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Naval Construction Battalions
The Seabee logo
Branch United States Navy
RoleMilitarized construction
  • 7,000 active personnel
  • 6,927 Reserve personnel
  • 13,815 total
  • Latin: Construimus, Batuimus for "We build We fight"
  • "Can Do"
  • "The difficult we do now, the impossible takes a little longer"
ColorsFlag of the United States Navy (1864–1959)
Mascot(s)The Seabee
Anniversaries28 December 1941 requested
5 March 1942 authorized
EngagementsGuadalcanal, Bougainville, Los Negros, Guam, Peleliu, Tarawa, Kwajalein, Saipan, Tinian, Iwo Jima, Philippines, Okinawa, North Africa, Sicily, Normandy, Inchon, Khe Sanh, Dong Xoai, Chu Lai, Con Thien, Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom
Admiral Ben Moreell
CB Navy Yard Bougainville with the Seabee Expression (Seabee Museum)
3rd Marine Division, 2nd Raider's sign on Bougainville. 53rd CB was the shore party to the 2nd Raiders of Green Beach, D-Day.

United States Naval Construction Battalions, better known as the Navy Seabees, form the U.S. Naval Construction Force (NCF). The Seabee nickname is a heterograph of the first letters "C B" from the words Construction Battalion.[1][2] 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 Construction Battalions either Mobile or Amphibious. Seabees serve outside the NCF as well. During WWII they served in both the Naval Combat Demolition Units and the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs). In addition, they served as elements of Cubs, Lions, Acorns and the United States Marine Corps.[3] They also provided the manpower for the top secret CWS Flame Tank Group. Today they have many special task assignments starting with Camp David and the Naval Support Unit at the Department of State. Seabees serve under both Commanders of the Naval Surface Forces Atlantic/Pacific fleets as well as on many base Public Works and USN diving commands.

CEC Insignia
CEC Insignia
Supply Corps Insignia
Supply Corps Insignia
WWII Naval Officers from the Civil Engineer Corps, Medical Corps, Dental Corps and Supply Corps assigned to Naval Construction Battalions had a Silver Seabee on their Corps insignia. The CEC image is used today as the emblem of the CEC/Seabee Historical Foundation.

Naval Construction Battalions were conceived of as a replacement for civilian construction companies working for the U.S. Navy after the U.S. was drawn into World War II with the attack on Pearl Harbor. At that time civilian contractors had roughly 70,000 men working on U.S. bases overseas.[4] International law made it illegal for civilian workers to resist an attack. To do so would classify them as guerrillas and could lead to summary execution.[5] That is exactly what happened when the Japanese invaded Wake Island.[6]

Adm. Moreell's concept model CB was a USMC trained battalion of construction tradesmen. A military equivalent of those civilian companies, capable of any type of construction, anywhere needed, under any conditions or circumstances.[7][8] It was quickly realized that CBs were flexible, adaptable and could be utilized in every theater of operations. The use of USMC organization allowed for smooth co-ordination, integration or interface between NCF and Marine Corps elements. Additionally, CBs 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,[9] stretching from Normandy and Okinawa to Iraq and Afghanistan. Adm. Ernest King wrote to the Seabees on their second anniversary, "Your ingenuity and fortitude have become a legend in the naval service."[10] U.S. Fleet Admiral Halsey stated that "if necessary they'll build an island and build 4 or 5 more airfields" after the Seabees had already built 3 on Iwo Jima. 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".[11] The Seabees now have over 75 years of service without having changed from Adm. Moreell's model.

Since creation Seabees have received all their advanced military training from the Marine Corps. As such, it is strictly standard conventional warfare. Even so, Seabees always bring their toolbox. One of those tools is the ingenuity Admiral King referenced. They gained fame for their application of it during WWII. The UDTs and flamethrowing tanks are declassified top secret examples. Post war they followed with more of the same for the CIA and State Department. Together with their USMC training and ability to appropriate anything, they provide the Navy an unconventional asset found nowhere else in the U.S military.

Naval construction history

CB Conceptual Formation

In the early 1930s, the (Public Works) idea that the Twelfth Regiment[12] pioneered in 1917 was still remembered by the Navy's Civil Engineers. Planners at the Bureau of Yards and Docks (BuDocks) began providing for "Navy Construction Battalions" in contingency war plans and in 1934 Capt. Carl Carlson's version of the CB idea was tentatively approved by Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Standley. The next year RADM. Norman Smith, head of BuDocks, selected Captain Walter Allen, War Plans Officer, to represent BuDocks on the War Plans Board. Capt. Allen presented the bureau's "Naval Construction Battalions concept" and the Board included it in the Rainbow war plans.[13] The Seabees would name their first training center for Capt. Allen.

One flaw to the proposal was that CBs would have a dual command; military control would be exercised by fleet line Officers while construction operations would be controlled by Civil Engineer Corps officers. Another issue was no provision for the military organization or military training necessary to provide unit structure, discipline, and esprit de corps. The plans only allowed for battalions to be formed to build training stations throughout CONUS. Only afterwards could they be forward deployed.[13] RADM. Ben Moreell became BuDocks Chief in December 1937 and would become the lead proponent of the CB proposal. [13]

By summer of 1941 civilian contractors were working on Guam, Midway, Wake, Pearl Harbor, Iceland, Newfoundland, and Bermuda. BuDocks decided there was a need to improve Navy project supervision through the creation of "Headquarters Construction Companies". These companies would have 2 officers and 99 enlisted, but would do no actual construction work. The companies would be primarily draftsmen and surveyors to aid the officers in charge of construction as well as the construction inspectors. RADM. Chester Nimitz, Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, authorized the formation of the 1st Headquarters Construction Company, on October 31st 1941. Recruitment began in November. Company formation[10] and boot training began December 7th at Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island. By Dec. 16th four additional companies had been authorized but, Pearl Harbor had happened changing all plans.

World War II

The Naval Infantry Battalion Flag was mandated by Naval Regulation as the military colors for the Construction Battalions.[14]
USMC directed fixed bayonet drill at Camp Peary NTC, VA in 1943

On December 28th 1941, RADM Moreell requested authority to commission three Naval Construction Battalions. Approval came January 5th, 1942 when Admiral Nimitz at the Naval Bureau of Navigation authorized that recruitment begin for experienced construction tradesmen. The 1st HQ Construction Company was used to commission the 1st Naval Construction Detachment which was assigned to Operation Bobcat.[15] They were sent to Boro Boro and are known in Seabee history as "Bobcats". Concurrently, the other four requested HQ Construction Companies had been approved and authorized. BuDocks took Companies 2 & 3 to form the 1st Naval Construction Battalion at Charleston So. Carolina. They were deployed as the 2nd & 3rd Construction Detachments. HQ Companies 4 & 5 were used for the 2nd NCB and were deployed as the 4th & 5th Construction Detachments.[13] CBs 3, 4, & 5 were all deployed the same way.[16] CB 6 was the first battalion to deploy full complement to the same deployment site.[16]

Before all this could happen BuDocks had to address the dual command issue. Naval regs stated unit command was strictly limited to line officers. BuDocks deemed it essential that CBs be commanded by CEC officers trained in construction. The Bureau of Naval Personnel (BuPers) strongly opposed this.[5] Adm. Moreell took the issue directly to the Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox. On March 19th 1942, the Civil Engineer Corps was given complete command of all Naval Construction units. Almost 11,400 would become CEC during WWII with 7,960 doing CB service. [5] Two weeks prior, on March 5, all construction battalion personnel were officially named "Seabees" by the U.S. Navy. Seabees have observed that date as their birthdate since 1955.[17] From 1942, until then, December 28 had been the date observed.

