Navy Ghost Stories at the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

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The ‘Seabee Zombie’ and his wife the ‘Mistress of the Night’ greeted the story telling guests to the event.

Halloween was celebrated at the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum with a story telling session by the Seabee Zombie. The STEM Center was filled with fog, the guest arrived, and the Seabee Zombie with his wife, the Mistress of the Night, appeared to tell stories from Eric Mills’ book, “The Spectral Tide: True Ghost Stories of the U.S. Navy.”  Stories were told of brave sailors who fell victim to the wages of war.

One story was of the Sullivan brothers, who all five perished in the Solomon Islands after their ship the USS Juneau was bombed, torpedoed, and sunk.  Stories were told of the USS Hornet, the most haunted ship in the Navy, such as the angry captured Japanese pilot. A kamikaze pilot missed his mark, rescued by the Hornet’s sailors, thrown into the brig, and then committed suicide.  To this day the kamikaze pilot still roams the brig, attacking whoever spends the night there.

Seabee Zombie

The ‘Seabee Zombie’ telling the story about the USS Hornet, the most haunted ship in the U.S. Navy and the captured Japanese kamikaze pilot.

Other stories included the USS Lexington and their friendly ghost everyone calls “Charlie” and the guilt-ridden officer’s ghost, who keeps trying to get back to his station on the USS Arizona after he left it for some insignificant reason just before the sneak attack, and was killed on the initial wave.

One story is of the “Smoking Man,” a sailor who observed the gathering ships for the Battle of Midway from the Atoll’s dock, who is still seen there to this day.  Stories were told of the USS North Carolina which is presently moored in Wilmington, as a museum.  Tourist have been scared-off the ship when they observed chairs moving by themselves, or the caretaker and his girlfriend who saw a face looking at them from a padlocked room on the ship when they were on the dock.  All enjoyed the afternoon of storytelling and sharing ghost stories.

For about an hour museum visitors were captivated by stories of haunted Navy ships, and bases. However, most important was the stories of the brave sailors who made the ultimate sacrifice.

As Amirkian as Apple Pie – The Seabees and the AMMI Pontoons, Part 3

The Ammi Pontoons were a great addition to the Navy’s arsenal but more importantly were the incredible things they could do when strung together. Different ideas were tested out and used, such as floating docks, transferring platforms, and mobile bases. One of the most useful inventions that pontoons were used for is what is called the Ammi Bridge.

Bridge construction through the years has followed a somewhat conventional pattern of stylized construction, using conventional material and methods. The AMMI Bridge further decreased the installation time and procedures required for advanced base bridge construction. The bridge evolved from the AMMI pontoon, with its “biserrated orthotropic” framing member and built in spud wells. It was these tube pile spud wells that marked the principle distinction of the AMMI Bridge.

The spud wells – no not a type of potato – 2 per section, were 20 inches in diameter and extended from the pontoon bottom to 4 inches above the deck surface. Using the spud wells as tube pile leads, 18 inch diameter steel piles were driven to ensure secure foundations for the elevated bridge. Utilizing pile caps, with appropriate tackle and winches, the pontoon was elevated to the pile cap and secured in place to the piling.

Men at Work Too

One of the first examples of the AMMI Bridge in action was during Vietnam by Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 53 in 1967. Approximately 150 linear feet (LF) of bridge were erected on Route 1 south of DaNang and 650 LF were erected across the Perfume River west of Hue. At one place in the crossing the river was 37 feet deep. The height of the bridge deck over normal river level was 21 feet. But during the winter monsoon the river rose to 5 feet over the bridge deck. The ground appeared to be washed out, but the bridge was undamaged and remained in full operation. In March 1969, a Viet Cong saboteur severed one pipe pile of this bridge; however, the bridge remained in partial service and was restored to full traffic within a few days. This enabled supplies to still reach their destination without the delays and setbacks that a normal pontoon bridge would have taken.

