A little 25th Anniversary Seabee history from William Zimkin, TH
Harold 'Doc' Schrage, DT2, Webmaster
Sunday July 02, 2017 10:37 am
UNITED STATES NAVY
CIVIL ENGINEER CORPS
MARCH 2, 1967 SEABEES
MARCH 5, 1967
STORY OF THE SEABEES
WORLD WAR II TO VIETNAM
DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY
NAVAL FACILITIES ENGINEERING COMMAND
MILITARY READINESS - SEABEES - CODE 06A
WASHINGTON. D. C. 20390
202 OXFORD 77177, 77178
U.S. NAVY CONSTRUCTION BATTALIONS
"CONSTRUIMUS, BATUIMUS - WE BUILD, WE FIGHT"
VOL. XXIV, No. 5 U.S. NAVAL CONSTRUCTION BATTALION CENTER, PORT HUENEME, CALIFORNIA 4 MARCH 1966
The Seabee Tradition
BY LCDR W. D. MIDDLETON
THE NAVY'S Seabees were less than six months old when their
first unit came under fire early in World War II. Only
three weeks after the Marines assaulted the beaches of Guadalcanal
in August 1942, Seabees of the Sixth Naval Construction
Battalion followed them ashore to begin the difficult job of converting
a muddy former Japanese landing strip at Henderson
Field into an alt-weather airfield capable of supporting anything
from fighter aircraft to Army B-17's.
The construction job was tough enough, but to make matters
worse Henderson Field was under almost constant attack by
Japanese artillery and aircraft, and great craters were torn in
the airfield every time a bomb or shell scored a hit. As if all
this didn't give them enough to do, the Seabees had to be ready
to take up positions in the defensive perimeter in the event of
Japanese landing against the narrow beachhead.
Typical of Seabee ingenuity at Guadalcanal were the "crater
crews" that rushed to repair the damage after every hit on the
airfield. Quickly learning from experience, the Seabees stockpiled
Marston matting (the pierced steel planking used to surface
the field) along the runway in bundles sufficient to repair
an average sized hole. Construction equipment and trucks, already
loaded with enough sand and gravel to fill a bomb or shell
crater, were placed under cover at strategic points along the
Whenever Japanese bombers approached or artillery opened
up, the Seabee "crater crews" raced from their foxholes, tore
away damaged matting, backfilled the craters, and quickly laid
down new matting. Before long the Seabees were doing the job
so rapidly that forty minutes after a bomb or shell fell it was
impossible to tell that the airfield had ever been hit.
Throughout the three-month battle for Guadalcanal the Seabees
performed construction miracles to expand Henderson Field
and to keep it open, at one time continuing work even when
Japanese troops had pushed the Marine front line to within 150
feet of the field. During one particularly fierce attack, the Japanese
put no less than 53 bomb and shell holes in the airfield during
a 48-hour period.
But despite the worst efforts of the enemy forces, the Seabees
were able to keep Henderson Field open throughout the bitter
campaign, and their success in keeping Marine fighter planes in
the air played no small part in the eventual U. S. victory at
Guadalcanal. Thus was begun the Seabee "Can Do" tradition
of World War II.
SEABEES AND MARINES
One of the earliest traditions developed by the Seabees of
World War II was an unusually close comradeship with the
United States Marines. Although they fought and built almost
everywhere in the global conflict, and worked with Army troops
and fleet sailors as well as Marines, the Seabees' greatest contribution
to World War U victory was the role they shared with
Marines in the bitter island-hopping war in the Pacific.
Based upon mutual respect and shared hardships, the Seabee-
Marine fellowship was born as early as 1942, when Marines and
Seabees worked and fought side-by-side throughout the bloody
battle to held the Guadalcanal beachhead and to keep the
Henderson Field airstrip open to Marine fighters and Army
bombers. In this and later Pacific campaigns the Seabees learned
to admire the Marines' unsurpassed skill as professional fighting
men, and the Marines became equally impressed with Seabee
skill as professional builders.
As often as not this Seabee-Marine mutual esteem was expressed
in good-natured jokes at each other's expense. Recruited
largely from the ranks of skilled construction workers, the average
Seabee was ten years or more older than the typical Marine.
