#LestWeForget – Vella Lavella Loca

“Victory has its inevitable price. Never is there a time when the meaning of victory is more thoroughly searched than when its price includes the loss of human life. Some gave their lives that others might live. We will never quite understand why. Without exception, the men, who made the Supreme Sacrifice on our cruise, left their places in the role of a true shipmate. They were heroes doing their jobs with unwavering devotion.

They gave their time and talents, leaving home and loved ones to fight for a great cause. In dying, they gave their everything for this cause in order that we, who are left behind, might have a better world in which to live.

It is our solemn duty to see that they have not died in vain.”

From the 58th Naval Construction Battalion Cruise Book

The Battle of Vella Lavella

The Battle of Vella Lavella was fought from 15 August – 6 October 1943 between Japan and the Allied forces from New Zealand and the United States at the end of the New Georgia campaign.   

On the morning of 14 August 1943, two LCIs, together with destroyers and LSTs, shoved off from Guadalcanal for Vella Lavella. As dawn broke on 15 August 1943, the 58th Naval Construction Battalion (58 NCB) landed on Vella Lavella, in the wake of the 35th US Army Infantry. Unloading had barely begun when the Japanese staged a heavy air attack.

Intermittent air attacks continued as the LCIs tried to unload equipment and personnel. A barrage of fire was sent up from every ship, planes screaming down from all sides, strafing, and bombing the beach. Troops scattered from the beach and pressed into the jungle not far offshore. The attacks lasted for hours as Japanese aircraft returned in waves with little warning.

As soon as the attack was over, personnel proceeded down the beach to assist in unloading the LSTs. Prior to the war there were no roads on Vella Lavella; but an abundance of coral was available for use as concrete aggregate or road surfacing. There were also ample stands of timber. The first pieces of equipment off the ships were large bulldozers, which were immediately put to work clearing roadways along the beach and into the jungle to provide access to areas chosen as supply sites.

After the ships unloaded, the troops moved about five hundred yards inland to the bivouac area. That night thirteen additional bombings and strafing attacks occurred, mostly on the beach. The men suffered a night of terror, laying in the mud, rain-filled fox holes waiting for dawn.

Two more waves of men and equipment arrived over the next week. In the third wave on 22 August, another Japanese bombing attack killed one man and wounded five. The next several weeks repeated the landings, unloading under fire, and sleepless nights under random enemy fire.

Due to the incessant air attacks the camp was moved into the jungle. The first step was to construct fox holes which were later enlarged and covered over to provide protection from falling shrapnel.

The 77th NCB arrived on 25 September 1943, in the midst of a Japanese bombing attack. During this attack the Seabees manned guns and took over first-aid and evacuation work. In spite of casualties and severe losses of vital equipment, the Seabees immediately set to work clearing jungle, repairing roads and bridges, and constructing gun emplacements and LST landing facilities.

On 6-7 October, the Japanese began an evacuation operation to withdraw the remaining troops, during which the Naval Battle of Vella Lavella was fought. During the period from August to December 1943, the Seabees experienced over 60 bombings with sleepless nights of incessant attacks. Fourteen Seabees were killed in action during the four months spent on Vella Lavella, a little known island which proved key to the leapfrogging campaign across the Pacific.

“Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.” – Rabindranath Tagore

SF1c John Young
S1c Wilmer Lyons
CM3c Robert Neumann
EM2c Patrick Begley
GM3c Walter Busby
BM1c Loftus Christianson
CM2c Clifford Jondreau
CM3c Eric Breiby
S1c Homer Cole
S1c Hadden Joyce
SF1c Aaron Martin
SF2c James Holt
S1c Elmer Bowlin
MM2c Guy Hetrick

Fair winds and following seas

#LestWeForget – The Seabees Opening Salvo – Guadalcanal

“And they who for their country die shall fill an honored grave, for glory lights the soldier’s tomb, and beauty weeps the brave.” – Joseph Rodman Drake

The Seabee’s opening salvo took place on Guadalcanal during the initial island assault in September 1942. The newly created Navy branch transformed from a theoretical force used during tabletop war exercises to an essential part of the leapfrogging campaign across the Pacific. The principal objective was to deny the enemy and possess for ourselves the Japanese airfield recently constructed on the island.

The Battle of Guadalcanal became the first major US island invasion against the Japanese in the Pacific. About 15 days after the Marines invaded Guadalcanal, the men of the 6th Naval Construction Battalion followed them ashore and became the first Seabees to build under combat conditions.