Variations on the Plank Type Pontoon Bridge

The bridges and pontoons designed by Dr. Arsham Amirkian were so revolutionary that they continue to influence and inspire bridge and pontoon design to this day. One example of this is the Navy’s Elevated Causeway System-Modular (ELCAS (M)) These bridges were used in Kuwait to support Joint Logistics Over the Shore (JLOTS) and quickly offload the backload of thousands of cargo containers used to hold military supplies and equipment. The bridge below was built at Camp Patriot in Kuwait by ACB-1 in 2003.

Camp Patriot Kuwait

Dr. Arsham Amirkian’s legacy continues to live on, what he will inspire people to do next is anyone’s guess!

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150225-N-JU810-001Meet the Archivist: Ingi House
Ingi House is originally from Kansas where she got her B.A. in history from K.U. and M.L.S. from E.S.U. 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 Admiration 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

Curator’s Corner: Marvin Shields Memorial

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This past week the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum opened a new exhibit titled The Hall of Fallen Heroes. This exhibit commemorates the courageous fallen men of the Civil Engineer Corps and Naval Mobile Construction Battalions.

One of the most notable fallen Seabees and the only Seabee to earn the Medal of Honor was Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin Glenn Shields. Born in 1939 in Port Townsend, Washington, he joined the Navy in 1962. In 1963, he was assigned to Mobile Construction Battalion 11 (MCB 11) and deployed to Okinawa.

In 1965 Shields deployed to Vietnam as part of MCB 11’s Seabee Team 1104 to build and improve the military headquarters and compound in Ððng Xoài, near Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). On June 9, 1965, Viet Cong insurgents breached the camp defenses, surrounding the Americans and their Allies. For nearly three hours, Shields supplied fellow Americans with ammunition, returned enemy fire, assisted in carrying critically wounded men to safety despite being wounded himself, and then resumed his gun post for another four hours. Shields sustained fatal injuries and died on June 10, 1965, during a helicopter evacuation. Although Ððng Xoài was left in charred ruins, the American position held in part to Shield’s heroism.

The Vietnamese government awarded Marvin Shields the Vietnamese Order of Gallantry with Palm and the Military Merit Medal posthumously. President Lyndon B. Johnson posthumously presented Shields’ Medal of Honor to his wife, Joan, and their young daughter, Barbara, in a White House ceremony held on September 13, 1966.

The newest addition to our museum collection is the Marvin Shields Memorial donated by Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11. This memorial was presented along with the Medal of Honor to Marvin G. Shields “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty…His heroic initiative and great personal valor in the face of intense enemy fire sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.”

Visit the new Hall of Fallen Heroes at the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum to learn more about Marvin Shields and the other valorous fallen Seabees.

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Meet the Curator: Robyn King Robyn King 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 Parks Service, and most recently the Navy. She’s 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’s she not working, she’s volunteering her time with the National Peace Corps Association, as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from West Africa.

Archivist’s Attic: As Amirkian as Apple Pie – The Seabees and the AMMI Pontoons, Part 2

Since World War II, the Navy’s steel pontoons or “magic boxes” have been extensively utilized as components of amphibious landings as causeways, lighters, tugs and other items. These pontoons were designed to transfer materiel and equipment from ship to shore in deep water. During various Pacific campaigns the ocean waters were deep enough to support these pontoons and items made from them.

That was great as long as naval amphibious warfare remains in deep waters, but what happens when supplies are needed up rivers or on shallow banks? As the U.S. entered the Vietnam Conflict this problem became more and more prevalent until the Navy reached out to our good friend Dr. Arsham Amirkian

Dr. Amirkian, chief engineer at the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), conceived of the AMMI Pontoon as a possible solution to the cargo off-loading problems in Vietnam caused by the lack of adequate deep water port facilities. This pontoon gave the Seabees a unique component for rapid port construction and operation from the amphibious assault.

The AMMI Pontoon had several advantages over the magic box, as pointed out in the table below, but the thing that gave the AMMI Pontoon a major advantage over the magic box is the framing system called “biserrated orthotropic.”