The first Seabees were construction tradesmen who were given advanced rank reflecting their experience. They were the highest paid group the U.S. had in uniform during WWII.[18] To recruit these men, age and physical standards were waived up to age 50. From January to November 1942 the average recruit was 37. Even so, all were put through the same physical training.[6] In December 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the Selective Service System to provide CB recruits. Enlistees could request CB service with a written statement certifying that they were trade qualified.[1]:136 This lasted until October 1943 when voluntary enlistment in the Seabees ceased until December 1944.[1]:136 This period saw recruits of standard age and much less skilled.[19] By wars end 258,872 officers and enlisted had served in the Seabees. They never reached the Navy's authorization of 321,056.[20]

In 1942 initial boot was at Camp Allen that was moved to Camp Bradford which in turn was replaced by Camp Peary. Finally, all training was moved to Camp Endicott, Rhode Island. The first five battalions were sent directly overseas for urgent construction projects. CBs that followed were sent to Advance Base Depots (ABDs) or Naval Training Centers (NTCs) at Davisville, RI, Gulfport, MS. or Port Hueneme, CA. Camp Rousseau at Port Hueneme became operational first and would serve to stage 175,000 Seabees forward.[19] The Davisville ABD became operational in June 1942 with NTC Camp Endicott, commissioned in August. That camp would train over 100,000 Seabees. The NTCs had classes in over 60 trades. Other CB Camps were Camp Parks, Livermore, Ca., 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 unrestricted communications concerning Advance Base (AB)construction and development without being concerned about enemy intercept.[21] The Office of Naval Operations created a solution.[22] Each base construction operation was given a code name as a numbered metaphor for the size/type of base the Seabees were to construct, i.e. Lion 1. That code was also used to identify the "unit" that would be the administration for that base.[23][24] These were Lion, Cub, Oak and Acorn with a LION being a main Fleet Base (numbered 1–6).[25] CUBs were Secondary Fleet Bases 1/4 the size of a Lion (numbered 1–12)[26]) OAK and ACORN were the names given airfield units of new or captured enemy fields (primary and secondary in size).[22][27] Cubs were quickly adopted as the primary type airfield. The speed with which the Seabees were able to get a Cub operational led the Marines 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. That base was home to the Acorn Assembly and Training Detachment (AATD) responsible for training and organizing Acorn units. All Acorns had a CBMU attached.[28] As the war progressed BuDocks realized that logistics required Advance Base Construction Depots (ABCDs) be built to get the job done. So, CBs made them at Nouméa, Pearl Harbor, Brisbane, Milne Bay, Samar, Subic Bay, and Okinawa.[29] When the code was first created BuDocks foresaw two CBs constructing a Lion. By 1944 an entire Regiment was being used. As the capabilities of the NCF became known, projects and plans grew. So much, that the invasion of Okinawa took four Construction Brigades of 55,000 men. It was beyond combat engineering. The Seabees built the infra-structure needed to take the war to Japan. By wars end CBs had served on six continents and had constructed over 300 advanced bases on as many islands.[30] The Pacific saw them build 111 major airstrips, 441 piers, PT boat & seaplane bases, bridges, roads, com-centers, petroleum storage tanks for 100,000,000 gal., hospitals to tend 70,000, and barracks to bunk 1.5 million.[31][32]

Atlantic In the Atlantic CBs biggest job was the preparations for the Normandy landing. Several months later 3 Seabee maintainece units were called to facilitate the crossing of the Rhine: CBMUs 627, 628, and 629. For CBMU 629 it was front-line work.[33] The three CBMUs were formed when the 114th CB was decommissioned.

53rd Naval Construction Battalion sign. (Seabee Museum)
19th Naval Construction Battalion Plaque. The battalion was assigned to the 1st Marine Amphibious Corps and later re-designated 3rd Battalion 17th Marines (Seabee Museum)).
Seabee insignia worn in place of the USMC EGA on USMC issue garrison cap[35][36]

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".[37] In turn, the Corps would be influential upon the CB organization and its history. When the first three battalions were formed the Seabees did not have a fully functional base of their own. Upon leaving navy boot camp the first recruits were sent to National Youth Administration camps in Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Virginia to receive military training from the Marine Corps.[1]:138 The Marine Corps listed CBs on their Table of organization: "D-Series Division" for 1942,[38] "E-Series Division" for 1943,[39][40] and "Amphibious Corps" for 1944/45.[41]

Starting with the 1st Naval Construction Detachment (Bobcats),[15] the Marines redesignated them the 3rd Bn 22nd Marines.[42] They were the very first Seabees and that was only the beginning. The det deployed without receiving advanced military training. The 22nd Marines took care of that when the Bobcats joined them in the Marshalls.[43] Soon after, the 4th Construction Detachment was attached to the 5th Marine Defense Battalion for two years.[16]

When the CBs were created the Marine Corps wanted one for each of the three Marine Divisions, but was told no because of war priorities.[10]:Paragraph 39 By autumn CBs 18, 19 and 25[44] had been transferred to the Marine Corps as combat engineers.[45] Each was attached to a composite engineer regiment[46] and redesignated as 3rd Bn of that Regiment.[45] (See 17th Marine Regiment,[47] 18th Marine Regiment,[48] 19th Marine Regiment, and 20th Marine Regiment.[49]) In August the 18th CB embarked from the FMF Base Depot, Norfolk, VA. to relieve the 6th CB with the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal.[50]

In 1942, when the Navy transferred the three CBs, the Marine Corps issued the men standard USMC sea bags.[51][52][53] The 18th and 19th CBs both claim to have been the first CB authorized to wear the USMC uniform.[36] Both received their military training and USMC issue at MTC New River, NC. There is no record of how many CBs received USMC issue. It is known that the 31st, 43rd,[54] 76th,[55] 121st and 133rd NCBs received partial or complete issues.[49]

Late 1943, the 6th Special CB was tasked to the 4th Marines Advance Depot in the Russells.[16] In November, the 14th CB was tasked to the 2nd Raider Bn on Guadalcanal. Earlier in June, the 24th CB was tasked to the 9th Marine Defense Bn on Rendova.[56] The 33rd and 73rd CBs had a dets tasked to the 1st Pioneers as shore party for the 5th Marines on Peleliu.[57] Also attached to the 1st Pioneers was the entire 17th Special CB colored. At Enogi Inlet on Munda, the 47th had a det support the 1st and 4th Marine Raiders.[42] On Bougainville, the 3rd Marine Div. made Cmdr. Brockenbrough of the 71st CB shore party commander. The 71st was supported by dets from the 25th, 53rd, and the 75th CBs.[58] At Cape Torokina the 75th had 100 men volunteer to support the assault of the 3rd Marines.[59] Also at Bougainville, the 53rd provided shore parties to the 2nd Raiders on green beach and the 3rd Raiders on Puruata Island.[60] The 121st was formed at the CB Training Center of MTC Camp Lejuene as 3rd Bn 20th Marines.[61] They would be shore party to the 23rd Marines on Roi-Namur, Saipan, and Tinian.

In 1944 the Marine Engineer Regiments were inactivated. Even so, Marine Divisions still had a CB tasked to them. For Iwo Jima, the 133rd and 31st CBs were attached to the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions. The 133rd was tasked to the 23rd Marines as their shore party.[62] The 31st CB was attached to the 5th Shore Party Regiment with their demolitionsmen attached to the 5th Marine Div.[63] [64] The 8th Marine Field Depot was the shore party command eschelon for Iwo Jima. They requested 26 heavy equipment operators from the 8th CB.[65] Okinawa saw the 58th, 71st, 130th, and 145th CBs attached to the 6th, 2nd, and 1st Marine Divisions respectively.

From Iwo Jima the 5th Marine Div. returned to Camp Tarawa to have the 116th CB attached.[64] When Japan fell the 116th CB went as part of the occupation force. V-J day found thousands of Japanese troops still in China and the III Marine Amphibious Corps was sent there to get them home. Part of the 33rd NCR was assigned to III Marine Amphib. Corps for this mission: the 83rd, 96th, 122nd CBs and the 33rd Special CB.[66][67]

Seabee Battalions were also tasked individually to the four Amphibious Corps. The 19th CB started out with the I MAC[50] prior to joining the 17th Marines. The 53rd CB was attached to I MAC as Naval Construction Battalion I M.A.C. When I MAC was redesignated III Amphibious Corps the battalion became an element of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade.[59][68] 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. The 3rd Marines would award 25's shore party 17 bronze stars.[69] V Amphibious Corps (VAC) had the 23rd Special and 62nd CBs on Iwo Jima. On Tinian the 6th Construction Brigade was attached to V Amphibious Corps.[70]

  • Two sections of CBMU 515 saw combat with the 22nd Marines on Guam.[71]

When the war ended the Seabees had a unique standing with the U.S. Marine Corps.[72] Seabee historian William Bradford Huie wrote "that the two have a camaraderie unknown else-wheres in the U.S. military".[73] Even though they are "Navy" the Seabees adopted USMC fatigues with a Seabee insignia in place of the EGA. A number of WWII CBs adapted USMC insignia for their units, these included CBs 5, 18, 19, 25, 31, 53, 71, 117 and the 6th Brigade.