Seabee ingenuity and achievements on Guadalcanal set the pattern of combat construction carried to Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Japan. The first Seabees arrived September 1 with almost no heavy equipment. What equipment they had was borrowed from the Marines and Army or abandoned by the Japanese and repaired or stripped for parts. Although much of the enemy equipment was of an obsolete design, it was re-forged, remade and put to use.

Shortly after landing, Seabees immediately began the arduous task of repairing the airfield, later named Henderson Field. Japanese bombers overhead dropped high explosives onto the field making repairing the field and keeping it operational a never-ending job. Nevertheless, in the midst of battle, the Seabees were able to repair shell and bomb holes faster than the Japanese could make them. The Allied pilots desperately needed the use of Henderson Field, so the Seabees kept this precious airstrip in almost continuous operation.

In bombing raids there were two main warnings “Condition Yellow” meaning enemy planes would be overhead in 30 to 45 minutes, and “Condition Red” indicating enemy planes were set to bomb. The later called for an immediate retreat to the foxholes. Seabees continued to work through all condition yellows and often condition red was called so late that the planes were overhead making removing equipment impossible.

During the early part of October, a Japanese offensive pushed the Marine line back to the Lunga River and within 150 feet of the west end of the runway on Henderson Field. To protect the field from bombings, the Marines manned gun emplacements at various locations along the flight strip. During an attack on October 3, Seaman 2nd class Bucky Meyer jumped into a machine gun pit, manned the gun, and was credited with bringing down a Japanese Zero. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions as he was later killed in an attack by a Japanese plane while working on a pontoon barge. He was the first Seabee awarded the Silver Star.

During September, Japanese bombing and shelling threatened vital radio and radar equipment, all of which was surface housed, and it became necessary to get the equipment under ground as soon as possible. The 6th Battalion undertook tunneling operations into Pagoda Hill, just a few feet from Henderson Field. Because of the urgency of the situation, three eight-hour shifts were put to work. Air spades, air drills, and hand shovels were used and Japanese cars, on Japanese rails, were used to remove the spoil. On October 14, all equipment was moved from the Pagoda building on top of the hill into the tunnel, just before a new Japanese shelling took place. In all, four such tunnels were built by the Seabees.

Japanese resistance was fierce and persistent, and logistical support limited by the shipping demands for the forthcoming invasion of North Africa. For six months, ground, sea, and air forces battled for possession of Guadalcanal. The Japanese continued shelling Henderson Field using six-inch artillery pieces hidden in the hills. They shelled for 15 or 20 minutes usually at meal time creating both mental and material damage.

Beginning on 13 October, a US Army contingent landed on Guadalcanal. To prevent them from consolidating their position, the Japanese launched an all-out sea, air, and land assault to retake the island.

During October there was an acute shortage of aviation gasoline on Guadalcanal, and it was necessary to ferry all gasoline from Tulagi in drums. Often the Seabees would be called upon to assist Navy and Marine personnel in unloading operations. After dark on October 15, a detail was sent to the beach to unload gas drums. The scene was suddenly lit by two aerial flares followed by a half dozen bombs. The men took shelter in Marine dugouts along the beach. About an hour after the planes disappeared, the Tulagi ferry arrived, and the gasoline was quickly unloaded and distributed in caches along the beach. The last drum had hardly reached the beach when Japanese ships moved in and opened fire on Henderson Field. The shelling continued for over an hour until U. S. surface craft forced the Japanese ships to run.

The following day, October 16th, a detail of 17 men from the 6th NCB under Chief Shipfitter Jennings was sent two miles off Red Beach with a pontoon barge and fuel drums to unload gasoline from the converted destroyer McFarland. Just after the last drum was filled and before the lines could be cast off, Japanese dive bombers swooped in. The first wave missed completely, the second hit the barge which burst into flames and the third scored a hit on the fantail of the McFarland, exploding the depth charges. In the strafing which accompanied the bombing, several planes were brought down by the McFarland’s guns. Those on the barge who were able dove into the water and were picked up within three minutes by the crew of a Higgins boat. Both the Seabees and the crew of the McFarland were hit heavily. Of the Seabees in the 6th Naval Construction Battalion, F1c Veikko Leivo, R.J. Watson and S.B Hale were severely burned by the flaming gasoline.  SF1c D.J. Gillis suffered a ruptured eat drum, and eight men were killed in action.

