Curator’s Corner- Humanitarian Missions

 

 

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NMCB 3 Seabees deployed to Djibouti to work with Combined Joint Task Force- Horn of Africa

The U.S. Navy Seabees have a long history of providing humanitarian efforts around the world from Palau in the South Pacific to Afghanistan. Seabees are vital members of the Combined Joint Task Force- Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and are deployed to build partner nation capacity in Eastern Africa and help prevent Islamic radicalization. Lt. Cmdr. Michael James of NMCB 74 said, “as Seabees, we normally are supporting other units and forces…here in HOA, we’re one of the primary means for CJTF-HOA to accomplish its mission by building schools, medical clinics and water wells … we aren’t just building something and leaving, we’re interacting with the people and working with them to help themselves make their life better.”

Senior Chief Equipment Operator (EOCS) Pamela Leith (nee Lee), donated the first collection to the museum representing the Seabees deployment with CJTF-HOA. EOCS Leith was deployed with NMCB 3 to Djibouti for humanitarian missions in 2009. While in Djibouti, EOCS Leith worked on a school rehabilitation project in the city of Ali Sabieh and a water well mission in Dikhil. By using the construction force’s building expertise, the Seabees are able to complete many small projects and spend more time interacting with the community.

On one such occasion, the hotel where the Seabees were staying in Ali Sabieh was constructing an additional building and EOCS Leith noticed the Djiboutian’s were doing everything by hand and hauling dirt in by buckets. She decided to help by using the Seabee’s front end loader to haul a few scoops in and build up their floor. This small gesture probably saved them several days of labor which only took her an hour.

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Seabees from NMCB 3 celebrating the end of Ramadan with Djibouti natives

 

The hotel staff was grateful for the Seabees’ contribution to their community and treated them like family for the duration of their stay. They invited the Seabees as their guests to a large feast after Ramadan which they all attended and even threw EOCS Leith a dinner party before she departed on her new mission. The staff appreciated everything she had done for them and gave her gifts of local tradition which included a dress, skirt, shawls, and a large knife with leather scabbard which are currently on display in the museum.

While EOCS Leith was building the water well in Dikhil, she was notified that the new hotel building in Ali Sabieh had added her name in large letters to a pillar as a sign of respect and gratitude. She went back to see the finished building and to greet the hotel staff. Leith said, “It was truly touching that they did that for me!”

Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Legg of NMCB 11, who NMCB 3 replaced said, “Actions often speak louder than words…as we work side-by-side with the Africans through our military-to-military programs or build new school facilities here in Djibouti, our efforts speak volumes to the fact the American people care, and we are here to help Africans find solutions to African problems.”

Come visit the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum and see EOCS Leith’s collection and other humanitarian mission stories.

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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.

 

 

 

 

Curator’s Corner- Seabees and the Global War on Terror

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Seabee assigned to NMCB-74 helps set a security perimeter at a project site near Fallujah, Iraq, 2004.

The U.S. Navy Seabee Museum recently opened several new exhibits including an exhibit on the Seabees and the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). GWOT refers to the international military campaign that started after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. America’s involvement in the Global War on Terrorism after the 9/11 attacks increased the need for more Seabees. All active and reserve Naval Mobile Construction Battalions (NMCBs) and Naval Construction Regiments (NCRs) have been deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) providing critical construction skills. The Seabees have been deployed since the beginning of the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Iraq in 2003, and have been providing humanitarian assistance in Africa since 2007.

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Girder from Tower One of the World Trade Center donated to the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

 

The museum has acquired a piece of twisted girder (steel beam) from Tower One of the World Trade Center and it is displayed in the new exhibit. This donation was made in 2006 by retired officer Art Grenci of the Los Angeles Police Department. EOCS Pamela Leith, who at the time was a 1st Class Equipment Operator, took Mr. Grenci to visit the old Seabee Museum. He was impressed with the pride and honor that was displayed for the Seabees past and present, that he wanted the steel to have a good home at the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum, so all could learn about 9/11 and would never forget.

