Regiment had five battalions in the Da Nang area and two at Chu Lai. The 32d NCR had three battalions tasked around Phu Bai and one at Dong Ha. In May 1968 two reserve battalions were activated 12 and 22, which brought the total number of battalions involved in Vietnam to 21. Also in the theatre were both ACBs as well as Construction Battalion Maintenance Units (CBMUs) 301 and 302. In 1968 NMCB 10 had an unusual "tasking" supporting the 101st Airborne the entire deployment. During 1969 the total Seabees deployed topped out at 29,000 beginning their draw-down. The last battalion withdrew the end of 1971. The last three Seabee teams were out the end of 1972. When it was over they had sent 137 Seabee teams, built 15 of their own CB Camps, and deployed 22 Battalions. During the conflict CBMU 302 became the largest battalion ever with over 1400 men and was homeported at Cam Rahn Bay. On 23 April 1975, President Ford announced that U.S. involvement in Vietnam was over. On that date NMCB 4 started construction of a temporary camp for Operation New Life refugees on Guam at the WWII location of the Japanese airfield on the Orote peninsula. In seven days CB 4 erected 2000 squad tents measuring 16 x 32 feet. By the time they were done 3546 had been built.
During the Vietnam War there were uniform variations. Across the back of the field jacket M-65, the unit number was stenciled between the shoulders (e.g., "MCB 1"). Another variation was the collar and cover devices for E4 – E6 enlisted personnel. The Navy authorized that the "crow" for the construction group be replaced by the rating insignia for each trade. These devices were made in gold and black (subdued). Nametags on the fatigues were white with a multicolored seabee until 1968 The NAVCATs of CBMU 302 were authorized to wear a shoulder patch indicating each team's number.
NAVCATs Naval Construction Action Teams
CBMU 302 had 23 NAVCATS total with 15 active at its peak. Teams were numbered 1-23. They were VADM Zumwalt's wholesale expansion of the Seabee Team concept that he submitted in November 1968 to Gen Abrams commander Military Assistance Command, Vietnam.
Many Seabees were exposed to the defoliant herbicide while in Vietnam. NCBC Gulfport, Mississippi was the largest storage depot in the United States for agent orange. From there it would be transported by ship to Southeast Asia. In 1968 the Seabee base received 68,000 55 gal. barrels to ship. Long term storage of barrels began in 1969 that lasted until 1977. It was 30 acres in size and was still being cleaned up in 2013. (notes 8a–8d)
Cold War: NASA, Tektite I
On 28 January 1969 a detachment of 50 men from Amphibious Construction Battalion 2 augmented by an additional 17 Seabee divers from both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets as well as the 21st NCR began the installation of the Tektite habitat in Great Lameshur Bay at Lameshur, U.S. Virgin Islands. The Tektite program was funded by NASA and was the first scientists-in-the-sea program sponsored by the U.S. government. The Seabees also constructed a 12-hut base camp at Viers that is used today as the Virgin Islands Environmental Resource Station. The Tektite project was a product of the Cold War and caused the U.S. Navy to realize it needed a permanent Underwater Construction capability. "It was this project that led to the formation the Seabee Underwater Construction Teams".
see Notes: 10a-10c
Cold War winds down
As the Cold War wound down, new challenges were presented by the increased incidence of terrorism. This was in addition to numerous ongoing support missions like the Guam and Okinawa as well as the Navy and Marine Corps had Bases in Japan, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Guatemala that still required Seabee support. Even though the Cold war had wound down Cold War Facilities still required the Seabees for Polaris and Poseidon submarines at Holy Loch, Scotland, Rota, Spain, Naples, Italy, and Souda Bay, Crete. In 1971, the Seabees began their second huge peacetime construction Diego Garcia on a small atoll in the Indian Ocean. This project began in 1971 and was completed in 1987 at a cost of $200 million. Because of the extended time-frame, it is difficult to inflation-adjust that cost into today's dollars. The complex accommodates the Navy's largest ships and cargo planes. This base proved invaluable when Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990 and Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm were launched.
There were combat roles as well. In 1983, a truck bomb demolished the barracks the Marines had secured in Beirut, Lebanon. After moving to the Beirut International Airport and setting up quarters there, Druse militia artillery began harassing the Marines. After consultations with the theater commander, Marine amphibious command and combat engineers, the forward-deployed battalion, NMCB-1 in Rota, Spain, sent in a 70-man AirDet working party with heavy equipment. Construction of artillery-resistant quarters went on from December 1983 until the Marines' withdrawal in February 1984. Only one casualty occurred when an equipment operator using a bulldozer to clear fields of fire was wounded by an RPG attack. Seabee EO2 Kirt May received the first Purple Heart awarded to a Seabee since Vietnam.
