Happy Birthday Seabees

by Peter T Yeschenko

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Today is the 79th Birthday of the US Navy “SEABEES”! I just wanted to wish all my Seabee shipmates a very Happy Birthday.

In December 1941, with US involvement in war soon expected on both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, Rear Admiral Ben Moreell, Chief of the Navy’s Bureau of Yards and Docks, recommended establishing Naval Construction Battalions at a newly constructed base at Davisville, Rhode Island.

With the attack on Pearl Harbor and the US entrance into the war, he was given the go-ahead.

On 5 March 1942, all Construction Battalion personnel were officially named Seabees by the Navy Department.

Rear Admiral Ben Moreell personally furnished them with their motto Construmus Batumius, or We Build, We Fight.

Camp Thomas, a personnel-receiving station on the base, was established in October of that year. It eventually contained 500 Quonset huts for personnel.

On 11 August 1942, the Naval Construction Training Center, known as Camp Endicott, was commissioned at Davisville. The Camp trained over 100,000 Seabees during the WWII.

In California in May 1942, a base for supporting the Naval Construction Force was established at Port Hueneme in Ventura County.

This base became responsible for shipping massive amounts of equipment and material to the efforts in the Pacific.

The earliest Seabees were recruited from the civilian construction trades and were placed under the leadership of the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps.

Because of the emphasis on experience and skill rather than physical standards, the average age of Seabees during the early days of the war was 37.

More than 325,000 men served with the Seabees in WWII, fighting and building on six continents and more than 300 islands.

In the Pacific, where most of the construction work was needed, the Seabees landed soon after the Marines and built major airstrips, bridges, roads, gasoline storage tanks, and Quonset huts for warehouses, hospitals, and housing.

They often operated under fire and frequently were forced to take part in the fighting to defend themselves and their construction projects.

The Seabees were officially organized in the Naval Reserve on 31 December 1947.

With the general demobilization following the war, the Naval Construction Battalions (NCBs) were reduced to 3,300 men on active duty by 1950.

Between 1949 and 1953, Naval Construction Battalions were organized into two types of units: Amphibious Construction Battalions and Mobile Construction Battalions.

Mobile Construction Battalions were later designated Naval Mobile Construction Battalions in the early 1960s to eliminate confusion with Marine Corps Base in Vietnam.


One thought on “Happy Birthday Seabees

  1. Michael Novak says:

    I grew up in Gulfport, Mississippi….2nd home of the SeaBees. In the 1960’s, the SeaBee base was and still is next to the cemetery where my grandparents were buried, and we would make frequent trips to visit. One day I asked my dad what was that huge pile of red dirt across the fence? He said it’s not dirt, its bauxite, the ore that aluminum is extracted from….and that pile of bauxite represents WW II war reparations from Indonesia. In 2013, when I was next able to visit….the pile was finally gone, and one could see the warehouses on the base!!


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