Come visit the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum and explore the new GWOT, Antarctica, Seabee Culture, Underwater Construction, and Special Assignments exhibits!

photo of robyn for curator's corner.pngMeet 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.

Curator’s Corner- Seabee Queens and Their Throne

Seabee Queen Susan Hayward on bulldozer

Actress Susan Hayward was the first Seabee Queen, crowned in November of 1943 upon her throne (U.S. Navy Seabee Museum Archives)

The U.S. Navy Seabee Museum is preparing to open several new exhibits this fall, one of which presents Seabee heritage. We cannot discuss Seabee heritage and not mention the history of Seabee Queens and their reign.

Seabee Queens are a part of Seabee history which sheds light on their culture and traditions. The first annual birthday celebration to commemorate the founding of the Naval Construction Force was in 1943 and subsequent events were called the Seabee Ball. As part of those celebrations, the oldest and youngest Seabees on the base were recognized, and a Seabee Queen was selected to preside over the festivities.

Seabee Queen Susan Hayward with her Seabees

Seabee Queen Susan Hayward with her Seabees (U.S. Navy Seabee Museum Archives)

The first woman selected as Seabee Queen was actress Susan Hayward, John Wayne’s co-star in the 1944 movie, The Fighting Seabees. She remained the Seabee Queen throughout World War II and she returned to Port Hueneme several times over the course of the war.

Due to the rapid demobilization of the battalions after WWII, no queens were selected from 1946 through 1951. In 1952, Seabee Queens emerged as a morale booster once more. Every year thereafter, Seabees nominated wives, girlfriends, daughters, or movie stars and voted for a new Seabee Queen.

Seabee Betty - Guam Seabee Ball

Seabee Betty becomes the Seabee Queen for the Guam Seabee Ball (U.S. Navy Seabee Museum Archives)

Seabee Queens were also selected at Seabee Balls around the world as naval bases expanded in the 1950s. The most famous Seabee Queen overseas was Seabee Betty, a Chamorro woman who hosted welcome and farewell parties for all the Seabees deployed to Guam. You can learn more about Seabee Betty in the new exhibit.

The tradition of selecting a Seabee Queen was discontinued in Port Hueneme in 1992—nearly twenty years after the first woman became a Seabee and before women served in an active duty construction battalion—a direct reflection of the changing customs surrounding the Seabees.

Seabee Queen Throne and stool on display at the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

Seabee Queen Throne and stool on display at the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum (U.S. Navy Seabee Museum)

The new Seabee Heritage exhibit will showcase an original Seabee Queen Throne and stool which was created in 1980; carved from 4 x 4 pine and plywood with a painted image of Phoebe the Female Seabee for use at the Gulfport, Mississippi Seabee Balls until 1993. The throne was one of the many artifacts brought back to Port Hueneme after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulfport Seabee Base.

Come to the U.S Seabee Museum this fall and see the new Seabee Heritage exhibit and take a photo op on the Seabee Queen Throne!

Special thanks to Kimberlyn Crowell, museum curator, for her extensive knowledge of Seabee Queen history which was essential to creating this blog.

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.”

Archivist Attic – “Acey Bone” Serves Steaks on Planes

In 1952 Wonsan, a key supply and transportation center for the enemy, fell back into the hands of communist Korea. While fighting to regain essential territory, severely damaged naval aircraft were being forced to either ditch at sea or land behind enemy territory. The Navy need to locate a safe place for them to land. Just as luck would have it “Acey Bone” (ACBONE), the familiar name of Amphibious Construction Battalion ONE, was on the job! They managed to build a lifesaving airstrip quicker than you can cook dinner.

Emergency landing strip on Wolmi Do Island.

Emergency landing strip on Wolmi Do Island.

