Archivist’s Attic – The Wonder Arches

Curveballs – The Wonder Arches

Sometimes instructions are just a suggestion, in the case of the Seabees often time’s items will be designed or manufactured with ideal conditions in mind. That’s great, as long as the items are always being produced in the same way. Life loves to throw us curveballs and in the case of the Seabees, curveballs are a way of life.

The Wonder Arches were originally designed for use as unground passage ways and storage areas in Antarctica. They worked so well that the Seabees decided to bring them over with them to Vietnam where they came into widespread use as aircraft shelters. Although the structures themselves are standardized, the locations are not, creating curveballs of problems. It became evident that the manufacturer’s instructions were only guidelines and the trial-and-error method to devise a workable construction procedure for a specific job site and climate conditions were necessary. Some of the more interesting methods used involved changing the directions for the lift, ladders and pins!

Lift – Less is More

The manufacturer suggested that three two-foot arches be assembled on the ground and lifted into place by a crane. However it was found by the Seabees that fabrication of two-arch assemblies was more advantageous sense the panels can be handled by two men with relative ease for ground assembly of the second arch to the first.

Not only is manual manipulation quicker and easier, but the ground fabrication of the second arch to the first arch is much easier that the fabricating the third arch to the second arch. This is due to the weight of the third arch on the first and second arches causing them to bend somewhat, making the hole alignment much more difficult. Even more important is the fact that the two-arch assembly, when being erected, is little more flexible than the three arch assembly thus facilitating erection and preliminary bolt-up

Seabees with NMCB-121 pour concrete to form a protective cover for a Wonder Arch aircraft shelter for Marine Aircraft Group 16, located in Military Region I, Republic of Vietnam.

Seabees with NMCB-121 pour concrete to form a protective cover for a Wonder Arch aircraft shelter for Marine Aircraft Group 16, located in Military Region I, Republic of Vietnam.

Ladders – Don’t Swing on the Ropes

In order to get up to the arches to finish bolting them together rope ladders were provided by the manufacturer and were intended to be used by the man on top of the erected arch, working with another man inside the arch on a scaffold. However, the curveball though was the climate and heavy rain which led to rapid deterioration of the rope ladders and prompted a search for more effective methods. Several types of ladders and scaffolding were tried, but finally a system using a block and tackle with a boatswain’s chair proved to be the most successful.

By fairly simple maneuvering the crewmen were able to reach four or five sections before having to move the suspension system, thus saving considerable time and resources.

A 3-rib section of a steel "Wonder Arch" aircraft shelter is being lifter into position on a parking apron at the DaNang Air Base. Seabees are from NMCB-3.

A 3-rib section of a steel “Wonder Arch” aircraft shelter is being lifter into position on a parking apron at the DaNang Air Base. Seabees are from NMCB-3.

Pins – Make it Yourself

After the arches are up and there is a system in place to work from all that’s left to do is put the pins in place to hold the whole thing together! The manufactures packaged the steel panels in a way to prevent damage. The curveball was by the time the panels got to the Seabees a majority of the panels were bent and deformed. The pre-drilled holes in the panels and arches seldom lined up without liberal use of drift pins, supplied by the manufacturer to force them into alignment. The stresses placed upon the pins in this manner caused them to bend and crack prematurely.

To combat this problem the Seabees themselves, manufactured replacement pins out of stainless steel, which proved to be more durable. Saving the structures and enabling the arches to finally be bolted together.

The Seabee’s ultimately found that by using the manufactures instruction manual primarily as a guide, they could take those curveballs that were pitched to them, put a little elbow grease into them, change the direction and hit them out of the ballpark.

Now that’s using Seabee ingenuity to hit a home run!

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.

Archivist’s Attic – Processing Archives

What a mess, you say to yourself, as you sit around scattered boxes of papers. How am I ever going to find anything in here!?! If you’re lucky, or unlucky as some archivist will tell you, you only have to ask yourself that question a few times in your life. But if you work in a library, archive or museum you might be asking that question to yourself multiple times a day.

Here at the Seabee Museum we get donations and collections every day that need to be assessed, arranged, described and preserved so that we can provide useful information to the visitors and researchers that visit every day.