Soon after the first Seabees came ashore at Guadalcanal the
Marines were joking, "Never hit a Seabee, he might be some
Marine's father." The Seabees quickly retaliated by manufacturing
"Junior Seabee" badges, which they awarded to deserving
Marines. And the Seabees liked to claim, "Marines only capture
territory; it's the Seabees who improve territory."
In a classic piece of one-upmanship on one occasion during
the Pacific campaign, the Seabees managed to best the Marines'
proud boast of always getting places first. At New Georgia in
July of 1943 a detachment of Marines charged ashore from landing
craft in a dawn assault and rushed up the beach looking for
Japanese troops, only to be greeted by a party of Seabees that
had already landed on the enemy-held island to make a reconnaissance
for an airfield site.
The close relationship that grew up between Marines and
Seabees during World War II has continued throughout the postwar
years. As they have ever since the formation of the first
construction battalions 24 years ago, Marines still guide and
assist Seabees in learning their necessary fighting skills. Much
of the Seabee construction effort since the end of the war has
been devoted to Marine Corps facilities. And today, in the Republic
of Vietnam, the Seabees are devoting almost their entire
effort to the construction of advance base facilities to support
the operations of the Third Marine Amphibious Corps.
One of the earliest Seabee traditions to emerge during World
War II was the almost legendary ability of a Seabee to improvise.
Hastily formed and rushed into the war, the early construction
battalions were nowhere near as well equipped as the present-day
battalions. Frequently, too, supplies of construction materials
and spare parts were insufficient for the job at hand. None of
this, however, deterred the resourceful Seabees from getting the
Early in the Solomon's campaign, for example, the 15th Construction
Battalion was handicapped by a lack of machine tools.
A Seabee warrant officer, who had been a machinery salesman
before the war, set out on a trip to New Zealand, where he successfully
repurchased equipment from his former customers, and
the Seabees soon had a well equipped machine shop. More
equipment was scrounged from the aircraft carrier Enterprise in
retrun for repair jobs. Before long the Seabees were taking in
repair work from the Army and Marines, and were even repairing
Lacking a replacement for a blown out bulldozer head gasket,
Seabees in the Ellice Islands fashioned a replacement from thin
sheets of metal and paper, and quickly put the 'dozer back into
service. A Seabee• chief on Samoa manufactured a replacement
condenser out of waxed paper, tinfoil from cigarette packages,
and an old beer can in order to keep one piece of equipment
operating. On Guadalcanal another Seabee petty officer kept
captured Japanese trucks in operation by improvising replacement
radiators out of metal ammo boxes, a method that was soon
being used all over the Pacific. Other Seabees learned how to
keep tractors runnings by mounting fuel drums in place of
The 55-gallon fuel drum, as a matter of fact, proved to be
one of the most useful of Seabee construction materials. With the
ends cut out and welded together, thousands of drums were converted
into culverts. Split down the side and flattened, they made
excellent roofing material. One group of Seabees even manufactured
a sightseeing canoe from fuel drums.
Worn out tires that would no longer hold inner tithes were
kept in service by filling them with a mixture of palm tree sawdust
and cement. Beer and Coke bottles were used as insulators
for power and telephone lines. Seabees learned how to make
replacement watch crystals out of plexiglass from wrecked
planes, devised a method of welding broken dental plates with
a mixture of ground rubber and cement, and one Seabee machinist
even manufactured a pair of silver stars from two quarters
for a newly promoted general. Other Seabees made extra
money during off-duty hours by manufacturing fake Japanese
battle souvenirs and native jewelry for sale to gullible new
Perhaps the best-known of all stories of Seabee ingenuity,
however, is that of a first class petty officer named Aurelio
Tassone, who converted a bulldozer into a piece of combat equipment
during the Treasury Islands campaign in 1943. Coming
ashore on his bulldozer, Tassone found that a Japanese pillbox
was holding up the advance. While a Seabee lieutenant provided
covering fire with a carbine, Tassone raised his blade as a shield
against enemy fire and advanced on the pillbox. At the last
minute Tassone dropped the blade and demolished the emplacement.
SEABEES' MAGIC BOX
Probably the least glamorous in appearance of all the new
"weapons" that helped the U.S. to win World War II was the
lowly steel pontoon — the Seabees' "magic box" — that became
an indispensable tool of a hundred purposes for the U.S. Navy's
mighty amphibious forces.