Framing System

General Differences Between the “Magic Box” and the Ammi Pontoon

Metrics Magic Box Ammi Pontoon
Dimensions 90x22x5 feet 90x28x5 feet
Weight 67.5 tons 50 tons
Drawn water 20 inches 8 inches
Weight supported 100 tons 290 tons
Freeboard 10 inches 10 inches

Unlike the conventional framing of watercraft, where use is made of rolled-section stiffeners of L- or T-shape, all AMMI Pontoons feature a novel rib system that not only increases the structural strength, but also reduces framing weight. It is the “biserrated orthotropic” that makes the AMMI Pontoon so unique. Dr. Amirikian named the system to convey the two characteristics of the bent-plate stiffeners used in the system: 1. The trapezoidal trough shape of the member and 2. The serrated openings that occur along the upper edges of the two sides.

Pontoon

The strips of plating for the stiffeners are cut from a large plate along two paralleling serrations, rather than along straight lines that are used in conventional pontoon building. By this means, the width of the strip is increased by a distance equal to the depth of the serration, without an increase in its weight. Subsequently, when the strips are bent to form trough shapes an increase of almost the same extent is also obtained in the depth or height of the member, with a corresponding increase in their strength.

Another bonus for the “biserrated orthotropic” design is that when these members are welded to the shell plating, the serrated openings, which occur in an alteration sequence in the two faces, provide access for depositing the back or interior welds of the connecting edges for full fusion. The same openings also making it possible to inspect and maintain the otherwise-concealed interior surfaces of the ribs.

Another distinguishing feature of the AMMI is the end-connectors and the tube pile spud wells. These items enable the pontoon to be used to build bridges both floating and elevated. How does it do this? Stay tuned for next and final instalment to see how!

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150225-N-JU810-001Meet the Archivist: Ingi House
Ingi House is originally from Kansas where she got her B.A. in history from K.U. and M.L.S. from E.S.U. 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 Admiration 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

Honoring Shields: The Battle of Dong Xoai, Part 2

Today we conclude our two-part exploration of the Battle of Dong Xoai in which we recount the heroic actions of Medal of Honor recipient Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Marvin G. Shields. You can read part one here.

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A destroyed building at the camp in Dong Xoai.

Of the nine-man Seabee Team, 2 men were killed: Shields and Hoover. Seven others suffered injuries. The survivors of the determined stand in the District Headquarters building reported many examples of valor. No member of Seabee Team 1104 distinguished himself more than Shields. Despite shrapnel wounds suffered during the initial mortar attack on the north end of camp, Shields fought effectively in the defense from the west berm, taking advantage of several lulls in the fighting to distribute ammunition to the other defenders.

Wounded a second time during this attack, Shields nevertheless assisted in carrying a more critically wounded man to safety, and then resumed firing at the enemy for four more hours. When the Commander, 1st Lt. Charles Williams asked for a volunteer to accompany him in an attempt to knock out an enemy machine gun emplacement which was endangering the lives of all personnel in the compound because of the accuracy of its fire, Shields unhesitatingly volunteered for this extremely hazardous mission. Proceeding toward their objective with a 3.5- inch rocket launcher, they succeeded in destroying the enemy machine gun emplacement, thus undoubtedly saving the lives of many of their fellow servicemen in the compound. Shields was mortally wounded by hostile fire while returning to his defensive position and died shortly after being evacuated from Dong Xoai on the afternoon of June 10.

Shields Casket Return

Col Xuan of the Republic of Vietnam, presented MS posthumously with the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm and the Military Merit Medal

Shields was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during a ceremony held Sept. 13, 1966. His wife, Joan, and daughter, Barbara, accepted the medal presented by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Williams, with whom Shields fought alongside to take out the enemy machine guns, was also awarded the Medal of Honor that day.

Tonight, June 10, Seabee Museum Director Dr. Lara Godbille will host a special presentation on the life of Shields and his actions in Vietnam. The presentation will begin at 6p.m. and will culminate in the unveiling of our new Hall of Fallen Heroes exhibit which will feature a presentation on Marvin Shields, and honor all Seabees who have been killed in action since World War II.

The original Medal of Honor presented to the wife of Marvin Shields which can be seen on display at the Seabee Museum.

The original Medal of Honor presented to the wife of Marvin Shields which can be seen on display at the Seabee Museum.

