Archivist’s Attic- Seabees, Classifications, & Life Skills during WWII

With the formation of the newly created Naval Construction Battalions in 1942, Civil Engineer Corps (CEC) officers needed to create new qualifications for each Seabee rank and rate in order to recruit civilians into the force.  When recruited, men were recommended for a certain rank and rate based on age, education, previous experience, and hobbies: CPO Draftsman, minimum age 32; CBM (Diver), must be a diver with considerable experience on waterfront work; Navy Mail Clerk, must be trustworthy; Carpenter’s Mate, related civil job–cabinetmaker; musician, etc. While recruits had a general idea of what they rated, “[t]he day following a recruit’s arrival at Camp Peary’s Seabee training center (opened in 1942) a trained interviewer reclassified by them.”

 

While at Camp Peary, the interviewer asked the recruit a series of focused questions and information requests specific to certain duties and jobs/ranks such as: MM1c (Bulldozer Operator), Milling Machine Operator, Carpenter’s Mate… which needed filling for Seabees.

 “Would you be able to pull a 3 foot diameter stump with caterpillar 60, and how would you set the machine to do so?”

“What do you call the circle on a dividing head that you use to turn the work a definite amount?”

 “Name two knots used to tie together the ends of ropes to make a safe hitch for scaffolding.”

recruit

Seabee Recruiting Cruiser Contingent in Parkersburg, West Virginia, October 1943. (U.S. Navy Seabee Museum archives)

While in the Seabees during WWII, enlisted men between the ages of 17 and 50 earned from $54.00 to $126.00 a month depending on rate and rank.

seabee~graph

Statistical Report/graph of CB personnel, 1942 through 1945. (U.S.Seabee Museum archives)

The first Seabee Detachment departed the U.S. January 27, 1942. In November that same year, President Roosevelt authorized the Seabees be expanded to 210,000 men from the initial force of 99 men nearly a year earlier. By the end of the war, more than 325,000 Seabees served on 6 continents and 250 islands.

 

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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 http://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/s/seabee-history0/world-war-ii.html

 

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.

Archivist Attic – A Rocky Road

Heroes continue to inspire others long after their deeds are done. Even their name can mobilize and motivate men, units or even camps to produce, achieve and succeed in order to honor the hero they were named after. Such is the case with Camp DeShurley, a rock production facility pioneered, developed and operated by Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 9 Detail Echo. Camp DeShurley became a vital part road construction during the Vietnam Conflict and stood as a working testament to the Seabee hero and his fellow Seabees that gave their lives for their country.

NMCB 9 Detail Echo rock quarry - Camp DeShurley

Rock quarry where Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 9 Detail Echo was stationed that would later become Camp DeShurley, Republic of Vietnam 1968.

The year of 1968 was an important year during Vietnam and a peak period of Seabee deployment. One of the most important actions that occurred that year was the Tet Offensive. This required more Seabee units to deploy to Vietnam in order to build buildings, power supplies, and roads to expand the infrastructure and keep the war effort going.

Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 9 Detail Echo moved in to a quarry and camp near Phu Loc in early 1968. By March the Tet Offensive had degenerated from bad to desperate. On March 1st the Viet Cong began strikes against the Seabees in Phu Loc. The strikes continued throughout March wounding several men, the heaviest blow on March 31st.

On that day the Viet Cong opened with 82mm mortar fire on various locations in the Seabee camp. The Seabees, along with their Marine brothers, fired back almost immediately. Unfortunately the enemy mortar rounds scored direct hits, immediately killing several Seabees including BUL3 George DeShurley, BULCN Mark E. Hodel, CMHCN James Galati, BUL3 Allan Mair, BUL3 John Peek and BUHCN James Rezloff, Jr. But before this catastrophe, the crew, including DeShurley, scored several direct hits on the enemy mortar position, killing at least nine members of the Viet Cong, preventing further attacks and potentially saving additional lives.

Monthly operations report NMCB 9 Camp DeShurley BUL3 George DeShurley

Monthly operation report from March 1968, item 6 shows that April 6 on Camp DeShurley was officially designated in honor of BUL3 George DeShurley.

The heroic actions of DeShurley, and his fellow Seabees, insured that the Viet Cong did not take the camp and stopped them from killing even more American men. Because of those actions the quarry and camp were officially named Camp DeShurley in his honor.