These were Chief Shipfitter Jennings, CM2c Jules Addor, CM3c Jack Brinker, CM3c Joseph Decks,; SF2c Herluf Jensen, S2c Justin Plas, S2c Edwin Janney and S2c Lawrence “Bucky” Meyer. Leivo died of his wounds after being transferred to the hospital.

The bombings and shelling continued through the latter part of October and November but reduced in scale. On February 8, 1943, the Japanese evacuated their remaining troops, ending the first phase of the Solomon campaign.

A total of seventeen construction battalions, including five special battalions, were assigned to Guadalcanal. By the end of 1942, the 14th, 18th, and 26th Battalions had reported to Guadalcanal, in addition to the original 6th which was transferred in January 1943. During 1943, the 34th, 46th, 61st, 63rd, 53rd, and 27th Battalions arrived, and the 1st, 4th, and 9th Specials. CBMU 501 took over part of the maintenance duties on Guadalcanal in March 1943, and during the early months of 1944, four maintenance units, CBMU’s 532, 533, 518, and 520, assumed responsibility for maintenance and minor construction activities. By that time, all battalions, with the exception of the Specials, had been withdrawn. The 18th, 25th, and 58th Battalions staged through Guadalcanal with Marine divisions, and numerous other Seabee groups were at Guadalcanal for staging activities prior to forward movements to the upper Solomon Islands.

The Seabees on Guadalcanal were subjected to intermittent air raids until the fall of 1943, but the most severe punishment was taken by the 6th Naval Construction Battalion during the first months of airfield construction.

Fair Winds and Following Seas
CM2c Jules Addor
CM3c Jack Brinker
BM2c Charles Conner
CM2c Joseph Deeks
S2c Edwin Janney
CSF Raleigh Jennings
S2c Herluf Jensen
F1c Veikko Leivo
SF2c John Mansfield
S2c Lawrence Meyer
S1c Fred Morrow
S2c Justin Plas
SF3c Victor Snyder
MM2c James Stiverson
MM1c Henry Thompson

#LestWeForget – A Dubious Distinction

“For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.” – President James Garfield

On 23 October 1967, LT Joseph J. Rhodes, SWC Gordon Dibble, and BUR3 Jon Morvay were killed in action when a jeep they were driving in struck a land mine near Phu Bai, Vietnam. All three men served with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 121, Delta Company. LT Rhodes earned the dubious distinction of becoming the first Civil Engineer Corps (CEC) officer killed in action in Vietnam, but not the last. In honor of their service, all three men received the Combat Action Ribbon, Purple Heart, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign, and National Defense Service Medal.

LT Rhodes was a graduate of the General Motors Institute, class of 1962. He was commissioned an Ensign in May 1963 and, after attending Officer Candidate School (OCS) and Civil Engineer Corps Officers School (CECOS), he deployed to Naval Station Bermuda and, later, Antarctica Support Activities. He extended his service after working with the Seabees in Antarctica and joined NMCB 121 in February 1967. He received the Navy Commendation Medal for his service as Pubic Works Officer, Antarctic Support Activities, Detachment Alfa in McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

Camp Rhodes

On 18 September 1968, Camp Rhodes, a Seabee camp in Quang Tri, Republic of Vietnam, was dedicated in memory of LT Rhodes. A plaque bearing the inscription, “Camp Rhodes dedicated in honor of LT Joseph John Rhodes, CEC, USNR, killed in action 23 October 1967,” was unveiled by Rear Admiral Alexander Husband, Chief of Civil Engineers and Commander William Kartell, Commanding Officer of NMCB-11.

Plaque at Camp Rhodes
Plaque at Camp Rhodes

The Seabee camp was built to accommodate a battalion of Seabees and provide them with living and working facilities. Three Naval Mobile Construction Battalions lived, worked and supported Allied and US troops in the Quang Tri area using Camp Rhodes as their base of operations. The camp closed on 15 March 1970, after operations in the area ceased.

Fair Winds and Following Seas, Seabees.

#LestWeForget – Chief Builder Raymond Border

“No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation.”