Carrier-based Navy aircraft, making daily attacks on the city of Wonson, were frequently damaged to the degree that pilots had to choose between ditching at sea or landing in enemy-held territory. These losses made finding a safe solution in Allied territory imperative. In June 1952, Vice Admiral P.R. Briscoe directed “Acey Bone” to construct an emergency air strip on Yodo Island in Wonsan Harbor. The small, hilly island had remained behind enemy lines after the Wonsan evacuation, but appeared so unimportant that the North Koreans never took it over. Within easy shelling range of the mainland, it was the perfect place for the Seabees to build the much needed air-strip.

Another view of the landing strip on Wolmi Do Island

Emergency landing strip on Wolmi Do Island from the side.

A rapid survey showed that there was only one possible location for the airstrip, a low level area used by the Koreans for rice paddies. After bringing in equipment and supplies “Acey Bone” started construction. Drilling, blasting, filling and grading of the hilly area took just nineteen days to complete. The brand new airstrip was 2,400 feet long and went from one side of the island to the other.

On the twentieth day the code message the “Steak Is Ready,” was declared signaling that the airstrip was ready to be used.. This pre-arranged signal was acted on immediately by no less than nine Corsair pilots who all landed on the new field the very first day it was completed.

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Photograph of members of Acey Bone (ACBONE), the familiar name of Amphibious Construction Battalion ONE, after the invasion.

Despite the ease with which the island could be shelled and the constant need for filling shell holes in the airstrip, operations continued for a year. The airfield was named “Briscoe Field” in honor of Vice Admiral P.R. Briscoe. During this time, Navy and Air Force aircraft, valued at over ten million dollars, were saved by utilizing the emergency airstrip and over sixty pilots were spared the choice between capture and ditching at sea.

Once again “Acey Bone” showed the true Can Do! Spirt of the Seabees by not only providing a place to land, but doing so in style!

 

Ingi Face

Meet the 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.

Curator’s Corner- Detail Kilo and Timber Bunkers

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.”

Archivist Attic – Acey Bone at Incheon

In September 1950 the personnel and equipment of Acey Bone (ACBONE), the familiar name of Amphibious Construction Battalion ONE, participated in the invasion of Inchon, Korea. This decisive victory turned the tide in favor of the United Nations and enabled the recapture of Seoul, South Korea, a few weeks later. Acey Bone was able to set up piers, a tent city, and even provide entertainment, quicker than you can get through your holiday celebrations!

Seabees at Wolmi Do during Inchon Invasion.

Seabees at Wolmi Do during Inchon Invasion.

On the morning of September 15th, the Marine Landing Force made its assault at Inchon. The Seabees were right on their heels and one and a half hours after the first waves hit the beach the Seabees had the pontoon cause way launched, assembled, and ready for beaching.

Natural obstacles proved the biggest test for building the harbor. Tidal flats and extreme tides led to maximum tidal currents against which the causeway could not be maneuvered. Working against time and tide, the pier was installed after two unsuccessful attempts. Placement of the pier had to be carefully planned in order to provide constant accessibility during both high and low tides.

Even with all the Seabee ingenuity, tidal conditions continued to limit operations. To combat this, small crafts were employed to maintain a constant flow of materials across the pier. The combination of pier work and small craft permitted 24-hour utilization of the vital links.

Smoke during naval bombardment on Incheon, Korea

Smoke rises from fires and explosions caused by pre-invasion naval bombardment on Incheon, Korea.

While pontoons were being placed in the harbor, the beach conditions were also being improved in order to make a workable base. A tent city was constructed while drivers improved roads improving the flow of materials. Seabees with railroad experience also brought Korean locomotives through enemy mortar and fire to supply the troops. They manned this equipment for the duration of their stay. Their fortitude and unusual skill provided unexpected service in support of the logistic operations.

All work and no play makes even the best military cranky. No problem with that though, the Seabees took care of that when they installed a theater. The theater proved so popular that once again, the traditional “Courtesy of the Seabees” sign was displayed on a beachhead.

Seabees at Incheon Harbor, Korea

Seabees are pictured leaving Incheon Harbor, Korea during the successful redeployment of UN troops to Incheon.