Robert Stethem was executed by the Lebanese Shia militia Hezbollah when they hijacked TWA Flight 847 in 1985. Stethem was a Steelworker Second Class (SW2), a Seabee diver and member of Underwater Construction Team One. The USS Stethem (DDG-63) is named in his honor. On 24 August 2010, on board USS Stethem in Yokosuka, Kanagawa, Japan, Stethem was posthumously made an honorary Master Chief Constructionman (CUCM) by the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy and awarded the Prisoner of War Medal.
Persian Gulf War
During the Persian Gulf War, more than 5,000 Seabees (4,000 active and 1,000 reservists) served in the Middle East. In August 1990 the First Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) was initially assigned NMCBs 4, 5, 7, and 40. The first Seabees in theater were a Detachment from ABC 1 soon to be joined by a Detachment from ACB 2. Shortly after them CBUs 411 and 415 arrived in Saudi Arabia. Mid September the Air-Dets for the four CBs arrived to build air fields for Marine Air Groups 11, 13, 16, and 25 of the 3rd Marine Air Wing. NMCB 7 was the first CB of the four to arrive. Camps were constructed for both the 1st Marine Division and the 2nd Marine Division as well as Headquarter complexes for I MEF and II MEF. Overall, in Saudi Arabia, Seabees built ten camps for more than 42,000 personnel; fourteen galleys capable of feeding 75,000 people; and 6 million ft² (600,000 m²) of aircraft parking apron and runways as well as over 200 helicopter landing zones. They built and maintained two 500-bed Fleet Hospitals near the port city of Al-Jubayl. The Third Naval Construction Regiment was activated to provide a command structure. NMCBs 24 and 74 were also deployed in support of the Marine Corps. In December 1990 NMCB74 moved entirely from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia on the coast for approximately 300 kilometers North. A desert camp was constructed at Ras Al Mishab, near the Kuwaiti border, and named "Camp Nomad" where it supported MAG 26.
Iraq, Afghanistan, and the War on Terror
Seabees were deployed from the beginning of the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. They provided the required construction skills to rebuild the infrastructure of both Afghanistan and Iraq. All active and reserve NMCBs and NCRs were deployed to get the job done. NMCB 133 deployed to FOB Camp Rhino and Kandahar Airfield where a detention facitlty was constructed. One of their most high-profile tasks in Iraq was the removal of statues of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. In Afghanistan, the Seabees' main task was the construction of multiple forward operating bases for U.S. and coalition forces.
Since 2002, Seabees have provided critical and tactical construction skills in an effort to win the hearts and minds of locals in the Philippines. Their efforts have begun to deter the rising influence of radical terrorists in the southern Philippines, most notably the Abu Sayyaf's jungle training area. Seabees work along with Army, Marines, and Air Force under Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines.
Disaster relief and recovery
- Hurricane Camille in 1969 made landfall 20 miles west of NCBC Gulfport, Mississippi, NMCB-121 was in home port then, and was called upon for cleanup, rescue, and community outreach for months to come.
- Cyclone Ofa in 1990 – NMCB 133 sent a 100-man detachment to American Samoa to aid in the recovery.
- 1994 Northridge earthquake, Seabees supported disaster recovery efforts for victims.
- Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Seabees were sene to provide recovery assistance for Homestead, Florida.
- Operation Restore Hope 1992–1993 Seabees sent two battalions for the humanitarian efforts in Somalia.
- Operation Sea Signal 1994 Seabees were sent to provide assistance to the Haitian Relief effort at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.
- Operation Joint Endeavor On Dec. 25 1995, Seabees arrived in Croatia to support the Army as part of the peacekeeping effort in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. NMCB 40 served with the U.S. Army 1st Infantry Division, assisting with the dismantling of forward operating bases during the IFOR/SFOR phase.
- Hurricane Georges (Sept 1998) plowed through the Caribbean causing millions of dollars in damage, and generating thousands of disaster recovery team (DRT) man-hours for the Seabees. The Navy provided generators and water trucks that were taken to nearby cities, and damage assessment teams were sent to the local islands.
- Hurricane Mitch 1998 Seabees deployed to Honduras assigned to operations with Joint Task Force Bravo. They did road and bridge repair, cleared debris, and built base camps. NMCB 7 was on their second humanitarian mission of the deployment.
