It’s that time of year again! Vacation time!
While there are lots of spots to choose from, whether your destination be local or abroad, I invite you to check out the latest accommodations located in picturesque Marathon, Greece. Many of us long to visit the ancient sites of the first marathon. But be warned! Dream sites can be deceiving, as the Seabees found out in 1963. After lying dormant for some 2000 years, the very site where the ancient Greek Civil Engineer Herodus Atticus lived came to life with the buzz of Seabees who worked hard at making a hornets nest a hive.
During the Cold War build-up, the United States needed a strategic location in order to listen to and keep tabs on then Soviet Union. As Greece is located to the southwest of the Soviet Union it was a prime location for such a project. Mobile Construction Battalion (MCB) 6 had the unique opportunity to build an entire communication station from scratch while living in a rural community tent camp in Greece. This opportunity became known as Project Judy.
What was Project Judy? She was a $10 million semi-mobile communication facility with 11 major buildings covering more than 42,000 square feet with more than 100 antennas that required an accumulation of man-hour labor equating to 17,000 days of intensive work. Seabee labor resulted in a quarter of a million yards of earth work and 5000 yards of concrete work. And all of this was completed in picturesque Greece with ancient ruins and historic sites!
Sounds great, doesn’t it? But as we all know, resorts don’t pop up overnight and the challenges that MCB 6 faced made the first Marathon seem like sprint.
Problems started right away with labeling; supply boxes arrived incorrectly labeled. Air mattresses in crates marked electric gear or base bolts for steel frames packed with roofing panels. Even certain partitions or fittings for buildings were packed in the same box without exterior markings. It got so bad the Seabees started treating it like opening gifts on Christmas, with every box containing a surprise. And Christmas it was when supplies arrived because oftentimes nothing would come for weeks or months on end. It got so bad that when the Seabees were asked what kind of gear they had they often responded with, “What gear?”
In order to ‘make do’ and keep on schedule, the Seabees often cannibalized various buildings and equipment. Any equipment that did come was being placed into immediate operation upon arrival no matter what the original purpose. For example, the “Tables by Cables” were tables made out of electrical cable reels strung together.
The Seabees also dealt with the problem of not having enough supplies. Not only to did comfort supplies, like tables not arrive, but even key components, like the supplies to build a wall failed to show up. Eight-inch girders that prevented complete closures were jerry-rigged and fixed so men could no longer peek into the women’s heads and other necessary places.
Land complications and water on the site posed extra challenges for the men of to MCB 6 face. The tent camp relocated due to its placement on ancient ruins of historical significance. Ancient ruins created additional stress by putting pressure on the Seabees not only to continue building the communication station on schedule, but to move their camp without damaging the ruins. In addition, the Greeks had never heard of a “pressure and temperature automatic control valve,” meaning supplies brought in for water works didn’t match up to the local hardware.
But the Seabees’ “Can Do” attitude worked through each of those problems, along with numerous others, prompting the Chief of Naval Operations to say if he wanted excuses he would have hired contractors; but he wanted the job done so he hired Seabees.
The project might have started out like a Greek tragedy, but by the end even Herodus Atticus would have been proud to know that the Seabees took on the challenge and ended up with one of the first and best naval communication stations.
Meet the Archivist: Ingi House
Ingi House is originally from Kansas where she got her B.A. in history from K.U. and M.L.S. from E.S.U. After working for the Dole Institute of Politics she moved to the East Coast. In D.C. she worked at the National Archives and Records Admiration and then at the Defense Acquisition University where she became a Certified Archivist. Her continued enjoyment of military history lead her to switching coasts and coming to work for the Seabee Museum where she is collection manager for the archives and records manager liaison