– General Douglas MacArthur

Chief Builder (SCW) Raymond J Border was killed 19 October 2011 in Yahya Khel, Paktika Province, Afghanistan while assigned as an Individual Augmentee (IA) to a Provincial Reconstruction Team. BUC Border and Army Staff Sergeant Jorge A. Oliveira were assessing a convoy route when an improvised device exploded. Both suffered severe wounds in the explosion and passed away as a result.

Border began his military career in 1999 serving 12 years in the Seabees including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. His home unit was Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Seventy-four homeported in Gulfport, MS, but deployed as an IA during his third tour of duty in a war zone.

Border was the recipient of the Bronze Star with combat V, Purple Hear,t and the Combat Action Ribbon, which were just a few of the military awards and recognitions he received throughout his military career.


Never Forget

On 11 February 2022, the “Raymond J. Border Fitness Center” was officially dedicated in a ceremony onboard Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) Gulfport, MS. This was the first building on base named after a Seabee who died in action while serving during Operation Enduring Freedom.

More than 400 people attended the ceremony, where the building’s name and a plaque dedicated to Border were unveiled at the entrance of the fitness center, and more than 1000 people streamed it.

U.S. Congressman Steven Palazzo’s office read into the congressional record this proclamation:

“This proclamation for Chief Border really is kind of an overview of his life and career, but it also falls in the category of ‘Words Fail.’ While they sum up his career and history and connections, it is the understanding of folks who have served with men like Chief Border who really bring to fore days like today, where their impact, their influence, their example and their sacrifice are something to be reflected on and celebrated.”

As the NCBC Gulfport Command Master Chief Michael Lopez stated during the dedication ceremony, “Our fallen matter. Never forget them, always honor them.”

Fair Winds and Following Seas, Seabee.

Hurricane Hugo Disaster Recovery

Since their inception, one of the Seabees’ foremost tasks has been providing relief to disaster-stricken areas, whether man-made or naturally occurring.  Some disasters are of such an enormity that it requires a multi-pronged, multi-national approach over widespread locales.

September 21, 1989 was such an occasion, when Hurricane Hugo struck South Carolina near midnight with Category 5 winds reaching 135 mph.  Hugo resulted in the deaths of 27 South Carolinians, and remains one of the state’s costliest weather events, resulting in an estimated $5.9 billion in damage in South Carolina alone.  All told Hugo caused an estimated total of $11 billion in damage, and 86 fatalities according to some sources.

Destruction in Charleston, South Carolina.
Seabees clearing fallen trees from roadways and buildings.

The Seabees’ construction expertise made them ideally suited to the response effort, and the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5, NMCB 7, NMCB 133, and Construction Battalion Unit 412 were among those dispatched to provide relief.

Nearly 400 men from NMCB 5, dispersed amongst 5 separate units, were deployed with tools and 600,000 lbs. of emergency electrical equipment to Charleston, S.C., in addition to Antigua, Puerto Rico, and Vieques.

Winds in excess of 130 miles per hour lash out at the Roosevelt Roads Marina, submerging sailboats.

NMCB 5 assisted NMCB 7 with UTs (Utilitesmen) and CEs (Construction Electricians), and the NMCB 5 Air Detachment was sent to Naval Station Charleston.  The NMCB 5 Air Detachment was comprised of 89 men and structured like a small-scale battalion, designed to be deployed within 48 hours for any manner of crisis response.

Winds in excess of 130 miles per hour lash out at the Roosevelt Roads Marina, submerging sailboats.

The detachment was led by LT Leo McKinley, and oversaw the repair of rooftops, walls and buildings that required the most immediate attention in the storm’s aftermath.  NMCB 5 also swiftly went about repairing warehouses containing sensitive materials needing protection from the elements.   In many instances these repairs were of such high quality the buildings were left in an improved state from their original construction. Alas, some of the warehouses were found to be beyond repair, but some materials were salvaged for alternative use.

Demolished Movie Theater at Camp Moscrip.

NMCB 7’s disaster relief work on the Caribbean Islands earned them the “Best of Type” award for 1989, in addition to the Peltier Award recognizing them as best active construction battalion in the Naval Construction Force.

The Clean Team

The Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory’s (NCEL) Clean Team was created in 1966 to provide onsite inspection for potential hazards, evaluate pollution problems at naval installations, and recommend proper control measures, if necessary.

The Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) was given management responsibility for pollution abatement programs throughout the naval shore establishment. In response to a presidential decree ordering all federal agencies to control emissions into the atmosphere, NAVFAC requested NCEL create the Source Emission Testing (SET) team to provide expert technical assistance to naval commands seeking its services. SET was the only smog combat unit in the Navy.