see Notes: 2.1 a–e

Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDU)s, Seabees outside the NCF

"NCDU 45", Ensign Karnowski (CEC), Chief Carpenters Mate Conrad C. Millis, MM2 Equipment Operator Lester Meyers and three sailors. The unit received a Presidential Unit Citation with Ens. Karnowski earning the Navy Cross & French Croix de Guerre with Palm, while MM2 Meyers received a Silver Star.[74]

In early May 1943, a two-phase "Naval Demolition Project" was ordered by the Chief of Naval Operations "to meet a present and urgent requirement" for the invasion of Sicily. Phase-1 began at Amphibious Training Base (ATB) Solomons, Maryland with the creation of Operational Naval Demolition Unit # 1. Six Officers lead by Lt. Fred Wise CEC and eighteen enlisted reported from Camp Peary dynamiting and demolition school.[75][74][76][77] Seabees called them "Demolitioneers".[78]

Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDUs) consisted of one junior CEC officer,[79] five enlisted, and were numbered 1–216.[80] After that first group had been trained Lt. Commander Draper Kauffman was selected to command the program. It had been set up in Camp Peary's "Area E"(explosives) at the dynamiting and demolition school. Between May and mid-July the first six NCDU classes graduated at Camp Peary. From there the program moved to Fort Pierce where the first class began mid-July.[78] Despite the move, Camp Peary remained Kauffman's primary recruit center. "He would go back to the dynamite school, assemble the (Seabees) in the auditorium and say, "I need volunteers for hazardous, prolonged and distant duty."[6] Fort Pierce had two Seabee units assigned, CBD 1011 and CBMU 570. They were tasked with the construction and maintenance of obstacles needed for demolitions training.

Thirty four NCDUs were assigned to the Invasion of Normandy. When the first 10 units arrived in England they had no commander. So Lt. Smith(CEC) assumed the role and split them into 3 groups to train with the 146th, 277th and 299th Combat Engineers.[81] As more units arrived they were assigned to these groups plus had 5 army engineers attached to them. Group III(Lt. Smith) did research and development and is credited with developing the Hagensen Pack.[81] NCDUs saw a 53 percent casualty rate at Normandy.[6] Four from Utah beach later took part in Operation Dragoon.

With Europe invaded Admiral Turner requisitioned all available NCDUs from Fort Pierce for integration into the UDTs for the Pacific. Thirty NCDUs[82] 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.[83] NCDU 1 went briefly to the Aleutians in 1943.[84] NCDUs 4 and 5 were the first to see combat with the 4th Marines at Green island and Emirau Island.[84] A few were temporarily attached to UDTs.[83] Later NCDUs 1–10 were combined to form Underwater Demolition Team Able.[83] That team was disbanded. NCDUs 2, 3, 19, 20, 21 and 24[85] were 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

Seabees in both UDT 3 and 4 made signs to greet the Marines assaulting Guam. Lt. Crist confiscated this sign.[76] However, team 4 was able to leave theirs on the beach for the Marines to see that the Seabees had been there first. (USN)
Lt. Crist(CEC), Lt. Cmdr. Kaufmann, and Lt. Carberry right to left at awards ceremony

Prior to Operation Galvanic and Tarawa, V Amphibious Corps had identified coral as an issue for future amphibious operations. RADM. 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 (CB 10) was in Pearl Harbor from Canton Island[86] [87] where he had been in charge of clearing coral heads. His being in Pearl Harbor was pivotal in UDT history. While there he learned of the Adm. 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.[82] Lt. Crist started by getting men from CB 10. By December 1st 1943 he had close to 30 officers and 150 enlisted at Waipio Amphibious Operating Base on Oahu.[82]

In November the Navy had a hard lesson with underwater obstructions, coral, and tides at Tarawa. It prompted Adm. Turner to request the creation of nine Underwater Demolition Teams to address those issues.[88] Six would be assigned to VAC in the Central Pacific while the other three would go to III Amphibious Corps in the South Pacific. Adm. Turner chose the term "underwater" to distinguish from the Fort Pierce program. UDTs 1 & 2 were completely Seabees according to the UDT Archives[89] with Seabees making up the vast majority of the men in teams 1–9, 13 and 15.[90] 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.[90][91] UDT officers were mostly CEC.[92] When formed UDT 10 was assigned 5 officers and 24 enlisted, trained as OSS Maritime Unit: Operational Swimmer Group II).[93] but, the OSS was not allowed to operate in the Pacific Theater. Adm. Nimitz needed swimmers and approved their transfer from the OSS to his control. The MU men brought with 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.[93] 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. Additional volunteers came from the Navy's Bomb disposal School, Marine Corps and U.S. Fleet.[82][90]

The first team commanders were Cmdr. E.D. Brewster (CEC) UDT 1 and Lt. Crist (CEC) UDT 2. (replaced, Adm. Conolly wanted a man with combat experience) Teams 1 and 2 were "provisional" totaling 180 men.[94] These teams came from the Seabees Lt. Crist had gathered at Waipio, with seven different CBs making up UDT 2.[90][82] They wore fatigues, life-vests and were expected to stay in boats like the NCDUs. However, at Kwajalein Fort Pierce protocol was changed. Adm.Turner ordered daylight recon, 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. Still wet and in their trunks they were taken directly to Adm. Turner to report. He concluded individual swimmers were the only way to get accurate intel on coral and underwater obstacles, reporting as much to Adm. Nimitz.[95] At Engebi Cmdr. Brewster was wounded and all those with Ens. Luehrs wore trunks under their fatigues.[82] The success of those UDT 1 Seabees not following Fort Pierce protocol rewrote the UDT mission model and training regimen.[96] Ensign Luehrs and Chief Acheson were each awarded a Silver Star for their exploit[97] while unintentionally creating the UDT "naked warrior" image. Diving masks were not common in 1944 and a few men had tried using goggles at Kwajalein.[98] They were a rare item in Hawaii so Lt Crist and Seebee Chief Howard Roeder requested supply to get them.[98] A fortuitous observation spotted a magazine advertisement for diving masks. A priority dispatch to the States appropriated the store's entire stock.[98]

Adm. Turner also requested formation of a "Naval Combat Demolition Training & Experimental Base" at Kihei, Hawaii. It was approved, with the lessons of UDT 1 incorporated into the training, making it distinctly different from that at Fort Pierce. Lt. Crist was briefly the first training officer until when he was made Commander of UDT 3. When UDT 3 returned from Leyte in November 1944 the team became the training instructors of the school and Lt. Crist was again OIC of training.[90] 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 continued instructing until April 1945 when it was sent to Fort Priece to instruct there. Lt. Crist was promoted to Lt. Cmdr and returned to Hawaii. Team 3 would train teams 12–22.[90] 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). UDT 15 was another team formed completely of NCDUs. Teams 12, 13, 14, and 15 were sent to Iwo Jima. Teams 12, 13, and 14 would go back ashore on D-plus 2 to clear the waters edge for the next five days . 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.[99]

On Guam team 8 requested permission to build a base.[100] It was approved by AdComPhibsPac, but disapproved by the Island Command.[100] Team 8 turned to the CBs on the island to appropriate everything they needed.[100] The coral paving got placed the night before Admiral of the Fleet, Chester W. Nimitz made an inspection. The Admiral gave the base and teams 8 & 10 a glowing review.[100]

By V-J day 34 teams had been formed. Teams 1–21 saw actual deployment. The Seabees provided over half of the men in those teams. The Navy did not publicize the existence of the UDTs until post war and when they did they gave credit to Lt. Cmdr. Kauffman and the Seabees.[101] 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" in memory of the Seabees of Operational Demolition Unit #1 and Camp Peary.[102] where LtCdr Kauffman had recruited them from the dynamiting and demolition school.

UDTs had to be of standard recruiting age, Seabees older could not volunteer. In preparation for the invasion of Japan the UDTs created a cold water training center and mid-1945 men had to pass a stricter physical. Team 9 lost 70% of the team to this change.

notes: 2.3 a-v

African American Service: the Seabee stevedores

"17th Special" Seabees with the 7th Marines on Peleliu made national news in an official U.S. Navy press release.[103] NARA-532537

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[104] and 80th[105] 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 men of the 34th went on a hunger strike which made the news. The Commander of the 8oth had 19 enlisted discharged with dishonorable discharges for sedition. The NAACP and Thurgood Marshall got 14 of those reversed. In 1943 the Navy drew up a proposal to raise the number of colored CBs to 5 and require that all non-rated men in the next 24 CBs be colored. The proposal was approved, but it did not happen.