- Hurricane Ivan Seabees deployed in September 2004 to the repair Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida. They cleared debris, repaired roads, erected tents, and otherwise assisted fellow service members. NMCBs 1 & 74
- Typhoon Nanmadol (2004) NMCB 7
- 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami NMCBs 7, 40 and Underwater Construction Team (UCT) 2
- Joint Task Force Katrina 2005. Seabees from NMCBs 1, 7, 18, 40 and 133 plus ACB 2 and CBMUs 202 and 303 and UCT 1 were tasked to rebuilding CBC Gulfport and the recovery of the Gulf Coast of the United States
- 2010 Haiti earthquake Seabees of NMCB 7 deployed to provide construction support and disaster relief to Haiti as did Seabee divers from Underwater Construction Team One, ACB-2 and the Army Engineer divers. They made repairs to the heavily damaged port facilities in Port-au-Prince, enabling the re-opening of the port for humanitarian supplies reach the country.
- April 2011 Miyagi earthquake Seabees from NMCB-133 and Underwater Construction Team Two deployed to Japan as part of the relief effort after the earthquake and tsunami. 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami
- Hurricane Sandy NMCB 11 Air Detachment deployed for roughly two weeks to support disaster recovery operations in the New Jersey and New York. 110 Seabees from NMCB 5 were also deployed to assist in disaster relief efforts throughout the Sandy Hook area.
Naval Construction Force (NCF)
At present, there are six active-duty Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (NMCBs) in the United States Navy, split between the Pacific Fleet and the Atlantic Fleet.
30th Naval Construction Regiment, Hq Guam – Pacific Fleet – Homeport for the Pacific Fleet Battalions is Port Hueneme, CA.
22nd Naval Construction Regiment, Hq Gulfport, Mississippi – Atlantic Fleet – Homeport for the Atlantic Fleet battalions is Gulfport MS.
NCF Reserve From the early 1960s through 1991, reserve battalions were designated as Reserve Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (RNMCBs). After 1991, the word "reserve" was dropped, signifying the integration of reserve units with the active units of the NCF.
- NMCB 14: Headquartered at NCBC Gulfport, MS. with detachments in South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Puerto Rico.
- NMCB 18: Headquartered at Naval Base Ventura County, CA. with detachments in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, and Utah and Nevada.
- NMCB 22: Headquartered at Port Hueneme, CA. with detachments in Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
- NMCB 25: Headquartered at Port Hueneme, CA with detachments in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Dakota, Iowa, and Michigan.
- NMCB 27: Headquartered at Westover Air Reserve Base, Chicopee, Massachusetts with detachments in six New England States as well as upstate New York.
Detachment: This is a construction crew that is sent to smaller construction projects "detached" from the battalion's "main body" deployment site. They tend to be self-contained construction units capable of independently completing the assigned project.
Battalion: The battalion is the basic unit of the Naval Construction Force (NCF). Seabee battalions are constituted in such a way as to be self-sustaining in the field. The nomenclature for NCF battalions has evolved over the years. During World War II, there were more than 140 battalions commissioned. Since then, battalions have been activated and deactivated using WWII unit numbers.
Regiment: During the rapid build-up of the Seabees during World War II, the number of battalions in a given area increased and larger construction programs were undertaken. This necessitated a higher command echelon to plan, coordinate, and assign the work of several battalions in one area. As a result, Naval Construction Regiments (NCRs) were established in December 1942.:136
Division: Shortly after the commencement of the Global War on Terror, it was realized that a single command interface for global Seabee operations would be required. On August 9, 2002, the First Naval Construction Division (1NCD) was stood-up and commissioned at NAB Little Creek in Virginia. Since January 2006, 1NCD has been a subordinate unit of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC). First Naval Construction Division (1NCD) was decommissioned May 31, 2013. The 1NCD staff will be integrated into NECC. Some 1NCD functions have been transferred to the newly created Naval Construction Groups (NCGs) in Gulfport, Mississippi, and Port Hueneme, California, which are now the East and West Coast community for the NCF.
Naval Construction Groups: In 2013, the Seabee Readiness Groups (SRGs) were decommissioned, and re-formed into Naval Construction Groups One and Two. They are regimental-level command groups, tasked with administrative and tactical control of Seabee Battalions, as well as conducting pre-deployment training of NCF units in the NCGs' respective home port locations. Currently, Naval Construction Group Two (NCG-2) is based at CBC Gulfport, and Naval Construction Group One (NCG-1) is based at CBC Port Hueneme.
Seabee Engineering Reconnaissance Teams (SERTs)
Seabee Engineer Reconnaissance Teams are ten-person teams, developed during Operation Iraqi Freedom. SERTs are divided into three components: a liaison element, a security element and a reconnaissance element. The liaison (LNO) element has a CEC officer and two petty officers who are communications specialists. The LNO element is responsible for communications with higher echelons, both in transferring engineering assessments and intelligence and in receiving engineering reach-back solutions. The reconnaissance element has a CEC officer, who is the SERT Officer-in-Charge (OIC), a Builder or Steelworker chief petty officer who has some bridge construction experience, and petty officers of varying Seabee ratings. The OIC is normally a licensed professional engineer with a civil/structural engineering background. A SERT unit will include a corpsman or corpsman-trained member, with the rest of the team being selected from the best of their trades in their battalion. All are qualified Seabee Combat Warfare Specialists. The UCTs proved the SERT concept was viable and they have led the way to the concept's adoption throughout OIF.
