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.

3 comments on “Archivist’s Attic – Seabees at D-Day

  1. Marcy Schramm says:

    Dear Ingi, I sent an email to the Seabee museum a couple months ago. I was inquiring about donating my fathers things. He was in the South Pacific islands during WWII.
    Merrill Helmer Firebaugh. Company C
    44 battalion. He shipped out from Port Hueneme
    I have not heard from you, so I’m thinking I should perhaps donate then elsewhere.
    Advice or suggestions ??


    • seabeemuseum says:

      Hi Marcy,

      I will send an email to our curator asking about the status of your collection and CC you on it. You should receive an email no later than tomorrow morning.



  2. Jack says:

    Reblogged this on The Missal.


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