Consolidation and improvement operations continued until October 1950, by which time the preliminary work was done and the Base Development phase commenced. In just three short weeks the Seabees had built a pontoon cause way, installed a tent city, worked on making a railway functional, and provided entertainment for the troops! All because Seabees Can Do!

 

Ingi Face

Meet the 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.

Curator’s Corner- NMCB 74 and the FEARLESS Beaver

Fearless Beaver of NMCB 74

https://www.facebook.com/FEARLESS74The FEARLESS Beaver of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 74 [U.S Navy Seabee Museum]

Many Seabee Battalions can trace their battalion history back to World War II and the creation of the Construction Battalions. The “Fearless 74,” better known as Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74 (NMCB) is one of those battalions. Originally known as the 74th Naval Construction Battalion (NCB), they were activated April 28, 1943, at the Naval Construction Training Center in Camp Perry, Williamsburg, Virginia.

From the battalion’s humble beginnings during WWII, the 74th NCB used the beaver as their battalion logo. Frank J. Iafrate, who created the idea for the Seabee logo, his first idea was originally a beaver, the builder. But after some research, it was found that while beavers are good builders, however when threatened, they retreat; where bees are both builders and fighters. So the beaver idea was abandoned.

patch for NMCB 74 with beaver

Mobile Construction Battalion (MCB 74) Patch [U.S Navy Seabee Museum]

The “Fearless 74” served in the island-hopping campaign to reclaim Imperial Japanese held territory in the South Pacific. Often landing with the Marine Corps, the Battalion constructed support facilities on Tarawa, Kwajalein, and Berlin Islands. In the rapid demobilization in the autumn of 1945, an increasing number of battalions were returning home. The 74th NCB was inactivated on October 31, 1945, on the island of Okinawa.

On December 6th, 1966, NMCB 74 was recommissioned as an active Seabee battalion and adopted the motto “Does More.” During the years from 1967-1970, the battalion made four deployments to Vietnam serving in various locations: Da Nang, Cam Lo, Dong Hoa, Quang Tri, Quang Nagi, Chau Doc, and Bien Hoa.

Following the Vietnam War, the battalion participated in peacetime construction efforts around the globe, including deployments to Diego Garcia; Guam; Okinawa, Japan; Puerto Rico; Rota, Spain; and Sigonella, Sicily.

In 1990 NMCB 74 deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield/ Desert Storm and built one of the largest ammunition facilities in the world. They also built a 1,500 foot stabilized soil runway for C-130 aircraft, two large Marine camps, and assisted NMCB 5 in building a 15,000-man camp known as “Wally World.” In 1998, the battalion reestablished its original “Fearless” motto.

Members of NMCB 74 and beaver before beaver shipped to U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

Members of NMCB 74 say goodbye to the FEARLESS beaver before it is shipped to the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum in Port Hueneme, CA “where an easy life of tree-felling and dam-building awaits” [Courtesy of NMCB 74] https://www.facebook.com/FEARLESS74

The FEARLESS Beaver pictured above was given to NMCB 74 from Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 202 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. NMCB 74 deployed in August 2009 for a scheduled six-month deployment. They provided contingency construction support with many detachments and details, and were in direct support of not only U.S. forces, but NATO and International Security Afghan Forces (ISAF) forces as well. Upon the decommissioning of the battalion on July 25, 2014 at the Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) in Gulfport, Mississippi, the FEARLESS Beaver, along with the official records of the battalion were sent to the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum in Port Hueneme, CA for preservation.

NMCB 74 served in every corner of the world, doing every type of Seabee mission, whether that was supporting major combat operations, disaster recovery, or humanitarian assistance.

To learn more information about NMCB 74 click here. Come visit the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum on Tuesday, July 5, 2016 2-4pm to stop by our Curator’s Corner event to see the FEARLESS Beaver up close.

Editor’s Note: All information is accurate per information the museum has on file to date.

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.”