Seabees outside the NCF today
Amphibious Construction Battalions (PHIBCBs)
ACBs (also abbreviated as PHIBCB) trace their linage to the pontoon assembly CBs formed during World War II. On 31 October 1950, MCBs 104 and 105 were re-designated ACB 1 and ACB 2, and assigned to Naval Beach Groups. ACBs report to surface TYCOMs. Additionally, an ACB has a different personnel-mix to an NMCB, with half the enlisted personnel being Seabee rates and the other half being fleet rates.
Construction Battalion Maintaince Units:
When first organized during World War II, these units consisted of approximately one fourth of the personnel of an NCB, and were intended to take over the maintenance of bases on which major construction had been completed. Today, CBMU's provide public works support at Naval Support Activities, Forward Operating Bases, and Fleet Hospital/Expeditionary Medical Facilities during wartime or contingency operations for a Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), Marine Expeditionary Group (MEG), or NSW. They also provide disaster recovery support to Naval Regional Commanders in CONUS.
- CBMU 202 Naval Base Little Creek, VA
- CBMU 303 Navy Expeditionary Combat Force, Naval Base San Diego, Ca.
NAVFAC Engineering & Expeditionary Warfare Center Ocean Facilities Department supports the Fleet through the support it gives the Underwater Construction Teams". UCTs deploy worldwide to conduct underwater construction, inspection, repair, and demolition operations of ocean facilities, to include repair of battle damage. They maintain a capability to support a Fleet Marine Force amphibious assault, subsequent combat service support ashore, and self-defense for their camp and facilities under construction. UCT1 is home ported at Virginia Beach, Virginia, while UCT2 is at Port Hueneme, California.
Underwater Construction Team (UCT):
"NAVFAC Engineering & Expeditionary Warfare Center Ocean Facilities Department supports the Fleet through the support it gives the Underwater Construction Teams". UCTs deploy worldwide to conduct underwater construction, inspection, repair, and demolition operations of ocean facilities, to include repair of battle damage. They maintain a capability to support a Fleet Marine Force amphibious assault, subsequent combat service support ashore, and self-defense for their camp and facilities under construction. UCT1 is home ported at Virginia Beach, Virginia, while UCT2 is at Port Hueneme, California.
Public Works: U.S. Naval Bases: These units have CEC officers leading them and enlisted Seabees for the various crews. About one-third of new Seabees are assigned to Public Works Departments (PWD) at naval installations both within the United States and overseas. While stationed at a Public Works Department, a Seabee has the opportunity to get specialized training and extensive experience in one or more facets of their rating. Some bases have civilians that augment the Seabees, but the department is a military organization.
Camp David is officially known as Naval Support Facility Thurmont, because it is technically a military installation. The staffing is primarily provided by the CEC, Seabees, and Marines of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. "In the early 1950s, the first Seabee BUs, UTs and CEs took over routine maintenance and repairs of the base. Although there have been vast changes made at the Camp over the years, Seabees continue to staff base public works while keeping the grounds in an impeccable condition." Additional Naval rates were added to oversee base administrative functions. "Selectees undergo a single scope background investigation to determine if they are eligible for a Top Secret Sensitive Compartmentalized Information (TS/SCI) Yankee White (YW) clearance. All personnel assigned to duty in Presidential support activities are required to have a "Yankee White" clearance. The tour lasts 36 months." When the base has a larger construction project a regular Naval Construction Battalion will send a detachment to take care of the job. CBs 5 and 133 have drawn these assignments.
Naval Support Unit: Department of State
In 1964, at the height of the Cold War, Seabees were assigned to the State Department because listening devices were found in the Embassy of the United States in Moscow. Those initial Seabees were "Naval Mobile Construction Battalion FOUR, Detachment November". The U.S. had just constructed a new embassy in Warsaw. After what had been found in Moscow Seabees were dispatched and found many "bugs" there also. This led to the creation of the Naval Support Unit in 1966 as well as the decision to make it permanent two years later. That year William Darrah, a Seabee of the support unit, is credited with saving the U.S. Embassy in Prague, Czechoslovakia from a potentially disastrous fire. In 1986, "as a result of reciprocal expulsions ordered by Washington and Moscow" Seabees were sent to "Moscow and Leningrad to help keep the embassy and the consulate functioning".
