A little 25th Anniversary Seabee history from William Zimkin, TH


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Harold 'Doc' Schrage, DT2 (President)
Sunday July 02, 2017 10:37 am


UNITED STATES NAVY

CONSTRUCTION BATTALIONS

CIVIL ENGINEER CORPS

100TH ANNIVERSARY

MARCH 2, 1967 SEABEES

IN

ACTION

SEABEES

25TH ANNIVERSARY

MARCH 5, 1967

c.1

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"

"CAN DO!"

....... .

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

runway.

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.

SEABEE INGENUITY

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

job done.

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

airplanes.

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

smashed radiators.

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

arrivals.

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

craft.

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

ashore.

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

problem.

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

could land.

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

armies ashore.

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

Tinian base.

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.

CUBI POINT

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

  1. 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

  1. S. program of scientific study and exploration of the

Antarctic continent.

Seabees first landed on Antarctica in 1947 as part of the

Navy's Operation High Jump expedition led by RADM Richard

  1. 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

base.

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.

SEABEE TEAMS

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

themselves.

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

relief work.

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

  1. was constructing such a camp when it participated in the

heroic defense of Dong Xoai against a heavy Viet Cong attack

last June.

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

few months.

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

of Wisconsin.

His wife Dorothy and sons William and Nicholas currently

reside at 1061-A Guadalcanal Street on the Center.

SEABEE VERALL

  1. 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

EDITORIAL STAFF

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

otherwise noted.