Camp DeShurley NMCB 9 Detail Echo

Photo of sign designating Camp DeShurley.

Camp DeShurley itself took after its namesake in heroism by becoming instrumental in rebuilding and reconstructing the critically important Route 1 in the Republic of Vietnam. The high-quality rock that came from Camp DeShurley was so important that Rear Admiral James V. Bartlett, then Commander of the Third Naval Construction Brigade said that the rock and camp “Represents one of the most significant achievements of the entire Seabee effort in Vietnam.” This was due to the outstanding engineering and construction skills that were used to produce the rock in order to create various roads including the much needed and used Route 1.

NMCB 9 Detail Echo Camp DeShurley

Portions of the rock quarry inside Camp DeShurley being worked on.

The actions of BUL3 George DeShurley and Detail Echo inspired and motivated Seabees that deployed after them. They in turn honored his sacrifice by making it one of the most significant Seabee camps during Vietnam.

Heroes influence and galvanize us long after their heroic actions are done. Inspiring us to find the best in ourselves and giving us the courage to go after what we believe in. Sometimes the best way to honor those we admire most is to inspire others and become a hero ourselves!

Ingi Face

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.

 

Archivist Attic – Feeding a Seabee

 

Everyone knows that Seabees work hard at making the Navy run. They build mess halls and galleys to make sure that everyone gets fed but building bases can make a Seabee hungry enough to eat a horse. Though horse is not on the menu Seabees do eat a variety of foods all designed to give them enough energy to keep ‘Can Do’ing.

3rd Construction Battalion Seabees enjoy "Turkey Day" in South P

“3rd Construction Battalion Seabees enjoy ‘Turkey Day’ in South Pacific.  (Horace W. Mooers, Newtonville, Mass.)”  Cook preparing turkeys for Thanksgiving.  New Caledonia, South Pacific, WWII.

You might think that cooking for a mess of Seabees is an easy thing to do, but the Navy created several cookbooks throughout the years instructing cooks and mess attendants on what to cook and why they needed to cook specific foods. The cookbooks came packed with information, everything from nutritional value of foods to baking guidelines and even how to troubleshoot common cooking difficulties. 

March Blog Photo 2

Page 402 from “The Cook Book of the United States Navy” 1944.  ‘Trouble Shooting’ guidelines for cakes.

 

Menu planning was taken seriously and included tips on making sure nutritional needs were met, likes and dislikes of the sailors and making sure the climate was taken into consideration when preparing meals. Sample menus were also given for each season with a meal planned out for breakfast, dinner and supper for every day of the week. The sample menus even included drink options, most of which was milk or coffee. 

Other aspects of food preparation were also dealt with including sanitary needs, how to deal with canned and dehydrated foods, weight equivalents and baking. Each aspect was given a quick introduction and how to handle unique problems that might occur. Many tips given in these cook books are still useful today including what to do if your cookies spread out too much (tip: reduce the baking soda in the dough) to substitutions for the perfect barbeque sauce (tip: fruit juice or frozen sweet pickles can be used in place of vinegar).

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Page 120 from “The Cook Book of the United States Navy” 1944, a recipe for Beef Croquettes.  Notice the recipe states that this is for 100 portions, enough to feed a swarm of bees!

In the end the goal of these cook books was simply to give the Seabees, and the rest of the Navy, a good meal that would give them the energy to continue working. The difference between the Seabees and the rest of the Navy was that the Seabees not only got to eat what was cooked in the mess halls, but they also got to put them together. The Seabees worked quickly and efficiently in order to build the mess halls and galleys. To this day when the cooks hear the Seabees are coming to town they know they are about to get a kitchen and everyone knows they are about to get a hot meal. So thank you Seabees for making sure we have a place to chow down! 

34th CB bakery, Kukum, Guadalcanal, BSI

34 Construction Battalion Bakery, Kukum, Guadalcanal, Construction Battalion cooks and bakers May 13, 1944

Visit our Facebook page and tell us what some of your favorite, or least favorite, meals you have had while deployed! #SeabeeCanDo

Ingi FaceMeet 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 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.