NCEL’s involvement started in July 1966, with a one-man research project. A directive from NAVFAC requested that NCEL define (1) magnitude of smoke abatement problem at the San Diego Fire Fighting School, (2) conduct a literature search, (3) establish liaison with the school and (4) investigate methods of reducing air pollutants from oil fires.

The program grew to a four-man team in October 1968 to assist naval commands across the nation. The team’s first road trip came two months later with a stack emission test at a Southern Navy base. The Laboratory’s SET team consisted of three air pollution engineers and one technician to detect, measure, and analyze smoke stack emissions in terms of federal and local regulations. Using what at the time was cutting edge test instrumentation and technology, the SET group determined gaseous flow rates; concentration of particles, hydrocarbon, Sulphur dioxide and water vapor contents; dust collector efficiency and the size of the particles released into the air. They use at least 100 different pieces of instrumentation and tools on the job. Three large crates, containing 1,500 pounds of equipment, are air freighted to test sites. Aboard are air and vacuum pumps, gas analyzers and spare parts.

NCEL expanded the original goals of the program from conducting particulate sampling of coal burning facilities and incinerators to including complex chemical analysis of diverse gas pollutants. Air pollution damages trees, crops, other plants, lakes, and animals. In addition to damaging the natural environment, air pollution damages the exteriors of buildings, monuments, and statues. It creates haze or smog that reduces visibility in national parks and cities and interferes with aviation. Actively working to reduce air pollution has been a major goal since 1965 and the passage of the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.

For more than 55 years, the Navy has actively worked to reduce emissions and improve air quality in training and testing locations. The Clean Team became the first generation of Navy personnel working to protect our environment. Today, the Navy’s Pollution Prevention component endeavors to prevent environmental pollution by reducing sources of pollution, eliminating use of ozone-depleting substances, reducing hazardous material use and developing safer alternatives, recycling, ensuring that Navy activities do not adversely impact the nation’s air, water and land resources.

Where has that Bag Been?

The haversack, also known as a backpack, may give more than a hint of summer swiftly moving into fall, which to many of us young and little older means school supplies. Maybe choosing a new one or rustling up our well-worn and possibly favorite backpack from last year. As a parent, maybe you can’t help but smile when seeing your adult child toting around the very same backpack they’ve dragged around since middle school like Linus in the comic Peanuts, with his well-loved blanket. If only that blanket or backpack a.k.a haversack could talk.

One such slightly faded and a bit grimy from use haversack is on exhibit in the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum. The donor, an Electrician’s Mate First Class (EM1c), was attached to the 142nd NCB during WWII and carried it with him during the Pacific Theater Campaign. During that time, the U.S. Navy used Marine issue haversacks. The bag generally consisted of two parts—the haversack or haversac (the word was adapted to English in the 17th century from German and Dutch words that meant oat sack) is the larger portion of the unit and worn like a backpack. For toting smaller items, part two—the knapsack—is attached using straps to the haversack’s base.

When the donor was attached to the 142nd NCB, the battalion worked on assignments in Hawaii, as well as Leyte and Samar in the Philippines. Those projects included but were not limited to: fuel storage, telecommunication buildings, water pipelines, camp housing for 2,600 men, and highway construction. Known as “Of Men and Might,” the 142nd NCB was inactivated in November 1945. Now, here we are, nearly 75 years later admiring one member’s intact, and still in working order backpack…I mean haversack, and imagining…all the places it has been.

The 142nd NCB camp construction at Leyte-Samar, circa 1945.
All photos are from the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum archives.

#LestWeForget – Operation Avalanche

“Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy,

forget in time that men have died to win them.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

A little known fact from WWII highlights the Seabees’ role in transporting troops, equipment, and materiél ashore during Operation Avalanche. As part of the invasion of Salerno, Seabees from Construction Battalion Detachment 1006 (CBD 1006) were tasked to use the newly developed pontoon causeways, which had never been used in combat, to connect LSTs with shore. The causeways bridged the last yards between ships and shore and many Seabees paid the ultimate sacrifice during the invasion to ensure Allied forces and their equipment made it to shore. Their role in the Sicilian and Italian assaults helped write a new page in the development of amphibious operations which were utilized at Normandy and throughout the Pacific Theater.