Civil Engineer Corps planning as early as 1936 had forseen
a need for a variety of barges, small yard craft, and other
miscellaneous floating equipment in the event of a major amphibious
war in the Pacific. By 1940 a CEC captain, John N.
Laycock, had set to work in earnest developing his ideas for
a standardized steel pontoon that could be assembled into an
almost endless variety of floating equipment. By early 1941 the
first experimental pontoons had been successfully tested and
soon thousands of them were in production.
The basic pontoon was little more than a steel box five by
seven by five feet. The real key to its versatility was the system
of heavy steel angles and special hardware, or "jewelry," developed
by CAPT Laycock which permitted the pontoons to be
assembled in a wide variety of arrangements. Strings of
pontoons were assembled for use as barges or piers, and with
the addition of a specially developed outboard propulsion unit,
the amphibous Seabees had a self-propelled barge or a warping
tug for work around a harbor or beachhead. Cranes, pile drivers,
dredges, and almost any other kind of equipment for waterfront
work could be mounted on a pontoon barge. Arranged as a barge
with pontoon walls on each side, and equipped with the necessary
piping and pumping equipment, a batch of pontoons could be
assembled as a floating drydock for PT boats and other small
Seabees, of course, found many more uses for the versatile
pontoons than those envisioned by its designers. Many saw
service as fuel and water tanks, and a pontoon with the addition
of a little piping could be mounted on a flat bed truck to make
a water distributor. With the addition of a door a pontoon made
a fine paint or gear locker. A Seabee cook in the Russell Islands
even converted a pair of the pontoons into an oven and grill.
The pontoon really came into its own, however, in the Allies'
1943 landings in Sicily. The Navy's versatile LST had been designed
to approach a steeply sloping beach, drop its ramp, and
disgorge its load of tanks and other vehicles directly onto the
shore. Since they assumed the LST's and other large landing
craft couldn't get close enough to make a landing on the shallow
sloping beaches along much of the southern shore of Sicily, the
Germans had installed only relatively light defenses.
The ingenious CAPT Laycock, however, had already gone
to work on a new use for his versatile pontoons. Special hardware
and fittings were devised that permitted assembly of the pontoons
in long two-pontoon wide causeway sections, which were
hung on the sides of the LST's. As the landing ships approached
the shore the causeway sections were cut loose, dropped into the
water, and their momentum carried them into the beach. The
intrepid amphibious Seabee crews that rode the pontoons quickly
connected the causeway sections, the LST's were "married" to
the outer end, and in a matter of minutes vehicles were rolling
First used in the Sicily landings, where causeways over 300-
feet long were employed to land allied forces where they weren't
expected, the new pontoon adaptation was a major factor in the
success of the operation, and for the remainder of the war the
LST-pontoon causeway combination was used in almost every
major amphibious assault.
Even today, a quarter of a century after its development,
the versatile pontoon remains as a workhorse of the amphibious
Seabee:. Only last May, when MCB-10 and Marine Corps forces
landed at Chu Lai, Republic of Vietnam, their equipment and
supplies went ashore over the familiar pontoon causeways.
"RHINOS" IN OPERATION OVERLORD
Among the difficult problems faced by planners of "Operation
Overlord," the great Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944, was
one presented by the character of the beaches where the landings
were to take place. At both Utah Beach and Omaha Beach,
where the U.S, forces were to land, the slope of the beaches was
unusually flat, and the water line moved up or down the beach a
half mile or more as the tide rose or fell. Just off the shore and
running parallel to the beach, sandbars—whose position shifted
constantly with the tide or storm conditions—presented still another
Because of these positions, it would have been almost impossible
to use LST's or other amphibious craft in the usual manner.
Landings could have been made at high tide, but unless the
vessels were quickly unloaded, the rapidly receding tide might
leave them stranded high and dry on the beach, exposed to
German attack until the tide came back in and refloated them.
If landings were made at low tide the vessels would ground on
the sandbars, leaving troops and vehicles with deep water between
them and the shore. Even if they were able to get past
this obstacle, the inrushing tide might overtake them before they
could get all the way up the beach.
Under these conditions even the Seabees' famous pontoon
causeways, first used the year before in Sicily, would have been
unable to bridge the gap between ships and shore. The Civil
Engineer Corps' CAPT John Layeock, who had originally developed
both the pontoons themselves and the pontoon causeways,
quickly came up with still another variation of the Seabees'
"magic box" to solve the problem of the Normandy beaches.