The Support Unit has a limited number of special billets for select NCOs, E-5 and above. These Seabees are assigned to the Department of State and attached to Diplomatic Security. Those chosen can be assigned to the Regional Security Officer of a specific embassy or be part of a team traveling from one embassy to the next. Duties include the installation of alarm systems, CCTV cameras, electromagnetic locks, safes, vehicle barriers, and securing compounds. They can also assist with the security engineering in sweeping embassies (electronic counter-intelligence). They are tasked with new construction or renovations in security sensitive areas and supervise private contractors in non-sensitive areas. Due to Diplomatic protocol the Support Unit is required to wear civilian clothes most of the time they are on duty and receive a supplemental clothing allowance for this. The information regarding this assignment is very scant, but State Department records in 1985 indicate Department security had 800 employees, plus 1,200 Marines and 115 Seabees. That Seabee number is roughly the same today.
Notes: 9a-9c and 5a
Combat Service Support Detachments (CSSD) / (NSW)
Combat Service Support Detachments (CSSD) have several hundred Seabees assigned in support of Naval Special Warfare (NSW) units based out of Coronado, CA, and Virginia Beach, VA. Seabees provide the field capabilities of power generation/distribution, logistical movement, vehicle repair, construction/maintenance of encampments, water purification or facilities. Seabees assigned to support NSW receive extra training in first aid, small arms, driving, and specialized equipment. and are expected to qualify as Expeditionary Warfare Specialists. Seabees assigned to NSW are eligible to receive the following Naval Enlisted Classifications upon filling the requirements: 5306 – Naval Special Warfare (Combat Service Support) or 5307 – Naval Special Warfare (Combat Support). They also can apply for selection to support the NSW Development Group.
Training and rates
The trainees begin "A" School (trade school) upon completion of boot camp, spending about 75% of the twelve weeks immersed in hands-on training. The remaining 25% is spent in classroom instruction. From "A" School, new Seabees most often report to a NMCB command for their first tour of duty. For training, the new Seabees attend a four-week course of Expeditionary Combat Skills (ECS) at the NCBC in Gulfport, Ms, or Port Hueneme, Ca. ECS is also being taught to all personnel who report to a unit in the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command. ECS is a basic combat-skills course in learning map reading and land navigation, battlefield first aid, formulating defensive plans, conducting reconnaissance, and other combat-related skills. Half of each course is spent at a shooting range learning basic rifle-marksmanship and qualifying with a M16A2 or M16A3 rifle and the M9 service pistol. Those that are posted Alfa Company of an NMCB may be assigned to a crew-served weapon, such as the MK 19 40 mm grenade launcher, the M2HB .50-caliber machine gun, or the M240 machine gun. Many reserve units still field variants of the M60 machine gun. Until 2012, Seabees wore the U.S. Woodland camouflage uniform or the legacy tri-color Desert Camouflage Uniform, the last members of the entire U.S. military to do so, but have now transitioned to the Navy Working Uniform NWU Type III. Seabees use ALICE field gear, as well as some units working with Marines using USMC-issue Improved Load Bearing Equipment (ILBE) gear.
Camp Endicott had roughly 45 different vocational schools plus additional specialized classes. These included Air compressors, Arc welding, BAR, Bridge building, Bulldozer operation, Camouflage, Carpentry, Concrete construction, Crane operation, Dam building, Diving, Diesel engines, Distillation and water purification, Dock building, Drafting, Drilling, Dry docks, Dynamite and demolition, Electricity, Electric motors, First aid, Fire fighting, Gasoline Engines, Generators, Grading roads and airfields, Ice makers, Ignition systems, Judo, Hut and tents, Lubrication, Machine gun, Marine engines, Marston Matting, Mosquito control, Photography, Pile driving, Pipe-fitting/plumbing, Pontoons, Power-shovel operation, Pumps, Radio, Refrigeration, Rifle, Riveting, Road building, Road Scrapers, Sheet metal, Soil testing, Steelworking, Storage tanks wood or steel, Tire repair, Tractor operation, Transformers, Vulcanizing, Water front, and Well-drilling.
- BU : Builder
- CE : Construction Electrician
- CM : Construction Mechanic
- EA : Engineering aide
- EO : Equipment operator
- SW : Steelworker
- UT : Utilitiesman
The Seabee "constructionman" ranks of E-1 through E-3 are designated by sky-blue stripes on uniforms. The color was adopted in 1899 as a uniform trim color designating the Civil Engineer Corps, but was later given up. Its continued use is a bit of Naval Heritage in the NCF.