The lack of stevedores for unloading ships in combat zones was a huge issue to the Navy. Authorization for the formation of cargo handling CBs or "Special CBs" happened mid-September 1942.[106] By wars end 41 Special CBs had been commissioned of which 15 were "colored". They were the first fully integrated units in the U.S. Navy.[107] The wars end brought the decommissioning of all of them. The Special CBs of WWII were forerunners of todays Navy Cargo Handling Battalions of the Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group (United States). The arrival of 15 colored Special CBs in Pearl Harbor brought out the Navy's segregated approach.[108] For some time the men slept in tents, but the disparity of treatment was obvious even to the Navy.[108] The 14th Naval District felt they deserved proper shelter with at least separate but equal barracks.[108] Manana Barracks and Waiawa Gulch became the country's largest colored military installation with USN CB stevedores.[108] It was the site of racial strife to the point that the camp was fenced in and placed under armed guard.[108] The Seabees would be trucked back and forth to the docks in cattle trucks.[108] CBs 98 and 99 constructed two supply centers at Waiawa Gulch.

The 17th Special(colored) CB at Peleliu 15–18 September 1944 is omitted from the USMC order of battle, but is noteworthy in Seabee history. On D-day at Peleliu, 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 CB. 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 carry 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 guns 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 on D plus 3.[57][109][110][111][112][113] According to the Military History Encyclopedia on the Web, "were it not for the Black Marine shore party---the counterattack on the 7th Marines would not have been repulsed".[114]

  • On Peleliu, shore party detachments from the 33rd and 73rd CBs received Presidential Unit Citations as did the primary shore party (1st Marine Pioneers).[115] The Commander of the 17th Special CB (colored) received the same commendatory letter as the Company Commanders of the 7th Marine Ammunition 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'."[116][117] The Department of the Navy made an official press release November 28, 1944 of the 17th CB's copy of this letter.[118]

  • African American Seabees[119][120]

Seabee North Slope Oil Exploration 1944

Winterized wildcat Seabee#1, in NPR 4, at Umiat, Alaska, (USN)

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.[121][122] Many additional enlisted and officers were chosen for their arctic experience with CB 12 and CB 66.[121] The selected men were assembled at Camp Lee Stephenson. Congress had earmarked $1,000,000 for Operation Pet 4 to determine if there was actually oil in NPR 4 (U.S. Navy Petroleum Reserve No. 4) in 1944. NPR-4 had been created and placed in the oil reserve in 1923.[121] Today NPR-4 is the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. The detachment's mission was:

  • Drill test and core holes
  • Drill a deep well
  • Do complete aerial survey of NPR 4
  • Build a base camp with runway at Point Barrow
  • Build field camp runways at Umiat and Bettles

In 1944 the base camp was constructed at Point Barrow. Four D-8s with twenty sleds of supplies were prepped for the 330 mile trek to Umiat once the tundra had frozen.[123] After those supplies were delivered the Cats returned for the heavy well equipment.[123] During the summer of 1945 a 1,816' wildcat was drilled and designated Seabee#1[124] before being shut down by the cold. The well site was near four known seeps at Umiat in the very south-east of NPR 4.[121][123] The rock in the area was from the Upper Cretaceous and a stratum of it was named the "Seabee Formation".[125] On the coast the Seabees drilled test holes at Cape Simpson and Point Barrow.[126] Once the runways were completed additional supplies were flown in. In March 1946 civilians took over the project. Some had been members of CBD 1058 and had been hired immediately upon discharge for the same job they had performed for the Navy."[125] 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.[127]

Land surveys

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. The Trans-Alaskan pipeline follows a portion of their survey from roughly the arctic circle to Fairbanks. 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.[128] This work would be heavily drawn upon during the Vietnam War.

see Notes: 2a–2wa

WWII Cold War interlude – Siberia, China

On V-J-Day CB 114 was in the Aleutians. In September 1945 the battalion sent a detachment to the USSR to build a Fleet Weather Central.[129][130] It was located 10 miles (16 km) outside Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on the Kamchatka Peninsula and code named TAMA.[131] The original agreement gave the Seabees 3 weeks to complete the base. Upon arrival the Russians told the Seabees they had 10 days and were amazed that the Seabees did it.[131] It was one of two that Stalin agreed to. The other was near Khabarousk, Siberia in buildings provided by the Russians.[131]

V-J-Day lead to Operation Beleaguer for the repatriation of the remnants of the Japanese Army left in China. Part of the 33rd CB Regiment was tasked: CBs 83, 96, 122 and 32nd Special.[132] 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 attached to Naval Advance Base Unit 13.[133] With the war over, the ongoing discharge men eligible left only enough for one CB and the two CB Specials. The men were consolidated in the 96th[132] with the other units decommissioned. In December the 96th started airfields at Tsingtao and Chinwangtao in support of III Marine Amphibious Corps operations.[132] On 20 May 1946 orders were issued for CB III Marine Amphibious Corps to inactivate 96 CB on 1 August. Prior, the 6th Marine Division was renamed the 3rd Marine Brigade for a short period. The 96th CB was transferred to the 4th Marines, 1st Marine Division and deactivated from them in August.

Cold War: Operation Crossroads

The 53rd CB erecting camera towers on Bikini Atoll for filming the tests. (Seabee Museum)

In early 1946 the 53rd NCB was still attached to III Marine Amphibious Corps.[134] and deployed with Operation Crossroads for the nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll.[135] The unit was assigned to Task Group 1.8 and designated TU 1.8.6.[136] 53's 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.[137] 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.[134][138]

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.[139] In 1948, the displaced bikinians put in a request that the U.S. Navy blast a channel to the island Kili where they had been relocated. This was given to the Seabee det on Kwajelin. They requested UDT 3 assist.

In January 1947, CBs 104 and 105 were reactivated. The 121st CB was decommissioned December 31st, 1947 and re-designated CBD 1504.[140] CBMU 650 was at Attu in 1947. The 30th NCR was home-ported on Guam composed of CBDs 1501-13 and NCB 103. In 1949, the 103rd was made a Mobile Construction Battalion (MCB) while CBs 104 and 105 were made Amphibious Construction Battalions(ACBs). From 1949 until 1968 CBs were designated as this way. In June 1950 the Naval Construction Force numbered approximately 2,800 active duty.

Cold War: Korea

Yo Do Island airfield constructed behind enemy lines by ACB 1. It was credited with saving 60 aviators. Seabees in photo are refueling Corsairs on 15 July 1952. [141] [142] (USN)
Naval Air Station Cubi Point left, U.S. Naval Base Subic Bay right. Seabees leveled a mountain that civilian contractors said could not be done. (USN)
Suspension bridge built by NMCB 5 CCAD in Timor-Leste 2015 (Seabee Museum)

The outbreak of the Korean War led to a call-up of 10,000 from the Seabee Reserve. Seabees landed at Inchon during the assault, installing causeways dealing with enormous tides and enemy fire. Their actions there and elsewheres underscored the necessity of having CBs. During that war 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 Korea, the U.S. realized the need of an air station in the 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.

Seabee Teams also called Civic Action Teams or CAT[143][144]

The first Seabees to be referred to as Seabee Teams were CBD 1802 and CBD 1803.[145] They were followed by Detachments Able and Baker. Then someone in the U.S. State Department learned of these teams and had an idea for making "good use" of the Seabees in the Cold War. Teams 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. 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[146] to the CIA. To start, twelve "Seabee teams, with Secret Clearances, were sent with the Army's Special Forces in the CIA funded Civilian Irregular Defense Group program (CIDG)"[147][148] in the years 1963–1965. By 1965 the U.S. Army had enough engineers in theater to end Seabee involvement with Special Forces. At first teams were called Seabee Technical Assistance Teams (STAT) and were restricted to two in theater at a time. Teams after STAT 1104 were renamed Seabee Teams and by 1969 there were 17 in theater.[148] As a military force Seabee Teams received many awards for heroism.[149] 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[143] CCADs or "See-Kads" are larger civic action units of 20–25 Seabees[150] with the same purpose as Seabee Teams. The CCAD designation is not found in the record prior to 2013.

