Curator’s Corner- The W. Reynolds Collection

coconut-lamp

Trench art coconut lamp, made out of three coconuts and inert ammunition (U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

 

The U.S. Navy Seabee Museum will be officially opening the WWII Pacific Theater Exhibit in January 2017 to kick off the Seabees 75th Anniversary. Among the new exhibits will be a World War II trench art exhibit.

The Seabees are known to have created unique examples of trench art during WWII. Trench art, or decorative items made by soldiers during times of war, were created by Seabees during their off duty hours while deployed to pass their time. Seabees used the materials around them to create trinkets for them to send home as gifts and to remind them of their time as Seabees.

Many unique examples of trench art have been donated to the Seabee Museum. W. Reynolds, a Seabee who served in the Pacific Theater, handmade many pieces of trench art which have been donated to the museum by his family. A few examples from his collection include a handcrafted coconut lamp made from three coconuts and inert ammunition, and a cigarette holder and letter holder made out of Imperial Japanese shell casings and hammered brass. The museum unfortunately has very little information regarding the donor’s battalion and where he was deployed.

Come visit the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum and see W. Reynolds collection and an array of trench art on display throughout the museum.

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- Humanitarian Missions

 

 

pic-1

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.

pic-2

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.

photo-of-robyn-for-curators-corner

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

photo-1-seabee-with-dozer-gwot

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.

photo-2-twin-tower-steel

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.

ACB-1 after the invasion

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.

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.

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.