JUNE 6, 1944
More than 200,000 Allied Nation forces stormed the beaches of France in a massive operation named OVERLORD. Each beach had a different code name, Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno, and Sword.
The common element to each of the beaches was the artificial harbors that allowed for supply transport during and in the days after the operation. These “harbors” were actually pontoon causeways as seen in the image below:
Every Allied Nation and every U.S. armed forces branch played a part in OVERLORD, including the Navy and especially the Seabees. More than 10,000 Seabees from various units comprising the 25th Naval Construction Regiment were charged with not only building and maintaining these causeways, but also ensuring safe landing and operability of equipment on the sandy beaches. This required the rapid placement of marston matting that allowed for machine operation on the beaches, a vital tool which was noted as one of the elements that lead to the Allied Nations winning the war.
The Seabee Museum’s Atlantic Theater presentation also tells the story of the Seabee’s D-Day involvement:
With a closer look at the beautiful mural:
Since their inception in WWII, the Seabees have been involved in every conflict and humanitarian effort in which the United States played a part. Normandy was a prime example of how the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the Seabees and Civil Engineer Corps helped elevate the community into the robust force we know it today.
For more info and imagery on D-Day, be sure to check out our parent command, Naval History and Heritage Command’s presentation.
Today in the #HonoringShields timeline, nine members of ST 1104 (pictured above) arrive at Dong Xoai to begin work on repairing existing and building new facilities for 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces as well as the Vietnamese Civilian Irregular Defense Group. They had previously completed similar construction projects at Ben Soi.
Don’t Forget: We’ll be closing our commemoration with a presentation by Seabee Museum Director Dr. Lara Godbille about the Battle of Dong Xoai, June 10 at 6 p.m.
Today we begin a week-long focus on the life of Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin G. Shields.
Shields was the first and only Seabee to earn the Medal of Honor, awarded for his valiant efforts during the Vietnam Conflict in the Battle of Dong Xoai. He died from wounds he sustained during the battle on June 10, 1965.
Hailing from Port Townsend, Wash., Shields joined the Navy in January 1962. He completed training as a construction mechanic in Sept. 1963 upon which he was assigned to A Company, Mobile construction Battalion 11. He deployed with Seabee Team 1104 in January 1965 out of Port Hueneme, traveling to Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base in Saigon.
Over the course of the next week, we will explore the timeline of the final days of Shields. This will culminate in a presentation on the Battle of Dong Xoai by Seabee Museum Director Dr. Lara Godbille, June 10 at 6 p.m. in the museum’s education room.
“As the first Navy personnel to be killed in Vietnam, and the only Seabee to be awarded the Medal of Honor, Marvin Shields is the most well-known Seabee in the community,” she said. “This presentation will examine what actions he took to earn the award and solidify his legacy. It should be interesting to both members of the Seabee family, and the general public that want to learn more about American involvement in Vietnam.”
Godbille noted the presentation will coincide with the reopening of the museum’s memorial room which will be called the Hall of Fallen Heroes.
“Patrons can learn more about Shields and other Seabees and CEC officers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice,” she said. “The space, which was revamped to honor fallen Seabees from WWII to current operations, will feature an entirely new presentation on Marvin Shields that we feel reflects who he was and the reverence the Seabee community has for him.”
We hope you will follow with us as we commemorate the life of a Seabee who embodied the Navy Core Values of Honor, Courage and Commitment.
April 10, 1971
USS Marvin G. Shields (DE 1066, later reclassified to FF 1066) was commissioned at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard with Cmdr. William J. Hunter in command and later assigned to Pacific Cruiser-Destroyer Force in San Diego. It was named for Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin G. Shields, the first and only Medal of Honor recipient in the Seabee community. Shields gave his life during the Battle of Dong Xoai in June 1965 while assigned to Seabee Team 1104 attached to the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces.
On June 10, U.S. Navy Seabee Museum director, Dr. Lara Godbille, will present a lecture on the events of the Battle of Dong Xoai, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the those events. The evening event will begin at 6:30p.m. Be sure to mark your calendars to attend this special event as we honor the life of one who embodied the “Can Do” spirit of the Seabees.
Here are some general specs, courtesy of the Naval Vessel Registry:
Number in Class: 46
Displacement: 3020 tons (std), 4065 tons (full)
Length: 415′ (wl), 438′ (oa)
Beam: 46′ 9″ (extreme)
Draft: 24′ 9″ (draft limit)
Propulsion: 2 Combustion Engineering 1200psi boilers; 1 Westinghouse geared turbine; 35,000 shp; 1 shaft
Speed: 27 kts
Range: 4,500 nm @ 20 knots
Complement: 20 Officer / 255 Enlisted
Missiles: 1 8-tube Mk25 Sea Sparrow BPDMS in DE 1052-1069, 1071-1083, 1 8-tube Mk29 NATO Sea Sparrow IPDMS in DE 1070, Harpoon missiles from modified ASROC launcher
Guns: 1 x 5″/54 cal. DP Mk 42 (600 rds)
ASW Weapons: 1 Mk16 ASROC launcher (16 missiles), 4-12.75″ (324mm) Mk 32 (4×1 fixed) tubes / Mk 46 torpedos (6)
Radars: AN/SPS-10 (surface), AN/SPS-40 (air), AN/SPS-58 threat warning in some ships
Sonars: AN/SQS-26CX, AN/SQS-35 IVDS in FF-1052, 1056, 1063-1071, 1073-1076, 1078-1097
Fire Control Systems: Mk68 Mod. 11/13/14 Gun FCS, Mk114 Mod 14/16 ASW FCS
Helicopter: 1 – SH-2 LAMPS Helicopter
Awards & Citations
March 11, 1945
Many times in the Second World War the Seabees were called on to do odd jobs of an urgent and extemporaneous nature. These jobs were dictated by the demands of combat operations. When the German lines in France were breached, the United States Army asked the Seabees to operate landing craft, pontoon causeways, and rhino ferries to help breach the Rhine River Barrier.
The Naval Construction Force accepted the challenge on March 11, 1945. The task was assigned to detachments from Construction Battalion Maintenance Units 627, 628, and 629. At ports in Normandy, the Seabees loaded their landing craft and pontoons on mammoth trucks and hauled them across France and the German borderlands to the Rhine River.
The Rhine’s swift and tricky currents had baffled armies since the time of Julius Caesar. However, the Seabees made the crossing with comparative ease. They first crossed the Rhine at Bad Neuenahr near Remagen. On March 22, General George Patton put his armored forces across the Rhine at Oppenheim in a frontal assault which swept away the Germans.
The Seabees participated in the operation. In addition, the Seabees built pontoon ferries similar to their famous Rhino ferries to move tanks across the river in pairs. In all, the Seabees operated more than 300 craft as ferry service which shuttled thousands of troops into the heart of Germany.
View more images on our Flickr page and visit the museum to learn more about the Seabees Atlantic Theater contributions in WWII.