On 4 September 1943, CBD 1006 departed Bizerte, Tunisia for Salerno, Italy to take part in Operation Avalanche – the main invasion at Salerno by the US Fifth Army and the British X Corps. The Operation Avalanche plan included using less than half the force that landed during Operation Husky in Sicily and faced six German divisions. In order to surprise the enemy, it was decided to assault without preliminary naval or aerial bombardment, even though experience in the Pacific theater demonstrated it was essential for amphibious invasions.

The Fifth Army landed at Red and Green beaches, a broad 35 mile front south of Naples and Salerno, using three assault divisions. Two British division were located on one side of the Sele River and one US division on the other side, separated by 12 miles. Initially, no troops covered the river, offering the Germans an easy attack route that was belatedly protected by two Army battalions.

The Fifth Army landed at Red and Green beaches, a broad 35 mile front south of Naples and Salerno, using three assault divisions. Two British division were located on one side of the Sele River and one US division on the other side, separated by 12 miles. Initially, no troops covered the river, offering the Germans an easy attack route that was belatedly protected by two Army battalions.

The initial invasion operation plan included using LSTs with causeways, but this proved unnecessary as two beaches allowed LSTs to directly land without grounding offshore. Not knowing this, Seabee platoons continued with the initial plan, launching causeways and moving them towards the beaches. This left them open to fire by Axis shore batteries from their initial position three-miles offshore, through their runs to the beach and landings. Most of the LSTs were hit by German artillery, which caused severe casualties to Seabee and Allied Forces.

Once the LSTs beached, German forces continued to bombard them with machine gun fire and mortars. Fortunately, neither North Green nor North Red beaches required causeways to offload men and equipment.

Despite the enemy aircraft and artillery concentrated on the steel causeways between ship and shore, the Seabees unloaded more than 10,000 pieces of vitally necessary tanks, guns, trucks and heavy equipment. Several platoons, their causeways blasted by enemy bombings, remained on the open beaches for eight days, unloading LSTs and rendering assistance to US Army Engineers in clearing roads and removing wreckage.

Platoon “C” arrived at 0100 on 9 September 1943, on LST 386, where they immediately began launching and rigging causeways. Enroute to the beach the LST struck a mine on her starboard side. The mine exploded under the causeways about mid-ship. The majority of the platoon crew consisted of 1 CEC officer, 2 Chiefs, and 18 Seabees. Of these, two Seabees were killed and several suffered severe injuries.

Platoon “I” made her initial landing with pontoon causeways on 9 September and unloaded two or three LSTs over their causeways with minimal issues. The next day they were attacked by enemy planes where at least one bomb fell near the causeways killing LT Olsen, CSF Shuttlesworth and EM1c Huss. The platoon continued operations despite the severe loss with the help of LT Cedric Buchanan from Platoon “D” and five Seabees from two other platoons.

While the Seabees completed their astounding mission and maintained the “Can-Do!” spirit during the Invasion of Italy, it was realized that a significant percentage of personnel were elderly men experienced in the various construction trades, but lacked waterfront and sea going experience for an amphibious assault. The severe constant fire encountered during the invasion profoundly affected them causing leadership to rethink and reorganize Seabee units. Later battalions consisted of experienced Seabees mixed with younger men and those who had seafaring experience.

The causeway experienced gained by the men with CBD 1006 was later utilized at US training bases and in the UK for training assault forces for Operation Overlord. Their skills and training proved invaluable toward the invasion on D-Day.

Read more about the Seabees causeway efforts during Operation Overlord.

Killed in Action at Salerno

S1c James Achterhoff

S1c George Andreotes

COX Charles Burchell

EM1c Robert Huss

CM3c William Jones

CMM(AA) Willard Murphy

LT Carl Olson, CEC

CSF (AA) Charlie Shuttlesworth

A total of 32 Purple Hearts were awarded to members of CBD 1006 by commander, Landing Craft and Bases, for injuries received from enemy action during the Salerno invasion.

#LestWeForget: Light in the Midst of Darkness – Dong Ha, 28 August 1967

“And they who for their country die shall fill an honored grave, for glory lights the soldier’s tomb, and beauty weeps the brave.”

– Joseph Rodman Drake

Our newest blog series #LestWeForget remembers those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our freedom when serving in the U.S. Navy Seabees and Civil Engineer Corps. These individuals epitomize the definition of selfless service. Join us in expressing our collective gratitude and appreciation for those service members and their families.


