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Thread: Seabee Stevedores

  1. #1

    Default Seabee Stevedores


    Supply has long been a thorn in the side of an invading force, but the Seabee Stevedores (Specials), have removed it's sting. Up to now very little has been told of the courageous, hard working, Seabee Stevedore Battalions, here's quite a story on one of these units.

    The 14th Special N.C.B. a unit of stevedores with 18 months overseas duty, has participated in 19 invasions, numbering such operations as Makin,Tarawa,Kwajelin,Eniwetok,Saipan,Tinian,Guam, Peleliu, and Leyte.

    These men have unloaded guns,tanks,ammunition, and other vital cargo right under Japanese shore batteries with Japanese planes bombing and strafing them from overhead. They have undergone some 500 air attacks but the only thing that ever caused them to stop work was a tropical typhoon. On one occasion guns that had been unloaded from one of their ships less than an hour before were credited with two Jap "Bettys". Many other times serious setbacks would have occurred if ammunition and tanks had not reached the assaulting forces taking the initial beachhead.

    This Battalion has received many commendations from high ranking officers, who have nothing but praise for such a gallant crew.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Seabee Stevedores

    Under enemy fire- 6th Special Seabees, Second Section's Echelon One at Vella La Vella - October 1, 1943 - November 22, 1943

    Second Section's Echelon One was called upon to handle cargo for 1stMAC, (First Marine Amphibious Corps) at Vella La Vella. A thirty-day supply of rations, gasoline and oil was to be stocked there. A convoy of LST’s was shipping out from Guadalcanal on September 29, to deliver more supplies and troops to the new staging base, the Sixth would help load it up and discharge it. For the first time the men would be working on an unsecured island. The men were given K-Rations and ammunition. They would go in with full combat equipment. Although the Seabees did not know it, the Japanese ground troops were not a big worry even though they were stubbornly resisting the New Zealand's Third Division's efforts to pocket them in the northwest corner of the island. The major threat was Japanese air attack. Enemy flyers bombed the staging base everyday, clearly the base anti-aircraft defenses and the combat air patrol were inadequate. The Sixth's Echelon One was responsible for loading and unloading LST 460. The trucks and drivers of Company B, First Corps motor transport battalion, a Marine unit, would assist them. Knowing that every minute their LST remained on the beach it was at serious risk of air attack the officers of Echelon One plan loaded the ship so that it could be discharged in a minimum amount of time. They knew that no LST had yet been fully unloaded in the five hours time it was allowed to stay beached at the Vella La Vella staging base, and they were determined to show that it could be done.

    In a driving rainstorm on September 29, the seven LST supply convoy left Guadalcanal for Vella La Vella with Echelon One and the Marine truck drivers aboard Large Slow Target 460. At one mile from the beach the LST crews completely un-dogged their doors and ramp and unclutched the ramp motor so that when the brake was released the ramp would fall of its own weight. The men on the deck watched for enemy planes. Navy gunners hung from the straps of their 20mm cannons, eyes skyward. To beef up their anti-aircraft defense, the Sixth men deck loaded the two New Zealand 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft cannons as well as all their own 50 caliber machine gun-equipped 6x6 trucks. A few hundred yards from shore the LST’s dropped their stern anchors and paid out the cables until seconds later they were crunching onto the beach. LST 460 grounded a little short of dry land, but Echelon One was prepared. As soon as their ramp splashed into the surf at 07:15, their bulldozer was disembarking immediately followed by their five-ton tractor crane. As their bulldozer pushed a coral road up to the ramp, the Marine truck drivers on the tank deck waited with their engines idling. After the first trucks rushed out the Seabees installed the LST’s elevator guides and lowered the 40mm cannons to the tank deck where they were attached to their prime movers and driven ashore. The Sixth men wasted no time in getting their own 20mm cannon and truck mounted 50 caliber anti-aircraft guns emplaced in positions ashore.