Cold War: Antarctica

Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, constructed by NMCB 71, dia. 165' x 54' height (USN)
Tank for PM3a nuclear reactor built by MCB 1 at McMurdo Station (U.S. Navy)

Operation Highjump

In 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".[151] 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.[152] This Operation was vastly larger than IGY Operation Deep Freeze that followed.[151]

Operation Deep Freeze

MCB 1 Sled train departing Little America for traverse to Byrd Station (646 miles) or the South Pole (850 miles). The Navy special ordered SD-LGP D8s (SD=stretched dozer, LGP=low ground pressure)[153] with the frames extended 4 feet and tracks 54 inches wide[153] resulting in a ground pressure of 4.30 psi and blades 18.5 feet wide. There were two types of sleds: 10 ton or 20 ton that could be hitched in multiples. (U.S. Navy).

In 1955, Seabees were assigned to Operation Deep Freeze making Antarctica their annual deployment. The mission was building or expanding scientific bases for the National Science Foundation to establish a land claim for the U.S.. The first "wintering over" crew included 200 Seabees. They cleared an 6,000-foot (1,800 m) ice runway at Mcmurdo. It was used by the advance party of Deep Freeze II to be the first to fly into South Pole Station. MCB 1 was assigned for Deep Freeze II.

Under the adverse conditions, Seabees added to their list of accomplishments:

Note: 6b-c

Cold War: Vietnam

STAT 1104 in Port Hueneme L-R standing: John Klepher, Dale Brakken, William Hoover KIA, Ltjg Peterlin, Cmdr L.W.Eyman, Douglas Mattick, James Keenan, J.R. McCully, Marvin Shields KIA, kneeling: Richard Supczak, F.J. Alexander Jr, James Wilson, Jack Allen. For their actions in the Battle of Dong Xoai, the 9-man team received the Navy Unit Commendation a Medal of Honor, 2 Silver Stars, 6 Bronze Stars with Vs and 9 purple hearts. (USN)
Vietnam era EO3 – EO1 collar devices

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.[156]In 1964 ACB 1 was the first CB in the theatre. Beginning in 1965 Naval Construction Regiments deployed to the theater. 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 was at the Battle of Dong Xoai. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and is the only Seabee to be awarded the medal. Seabee Teams continued to be deployed throughout the Vietnam War and often engaging enemy forces alongside Marines and Army special forces. 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."[157] MCB 4 had a det at Con Thien whose actions were a near repeat of Dong Xoai.

In 1968 the Marine Corps requested that the Navy make a name change to the CBs to reduce confusion. The Marines were using "MCB" for Marine Corps Base while the Navy was using "MCB" for Mobile Construction Battalions. The Navy 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 32nd NCR had three battalions tasked near Phu Bai and one at Dong Ha. In May 1968 two reserve battalions RNMCB 12 and 22 were activated, bring the total number of battalions in Vietnam to 21. Both ACBs were in theater as well as Construction Battalion Maintenance Units (CBMUs) 301 and 302. In 1968 NMCB 10 had an unusual "tasking" supporting the 101st Airborne. During 1969 the Seabees deployed topped out at 29,000, from there their draw-down began.[158] The last battalion withdrew late 1971 with the last Seabee teams out a year later. When it was over they had sent 137 Seabee teams, built 15 CB camps, and deployed 22 battalions.[159] CBMU 302 became the largest CB ever at over 1400 men and was homeported at Cam Rahn Bay. On 23 April 1975 it was announced that U.S. involvement in Vietnam was over. that day saw NMCB 4 start construction of a temporary camp for Operation New Life on Guam. In seven days 2,000 squad tents were put up and 3,500 when done.[160]

During Vietnam the Seabees had a few uniform variations. One was the stenciling of unit numbers across the back of the field jacket M-65(e.g., "MCB 1").[161] Another was the collar and cover devices for E4 – E6 enlisted. The Navy authorized that the "crow" be replaced by the rating insignia of each trade. Nametags were another, they started out white with a multicolored seabee until 1968 when they followed USMC OD green pattern. The NAVCATs became the only Seabees to ever be authorized to wear a shoulder patch.[162]

NAVCATs Naval Construction Action Teams

CBMU 302 had 23 NAVCATS total with 15 active at its peak.[163] Teams were numbered 1-23. They were Vice Admiral Elmo Zumwalt's expansion of the Seabee Team concept. He submitted it in November 1968 to General Creighton Abrams commander of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam.[164]

Agent Orange Many Seabees were exposed to the defoliant herbicide while in Vietnam. NCBC Gulfport was the largest storage depot in the United States for agent orange. From there it was shipped to Vietnam.[165] In 1968 the NCBC received 68,000 barrels to forward.[166] Long term barrel storage began in 1969. That lasted until 1977. The site covered 30 acres and was still being cleaned up in 2013.[165][167] (notes 8a–8d)

Cold War: NASA, Tektite I

Tektite I assembled by ACB 2 (NOAA)

In 1960 MCB 103 built a Project Mercury telemetry and ground instrumentation station on Canton island.[168]

On 28 January 1969 a detachment of 50 men[169] from Amphibious Construction Battalion 2 plus 17 Seabee divers began installation of the Tektite habitat in Great Lameshur Bay at Lameshur, U.S. Virgin Islands.[170] The Tektite program was funded by NASA and was the first scientists-in-the-sea program sponsored by the U.S. government.[171] The Seabees also constructed a 12-hut base camp at Viers that is used today as the Virgin Islands Environmental Resource Station.[172] The Tektite project was a product of the Cold War. It caused the U.S. Navy to realize the need for a permanent Underwater Construction capability that led to the formation the Seabee Underwater Construction Teams".[173]

see Notes: 10a-10c

Cold War winds down

As the Cold War wound down, new challenges came with the increased incidence of terrorism. This was in addition to ongoing Seabee support missions like the Guam,[174] Okinawa,[174] and USN/USMC bases in Japan, Philippines,[174] Puerto Rico,[174] Cuba and Guatemala.[174] Even though the Cold war had wound down Cold War Facilities still required the Seabee support for Polaris and Poseidon submarines at Holy Loch, Scotland, Rota, Spain, Naples, Italy, and Souda Bay, Crete.[174] In 1971, the Seabees began their second huge peacetime construction Diego Garcia[174] on a small atoll in the Indian Ocean. That 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.

CN Carmella Jones became the first female Seabee when she cross-rated to Equipment Operator during the summer of 1972.[175]

Seabee construction efforts led to the expansion and improvement of Naval Air Facility, Sigonella, Sicily, turning this into a major base for the United States Sixth Fleet.

There were combat related assignments as well. In 1983, a truck bomb demolished the Marine's barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.[174] From the Beirut International Airport Druse militia artillery began harassing the Marines. After consultations with the theater commander, Marine amphibious command and combat engineers, NMCB-1 in Rota, Spain, sent in a 70-man AirDet with heavy equipment. Construction of artillery-resistant quarters went on from December 1983 until the Marines' withdrawal in February 1984.[174] EO2 Kirt May became the first Seabee post-Vietnam to receive a Purple Heart.

Robert Stethem was executed by the Lebanese Shia militia Hezbollah when they hijacked TWA Flight 847 in 1985. SW2 Stethem was a Seabee diver in UCT 1. The USS Stethem (DDG-63) was named for him. On 24 August 2010, on board USS Stethem, SW2 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 served in the Middle East. In August 1990 the First Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) was initially assigned NMCBs 4, 5, 7, and 40.[176] The first Seabees in theater were a Det from ABC 1 that was soon joined by a Det from ACB 2.[176] Shortly after them CBUs 411 and 415 arrived in Saudi Arabia.[176] Mid September the Air-Dets for the four CBs arrived to build air fields for Marine Air Groups (MAG) 11, 13, 16, and 25 of the 3rd Marine Air Wing.[176] NMCB 7 was the first battalion to arrive. Camps were constructed for both the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions as well as Hq complexes for MEF I and II.[176] Overall, in Saudi Arabia, Seabees built ten camps, fourteen galleys, and 6 million ft² (600,000 m²) of runways and parking aprons as well as over 200 helo zones. They built and maintained two 500-bed Fleet Hospitals near Al-Jubayl. The 3rd NCR was activated to provide a command echelon. NMCBs 24 and 74 were also deployed in support of the Marine Corps.[176] 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

NMCB 15 Seabee mans a machine gun while travelling through Al Hillah, Iraq in May 2003 (U.S. Navy).