In April 1967, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11 (NMCB 11) arrived at Dong Ha, Republic of Vietnam (RVN) and commenced construction of the first permanent Seabee camp located in the Northern I Corps of RVN. During this deployment, personnel of NMCB 11 were involved in a considerable number of military actions. The majority of these instances involved inactive defense type of posture while under artillery, rocket or mortar attack. However, on a continuing basis, personnel of the Battalion’s security force participated in an active defense by their manning of a portion of the Dong Ha Forward Combat Base perimeter and their frequent reconnaissance patrolling outside of the Base perimeter. In addition, personnel were involved in various enemy ambushes and mining incidents throughout the deployment. Excluding the normal perimeter defense and reconnaissance patrol efforts of the security force, the Battalion was involved in a total of one-hundred and thirty-eight military actions and had five personnel killed and sixty-four wounded in action. By the deployment’s end in November, the physical and mental fatigue on personnel was discernable with visible damage to their morale and spirit.

Light in Darkness

At 0608, 28 August 1967, the Dong Ha Combat Base came under 140mm rocket attack. Three of the rockets landed within the Seabee base, Camp Barnes, with one direct hit on a CHARLIE Company berthing hut instantly killing two men BURCN Anthony J. Grasso and BUHCA R. J. Wager. BUR2 J.L. Newman and BURCN J.D. Patterson died within 30 minutes of arriving at the Battalion Aid Station. Three others were wounded with two MEDEVAC by ambulance suffering from burns, lacerations, shrapnel wounds, and abrasions. At 1045 and 1840, the camp received additional rounds and three additional casualties occurred. A total of 200 rounds were received from a launch site discovered nearby with fifty 140mm rocked found in launch position.

Never forget

Protecting Endangered Species

The Navy shares the national concern for a better environment and is expending and increasing resources toward reaching this goal. The US is currently responsible for 11% of total global emissions compared to more than 30% in 1970. After the creation of the Environmental Policy Act (EPA) of 1969, the Navy began allocating resources to directly and indirectly exert influence to improve environmental quality. While the Navy has severely curtailed its emissions in the last half century, there is a significant way to go in order to reduce our carbon footprint, and preserve and protect fish and wildlife.

The Department of Defense (DoD) designated Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) to work with the Interior Department and Agriculture Department to preserve and restore species of life forms that face extinction on Navy and Marine Corps bases. The Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969 recognized that the Navy, as one of the important Federal land and water managing agencies, has an important contribution to make toward the conservation of native species of endangered fish and wildlife. The Navy and Marine Corps manage more than 2 million acres of land and water. Accordingly, the Navy acknowledges its responsibility to maintain environmental quality on the lands and waters under its control.

Species of wildlife often serve as indicators of the quality of the environment that they inhabit and in turn, the quality of the environment on people. The Navy works and cooperates with the US Forest Service to preserve nesting areas by eliminating overflights by Navy aircraft on national forest lands. Sonic booms naturally disturb nesting areas and result in the disturbance of birds.

A wildlife population reduced to a low point can still recover rapidly if its habitat remains unimpaired. But when a habitat is reduced, the species reduces with it. Poaching and illegal hunting of protected species is still problems but less so that 80 years ago. However, in North America, the direct killing of wildlife is far less common that habitat destruction. The Navy works to insure suitable wildlife habitats are maintained on all Navy lands.

Mission enhancement is the primary goal of every Navy natural resources program action or activity. By working with partners to sustain and restore threatened, endangered, and at-risk species populations and habitats, the Navy can help delist species and prevent future species listings under the ESA and continue carrying out its mission-essential activities in a sustainable way. Installation personnel manage threatened, endangered, and at-risk species through consultations with US Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, and by implementing their preservation plans. Specific management actions included in installation plans vary by species and landscape, but can include captive breeding programs, habitat enhancement, prescribed burning, and noise effect studies. The Navy funds cost-sharing agreements with state and local governments, private landowners, and conservation organizations to promote compatible land uses and preserve habitats near or ecologically related to military installations and ranges.

In partnership with federal agencies and with input from state government agencies, academia, and non-governmental organizations, and in compliance with environmental laws, the Navy develops and implements appropriate science-based protective measures to protect species at sea and ashore. Managing the balance between readiness activities and protecting wildlife is critical to ensure personnel readiness, and that species thrive for future generations.