"The only trouble with your Seabees is that you
don't have enough of them."
Gen. Douglas MacArthur
As part of Operation Deepfreeze, Seabees provided
support for the
scientific research programs that were conducted by
seventy American universities, government agencies, and
In Vietnam, during
Tet 1968, Seabees
from Phu Bai were summoned to rebuild and repair two
vitally needed concrete bridges. When enemy snipers
from their work, they organized their own combat teams
which silenced the snipers
and let them complete their important task.
Click the image below
for a moving tribute to Vietnam Veterans
In 1942, to encourage
enlistment, Sam Lewis
and Peter DeRose composed "The
Song of the Seabees," click the image to read the words
and hear the music.
Convinced that war was coming, the U.S. Navy realized
in theaters halfway around the world would present new
challenges in logistics and would require a vast infrastructure.
Beginning in 1940 they began a program of building bases
on far-flung Pacific island using civilian contractors.
When the United
States officially entered the war, the use of civilian labor
had to stop. Under international
law civilians were not permitted to resist enemy
military attack. If they did they could be executed as
December 28, 1941,
Rear Admiral Ben Moreell, Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks (BUDOCKS),
requested specific authority to activate, organize, and
man a unique, very special organization that would
support the Navy and Marines in remote locations and
defend themselves if attacked — the Naval Construction
On January 5, 1942, he was given that authority
and the original Battalions were formed at a new Naval base in
Davisville, Rhode Island.
The first naval construction unit to actually deploy from the
United States left Davisville, Rhode Island, less than
two weeks later on January 17, 1942. It was designated the First Construction
Detachment. The 296 men arrived at Bora Bora on February
On March 5, all Construction Battalion personnel were
officially named Seabees by the Navy Department. Admiral Moreell personally furnished them with their motto Construmus Batumius, or We Build, We Fight.
A logo, the Fighting Bee,
was created by a Rhode Islander at Davisville.
Davisville Advanced Base depot became operational in
June, 1942. Camp Thomas, a personnel receiving station
on the base, was established in October of that year. It
eventually contained 500 Quonset huts for personnel. On
August 11, 1942, the Naval Construction Training Center,
known as Camp Endicott, was commissioned at Davisville.
The Camp trained over 100,000 Seabees during the Second
The Navy built
their Battalions with experienced, highly skilled
craftsmen … electricians, carpenters, plumbers,
equipment operators — virtually any construction or
building trade was welcome in the Seabees.
Seabee units were quickly engaged
in construction and combat. By July 1942, the first
Naval Construction Battalion landed on Midway Island to
begin work on the new airstrip on Sand Island and to
start the massive clean up of damage caused by the
the construction and defense of Henderson Field on
Guadalcanal to the Normandy Invasion. Seabees
participated in every major amphibious assault in World
War II. They quickly earned a reputation for exceptional creativity. If materials weren’t available, the Seabees used whatever they could to get the job done.
More than 325,000
men served with the Seabees in World War II, fighting
and building in more than 400 locations before the war's
end. They knew more than 60 skilled trades. In addition,
Civil Engineer Corps officers served with the Seabees
With the general
demobilization following World War II, the "Bees" were
all but disbanded. The Advanced Base Depot and naval
Construction Training Center were closed in December of
1945. There with only 3,300 men on active duty by
June 1950. Renamed Mobile Construction
Battalions (MCB's) they had support duty in Cuba and throughout the
On June 25, 1950, North Korea attacked South
Korea. This civil war was greatly expanded when the
United States, and later China entered the conflict. In Korea, as in World War II, the "Can Do" spirit shone
again. CBC Davisville was reestablished on August 8,
Landing at Inchon, Seabees provided pontoon
causeways within hours of the initial assault. Seabees
served side by side with the Marine Corps and the
Army, building and defending what they built.
participation in the Korean War was not limited to
amphibious operations. The Seabees were broken up into
numerous detachments and each was assigned to an airfield
designated with a "K" number, such as K-3 at Pohang, K-18 at Kimbo, and
K-2 at Taegu. Seabees could be found throughout the war zone
constructing, repairing, and servicing the K-fields of the
various Marine Air Groups.
Keeping the planes flying was an arduous and often dangerous
task. At one small airstrip on the 36th Parallel, chuck
holes were opening up in the failing concrete faster than
they could be repaired. As it was absolutely vital that the
field remain open, the undaunted Seabees graded, poured, and
patched one side of the runway while bomb-laden aircraft
continued to fly off the other side.
During the Korean War the Navy realized they needed a
naval air station in this region. Cubi Point in the
Philippines was selected and civilian contractors were
initially selected for the project. After seeing
the forbidding Zambales Mountains and the maze of jungle
they claimed it could not be done.
The Navy then turned to
the Seabees. The first Seabees to arrive were MCB-3 on
October 2, 1951; followed by MCB-5 on November
5, 1951. Over the next five years MCB-2, -7, -9, -11
and-13 were also deployed to Cubi Point.
Seabees cut a mountain in half to make way for a nearly
two-mile long runway.
Cubi Point turned out to be one of the largest
earthmoving projects in the world, equivalent to the
construction of the Panama Canal. The $100 million
facility was commissioned on July 25, 1956 and comprised
an air station and an adjacent pier that was capable of
docking the Navy's largest carriers. Another example of
Can Do -- Done!