    While their shipmates worked the ship the Seabee gunners stood by their weapons. Inside LST 460 tank deck 32 Stevedores worked at top speed to load the returning trucks. At 09:20, less than two hours after starting, Echelon One completed unloading their LST. The now empty LST 460 pumped out its ballast and prepared to haul in its stern anchor cable and retract from the beach. The Seabees began dispersing into the jungle, where they would dig their foxholes. LST 448, beached a half mile north of Echelon One, was still unloading. Marines had charge of the operation and it was not proceeding as quickly as it should have. Echelon One sent a work detail to assist discharging LST 448. At 09:30, a large force of Japanese fighters and dive-bombers raided the staging area. One veteran recalled how he was walking on the beach to retrieve his rifle and gear and saw a ‘V’ formation of about sixteen aircraft come out of the sun. He first thought they were allied planes, but the sudden cry "air raid" and the formation's nosing over into a dive convinced him otherwise. The Seabees and Marines ran for the cover of the jungle as the anti-aircraft guns on ship and shore sputtered to life. Some men fired their rifles at the incoming planes. Two Japanese dive-bombers swept down and released their payloads on LST 448. The men watched helplessly as the bombs fell into the beached ship. Their was a muffled explosion and the Sixth men could feel the ground tremble from the force of the blast though the exploding ship was half a mile away. Seconds after the impact of the bombs, the Sixth men took to their feet running down the beach toward LST 448. When Japanese fighters swept in and strafed the beach the 20 or so running Seabees dived into the jungle for cover, re-emerging to continue their dash as the enemy fighters passed. The Japanese planes bombed the dispersal areas too, wounding many among the work parties and gun crews. LST 448 was a twisted burning wreck when the Seabees got to her. Ammunition was exploding in her hold and magazines. Marines were helping the wounded, assisted by the Sixth's medical officer who stayed on board throughout the afternoon despite the fires, exploding ordinance and a second attack. Many men were wounded. Of the work detail the Sixth had dispatched before the raid, eight men were wounded by shrapnel, two seriously, and another could not be found at all. Though he was listed as missing in action, it was clear two days later, when 21 unidentified bodies were pulled out of the wreckage, that Echelon One had lost one of its own.

    The Sixth's first experience under fire was costly, but the men did not lose their sangfroid. They dug foxholes near their work area on the beach and waited for the next supply echelon to land. The Japanese attacked intermittently throughout the day and into the night, until about 22:30. The second Japanese air strike came at 10:00 at Ruravai about two miles up the beach from where the Sixth landed and LST 334 had still not finished discharging its cargo. It sat on the shore as an inviting target. The Japanese hit it with a bomb but fortunately the damage was light. As the enemy planes swarmed over the beachhead, one Val dive bomber came hurtling across the cove at a very low altitude only to find cannon fire from the Sixth's 20mm anti-aircraft gun slamming into its nose. As the crippled plane reached the far end of the cove it suddenly exploded into pieces and fell into the sea. Later in the day the airsols (air solomoms command), combat air patrol was on station above the staging base, and they helped deflect the worst of a 60-plane raid. Some enemy bombers still got through, and LST 448 was hit again. For the Japanese pilots there was no mistaking where the beachhead was as long as smoke belched out of the burning LST 448. In the last raid of the day the Japanese scored again, destroying 5 heavy trucks and two jeeps. The violence of the air attacks on Vella La Vella that continued, vividly illustrated for Echelon One the importance of anti-¬aircraft guns. While on the island the Sixth set about acquiring more 20mm cannon .50 caliber machine guns, and trained men in their operation when there was spare time. The corps staging area on Vella La Vella was considered secured by October 8. Air raids continued but the anti-aircraft defenses were by then beefed up. During Echelons One's seven and a half weeks on Vella, their gunners were part of the bases anti-aircraft defense.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Seabee Stevedores