At E9 the ratings are reduced to three: EQCM for equipment operators and construction mechanics, CUCM for builders, steelworkers and engineering aids, UCCM for construction electricians and utilitiesmen.
Diver : is a qualification that the various rates can obtain with three grades: Basic Underwater Construction Technician/ NEC 5932 (2nd Class Diver), Advanced Underwater Construction Technician/ NEC 5931 (1st Class Diver), and Master Underwater Construction Technician/ NEC 5933 (Master diver). Seabee divers are attached to five principal commands outside the NCF:
- UCT ONE, Little Creek, VA.
- UCT TWO, Port Hueneme, CA.
- Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center (NFESC) that has detachments in Port Hueneme, CA, and in the Washington Navy Yard, DC. These are CEC officer billets only. Those at Port Hueneme are with the highly technical NFESC "Dive Locker Team".
- Navy System Commands, e.g., NAVSEA or NAVAIR. These are CEC officer billets only.
- NEDU/NDSTC (Navy Experimental Diving Unit – Navy Diving & Salvage Training Center)
The "Seabee" and CB unit insignias
On 1 March 1942 the Chief of BuDocks recommended that as a means to promote esprit de corps in the new branch of construction battalions, that an insignia be created for use on equipment similar to what air squadrons used on their aircraft. This was not something for the uniform.:136 Frank J. Iafrate, a civilian plan file clerk at Quonset Point Advance Naval Base, Davisville, Rhode Island, was the artist who designed the original "Disney Style" Seabee in early 1942 with a large capital letter Q around the edge as border. This design was sent to Admiral Moreell who made a single request: that this reference to Quonset Point be changed to a hawser rope and it would be officially adopted. That design remains in use to this day, predominantly unchanged. In late 1942, after designing the logo, Iafrate enlisted in the Seabees.
The Seabees also had a second Logo that much less has been written about. It was that of a shirtless construction worker holding a sledge hammer with a rifle strapped across his back standing upon the words "Construimus Batuimus USN". The figure is typically on a shield with a blue field across the top and vertical red and white stripes. A small CEC logo is left of the figure and a small anchor is to the right. Badges of this insignia came in two versions enameled or non-enameled. This logo was incorporated into many CB Unit insignias. Other units simply used it like 133 NCB did on the front cover of their unit history the "Rain Makers Log".
During World War II, artists working for Walt Disney in the Disney Insignia Department designed logos for about ten Naval CB units including the: 60th NCB, ,78th NCB 112th NCB , and the 133rd NCB. There are two published Seabee logos that are not identified with any unit. Disney did not create the original Seabee insignia.
The end of WWII brought the decommissioning of nearly every Seabee Battalion. The Construction Battalions had been in existence less than four years when this happened and the Navy had not created a Historical Branch or Archive for the NCF. So, there was no central record of the Seabees history or archive for the insignia of the individual units. As history passed, first with Korea and then Vietnam, Construction Battalions were reactivated with the units having no idea what the WWII insignia had been so they made new ones, NMCB One has had three. NMCB 8 is the exception. That Battalion has an insignia very similar to what it had during WWII.
Seabee Combat Warfare Insignia and Peltier Award
The military qualification badge for the Seabees is known as the Seabee combat warfare specialist insignia (SCW). It was created in 1993 for issue to both officers and enlisted personnel that fulfill the training requirements. Only members attached to a qualifying NCF unit are eligible for the SCW pin. The qualifying units include: Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (NMCB), Amphibious Construction Battalions (ACB), Naval Construction Force Support Units (NCFSU), Underwater Construction Teams (UCT), and, since the end of 2008, Naval Construction Regiments (NCR).
The Fleet Marine Force Insignia, also known as the Fleet Marine Force pin or FMF pin, are three military badges of the United States Navy which are issued to those U.S. Navy officers and sailors who are trained and qualified to perform duties in support of the United States Marine Corps. Those Seabees that draw an assignment with the Fleet Marine Force can earn the Fleet Marine Force Insignia, also known as the Fleet Marine Force pin or FMF pin. the United States Navy has authorized these badges for U.S. Navy officers and sailors who are trained and qualified to perform duties in support of the United States Marine Corps. There are currently three classes of the Fleet Marine Force pin: enlisted, officer, and chaplain. For the requirements, see: Fleet Marine Force Warfare Specialist (EFMFWS) Program per OPNAV Instruction 1414.4B.
The Peltier Award is given to the "best of type" active duty Naval Construction Battalions. It was instituted by Rear Admiral Eugene J. Peltier CEC and has been given annually since 1960. He is a former head of the Bureau of Yards and Docks (1959–1962).
- WWII U.S.N. CB awards for valor were listed each month in All Hands along with the rest of the Navy.