Bet You Didn’t Know: Facts About the Seabee Museum

The U.S. Navy Seabee Museum is a place for CEC officers and Seabees to gather and be honored for their amazing service to our country. The museum houses and exhibits hundreds of artifacts and thousands of linear feet of archival material in order to tell these stories. But did you ever think about the museum itself? How did it all start? And how did we get to where we are? Here are some interesting facts to think about the next time you visit your Seabee Museum.

Why is the museum located in Port Hueneme? At the end of WWII thousands of Seabees were returning home and on their way they passed through the Naval Construction Battalion Center located in, you guessed it, Port Hueneme. The Seabees brought with them various historical souvenirs, mementos and other paraphernalia. But rather than complete the lengthy government paperwork process required to take the items home with them, most Seabees gave up, leaving the items at the base.

Photo 1 Original exhibit 1947

Original Exhibit – 1947

Who came up with the idea of creating a museum? That honor belongs to Commander Neil Kingsley, who in 1946, then Office in Charge of the Training and Distribution Center (TADCEN), conceived the idea. He consulted Commodore Beauford W. Finks, senior officer at NCBC, who immediately supported the idea. Commodore Finks authorized Commander Kingsley to obtain more Seabee related items, including dioramas that were used as training tools. Once more items were collected the museum was official established and the Seabee Museum came into being.  

 

Ingi Blog Photo 2 training tool Jan 2016

Diorama used a training tool for WWII, currently in museum storage.

Is the Seabee Museum the oldest Navy museum? Not quite, the museum is the second oldest in the U.S. Navy museum system. Second only to the U.S. Naval Academy.

Have Seabees ever worked at the museum? Yes! The Seabees themselves have always played an integral part of the Seabee Museum. In February 1965, the first permanent staff of the museum included a curator, an assistant curator and three Seabees. To this day the museum relies on the expertise of current and former Seabees in the form of volunteers and guides.

Ingi Blog Photo 3 old gift shop Jan 2016

Picture of the old museum gift shop.

When did the museum move into its current location? The museum finally moved off base and into a new state-of-the-art facility, complete with new exhibits and professional staff in 2011.

For more information on the history of the museum, please visit our expanded museum history section located here: http://www.history.navy.mil/museums/seabee/history.htm.

For information on museum hours, exhibits, and events, please visit our site at:  http://www.history.navy.mil/museums/Seabee/seabee_museum.htm

We look forward to seeing you!

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 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 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Protecting Our Navy Family – NMCB-58 Detail Hotel

During this time of year we gather with family to celebrate and remember. Nowhere is that more important than with the families of those who have lost someone. As we celebrate this holiday season let us gather as a Navy family and remember that we are all active in keeping each other safe and secure.

Seabees protect the Marines who protect the Seals who protect the Sailor. We all look out for each other and help one another. This is especially felt when one gives up their life for another.

Seabee clearing paths for sailors

Seabee clearing paths for sailors

The Seabees of NMCB-58 did just that, protecting the sailors of the River Patrol Force. During their 1968-69 deployment, the 35-man unit of Detail Hotel was deployed to the Mekong Delta Region of RVN near Moc Hoa to clear river banks of foliage. The heavy jungle growth provided ideal hiding places for Viet Cong snipers who would often ambush the River Patrol Forces sailors. Operating along the Van Co Tay river, NMCB-58 utilized bulldozers, chain saws and machetes to clear over 1 million square meters of land. They also located and destroyed over 200 booby-traps.

River Patrol Force Sailors

River Patrol Force Sailors

The efforts were halted though when the monsoon rains came, turning the dry land into a sea of mud. Due to this, booby traps were spread out and harder to locate. The unit worked tirelessly in order to clear the area and make it safe for the sailors to pass through. The day before the detail was to come home an unusually heavy concentration of booby traps was encountered. One was detonated, killing SW3 John S. Staff and seriously injuring SW3 Gary L. Thompson. These men gave their all to make sure the sailors could pass safely. They did this not to be hero’s but to keep safe and secure their Navy family.

EOCN Anderson and EO3 Kramer clearing riverbanks in the Mekong Delta.

EOCN Anderson and EO3 Kramer clearing riverbanks in the Mekong Delta.

While we hope that we, and those we love, will never have to give the ultimate sacrifice, simply being apart during this season can be a hardship. Keep in mind those that can’t be with their families during this time and take comfort in the family that surrounds you.

Wishing you and yours a happy holiday wither you are together or apart this season.

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 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 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.