Curator’s Corner- Detail Kilo and Timber Bunkers

bunker model

Newly acquired donation of a scaled model of a wooden timber bunker by retired Seabee John O’Brien [U.S. Navy Seabee Museum]

The U.S. Navy Seabee Museum has recently acquired a scaled model of a wooden timber bunker for its permanent collection. Donor John O’Brien served with MCB 10 as a 3rd class Builder Heavy (BUH3) and was a member of Detail KILO. John O’Brien recreated this timber bunker based on a U.S. Navy photograph he received before departing MCB 10 in 1968. According to Mr. O’Brien, over 30 of these bunkers were built and assembled by breaking the men into groups of 4 to accomplish a certain task on each bunker before moving on to the next.

 

photo used to create model

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy used to recreated the model of the wooden timber bunker [U.S. Navy Seabee Museum]

The men of Mobile Construction Battalion 10 (MCB 10), who are commonly referred to as the “Men of Ten”, accomplished many courageous tasks while deployed during the Vietnam Conflict. Their third deployment to Vietnam in 1967-68 was unique because it was the first time that the battalion had been so widely dispersed rather than keeping them together. Construction detail crews were spread across South Vietnam, just south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing North and South Vietnam. The DMZ ran east to west along the Ben Hai River near the 17th parallel and extended 5 kilometers on each side of the river.

According to MCB 10’s cruise book, Delta Company, consisting primarily of builders and steelworkers, was one of two general construction companies in the battalion. Its function was vertical construction, such as steel and wooden frame buildings, bridges and revetments (retaining walls). Because of widely spread construction sites, the company was broken down into smaller details.

 

map of south vietnam with camps

Locations MCB 10 were widely dispersed into smaller details to construct roads, camps, and bunkers throughout South Vietnam. [MCB 10 1968 Cruise book, U.S. Navy Seabee Museum Archives]

Detail INDIA departed Gia Le for Phu Bai on September 28, 1967 to construct living quarters for the First Marine Air Wing. Work was well underway; when Detail INDIA was disbanded on November 2, 1967 due to the need for Seabees to preform higher priority work near the DMZ, in the I Corps area. The I Corps encompassed the five northernmost provinces in South Vietnam. Detail KILO was established on the same day, November 2, 1967, to complete heavy timber ammo and personnel bunkers at Cam Lo for the Marines. Their mission was completed in just over thirty days, eleven days ahead of schedule. Detail KILO returned to base camp on December 18, 1967 where the battalion regrouped and continued to work throughout the remainder of the deployment to change a sand-surrounded airstrip site at Quang Tri into a sprawling military complex.

 

photograph of detail kilo NMCB 10

Photograph of Detail Kilo [MCB 10 1968 Cruise book, U.S. Navy Seabee Museum Archives]

Mr. O’Brien recalled his commander of Detail KILO, LTJG Phillip Crocket, challenging the crews to catch up with the crew ahead of them by claiming the crew was already done and enjoying a beer. If they caught up with them, they could rest and have a beer too. Crockets motivational plan worked to complete the project in record time, although no one rested until the completion of the project.

According the Commanding Officer of MCB 10, D.A. Bartley, he said “it was an interesting and rewarding deployment not only from the standpoint of the construction accomplishment, but also from the accolades received from our ‘customers’, the Marines and Army, for [the battalions] outstanding performance, devotion and dedication to duty.”

Come to the museum on August 2, 2016 2-4pm and learn more about the timber bunker and other behind the scene collections at the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum.

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.”

2 comments on “Curator’s Corner- Detail Kilo and Timber Bunkers

  1. Barbara Jean Bowen Wickham says:

    I don’t know much of my father’s deployments to Viet Nam, he was a Seabee as well was a Master Chief, THBowen Ret. I would like help in finding out what all he was involved in while deployed in country. Can anyone help? Thank You Barbara Jean Bowen Wickham

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