    130th N.C.B. Seabees - Okinawa WW2

    Our role in World War Two did not begin until we arrived on Saipan to join the Second Marine Division for the invasion of Okinawa. Finally, after five warm dusty weeks, and a squalid Christmas at Iroqouis point, we shipped to Saipan in two advance echelons aboard the freighters, USS Alexander and USS Japara, and the main body aboard the old luxury liner of the twenties, USS President Johnson. Onto Saipan in Mid January 1945, (six months after the Marines) Japanese still in the hills, dumped mortar shells into a crowded Seabee movie across from our camp. We dug our first foxholes, filled them with empty beer cans, for bombings were infrequent and uneventful for us, although the advance echelon had been shaved from a bombed gas tank. Saipan meant two more months waiting. While the docks of Tanapag Harbor commenced piling up with supplies to equip the Second Marine Division for an amphibious operation, we began to catch up with the war. Looming ahead were common dangers drawing the attention of a thousand men into common preparations. shots for bubonic plague, cholera, and typhus; lectures on climate, animal life, snakes, pests and diseases, clothing impregnated with DDT: gas masks and ordinance gear handled with new affection, final lectures on mines, mortars, sanitation and water purification all heard wih new ears. It was no secret we were on the threshold of action, the largest amphibious operation yet attempted on Japan's doorstep. A general court-martial threatened the man who revealed our destination, but the secret was poorly kept. Every private and seaman on Saipan told you that it was Okinawa on April 1. We sent 320 of our musclemen with Marines aboard transports to perform as shore party teams on Okinawa beaches. Other small details went with Marine combat troops to work on sanitation and mosquito control. The remainder of the men and equipment, about 600 hundred of us, were loaded aboard two LST's. We had tons of equipment aboard but everyone had his mind on the fifty tons of explosives, high test gasoline, tnt and ammunition. Dress rehearsal was for fours days off Tinian with the entire Second Marine Division and supporting convoy. We had moved dozens of times in the last eighteen months, had mobility down to a science, but this was our first big league game. While the 320 men in shore party teams quarreled with gyrenes over food and six hour relays in a 3-in-1 sack aboard the transports, life on the LST's was comfortable, food excellent, bunks strewn all over the decks, in and under mobil cargo. We had lots of company standing off Okinawa on Easter morning. The fleet laid offshore pounding beach emplacements with it's big guns; cruisers and battlewagons out near the transports like bulldogs barking their guns under the nose of the Japanese shore batteries. It was still dark when we had our first brush with the Jap Kamikaze (suicide planes) which we were later to know so well. Amid the noise of spasmodic booming of the Navy's big guns, suddenly we heard the warning come over the speakers " Enemy aircraft approaching" most of us saw nothing until the 20s and 40s opened up, throwing up, orange and red spurts across a narrow strip of water. Some saw that bat shaped splurge of denser blackness hurtle into the dark convoy, but if the guns that opened up found their mark, they were too late, That Jap pilot dove to meet honorable ancestors via two bulheads of the LST in the lane next to us. Hit just above the water line, gasoline from the Kamikaze spewing flame over decks, the LST lit up the dawn. We stood by to pick up survivors as "Abandoned Ship" became the order aboard the ill fated vessel. Everything was unreal to the spectator, only the man in the water appreciated and felt the crisis. Later, we began to feel and appreciate vicariously, the experience of burning Marines caught in a flaming compartment, or of one sailor who, both arms shot off, leaped from the burning ship to discover he needed arms to stay afloat. Some we took aboard were horribly burned. Weeks before, the hour of invasion had been set, at eight o'clock, and promptly on the appointed hour the morning sea was cut into white ribbons by LCVP's streaking for the beaches fromoutlying transports. Two planes laid a wide smokescreen on the beaches, while guns from the fleet continued to speak their piece. No Japanese battery replied, they conitnued to protect their gun positions with stubborn silence. It was a successful fake invasion. A few yards before the beach, LCVP's turned around under cover of smoke screen and like chicks, steamed for their mother transports. That night we pulled out, the next morning we came back to emphasize our fake invasion, by doing the same thing again. Harrowing was our part of the fake invasion of the southeastern beaches, our