One hundred-eighty of the pontoons were assembled into a
huge ferry barge, six pontoons wide and thirty pontoons long,
powered by two of the large outboard motors developed for use
with smaller pontoon barges. A specially developed loading and
unloading ramp was placed at one end. Big enough to take half
an LST load of supplies and equipment, the pontoon ferries were
designed to "marry" an LST safely anchored in deep water. As
soon as the ferry was loaded it cast off and headed for the beach
under its own power. With its shallow draft the pontoon ferry
could easily get over the treacherous sandbars to the beach.
Only two trips were needed to unload an LST, and then the ferry
proceeded to unload another ship.
To a naval aviator, who happened to fly over one of the
first experimental models at Quonset, R.I., the Seabees' pontoon
ferry looked more like a rhinoceros than anything else, so before
long, "rhino ferry" became their unofficial name.
As the great Normandy invasion grew nearer, Seabees of the
81st and 111th Construction Battalions worked in British shipyards
to assemble their rhino ferry fleet, and as soon as they
were completed, they took them to sea to practice the tricky
job of "marrying" them to LSTs and transferring cargo.
On June 5, 1944, the day before D-Day in Normandy, the
rhino ferries and their Seabee crews headed out to sea for the
journey to France, each of them on a 300-foot towline behind an
LST. Early on D-Day morning the LSTs and the rhinos were
off the beaches at Omaha and Utah. Unexpected heavy seas
made the task of joining the ferries to the LSTs almost impossible,
but after several hours of effort the job was finally completed
and the rhinos were on the way to the beaches. It was
close to noon before the first rhinos reached the beach, only to
discover that the Germans had planted mines and obstacles
all along the beaches that made it almost impossible to land. A
few got ashore that day, but many of the Seabee crews had to
wait offshore with their ferries for a day and a half or more before
demolition teams were able to clear the beaches so they
Throughout the first days of the Normandy invasion, despite
the hazards of severe weather, mines, and German gunfire, the
Seabees and their rhino ferries shuttled between the invasion
fleet and the beaches, landing thousands of trucks, tanks, and
other vehicles, and tons of the supplies that sustained the American
THE GREAT B-29 BASE ON TINIAN
By the summer of 1944, advancing U.S. Forces in the Pacific
War against Japan had reached the Marianas Islands, 4,000 miles
west of Hawaii and less than 2,000 miles from Japan itself. On
June 15, the Marines hit the beaches at Saipan. On July 21, they
began the invasion of Guam, and only three days later the same
Marines that had taken Saipan were swarming ashore on Tinian.
Even before the Marines had officially secured Tinian, Seabees
began landing to work on their biggest single job of the
entire war—constructing the world's largest air base for the Army
Air Corps' B-29 "Superfortress" bombers that would soon begin
carrying the war to the Japanese homeland. Tinian, 12 miles long,
six miles wide, and fairly flat, provided a good airfield site that
placed the new B-29's within range of Japan for the first time.
To support the huge B-29 fleet that was to operate from
Tinian the Seabees built six runways, each a mile and a half
long. Four were built at North Field, together with 11 miles of
connecting taxiway and hardstands for 265 planes. At West Field,
an 18-mile taxiway network and 361 hardstands were built to
support the remaining two bomber runways, as well as two
smaller airstrips. In addition to the airfield facilities themselves,
the Seabees constructed nearly a thousand buildings, miles of
roads, fuel and ammunition storage, and utility systems for the
To carry out the huge construction task, the Navy organized
the Sixth Construction Brigade, made up of three Construction
Regiments, each of which in turn was made up of several battalions.
Altogether some 15,000 Seabees were involved in the
Tinian work. The fleet of well over 1,500 pieces of heavy construction
equipment assembled for the job included almost 800
trucks, 173 scrapers, 160 tractors and bulldozers, 60 graders, and
80 power shovels.
Working in two ten-hour shifts daily, the Seabees built the
world's largest air base in record time. Although much of the
terrain was reasonably level, in places the bomber runways required
cuts as deep as 15 feet and fills 30 to 40 feet high. By
the time the job was done the Seabees had moved more than
11 million cubic yards of earth and coral.