Processing is the key that unlocks the hidden stories in and among the boxes and folders full of paper. Every collection that comes in to the Seabee Museum has to be processed before it can be put on display or used by researchers and the staff. But how does processing work?

Assessing

The collection first needs to be looked at, this is called assessing. This the time that the collection is looked at to see what exactly it is made up of. Typical questions archivists ask during the phase are what is the importance of the collection? Who or what is the collection about? Are there any significant issues such as major papers or items that make up the base of the collection? Basically the archivist gets to root around, get dirty and get nosey with the collection. After all, if you don’t know what is in a collection how are you going to tell other people what’s in it?

Cart full of incoming collections

Arranging

After the archivist has determined what the collection is about then need to start putting it together in an order that makes sense, this is called arranging. Once an archivist knows what they are dealing with they need to make sure that the puzzle pieces of the collection matchup. For example, if the collection is made up of orders from the same location with varying time frames, then organizing the collection by date would give a better description of the location over time. That way if a researcher is looking for what happened in a location at a specific time they can easily pinpoint what they need. Basically the archivist is looking for the most logical way that the collection makes sense so that other people can find information. After all, there is no use in arranging a collection by the color of the paper, if the color doesn’t have any significance and it’s all white and blue.

Special collection library

Describing

Once the archivist has determined how the collection will be arranged then they need to actually put down in writing what the collection is about so that others can find the information, this is called describing. After an archivist has arranged a collection then they need to figure out a way to convey that information to others. The most effective way of doing this is to create a ‘finding aid’. A finding aid is simply a written description of the collection using arrangement. By using what the collection is arranged by an archivist will go through the collection and write a small descriptive sentence on what each piece is about. Most archives, including the Seabee Museum, describe collections on a folder level, this means that the finding aid will include folder titles such as, Monthly Reports or Training Manuals. There are usually several things within a folder but not everything is described that is in the folder. It’s a bit like Christmas then when you do open a folder and can see everything in it!

Preserving

After all the assessing and describing is done what work is left for the archivist to do?!? Well finding aids and photographs are wonderful but it doesn’t do anyone any good if all that information is lost in a few months or years. Once the archivist has made the collection easy to find they need to make sure the collection is going to be around for generations to come. Making sure items will last for years is called preserving and there are many ways an archivist does this. For example at the Seabee Museum we put our documents in archival safe folders, boxes and specially designed plastic sleeves called Mylar. We also make sure that the storage area that holds all the collections are kept at the correct temperature and humidity. In addition we take preventive measures such as digitizing as many of the collections as we can so that the documents are not handled as much, preventing destruction.

Cart of property cards waiting to be processed.

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

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

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

Archivist’s Attic: Project Judy

Field

It’s that time of year again! Vacation time!

While there are lots of spots to choose from, whether your destination be local or abroad, I invite you to check out the latest accommodations located in picturesque Marathon, Greece. Many of us long to visit the ancient sites of the first marathon. But be warned! Dream sites can be deceiving, as the Seabees found out in 1963. After lying dormant for some 2000 years, the very site where the ancient Greek Civil Engineer Herodus Atticus lived came to life with the buzz of Seabees who worked hard at making a hornets nest a hive.

During the Cold War build-up, the United States needed a strategic location in order to listen to and keep tabs on then Soviet Union. As Greece is located to the southwest of the Soviet Union it was a prime location for such a project. Mobile Construction Battalion (MCB) 6 had the unique opportunity to build an entire communication station from scratch while living in a rural community tent camp in Greece. This opportunity became known as Project Judy.

What was Project Judy? She was a $10 million semi-mobile communication facility with 11 major buildings covering more than 42,000 square feet with more than 100 antennas that required an accumulation of man-hour labor equating to 17,000 days of intensive work. Seabee labor resulted in a quarter of a million yards of earth work and 5000 yards of concrete work. And all of this was completed in picturesque Greece with ancient ruins and historic sites!

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But as we all know, resorts don’t pop up overnight and the challenges that MCB 6 faced made the first Marathon seem like sprint.