Seabees were deployed in the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. All active and reserve NMCBs and NCRs were sent to repair infrastructure in both countries. .[177] NMCB 133 deployed to FOB Camp Rhino and Kandahar Airfield where a detention facility was constructed.[177] One of the Seabees most visible tasks was the removal of statues of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. In Afghanistan, the Seabees' main task was the construction of multiple forward operating bases.[177]

Since 2002, Seabees have provided vital construction skills for civic action programs in the Philippines.[177] Their efforts have had an effect in the southern Philippines, most notably near Abu Sayyaf's jungle training area. Seabees work with Army, Marines, and Air Force under Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines.[177]

see Notes:

Disaster relief and recovery

NMCB 5 attached to Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa set tents for displaced flood victims in Ethiopia. (U.S. Navy, 2006)

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 Gulfport, MS. with dets in five states and Puerto Rico.
  • NMCB 18: Headquartered at Port Hueneme, CA. with dets in six states.
  • NMCB 22: Headquartered at Port Hueneme, CA. with detachments in Texas with dets in four states.
  • NMCB 25: Headquartered at Port Hueneme, CA. with dets in six states.
  • NMCB 27: Headquartered at Westover Air Reserve Base, Chicopee, MA with dets in seven states.

Detachment: This is a construction crew that is sent to smaller construction projects "detached" from the battalion's "main body" deployment site.

Battalion: The battalion is the basic unit typically having a Hq Company plus four Construction Companies: A, B, C, & D. CBs are organized to function as independent self sufficient units.

Regiment: Naval Construction Regiments (NCRs) were established in December 1942.[1]:136 Their purpose was to provide a higher eschelon command to three or four CBs operating on close proximity.

Division: The Global War on Terror lead to the creation of the 1st Naval Construction Division(1NCD). It was in service from August 2002 until May 2013. 1NCD was a subordinate unit of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC). Most of the staff was integrated into the NECC with some NCD functions transferred to the newly formed Naval Construction Groups (NCGs) at Gulfport, MS. or Port Hueneme, CA.[184]

Naval Construction Groups: In 2013, Seabee Readiness Groups (SRGs) were decommissioned, and re-formed into Naval Construction Groups 1 and 2. They are regimental-level command groups tasked with administrative and operational control of CBs, as well as conducting pre deployment for all assigned units. Naval Construction Group 2 (NCG-2) is based at NCBC Gulfport, and Naval Construction Group 1 (NCG-1) is at CBC Port Hueneme.

Seabee Engineering Reconnaissance Teams (SERTs)

Seabee Engineer Reconnaissance Team from NMCB 40 making an assessment of a bridge to determine its structural capacity to support movements during a field exercise. US Navy

Seabee Engineer Reconnaissance Teams are ten-person teams, developed during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).[142] SERTs are divided into three elements: liaison, security, and a reconnaissance. The liaison (LNO) element has a CEC officer and two communications petty officers who are responsible for the transfer of field assessments, intelligence, and command reach-back. The reconnaissance element has a CEC officer, who is the Officer-in-Charge (OIC), a BU or SW cpo with bridge construction experience, and petty officers of OF-7 ratings. The unit has a corpsman or medically-trained member, with the rest of the team selected for being the best of their trades in their battalion. All are qualified Seabee Combat Warfare Specialists. The UCTs proved the SERT concept was viable leading to its adoption throughout OIF.[185]

Seabees outside the NCF since WWII

Amphibious Construction Battalions (PHIBCBs)

US Navy 030404-N-1050K-023U.S. Seabees from ACBs 1 and 2 place a deck section in the assembly of the Elevated Causeway System-Modular (ELCAS (M)) at Camp Patriot, Kuwait (Apr 2003).

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[186] Naval Base Little Creek, VA
  • CBMU 303[187] 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".[188] 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):

Underwater Construction Team 2 along with divers of the National Park Service make dives to ascertain the condition and status of the battleship USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, March 21, 2013

"NAVFAC Engineering & Expeditionary Warfare Center Ocean Facilities Department supports the Fleet through the support it gives the Underwater Construction Teams".[189] 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.

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).[190] In 1947 Construction Battalion Detachment 1510 began maintaining NAS Tanapag for the NTTU (Naval Technical Training Unit).[191][192] 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.[192] "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."[193] 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.[194] MCB 10 Det Bravo deployed to Saipan from July 1957 until February 1958 with projects unlisted.[195]
CIA runway by MCB 6 Det Alfa on Swan Island
  • A year before the Bay of pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis the CIA took a "top secret" urgent/immediate project to the Seabees.[196] 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.[196] The station would be independent and self powered. Det Tango of MCB 6 was given the project.[196] LSTs 1046 and 1056 were loaded at Quonset Point with all the men and materials required.[196] The Seabees had the CIA's "Radio Swan" on the air in short order.[196]

Notes: 14.1 a-d

Naval Intelligence: NAVFACs

The Navy built 22 Naval Facilities (NAVFACs) for its Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) to track Soviet submarines. They were in service 1954–79 with Seabees staffing the Public works at each Facility. In the 1980s technology reduced the number of tracking stations to 11 with advent of the Integrated Underwater Surveillance System (IUSS). 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 another is NavCommSta Guam. It started out on the island as the Joint Communications Agency (JCA) in 1945.

Camp David

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,[197] 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."[198] 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."[197] 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.

Cold War: Naval Support Unit: Department of State

Naval Support Unit Seabees securing a diplomatic compound in Dec. 2010. (Dept. of State)[199]

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.[200] Those initial Seabees were "Naval Mobile Construction Battalion FOUR, Detachment November".[201] 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.[202] [203] 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.[204] 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".[205]

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.[206][200] 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.[207] 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.[208] That Seabee number is roughly the same today.[209]

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 support for power generation/distribution, logistical movement, vehicle repair, construction/maintenance of encampments, water purification or facilities.[210][211][212][213][214] Seabees assigned to support NSW receive extra training in first aid, small arms, driving, and specialized equipment.[210][212] and are expected to qualify as Expeditionary Warfare Specialists.[215][216] 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).[217] They also can apply for selection to support the NSW Development Group.[218]

Training and rates

USMC barracks inspection during NMCB 74's military training at Camp Lejeune in March 1968 (USN)

Trainees begin "A" School (trade school) upon completion of boot: 4 weeks classroom, 8 weeks hands-on. From "A" School, trainees most often report to a NMCB or ACB. At those commands new Seabees will go through four-weeks of Expeditionary Combat Skills. ECS is also required for those who report to a unit in the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command. ECS is basic combat-training in: map reading, combat first aid, conducting recon, and other combat-related skills. Half of each course is spent learning basic marksmanship and qualifying with a M16A2 or M16A3 rifle and the M9 service pistol. Those posted to Alfa Company of a NMCB may be assigned to a crew-served weapon: MK 19 40mm grenade launcher, the M2HB .50-caliber machine gun, or the M240 machine gun. Many reserve units still field the M60 machine gun. Until 2012, Seabees wore the U.S. Woodland camouflage uniform or the Desert Camouflage Uniform, the last U.S. military to do so, but have transitioned to the Navy Working Uniform NWU Type III. Seabees use ALICE field gear. Some units, working with the Marines, will use USMC-issue Improved Load Bearing Equipment (ILBE).

WWII training

Camp Endicott had roughly 45 vocational schools plus additional specialized classes. These included Air compressors, Arc welding, BAR, Bridge building, Bulldozer, Camouflage, Carpentry, Concrete, Cranes, Dams, 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, Huts 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.[219]

Current rates:[220][221] The current ratings were adopted by the Navy in 1948.

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.

Seabee Underwater Construction Technicians Insignia
Master diver badge
Master Diver
First class diver badge
1st Class Diver
Second class diver badge
2nd Class Diver
Diving officer badge
Diving Officer

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).[222] Seabee divers are attached to five principal commands outside the NCF:

The "Seabee" and CB unit insignias

On 1 March 1942 the RADM Moreell recommended that an insignia be created to promote esprit de corps in the new CBs to ID their equipment as the Air corps did to ID squadrons. It was not intended for uniforms.[1]:136 Frank J. Iafrate, a civilian file clerk at Quonset Point Advance Naval Base, Davisville, Rhode Island, who created the original "Disney Style" Seabee. In early 1942 his design was sent to RADM Moreell who made a single request. That the Seabee being set inside a letter Q, for Quonset Point, be changed to a hawser rope and it would officially adopted.[225]

The Seabees had a second Logo. It was of a shirtless constructionman holding a sledge hammer with a rifle strapped across his back standing upon the words "Construimus Batuimus USN". The figure was 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. This logo was incorporated into many CB Unit insignias. [226]

During World War II, artists working for Disney Onsignia Department designed logos for about ten Seaabee units including the: 60th NCB,[227] ,78th NCB[227] 112th NCB[228] , and the 133rd NCB. There are two Disney published Seabee logos that are not identified with any unit.[229] Disney did not create the original Seabee insignia.