Removal of coral "heads" from the runway sites and quarrying
of coral for runway surfacing consumed an average of 12
tons of dynamite and 4,800 blasting caps a day. Maintenance
crews worked around the clock to keep equipment going despite
the ravages of coral dust that wore out moving parts in a fraction
of the usual time. Twenty-four welding crews were required
just to repair the damage done to power shovels, bulldozers
and scrapers by the hard coral.
Except for one runway, which took 73 days to build, none
of the B-29 runways took over 53 days to complete, arid the entire
base was completed in less than a year. Only a few months
after the Seabees first started work the Army's B-29 fleet began
striking at Japan from the Tinian base. The biggest Seabee job
of the war had played a vital part in launching the great bombing
raids that speeded victory in the Pacific War.
By far the largest peacetime job ever undertaken by the
Navy's Seabees was the construction of a major base for the U. S.
Seventh Fleet at Cubi Point, on Subic Bay in the Philippine Islands.
Required to support the growing U. S. commitments in the
Far East, the Cubi Point base was started at the height of the
Korean War in 1951.
Overall direction of the project was in the hands of the 30th
Naval Construction Regiment, which was set up at Cubi in September
- During the next two years the arrival of Mobile
Construction Battalions 2, 3, 5, 9 and 11 brought the Cubi Point
construction force to a total of some 3,000 Seabees.
Working as many as three shifts a day, six days a week, the
Seabees spent five years converting Cubi Point's jungle and
mountains into a modern base for Seventh Fleet carriers. Huge
trees, sometimes as much as a hundred and fifty feet tall and
six to eight feet in diameter had to be blasted out of the way;
swamps filled, and even a native village relocated.
A huge hill was removed and Cubi Point itself widened to
accomedate the base's a•. add. One battalion was given the task
of remi.ving 85 feet from the top of a mountain to provide a safe
approach to the runway. Over 200,000 cubic yards of rock and
earth were moved in the process.
Once the airfield was done the Seabees built roads, piers,
shops, ammunition storage, and barracks to complete the base.
i By the time the great project was done it was estimated that 20
t million manhours of Seabee labor had gone into the building of
c the Cubi Point base, and that a greater volume of earth had been
t moved than in the digging of the Panama Canal.
At Cubi Point the Seabees built a major new base for the
i Navy, but perhaps even more important the project provided a
priceless opportunity to develop construction skills and leadership
i qualities in a whole new postwar generation of Seabees. Hundreds
of Seabees who first learned their skills at Cubi Point still serve
on active duty. Now senior petty officers and chief petty officers,
they provide the indispensable background of experience needed
to guide and train the young Seabees of the 1960's.
SEABEES ON THE ICE
This year's 1966-67 Operation Deep Freeze marks the beginning
of a second decade of Seabee participation in the continuing
- S. program of scientific study and exploration of the
Seabees first landed on Antarctica in 1947 as part of the
Navy's Operation High Jump expedition led by RADM Richard
- Byrd. Seabee work in this first post-World War II Antarctic
expedition included unloading of supplies and equipment and
the construction of new facilities near Byrd's 1939-40 Little America
Although Operation High Jump lasted only a few months,
the Seabees and the Navy returned to the ice to stay in 1955 when
the U.S. began constructing permanent scientific outposts
in the Antarctic. The Seabees of the first Operation Deep Freeze,
as it was called, were part of the newly formed Mobile Construction
Battalion (Special) organized at Davisville. Rhode Island and
specially trained in cold weather operations. Their Deep Freeze
missison included hauling of supplies by tractor and sled across
the ice, construction of camp facilities at Little America and
McMurdo Station, and construction of a ski-plane airstrip on the
ice of McMurdo Sound.
Among a "wintering over" party from the first Deep Freeze
II, were nearly 200 Seabees, whose tasks included support of the
scientific program and construction of a 6,000 foot ice runway on
McMurdo Sound. Working throughout the Antarctic winter in
temperatures that often fell to 65 degrees or more below zero,
and despite a fierce three-day bliTzard that once destroyed the
entire project, the Seabees had the new runway ready for arrival
of a Deep Freeze II advance party by air from New Zealand
in October 1956.
Before the end of October, R.kDM Dufek, Commander of
Deep Freeze II, took off from the Seabees' ice runway to become
the first explorer ever to land at the South Pole by plane. A few
weeks later, Seabees, sled dogs, construction materials, and
equipment followed the admiral to the Pole to commence construction
of a permanent camp at South Pole Station.