Problems started right away with labeling; supply boxes arrived incorrectly labeled. Air mattresses in crates marked electric gear or base bolts for steel frames packed with roofing panels. Even certain partitions or fittings for buildings were packed in the same box without exterior markings. It got so bad the Seabees started treating it like opening gifts on Christmas, with every box containing a surprise. And Christmas it was when supplies arrived because oftentimes nothing would come for weeks or months on end. It got so bad that when the Seabees were asked what kind of gear they had they often responded with, “What gear?”

Tents

In order to ‘make do’ and keep on schedule, the Seabees often cannibalized various buildings and equipment. Any equipment that did come was being placed into immediate operation upon arrival no matter what the original purpose. For example, the “Tables by Cables” were tables made out of electrical cable reels strung together.

The Seabees also dealt with the problem of not having enough supplies. Not only to did comfort supplies, like tables not arrive, but even key components, like the supplies to build a wall failed to show up. Eight-inch girders that prevented complete closures were jerry-rigged and fixed so men could no longer peek into the women’s heads and other necessary places.

Land complications and water on the site posed extra challenges for the men of to MCB 6 face. The tent camp relocated due to its placement on ancient ruins of historical significance. Ancient ruins created additional stress by putting pressure on the Seabees not only to continue building the communication station on schedule, but to move their camp without damaging the ruins. In addition, the Greeks had never heard of a “pressure and temperature automatic control valve,” meaning supplies brought in for water works didn’t match up to the local hardware.

Tower

But the Seabees’ “Can Do” attitude worked through each of those problems, along with numerous others, prompting the Chief of Naval Operations to say if he wanted excuses he would have hired contractors; but he wanted the job done so he hired Seabees.

The project might have started out like a Greek tragedy, but by the end even Herodus Atticus would have been proud to know that the Seabees took on the challenge and ended up with one of the first and best naval communication stations.

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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

Archivist’s Attic: The Walking Barge

Faster than a speeding Rhino barge, more powerful than an outboard motor, able to leap longer and further than a frog, look on the ground and in the sea; it’s a jeep, it’s a tractor, it’s…The Walking Barge!?

In 1948, the Navy sought a new means to haul men and materials through surf, soft mud, sand and quagmires to reach shore dry and ready to go. The task of developing this was handed to the men at the Advanced Base Depot Proving Ground in Port Hueneme, Calif. They came up with an ingenious idea of using pontoons and an outboard motor to drive the barge through the water until it reached a point where a specially designed leapfrog mechanism could be operated.

The walking barge, as it was called, was capable of carrying 60 tons of men and materiel. The frog-like gadget was made of all-welded construction and consisted of three pontoons placed side by side. The two outer pontoons were each slightly more than 9-feet high, 60-feet long and 6-feet wide. Fitted between the two outer hulls, the inner pontoon was 16-feet wide, 44-feet long and 6-feet wide.

walking barge 1

The barge moved using these pontoons in a halting leapfrog motion. The inboard pontoons were first lifted 17 inches off the ground then moved forward 10 feet at this level and then were lowered to the ground. That action would be followed by the outboard pontoons which were decked over and carried the payload. “Leapfrogging” upward and forward in the same manner as the inboard pontoon, they would come to a rest in their original position over the inboard pontoon.

Just like a frog though, this amphibious adaptation was just at home in mud and water as well as on dry ground. In mud traction was obtained through vertical fins installed in the bow of the inner portion and in the forward sections of the outboard pontoons. The fins were automatically raised into the hull as the barge made its way forward and were lowered into the mud when it touched down. In water, the barge jumped out as far as possible before the propeller took over.

Walking barge 2

This basic design prompted engineers to recommend it for various other jobs including a carrier for road mats and vehicles. Additionally, it could act as a stable platform for use in construction of causeways, bridges, docks and piers. Not all of these ideas were put into place but the simple design of the walking barge lent itself so well to various operations that it was used from the islands all the way down to Antarctica.

Throughout the years various improvements and redesigns leapt the walking barge into the future including various uses for tourists around the world; all due to a little inspiration from our long legged friends!

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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