The end of WWII brought the decommissioning of nearly all of the CBs. They 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 archive for Seabee history. As time 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.

Seabee Combat Warfare Insignia and Peltier Award

SCW insignia: officer and enlisted

The military qualification badge for the Seabees is known as the Seabee combat warfare specialist insignia (SCW). It was created in 1993 for both officers and enlisted personnel. Only members attached to a qualifying NCF unit are eligible for the SCW pin. The qualifying units include: NMCBs, ACBs, NCF Support Units (NCFSU), UCTs, and NCRs.

Fleet Marine Force insignia authorized for US Naval personnel: Officer, Enlisted, and Chaplain

The Fleet Marine Force Insignia or Fleet Marine Force pin (FMF pin), are for issue to those USN officers and enlisted trained and qualified to support the U. S. Marine Corps. Those Seabees assigned with the Fleet Marine Force can earn the FMF pin. The FMF pin comes in three classes : enlisted, officer, and chaplain. For 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.[230]

Seabee barge carriers

US Navy 050728-N-8268B-022 A Logistical Amphibious Recovery Craft (LARC) amphibious vehicle assigned to Beachmaster Unit One (BMU-1) launches from the Military Sealift Command (MSC) sea barge heavy lift ship SS Cape Mohican (T-AKR-5065)

see: Seabee (barge)

There were six "Seabee" ships built:[231] the SS Cape Mendocino (T-AKR-5064), the SS Cape May (T-AKR-5063) and the SS Cape Mohican (T-AKR-5065). The other three of were operated by Lykes Brothers Steamship Company and were originally the SS Doctor Lykes, the SS Tillie Lykes, and the SS Almeria Lykes. The NCF primarily uses the Seabee barges . Barges with a 2.5' draft are loaded and floated to and from a mother container ship, facilitating loading and unloading of containerized cargo at sea. These ships have an elevator system for loading the barges out of the water at the stern onto the vessel. Loaded barges can then be moved toward the vessel's bow by means of a track to be stowed on one of three decks. Seabee barge carriers can store 38 barges, 12 each on the lower decks and 14 on the upper deck. The 38 barges can hold 160 containers. A barges measures 97'x35'.[232] A barge carrier also has storage tanks of nearly 36000 m³(9,510,194 gal.) volume built in its sides and double hull, allowing it to be used also as a tanker. The ships were purchased by Military Sealift Command.


The Fighting Seabee Statue at Quonset Point, where the Seabee Museum and Memorial Park commemorates Camp Endicott which is on the National Register of Historic Places (U.S. Navy)

The U.S. Navy Seabee Museum[233] is located outside the main gate of Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, Ca. In July 2011 the new facility opened with galleries, grand hall, theater, storage, and research areas.

The Seabee Heritage Center is the Atlantic Coast Annex of the Seabee Museum in Port Hueneme.[234] It opened in 1995.[235] Exhibits at the Gulfport Annex are provided by the Seabee Museum in Port Hueneme.[236]

The Seabee Museum and Memorial Park[237] in Davisville, Rhode Island was opened in the late 1990s. A Fighting Seabee Statue is located there.

Notable Seabees



2a. United States Navy Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg  Presidential Unit Citation USN/USMC : The 6th CB with the 1st Marine Div. on Guadalcanal.[239]

2b. United States Navy Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg  Presidential Unit Citation USN/USMC : The 18th CB with the 2nd Marine Div. on Tarawa[239]

2c. United States Navy Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg  Presidential Unit Citation USN/USMC : The 33rd CBs shore party detachment[240][239] with the 1st Marine Div. on Peleliu

2d. United States Navy Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg  Presidential Unit Citation USN/USMC : The 73rd CBs shore party detachment[240][239] with the 1st Marine Div. on Peleliu

2e. U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg  U.S. Army Distinguished Unit Citation : 40th CB plus 12 men from the 78th CB with the 1st Cavalry Div. on Los Negros[239]

2f. United States Navy Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg  Presidential Unit Citation USN/USMC : The 121st CB with the 4th Marine Div. on Saipan and Tinian[239]

2g. WWII U.S.N. CB awards for valor were listed each month in All Hands along with the rest of the Navy.[230]

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 by one company plus 1/5th of Hq Co to match the organization of a USMC battalion. B Co from the 25th CB[241] and C Co from the 18th CB[242] were used to form the 53rd CB. The other company was used to form 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.[243]

2.1c. USN insignia on USMC issue.[244]

2.1d. Seabees were shore party for the Marines on Bougainville,[58] Peleliu,[57] Guam,[245] Purata Island,[59] Roi-Namur, Saipan,[246] Iwo Jima,[62] and Okinawa.[247] The Marines deployed them as combat engineers at Cape Gloucester,[248] Tarawa,[249] and Tinian.[250]

2.1e. The first Marines assigned to a CB were attached to CBD 1010 on Guam.[251] The 2nd Separate Marine Engineer Battalion was next, assigned to the 27th NCR with two former USMC CBs; the 25th and the 53rd.[252] In mid-August 1944 the 1st Separate Marine Engineer Battalion was assigned to the 30th NCR.[253] Prior, 100 Marines were assigned to the 71st CB on Bougainville.

2.1f WWII NCF Seabees were awarded 5 Navy Crosses, 33 Silver Stars and over 2,000 Purple Hearts.[254] USMC policy is to not keep records on non-USMC personnel so the number of Marine Corps Commendations Seabees received is not known.

NCDUs, Seabees outside the NCF

2.2a. NCDUs at Normandy: 11, 22–30, 41–46, 127–8, 130-42[81]

2.2c. The Joint Army Navy Experimental Testing (JANET) site for beach obstacle removal, Project DM-361, was located at the ex-Seabee base, Camp Bradford after the NCDU program moved.[255]

2.2d. 14 NCDUs were combined to create UDT 9, almost completely Seabees[90] NCDUs 200 – 216 were combined to create UDT 15.[82]

2.2e. United States Navy Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg  Presidential Unit Citation USN/USMC : Naval Combat Demolition Force O ( NCDUs: 11, 22–24, 27, 41–46, 128–131, 133, 137, 138, 140-142) on Omaha beach at Normandy.[256]

2.2f. U.S. Navy Unit Commendation ribbon.svg  Navy Unit Commendation: Naval Combat Demolition Force U on Utah beach at Normandy.

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[93] with Europe invaded. Gen. MacArthur had no interest.[93] Adm. Nimitz looked at Donovan's list and also said no, except he could use the swimmers from the Maritime Unit.[93] He was only interested in them for being swimmers not being OSS.

2.3c. Seabees outside the NCF, made naval history.[257] For the Marianas operations Admiral Turner recommended over 60 Silver Stars and over 300 Bronze Stars with Vs for the Seabees and other service members of UDTs 1-7[257] That was unpresendented in USN/USMC history.[257] For UDTs 5 and 7 at Tinian and UDTs 3 and 4 at Guam, all officers received a silver stars and all enlisted received bronze stars with Vs.[76] Adm. Conolly felt the commanders of teams 3 and 4 (Lt. Crist and Lt. W.G. Carberry) should have received Navy Crosses at Guam.[76]

2.3e. UDT 3 at formation had 11 CEC, 4 USN, 1 USMC Officers[90] Nearly all of the men from UDTs 1 and 2 were used to form UDTs 3 and 4.[82]

2.3f. UDT 7's officers went through "indoctrination" in "Area E" at Camp Peary.[90]

Seabee North Slope Oil Exploration 1944

2w. Seabee Creek was named by CBD 1058 and runs into the Colville River at Umiat, AK.

2x. USN geologists with CBD 1058 discovered the large Aupuk Gas Seep.[258]

Cold War: Korea – Seabee Teams

5a. In October 1965 MCB 11 had two Seabee Teams assigned to "Project Demo". The U.S. State Dept. tasked them with de-bugging U.S. embassies behind the iron curtain and repair the damage caused by the removal.[259][260]

Cold War: Antarctica

6b. Seabee Heights is a geologic feature of the Transantarctic mountains. It overlooks the Beardmore Glacier Seabee traverse route inland.

6c. Seabee Hook is located near the site of Hallett Station on the Ross sea.