Museum Happenings: STEM Center Launches

150606-N-JU810-015 PORT HUENEME, Calif. (June 6, 2015) U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. William Powell and his family cut the ribbon celebrating the opening of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Center at the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum. The Powell Family raised the funds to build the center in memory of their daughter, Kennedy, who died in January 2014 from a rare illness when she was 15 months old. The exhibit will be the center of youth educational programming for the museum by tying in the educational tenets of STEM with the history and fundamentals of the Seabee job ratings. (Photo by Aramis X. Ramirez, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Navy Seabee Museum/RELEASED)

150606-N-JU810-015 PORT HUENEME, Calif. (June 6, 2015) U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. William Powell and his family cut the ribbon celebrating the opening of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Center at the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum. The Powell Family raised the funds to build the center in memory of their daughter, Kennedy, who died in January 2014 from a rare illness when she was 15 months old. The exhibit will be the center of youth educational programming for the museum by tying in the educational tenets of STEM with the history and fundamentals of the Seabee job ratings. (Photo by Aramis X. Ramirez, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Navy Seabee Museum/RELEASED)

The U.S. Navy Seabee Museum held a ribbon cutting ceremony, launching its newest youth-oriented Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Center June 6.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math are the four educational tenets that stimulate innovation in today’s youth. The focus of the STEM Center will be to tie these tenets to the historical resourcefulness and ingenuity of the Navy’s Construction Force, better known as the Seabees, as well as the Civil Engineer Corps (CEC), and Underwater Construction Teams.

Funding for the exhibit came from an unexpected source, said Dr. Lara Godbille, museum director. U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. William Powell and his wife, Jessica, offered the money they raised from a memorial fund in honor of their middle child, Kennedy, who died Jan. 2, 2014 as a result of a rare bowel obstruction.

“Our goal with this exhibit is to give back to the children so that they may learn to love, grow, and play,” said Tech Sgt. Powell. “Kennedy was the happiest of babies and I know that she would want nothing but happiness and love for the children and families that get the chance to play and learn here at this exhibit.”

Both Powell and Godbille hope that the joint effort in bringing to life the STEM Center will demonstrate the importance of educating today’s youth.

150606-N-JU810-014 PORT HUENEME, Calif. (June 6, 2015) U.S. Navy Seabee Museum Director Dr. Lara Godbille welcomes visitors to the ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the opening of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Center at the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum. U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. William Powell and his wife Jessica donated the funds to build the center in memory of their daughter, Kennedy, who died in January 2014 from a rare illness when she was 15 months old. The exhibit will be the center of youth educational programming for the museum by tying in the educational tenets of STEM with the history and fundamentals of the Seabee job ratings. (Photo by Aramis X. Ramirez, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Navy Seabee Museum/RELEASED)

150606-N-JU810-014 PORT HUENEME, Calif. (June 6, 2015) U.S. Navy Seabee Museum Director Dr. Lara Godbille welcomes visitors to the ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the opening of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Center at the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum. U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. William Powell and his wife Jessica donated the funds to build the center in memory of their daughter, Kennedy, who died in January 2014 from a rare illness when she was 15 months old. The exhibit will be the center of youth educational programming for the museum by tying in the educational tenets of STEM with the history and fundamentals of the Seabee job ratings. (Photo by Aramis X. Ramirez, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Navy Seabee Museum/RELEASED)

“STEM transcends military branch and industry in today’s world,” said Godbille. “It is vital to offer a space of learning for today’s youth in a way that stimulates imagination, fosters communication and teamwork, and allows a free flow of ideas, much in the same way the Seabees have done throughout their history. But this is not just a Seabee exhibit, or an Air Force one; it’s an exhibit that embodies the ideals of learning and community that everyone can enjoy.”