Seabee barge carriers
see: Seabee (barge)
The first ship of a series of six "Seabee" ships, was the SS Cape Mendocino (T-AKR-5064), followed by SS Cape May (T-AKR-5063) and SS Cape Mohican (T-AKR-5065) (Fig. 37), three of which were operated by Lykes Brothers Steamship Company. "The U.S. Navy's Naval Construction Force, or SeaBees, primarily use the Seabee barges. The barges are loaded with cargo and floated to and from a mother ship, which allows loading and unloading of containerized cargo off-shore. Seabee barge ships are equipped with a stern cargo elevator for loading the barges from the water onto the vessel; loaded barges can then be moved toward the vessel's bow using an internal track system. The barges are stowed on internal decks and are not stacked. The "Sea Bee" vessels had three decks and could transport 38 lighters (12 on the lower decks and 14 on the upper deck). Seabee barges are larger and heavier than their counterpart, LASH barges." The dual function of the ship is noteworthy, as it had storage tanks with a capacity of nearly 36000 m³ volume built into its sides and unusually large double hull, allowing it to be used also as a product tanker. The ships were later purchased by Military Sealift Command.
The U.S. Navy Seabee Museum is located at Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, California outside the main gate allowing visitors are able to visit without having to enter the base proper. On 22 July 2011 the new 38,833 square foot facility opened. Inside are galleries for exhibition space, a grand hall, a theater for 45 people, collections storage, and research areas.
The Seabee Heritage Center is located in Building 446 at the Naval Construction Battalion Center. The Heritage Center is the Atlantic Coast Annex of the Seabee Museum in Port Hueneme. Opened in 1995, the museum annex commemorates the history and achievements of the Atlantic Coast Naval Construction Force (Seabees) and the Navy's Civil Engineer Corps. Exhibits at the Gulfport Annex are provided by the Seabee Museum in Port Hueneme.
2a. The Seabee NTCs were named for former heads of the Civil Engineer Corps and the Bureau of Yards and Docks: Rear Admiral Mordecai T. Endicott, 1898–1907, Rear Admiral Harry H. Rousseau, 1907–1907, Rear Admiral Richard C. Hollyday, 1907–1912, Rear Admiral Charles W. Parks, 1918–1921. Camp Peary was named for Rear Admiral Robert Peary CEC. They also named a Training Center for their first CEC killed in combat, Lt. Irwin W. Lee and Lt. (jg) George W. Stephenson of the 24th CB.
2h. WWII U.S.N. CB awards for valor were listed each month in All Hands along with the rest of the Navy.
2i. "On 13 February 1945: Chief of Naval Operations Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King approved the retention of construction battalions as a permanent and integral part of the postwar Navy. When originally established in the Second World War, the Seabee organization was meant to be only a wartime expedient." By Wars end that expedient had grown to 325,000 men, roughly half the size of the Marine Corps 669,000.
Marine Corps, Seabees outside the NCF
2.1a. When the 18th, 19th and 25th CBs were transferred to the Marine Corps they each were reduced in size by one company plus 1/5th of Hq Co. This was done to match the organization of a USMC battalion. B Co from the 25th CB and C Co from the 18th CB were used in the formation of the 53rd CB. The company from the 19th CB went towards the formation of the 121st CB.
2.1b. Due to Seabees being given advanced rank upon enlistment, enlisted Marines referred to construction battalions as "sergeant's battalions". USMC sergeants do not pull guard duty, so the ranked Seabees would not be assigned. The NCOs of the 18th wore USMC chevrons and not USN "crows" on their uniforms.
2.1d. Seabees were shore party for the Marines on Bougainville, Peleliu, Guam, Purata Island, Roi-Namur, Saipan, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. The Marines deployed them as combat engineers at Cape Gloucester, Tarawa, and Tinian. The 23rd Marine Regiment had Seabees as shore party three times: Roi-Namur, Saipan, and Iwo Jima.
2.1e. The first Marines assigned to a CB were 50 men attached to Construction Battalion Detachment (CBD) 1010 on Guam. At close to the same time the 2nd Separate Marine Engineer Battalion was operationally attached to the 5th Naval Construction Brigade on Guam and assigned to the 27th Naval Construction Regiment along with two of the former USMC CBs; the 25th and the 53rd. The Marine Engineers were assigned to get Orote Field operational. In mid-August 1944 the 1st Separate Marine Engineer Battalion was operationally attached to the 6th Naval Construction Brigade on Tinian and assigned to the 30th Naval Construction Regiment. However, prior to Guam and Tinian the Marine Corps had provided a 100-man detail to help the 71st CB at Torokino Point on Bougainville.