Cold War: Vietnam

8a. Commander Naval Construction Battalion U.S. Pacific Fleet, Tân Sơn Nhất, Republic of Vietnam, Completion Report 1963–1972.[119]

8c. Military training for CBs during this period lasted six weeks. Two weeks were at the respective homeport and four weeks with the Marines at Camp Lejuene or Camp Pendleton.

8d.United States Navy Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg  Presidential Unit Citation USN/USMC : Dets from MCBs 5, 10, 53 and CBMU 301 in support of the 26th Marines at the Battle of Khe Sanh Jan–Feb 1968.[156]

8e. Cold War projects: 1961 floating dry dock for Polaris submarines at Holy Loch, Scotland.[261] 1963 U.S. Naval Communications Listening Station Nea Makri, Greece.[261]


10a. A 1960 CB NASA Cold War project was the Project Mercury tracking facilities on Canton Island (MCB 10 Det)[262]

Iraq Afghanistan

13a. United States Navy Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg  Presidential Unit Citation USN/USMC : 30th NCR, NMCBs 4, 5, 74, 133, Air-Det 22nd NCR, Air-Det UCT 2, NCF Support Unit 2 in support of the First Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF Engineer Group) in November 2003 added later upon review were: NMCBs 7, 15 as well as Air-Det NMCB 21, Air-Det NMCB 25, and CBMU 303 Det.[263] (per: CMC MARADMIN 507/03)[264]

13b. In 2015 ACB 1 moved the Orion (spacecraft) Boilerplate (spaceflight) test article for NASA at San Diego, CA.

Cold War: CIA

14.1b. When CBD 1510 transferred to CBD 1504 it was designated for function similar to Acorns: Aviation and OTA.[265] 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."[266]

14.1d. In 2007 the Naval Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) authorized funding forty Naval Intelligence billets in the NCF.[267] The goal was to have organic NCF Intelligence personnel. Historically the training officer would become the intelligence officer when a CB deployed.

14.1f. CIA redacted memorandum dated 14 June 1968 discusses the use on Naval Construction Personal/Seabees on a project.[268]

Seabee insignia

18a. WWII Naval Construction Battalion Logos[269]

18b. CBs sponsored many B-29s on Tinian tagging the aircraft with Seabee unit insignia as nose art.[270][271][272]

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. At the construction site of the new embassy twenty to thirty Seabees were assigned to oversee 800 plus Russian construction workers.[273] 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

20a. Unusual Hull Design Requirements of the SEABEE Barge Carriers.[274]

See also

Other U.S. military construction/engineering organizations:

Further reading

  • A Brief History of USOM Support to the Office of Accelerated Rural Development, prepared by USOM Office of Field Operations, James W. Dawson, Assistant Program Officer, Sept, 1969 [120]
  • COM-ICE-PAC, reports CBD 1058, Lt. Harry F. Corbin, ChC, CBD 1058, 1956 [121]
  • Exploration of the Petroleum Reserve No. 4 and Adjacent Areas, Northern Alaska 1944–53, Part 1, History of the Exploration, Cmdr. John C. Reed CEC, Geological Survey Professional Paper 301, U.S. GPO, Washington, DC, 1958, pp. 21–46 [122]
  • History of the SEABEES, Command Historian, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, 1996, [123]
  • Gropman, Alan (1997). The Big 'L' : American logistics in World War II. Diane Publishing. p. 244. ISBN 9781428981355.
  • Kubic, Charles R.; Rife, James P. (2009). Bridges to Baghdad: The US Navy Seabees in the Iraq War. Thomas Publications.
  • Nichols, Gina (2007). The Seabees at Gulfport. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing.
  • Hettema, Arthur D. "My Experience With U.D.T. at Luzon and Iwo Jima".
  • MILPERSMAN 1306–919, Naval Support Unit State Dept. [124]
  • NAVPERS 15,790 (REV 1953), Navy and Marine Corps Awards Manual, Dept of the Navy, Unit Awards, Part II, [125]
  • NAVEDTRA-14234A, USN BMR for Seabee Combat Handbook 14234A. USN BMR online
  • Peleliu 1944, Jim Moran Gordon L Rottman, Osprey Publishing, 2012, "Black Shore party" [126]
  • Tektite and the Birth of the Underwater Construction Teams by Dr. Frank A. Blazich Jr., Historian, U.S. Navy Seabee Museum [127]
  • Test Wells, Umiat Area Alaska, Florence I. Rucker Collins, Exploration Of Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 4 and Adjacent Areas, Northern Alaska, 1944–53, Part 5, Subsurface Geology And Engineering Data, Geological Survey Professional Paper 305-B, U. S. Dept. of the Navy, Office of Naval Petroleum and Oil Shale Reserves, U.S. GPO, Washington, DC: 1958 [128]
  • The King Bee[20]
  • Thesis: USAWC Strategy Research Project, The effectiveness of the Seabee in Employing New Concepts During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Cmdr. Marshall Sykes USN, U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, PA, 2005. [129]
  • Thesis: U.S. Navy Seabees as a Stability Asset, Aaron W. Park, 2009, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA [130]
  • Thesis: "Navy Seabees: Versatile Instruments of Power Projection", Master of Military Studies: Lt Cmdr. Wernher C. Heyres, CEC, USN, 2013, USMC Command & Staff College, Marine Corps University, Quantico, VA [131]
  • Tregaskis, Richard (1972). Southeast Asia: Building the Bases. Washington, DC: U.S. GPO.
  • United States Navy Construction Battalions, Seabees in Action, Seabee Teams, published by: Dept. of the Navy, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, 1967, Washington, DC [132]
  • "All gave some, some gave all: 17th Special CB, Bob Sohrt/Full Memoirs, Featured WWII Memoirs/Stories" (click: branch of service: Marines) Witness to War website, p. 4 of 11 [133]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Chapter VI: The Seabees". Building the Navy's Bases in World War II: History of the BuDocks and the CEC 1940–1946. Vol I. Washington, DC: U.S.GPO. 1947. Retrieved 18 October 2017 – via HyperWar.
  2. ^ "Chapter XXIV: Bases in the South Pacific". Building the Navy's Bases in World War II: History of the BuDocks and the CEC 1940–1946. Vol I. Washington, DC: U.S.GPO. 1947. Retrieved 18 October 2017 – via HyperWar.
  3. ^ U.S. Marine Corps WWII Order of Battle, Gordon L. Rottman, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, 2002, p. 32
  4. ^ The Water is Never Cold, James Douglas O'Dell, Brassey's, Dulles, VA, 2001, p. 28
  5. ^ a b c "Seabee History: Formation of the Seabees and World War II". Naval History and Heritage Command. 2017. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d Training the Fighting Seabees of WWII at Camp Peary, Daily Press, E-newspaper 3 Dec, 2017, Mark St. John Erickson, Newport News, VA.[1]
  7. ^ "Admiral Ben Moreell, CEC, USN". Seabee Museum and Memorial Park. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  8. ^ WDTVLIVE42 (24 August 2012). "Seabees – 1945 Educational Documentary". YouTube. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  9. ^ Coca-Cola and the Art of Seabee Acquisition, Seabee Museum, Seabee Museum website, Port Hueneme, CA.[2]
  10. ^ a b c "SeaBees Name and Insignia Officially Authorized". Naval History Blog. U.S. Naval Institute. 29 February 2012. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  11. ^ "The Seabees". Flying. Vol. 35 no. 4. October 1944. p. 261. Retrieved 18 October 2017. All in all, the Seabees look like a phenomenon of World War II and will probably die with it.
  12. ^ "The Twelfth Regiment (Public Works) and the Origin of the Seabees". U.S. Navy Seabee Museum. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  13. ^ a b c d Introduction 2017.
  14. ^ Flags, Pennants & Customs, NTP 13 (B), Naval Computer And Telecommunications Command, Washington, DC, section 17.11, p. 17-5 [3]
  15. ^ a b "Chapter IV: Bobcat". Dept. of the Navy Office of Naval Operations: The Logistics of Advance Bases: The Base Maintenance Division Op30 (Op415). Washington, DC: U. S. GPO. 1947. Retrieved 18 October 2017 – via HyperWar.
  16. ^ a b c d {{cite] web |url= |title=Seabee Unit Histories |website=The NMCB 62 "Minutemen" |accessdate=18 October 2017}}
  17. ^ Seabee Online magazine, March 4–10, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Washington Navy Yard, DC [4]
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