In the nearly ten years since the first Deep Freeze expeditions,
thousands of Seabees have continued to work at Anartlea,
building roads, runways and buildings at the American stations
on the frozen continent.
In 1962, a milestone in the use of nuclear energy was achieved
when the first of several nuclear reactors began to produce electric
power and heat, and to distill fresh water, at McMurdo Station.
Operating the reactors were crews made up largely of
specially trained Seabees.
Although the climatic environment and much of the materials
and equipment they work with have been far different from
those normally encountered by Seabees, their traditional qualities
of ingenuity, skill, energy, and endurance have enabled the
Navy's Seabees to establish a distinguished, and still growing,
reputation for their many achievements on the Anarctic ice.
An important new part of the Seabee tradition in recent years
has been the several types of Seabee Teams, which have proven
a valuable addition to U.S. programs aimed at strengthening the
free world by helping the people of underdeveloped nations help
Utilizing the construction skills of carefully selected men,
Seabee Teams have been deployed to locations as widespread
as Southeast Asia, South America and Africa, where their skills
have been employed in a wide variety of "civic action" construction
missions aimed at improving the living conditions of the
people of other nations.
Even more important than the work they have done themselves,
the Seabee Teams have helped to train people of these
countries in modern construction methods so that they themselves
can continue to improve their own living conditions long after
departure of the Seabee Teams.
Although Seabees have always been eager to lend a helping
hand wherever they have been, the formal Seabee Team
program was not born until 1960, when an Atlantic Seabee detachment
was deployed to Haiti. Their mission was the construction
of a road; causeway, and pontoon bridge at Lake Miragoane,
Haiti, when flooding of the lake threatened to isolate the
southern tip of the island.
Soon after this first venture, other Seabee Teams were sent
on a regular basis to other countries for similar missions. Since
1960 Atlantic Seabee Teams have deployed to such countries as
Chile, Costa Rica. Santo Domingo, Liberia, the Republic of Chad
and the Central African Republic, where they have built farm-tomarket
roads. taught construction skills, and engaged in disaster
Since January 1963, teams from the Pacific Seabees have
been deploying to Thailand and the Republic of Vietnam, where
they have engaged in a wide variety of rural development work,
including road, bridge, and school construction. Several teams
deployed to the Republic of Vietnam have been engaged in
construction of Special Forces camps. One team, Seabee Team
- was constructing such a camp when it participated in the
heroic defense of Dong Xoai against a heavy Viet Cong attack
In addition to the normal 13-man teams. other special teams
from the Pacific battalions have performed similar work in
Southeast Asia. Well-drilling teams have helped provide pure
water supplies to rural villages in Vietnam, and EO/CM teams
have helped in a rural road building program in Northeast Thailand.
RADM J. R. Davis, former Commander of the Pacific Seabees,
recently expressed the comment of the U. S. ambassador to
Thailand that no other U. S. aid program has accomplished as
much in proportion to its cost as has the Seabee Team program.
Thus, in a few short years, the Seabee Teams have become
a proud — and continuing — part of the Seabee story.
A NEW CHAPTER
In the spring of 1965, as the U. S. increased its commitment
of military forces in support of the war against the Viet Cong in
South Vietnam, the Seabees were once again called upon to provide
construction support to Navy and Marine Corps forces in
a combat area. Not since World War II had the Seabees been
committed on such a large scale in support of combat operations.
MCB-10, then deployed on Okinawa as the Pacific "alert battalion".
was the first to go. Late in April MCB-10 commenced
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its mount-out, and within less than ten days the entire battalion,
its equipment and supplies, and aluminum matting to construct
an 8,000-foot expeditionary airfield, were embarked on amphibious
force ships of the U. S. Seventh Fleet.
Early on the morning of May 7, in one of the largest operation-
sill-1ff kind since the Korean War, Marines came ashore
in a coordinated amphibious landing to occupy the Chu Lai site.
The Seabees of MCB-10 were right behind them with their equipment
and supplies to set up a camp and begin work on the Chu
Lai runway. In only 21 days time, high performance Marine jets
were flying strikes against the Viet Cong from the Seabee-built
airfield. During the remainder of its Chu Lai deployment MCB-10
continued to expand and improve the airfield, and constructed a
wide variety of roads, cantonments, and other facilities in support
of units of the Third Marine Amphibious Force operating in the
Chu Lai sector.
