Archivist’s Attic: Headquarters Construction Companies

October 31, 1941, like Halloween itself, war loomed on the forefront as the U.S. scrambled to get bases built in order to help out her allies. In order to prepare for the possibility of war the Bureau of Yards and Docks (BUDOCKS) decided to organize military units known as “Headquarters Construction Companies.”

Map of the Philippines that “Headquarters Construction Companies” worked on.

Map of the Philippines that “Headquarters Construction Companies” worked on.

Up until 1941 construction work done on U.S. bases was done by contracts utilizing civilian labor. Civilians that were not part of the military, had no military training, and would be caught like a deer in a headlight in combat situations. Furthermore, under military law, the contractor’s forces in their status as civilians could not offer resistance when the bases they were constructing were under attack, if they did, they would be considered guerillas and would have been liable to summary execution if captured.

Map of Puerto Rico, 18 March 1941.

Map of Puerto Rico, 18 March 1941.

The “Headquarters Construction Companies” were designed to give the military oversight on to base construction until another solution could be worked out. These units were composed largely of rated personnel that were utilized as administrative units by officers in charge of construction at advance bases in case war interrupted contract operations. One company was organized by the Bureau of Navigation and granted authority for the enlistment of its personnel in Class V-6 of the Naval Reserve. That company formed the nucleus of the First Naval Construction Detachment, the Bobcats, which became the first unit of the newly formed Seabees.

The Seabees officially came into being on December 28th, 1941, and the “Headquarters Construction Companies” became a part of history. While the companies were only used for a short time, they set up the organization and most importantly contributed the men that would become the Seabees. As we head into the early holiday season, remember that even the scariest of times can have a very merry ending.

150225-N-JU810-001Meet 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.

2 comments on “Archivist’s Attic: Headquarters Construction Companies

  1. GP Cox says:

    Ms House, I want to thank you for keeping up this blog. I find the article interesting and always loaded with information I was otherwise unaware. I appreciate you taking the time.


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