Beginning in 1955
Seabees began deploying yearly to the continent of
Antarctica. As participants in Operation "Deep Freeze,"
their mission was to build and expand scientific bases
located on the frozen continent. The first "wintering
over" party included 200 Seabees who distinguished
themselves by constructing a 6,000-foot ice runway on
McMurdo Sound. Despite a blizzard which once destroyed
the entire project, the airstrip was completed in time
for the advance party of Deep Freeze II to become the
first to arrive at the South Pole by plane.
Over the following years, and under the most adverse
conditions, Seabees added to their list of
accomplishments such things as snow-compacted roads,
underground storage, laboratories, and living areas. One
of the most notable achievements took place in 1962 when
the Navy’s builders constructed Antarctica’s first
nuclear power plant at McMurdo Station.
During the "Cold War" the
Seabee undertook a number of other missions, including
constructing the Distant Early Warming (DEW) system in
the artic. Again operating often under extreme
conditions, the Seabees successfully completed every
mission assigned to them.
numbered 10,000 men in May of 1965 when MCB-10 went across the beach at Chu Lai,
Republic of Vietnam. During the peak of the Vietnam conflict,
Seabee strength reached 25,000 men in 22 Battalions, two
Regiments, two Maintenance Units, and scores of Civic
Nearly $100 million worth of construction
was completed by the Seabees, a 3 million man-day effort. The
types of jobs ranged from the construction of logistical
complexes in DaNang and Chu Lai to Special Forces camps
in remote regions. It was at Dong Xoai that CM3 Marvin
G. Shields was awarded the Seabees' first
and only Medal of Honor.
In 1970, Seabee activity in
Vietnam drew to a close. The Navy's builder-fighters had
made a lasting contribution to the people of South
construction skills and medical assistance contributed
greatly in "civic action" programs.
While the Seabees supported the Marines and built
a staggering number of aircraft support facilities, roads, and
bridges; they also paved roads that provided access to
farms and markets, supplied fresh water to countless
numbers of Vietnamese through hundreds of Seabee-dug
wells, provided medical treatment to thousands of
villagers, and built schools, hospitals, utilities
systems, roads and other community facilities. Seabees
also worked with, and taught construction skills to the
Vietnamese people, helping them to help themselves and
proving that the Seabees really were "builders for
In 1971 the Seabees
began their largest peacetime construction project, on
Diego Garcia, an atoll in the Indian Ocean. The project
lasted 11 years and cost $200 million. The base
accommodates the Navy’s largest ships and biggest
military cargo jets, and proved invaluable during
Operation Desert Shield/Operation Desert Storm.
During the Gulf War, more than 5,000 Seabees (4,000
active and 1,000 reservists) served in the Middle East.
They built advanced bases, constructed
air fields with hardstands for Marine aircraft, provided
petroleum and water facilities, and accompanied the
Marines into Kuwait. Active and reserve battalions
served in-country and in other support locations
In 1982, responding to
civil war in Lebanon, the US Marines went in as part of
an international peacekeeping force. On October 23,
1983, a truck loaded with explosives crashed through the
security perimeter of the Marine Barracks and
exploded. Two hundred forty one were killed and 80
seriously wounded. In November, a 42-man Seabee detail
from Mobile Construction Battalion ONE was ordered to
Beirut to build underground bunkers for the Marines.The
detail was quickly enlarged to 82 men. There was no
serious retaliation from the Americans and civil war
escalated. On February 7, 1984, President Reagan ordered
a withdrawal from Lebanon.
From the island-hopping of World War II,
the cold of
Korea, the steaming jungles of Vietnam, the deserts of
the Middle East,
Seabees have built cities, paved thousands of roads, and
constructed numerous airstrips in the four corners of
to play a major role in the Global War on Terrorism. In
support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Seabees repaired
runway facilities at Camp Rhino and Kandahar in
Afghanistan. Twenty-six Seabee units deployed to Kuwait
and Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and
were killed. The construction of multiple 20-acre
aircraft-parking aprons, munitions storage areas, a
48,000-square-foot concrete pad, bridges, a 1,200-person
camp and repaired various roads have been proven
invaluable to coalition forces.
Two thirds of today's Seabees are reservists. Active
duty Seabees serve in six
active Battalions, two Amphibious Construction
Battalions (ACB's) and two Underwater Construction Teams
a primary mission of providing continuing construction in a war zone, the Seabees are ready to deploy on short notice to any point on the globe. Upon arrival, they work night and day.
Seabees also conduct humanitarian missions worldwide,
including earthquake and hurricane recovery efforts in
the United States. And it all began here … in Davisville, Rhode Island.
The true spirit of the Seabees is their "Can Do" philosophy. It’s a timeless belief representing Seabees past, present, and future. We invite you to tour our site and visit the
Seabee Museum and Memorial Park in North Kingstown,
"WITH WILLING HEARTS
AND SKILLFUL HANDS,
THE DIFFICULT WE DO AT ONCE,
THE IMPOSSIBLE TAKES A BIT LONGER
WITH COMPASSION FOR OTHERS
WE BUILD - WE FIGHT FOR PEACE WITH FREEDOM"
Memorial, Arlington, VA
For a complete history of the
go to thee
Naval History web site.