150606-N-JU810-016 PORT HUENEME, Calif. (June 6, 2015) U.S. Navy Seabee Museum patrons explore the museum’s newest exhibit the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Center at the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum. U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. William Powell and his wife Jessica donated the funds to build the center in memory of their daughter, Kennedy, who died in January 2014 from a rare illness when she was 15 months old. The exhibit will be the center of youth educational programming for the museum by tying in the educational tenets of STEM with the history and fundamentals of the Seabee job ratings. (Photo by Aramis X. Ramirez, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Navy Seabee Museum/RELEASED)

150606-N-JU810-016 PORT HUENEME, Calif. (June 6, 2015) U.S. Navy Seabee Museum patrons explore the museum’s newest exhibit the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Center at the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum. U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. William Powell and his wife Jessica donated the funds to build the center in memory of their daughter, Kennedy, who died in January 2014 from a rare illness when she was 15 months old. The exhibit will be the center of youth educational programming for the museum by tying in the educational tenets of STEM with the history and fundamentals of the Seabee job ratings. (Photo by Aramis X. Ramirez, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Navy Seabee Museum/RELEASED)

Museum Curator Kim Crowell, who served as project lead for the STEM Center noted the theme of cooperation and teamwork, was most important in the exhibit’s construction.

“Any exhibit in the museum is the result of thousands of man hours,” she said. “With this one, it was important that the community played a part, so we enlisted the aid of Seabees from [Naval Mobile Construction Battalion] Four so that they could contribute to the space that will inspire children to think in ways that could make better thinkers and leaders in the future.”

To simulate that thinking, visitors in the exhibit are presented with interactive presentations on each of the seven Seabee job ratings and the Underwater Construction Team.

“Toys such as remote-controlled Caterpillar tractors, mini-wind turbines, chaos towers, sound-powered telephones, and building toys such as Lego bricks allow patrons to experience STEM in a fun way,” Crowell explained. “There was a lot of love that went into this exhibit. We hope the community finds as much fun in it as we had in designing and building it.”

Hi-resolution images of the launch event can be viewed and downloaded from our Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/usnavyseabeemuseum/sets/72157653723516470

Honoring Shields: Events Around the Country

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Various commands around the country will join the Seabee Museum in honoring Medal of Honor recipient Marvin G. Shields by hosting their own commemorations. Check out and see what’s in your region:

Gardiner, Washington
June 10, 2015 at 11 a.m.

NAVFAC Northwest is conducting a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the loss of Medal of Honor recipient CM3 Marvin G. Shields. A remembrance ceremony is planned at his gravesite at the Gardiner Cemetery in Gardiner, WA.

shields gravestone

The event is to remember and honor the heroic actions of CM3 Shields, Seabee Team 1104 and U.S. Army Special Forces Detachment A-342 for their heroic actions during the battle of Dong Xoai. The host of the event is CAPT Mark Geronime, Commanding Officer Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest. Invited guests include: Governor Jay Inslee, Washington State, Joan Shields-Bennett, CAPT (Ret) Dick Bennett, RADM Kate Gregory, FORCM Chris Levesque, members of Seabee Team 1104 and their families, 5th Special Forces Commander, and members of Detachment A-342 and their families.

All Seabee veterans and their families are invited, as well as the general public. Refreshments will be served immediately after the ceremony at the Gardiner Community Center and the local Port Townsend (WA) American Legion Marvin Shields Post 26 will also have open house with food and drinks.

POC: Leslie Yuenger, Public Affairs Officer, NAVFAC NW email: leslie.yuenger@navy.mil   phone: 360-396-6387.

RSVP here.

Uniform
Military: Summer White
Civilian: Appropriate Attire

Port Hueneme, California
June 10 at 6p.m.

The U.S. Navy Seabee Museum will be presenting a lecture by museum director Dr. Lara Godbille on the Battle of Dong Xoai, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the those events. Parking and admission are free. Open to the public.

Location:
1001 Addor St.,
Port Hueneme, CA 93043
POC: Dr. Lara Godbille email: seabeemuseum@navy.mil   phone: 805-982-5167

Gulfport, Mississippi
June 12 at 10 a.m.

Naval Mobile Construction Battalion ELEVEN will be commemorating the 50th anniversary of Medal of Honor recipient CM3 Marvin G. Shields. The ceremony will be conducted at Naval Construction Battalion Center, Gulfport, MS, Base Training Hall, building 446. The event will be highlighted with a special presentation by Dr. Lara Godbille, the director of the Seabee museum. The presiding officer is CDRE John Adametz, Commander Naval Construction Group TWO.

Uniform
Military: Uniform of the day
Civilian: Appropriate Attire