--1GrCB-3, deployed on Guam as the Pacific "back-up battalion",
was the next to leave for Vietnam. Preceeded by an advance
party, which started work on a battalion camp at the base of
Hill 227 at DaNang, MCB-3 mounted out from Guam in May and
commenced construction work at DaNang by the end of the
month. Chief among Three's projects was the rebuilding of a
road leading to the Marine missile site on Hill 327.
MCB-9, deploying from Port Hueneme early in June, was the
third battalion to arrive in Vietnam. Establishing its camp next
to the South China Sea at DaNang East, Nine immediately started
work on a wide variety of projects, chief among them a large
Naval Hospital and an extremely difficult road to a missile site
on Monkey Mountain, in DaNang Bay.
In order to coordinate mobile construction battalion work
in Vietnam, the 30th Naval Construction Regiment, inactive since
the Cubi Point project in the early 1950's, was reestablished at
DaNang in May. Initially, the regiment was under the command
of CAPT Harold F. Liberty. The current commander is CAPT
Nelson R. Andersen.
Seabee strength in Vietnam was increased to four battalions
in September, when MCB-8, previously an Atlantic battalion, moved
to Port Hueneme and almost immediately deployed to DaNang.
where it commenced work on port facilities and other projects.
MCB-5 became the fourth Pacific battalion to deploy to Vietnam
in September when it relieved MCB-3 at DaNang. A second
Atlantic battalion, MCB-4, moved its home port to Port Hueneme
in November, and deployed to Chu Lai a month later to relieve
MCB-10. Most recently, MCB-11 deployed to DaNang early in
February to relieve MCB-9.
The large scale commitment of Seabees to the war in Vietnam
has proven the value of the long, hard peacetime deployments
and the continuing emphasis on training, mobility, and
self-sufficiency characteristic of the Navy's mobile construction
battalions. For each of the seven battalions that have thus taken
part in the Southeast Asian conflict has shown the same capability
to deploy to a new location, establish itself, and commence
production construction with a speed, effectiveness, and
flexibility unmatched by any other military engineering unit.
With Seabees in demand as never before since World War II
the Navy has commenced a broad build-up of the naval construction
force. Each of the ten original battalions has been increased
in its officer and enlisted complement and early this year the
Navy Department announced the formation of four new battalions
at Davisville, Rhode Island. MCB-40 was formally commissioned
on Feb. 1, with MCB's 58, 62, and 133 to follow during the next
Clearly, as General Douglas MacArthur wrote to ADM Ben
!stored' during World War II, "the only trouble with your Seabees
is that you don't have enough of them!"
About the Author
"The Seabee Tradition" is adapted from a
series of articles highlighting Seabee accomplishments
originally published in the MCB-11
Stinger during 1965.
The author, LCDR William D. Middleton,
has been executive officer of MCB-11 since August
1964, and is presently deployed with the
battalion at DaNang. His previous naval service
includes assignments at Port Lyautey, Morocco;
at NAS Minneapolis; as civil engineering
adviser to the Turkish Navy on the staff of the
U.S. military mission to Turkey; and as planning
officer at PWC Norfolk.
During a period of inactive duty he was employed as a structural
engineer with firms in California and Wisconsin, and as a
bridge designer with the Wisconsin State Highway Commission.
In addition to his engineering duties, LCDR Middleton has
long been active as a writer. He has written numerous articles
for newspapers and magazines, among them American Heritage,
and is the author of two published books of railway history, with
a third due for publication later this year.
He received a bachelor of civil engineering degree from
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1950 and later did graduate
work in the engineering and journalism schools at the University
His wife Dorothy and sons William and Nicholas currently
reside at 1061-A Guadalcanal Street on the Center.
- S. NAVAL
CONSTRUCTION BATTALION CENTER
PORT HUENEME, CALIFORNIA
Commanding Officer CAPT Robert D. Thorson
Executive Officer .CAPT T. F. Donlon
Service Information Officer LTJG Henry P. Schaefer
Editor, Marie Levi
Perry A. Basch, JOSN; Gary Rawn, PH3
Phone Ext. 303 or 8308
The Seabee Coverall is published biweekly by the Service Information
Office with appropriated funds and in compliance with
NAVEXOS P-35 Revised July 1958. The Coverall uses material
furnished by the Armed Forces Press Service and Navy News
Service. All photographs are official Navy photographs unless