Curator’s Corner- NMCB 74 and the FEARLESS Beaver

Fearless Beaver of NMCB 74 FEARLESS Beaver of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 74 [U.S Navy Seabee Museum]

Many Seabee Battalions can trace their battalion history back to World War II and the creation of the Construction Battalions. The “Fearless 74,” better known as Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74 (NMCB) is one of those battalions. Originally known as the 74th Naval Construction Battalion (NCB), they were activated April 28, 1943, at the Naval Construction Training Center in Camp Perry, Williamsburg, Virginia.

From the battalion’s humble beginnings during WWII, the 74th NCB used the beaver as their battalion logo. Frank J. Iafrate, who created the idea for the Seabee logo, his first idea was originally a beaver, the builder. But after some research, it was found that while beavers are good builders, however when threatened, they retreat; where bees are both builders and fighters. So the beaver idea was abandoned.

patch for NMCB 74 with beaver

Mobile Construction Battalion (MCB 74) Patch [U.S Navy Seabee Museum]

The “Fearless 74” served in the island-hopping campaign to reclaim Imperial Japanese held territory in the South Pacific. Often landing with the Marine Corps, the Battalion constructed support facilities on Tarawa, Kwajalein, and Berlin Islands. In the rapid demobilization in the autumn of 1945, an increasing number of battalions were returning home. The 74th NCB was inactivated on October 31, 1945, on the island of Okinawa.

On December 6th, 1966, NMCB 74 was recommissioned as an active Seabee battalion and adopted the motto “Does More.” During the years from 1967-1970, the battalion made four deployments to Vietnam serving in various locations: Da Nang, Cam Lo, Dong Hoa, Quang Tri, Quang Nagi, Chau Doc, and Bien Hoa.

Following the Vietnam War, the battalion participated in peacetime construction efforts around the globe, including deployments to Diego Garcia; Guam; Okinawa, Japan; Puerto Rico; Rota, Spain; and Sigonella, Sicily.

In 1990 NMCB 74 deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield/ Desert Storm and built one of the largest ammunition facilities in the world. They also built a 1,500 foot stabilized soil runway for C-130 aircraft, two large Marine camps, and assisted NMCB 5 in building a 15,000-man camp known as “Wally World.” In 1998, the battalion reestablished its original “Fearless” motto.

Members of NMCB 74 and beaver before beaver shipped to U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

Members of NMCB 74 say goodbye to the FEARLESS beaver before it is shipped to the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum in Port Hueneme, CA “where an easy life of tree-felling and dam-building awaits” [Courtesy of NMCB 74]

The FEARLESS Beaver pictured above was given to NMCB 74 from Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 202 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. NMCB 74 deployed in August 2009 for a scheduled six-month deployment. They provided contingency construction support with many detachments and details, and were in direct support of not only U.S. forces, but NATO and International Security Afghan Forces (ISAF) forces as well. Upon the decommissioning of the battalion on July 25, 2014 at the Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) in Gulfport, Mississippi, the FEARLESS Beaver, along with the official records of the battalion were sent to the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum in Port Hueneme, CA for preservation.

NMCB 74 served in every corner of the world, doing every type of Seabee mission, whether that was supporting major combat operations, disaster recovery, or humanitarian assistance.

To learn more information about NMCB 74 click here. Come visit the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum on Tuesday, July 5, 2016 2-4pm to stop by our Curator’s Corner event to see the FEARLESS Beaver up close.

Editor’s Note: All information is accurate per information the museum has on file to date.

Robyn profile picMeet the Curator: Robyn King “Meet the Curator: Robyn King is pursuing her master’s degree in Museum Studies and Nonprofit Management through Johns Hopkins University. She earned her Bachelors in History and Anthropology from the State University of New York at Oneonta. She has experience working at state museums, historic sites, the National Park Service, and most recently the Navy. She is an expert in collection management, and has worked closely with both natural and cultural collections. Robyn loves all museums and sharing her love of history. When she is not working, she is volunteering her time with the National Peace Corps Association, as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from West Africa.”


Archivist’s Attic – Seabees at D-Day

The invasion of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944 involved an immense effort by Seabees before, during and immediately following D-Day. The actions of these heroes are documented in one of the Seabee Museums most unique item, the map of Omaha Beach on display in the Atlantic Theater section of the museum.

Normandy D-Day Map

This D-Day map shows the landing and various actions conducted by the Seabees to insure the Allies victory.

The map, (actually two connected) shows the invasion beaches where the Seabees constructed the Mulberry harbor. Issued to Commander Douglas C. Jardine, commander of the 25th Naval Construction Regiment, he marked the map with the location of the Gooseberry blockade of ships, the Phoenix caissons, the pontoon causeways, German POW camp, emergency airfield, and Seabee camp at Omaha Beach.

Display of Normandy map at the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

Display of the map at the Seabee Museum. Directly in front of the map is a model of a Landing Ship, Tank, referred to as the LST. These ships served as the critical means for transporting the construction supplies and equipment required by WWII Seabees.

The map is also marked with the words “TOP SECRET – BIGOT.” BIGOT was a security classification used in World War II to designate security at the highest levels, even higher than “TOP SECRET.” It was an acronym: British Invasion of German Occupied Territory, selected by Prime Minister Winston Churchill prior to American entry into World War II. A select group of people, anyone with working knowledge of the D-Day planning for Operation OVERLORD, had to have Top Secret – Bigot clearance.

Directly north of the words “EASY RED,” on the bottom left hand section of the map, shows the location of the beach obstacles to the left of causeway no. 2. Prior to the main landings at Normandy thousands of beach obstacles had to be cleared. Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDUs) were paired with Army combat engineer units to form Gap Assault Teams (GAT) to clear Utah and Omaha beaches in the initial minutes of the D-Day landings. Ensign Karnowski, CEC, commander of NCDU 45, and his core team of five (including two Seabees) landed on Omaha Beach at sector EASY RED at 0625 hours. The team successfully blew 50 and 100-yard gaps in the obstacles, the only ones on the eastern half of Omaha Beach. These enabled members of the First Infantry Division to assault the bluffs overlooking EASY RED. As the battle progressed, this became the principal egress from Omaha Beach on D-Day.

Ensign Karnowski his core team from NCDU 45.

Ensign Karnowski his core team from NCDU 45.

The Seabees also built offshore cargo and docking facilities, piers, and breakwaters. These were constructed out of old cargo ships, special prefabricated concrete structures that were floated over from England, and the ubiquitous steel pontoons. The huge port area that was formed out of this odd combination of materials became known as Mulberry A. Even after the artificial harbor was partially destroyed in a severe storm, the Seabees landed hundreds of thousands of tons of war material daily. In addition to these massive amounts of supplies, by July 4, only 28 days after D-day, they had helped land more than a million Allied fighting men.

Rhino Ferry on Normandy beach

A Rhino ferry being unloaded of its cargo on a Normandy beach, June 1944.

Come see the unique map yourself at the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum and discover what other secrets it holds!

For more information please check out the Seabee History page on the Naval History and Heritage Command website located here


Ingi Face

Archivist: Ingi House

Meet the Archivist: Ingi House Ingi House is originally from Kansas where she got her B.A. in history from the University of Kansas and M.L.S. from Emporia State University. After working for the Dole Institute of Politics she moved to the East Coast. In Washington D.C. she worked at the National Archives and Records Administration and then at the Defense Acquisition University where she became a Certified Archivist. Her continued enjoyment of military history led her to switching coasts and coming to work for the Seabee Museum where she is collection manager for the archives and records manager liaison.