NCDUs, Seabees outside the NCF
2.2b. Camp Peary's "Area E" = explosives
UDTs, Seabees outside the NCF
2.3a. The Naval Special Warfare Command building at the U.S.N. Seal base at Fort Pierce is named for LTJG Frank Kaine CEC commander of NCDU 2.
2.3b. General Donovan the head of the OSS approached General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz about using OSS men in the Pacific with Europe invaded. Gen. MacArthur had no interest at all. Adm Nimitz looked at Donovan's list of units and also said no thank you except he could use the swimmers from the Maritime Unit. He was only interested in them for their being swimmers not their military training. He viewed the Seabee's Marine Corps training as adequate. The OSS Maritime Unit attached to UDT 10 is referred to as both Group A and Group II in documents.
2.3e. UDT 3 at formation, officer composition: 11 CEC, 4 USN, 1 USMC Nearly all of the men from UDTs 1 and 2 were transferred to UDTs 3 and 4 when those teams were created. UDT 7's officers went through "indoctrination" in "Area E" at Camp Peary.
Seabee North Slope Oil Exploration 1944
2w. Seabee Creek was named by the Seabees of CBD 1058. The creek runs into the Colville River at Umiat, Alaska.
Cold War: Korea - Seabee Teams
5a. 1 October 1965 two Atlantic Fleet Seabee Teams were assigned to "Project Demo" of the U.S. State Department tasked to de-bug American embassies behind the iron curtain and repair the removal damage (MCB 11).
Cold War: Antarctica
6a. The Seabees built the following bases: McMurdo Station, South Pole Station, Byrd Station, Palmer Station, Siple Station, Ellsworth Station, Brockton Station, Eights Station, Plateau Station, Hallett Station, and *Little America IV and Little America V ..
6b. Seabee Heights is a geologic feature of the Transantarctic mountains. They overlook the Beardmore Glacier traverse route Seabee sled trains took to resupply inland stations. Seabee Hook is located near the site of Hallett Station on the Ross sea.
Cold War: CIA
7a. NAS Tanapag began as a seaplane base. When the Naval Technical Training Unit took over the base it was expanded to include Capitol Hill mid-island. Its Southern boundary stretched across the island so that all of the Kagman peninsula was on the base. As such, the base had two airfields Kagman and Marpi which allowed for the clandestine aircraft of CAT and Air America.
7b. When CBD 1510 was transferred to CBD 1504 the men had been designated for function similar to what was done with Acorns: Aviation and OTA. The Navy's use of "OTA" denotes the assignment to the CIA in that Other Transaction Authority (OTA) is the term commonly used to refer to the (10 U.S.C. 2371b) authority of the Department of Defense (DoD) to carry out certain prototype, research and production projects."
7c. OWI began being transmitting Voice of America out of NAS Tanapag in June 1945 on a 50 kW Western Electric mediumwave transmitter. That transmitter was moved to the Philippines and replaced by a 100 kW unit. Both had the same call letters KSAI. On 25 July 1945 the terms of surrender began to be transmitted to Japan by KSAI. NAS Tanapag had another tower for relaying a 100 kW OWI broadcast to Japan that came out of Pearl Harbor. Also broadcasting out of Tanapag was WXLD U.S. Armed Forces Radio.
7d. In 2007 the Naval Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) authorized funding forty Naval Intelligence billets in the NCF. The goal was to have organic NCF Intelligence personnel in the Division, Regiment, and Battalion. Historically a units training officer would become the intelligence officer when the unit left CONUS.
Cold War: Vietnam
8c. Military training for battalions during this period lasted six weeks. The first two weeks were at home port – Davisville Naval Construction Battalion Center, CBC Gulfport or CBC Port Hueneme. The last four weeks were with the Marines at Camp Lejuene or Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
Naval Support Unit
18.2 a. In 1977 the U.S. Embassy in Moscow suffered a severe fire prompting the construction of a new one in 1979. During the fire 4 KGB entered the upper floors of the Embassy wearing fireman gear. All the while they were being watched by 4 Seabees also attired in firemans gear. At the construction site of the new embassy twenty to thirty Seabees were assigned to oversee 800 plus Russian construction workers. This prompted the Russians to embed bugs in construction materials prior to delivery to the construction site. The success of the KGB in bugging the new embassy only reinforced the State Departments need for the Seabees.
SEABEE Barge Carriers
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to United States Navy Seabees.|
- Military engineering of the United States
- United States Navy Experimental Diving Unit
- United States Navy Argus Units with Acorn Units
- USS Marvin Shields now Allende-class frigate
Other U.S. military construction/engineering organizations:
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- The King Bee
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All in all, the Seabees look like a phenomenon of World War II and will probably die with it.
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