worst ours came in the nature of pure nervous tension while we roamed around and around in the company of other landing ships , waiting to be called to the beaches. Happy we were when four short words came over the loud speaker, "Wer'e going in" we wanted to free ourselves from that volatile cargo. With the liberating message in our ears, we headed for the Western beaches of Okinawa, which had fallen easily to our main forces. The mouth of the Bishi-Gawa was reached just before noon of the 12th, and we drove that gaping mouth of the LST across the coral reef, opened the passageway, and hurried bulldozers, loaded trucks, and construction equipment across the reef. Small boats came alongside to receive the high test gasoline from cranes. Unloading operations continued all afternoon until the beachmaster ordered us away for the night. That night the Japs came over with their second large air raid since L-day, and the sky was brilliant with tracers, some of us ashore, with unloaded equipment, squeezed under chasis and wheels, narrowly escaped the shrapnel which fell like rain. The rest of us rode our dynamite through that night of fireworks. The next day we got ashore where we could run away for it. Work during the first weeks ash ore was hurried and confused; living was rough. A foxhole was something you dug with care, it was just not a hole in the ground. You took into consideration the prevailing winds, the rain and drainage, and when it was completed, you stood off and reviewed it from the viewpoint of a quick approach. Rains came everyday, often at the rate of an inch per hour. Foxholes seldom dried out. Work was pressed through air raids, stopping only when fire commenced. trucks bogged down on the way to supply four Army and two Marine divisions at the fronts with critical materials. Roads had to be raised from the sea of mud. Coral pits hummed with shovels and trucks, and we stayed with our machines until the flak fell. Yontan airfield grew in spite of harrassing raids; we saw it change from a small gravel field into hard white coral strips, wide and long, where B-29's could land and get repairs among innumerable shop structures. The roads we built solved genuine difficulties of front line supply; a few thousand yards of coral, a Bailey-Bridge or two, and thousands of vehicle hours were saved from long waiting at points of congestion. At a Marine evacuation hospital, we built bomb-shelters for wounded veterans. One shelter was completed too late, on the night of a big raid, when shrapnel filled the air a tent ward of patients took a direct bomb hit, and fourteen were killed who might have been flown out the next day. We knew the stakes were high and worked around the clock, harder and with less sleep than ever before. No spot on earth during World War Two was subjected to as many air raids per week as we were on Okinawa. The Destroyer picket line sixty miles offshore took ceaseless punishment at considerable cost of lives and ships. In one day 168 Japanese planes were shot out of the Okinawa atmospere. Every day we saw Kamikaze planes striking for ship or shore instillation; Every day saw a few Japanese planes get through our outer air defenses to harrass men a n d machines at work. By the end of July, we had gone "Condition Red" one hundred sixty-six times. To harrassing air raids were added the whistling mortar shells of one sly Jap "Whistling Willie. holed up in a cave, who sent his missiles whining over our heads onto Kadena airfield. Five degrees of any nights sky would have made a breath taking "Fourth of July" back home. The island was secured July 21, after eighty two days of long, vicious expensive struggle. The entrenched Japanese guns were silenced. But our role was not ended, with the destruction of the enemy. Men in motion through a twenty four hour work shedule, took no holiday, went to no rest camp, they shifted to a shorter, eight instead of twelve hour work schedule and plunged into the work of reconstructing damaged installations and expanding a base of further operations against the Japanese.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2005

    Default Re: Seabee Stevedores

    Seems to have been quite a tough job, rough conditions, enemy presence and Im sure not much leave and a very small chance of taking what little was available anywhere near home. Its good to see what is considered a non combat arm being remembered and their contribution to the effort was very considerable indeed.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2009

    Default Re: Seabee Stevedores

    I think these guys and even combat engineers get overlooked at times.

    My uncle was a seabee at Guadalcanal and other places.
    He is long gone, but covered a lot of ground/ocean in his time.
    Spoke of building airstrips under fire, being bombed, raided, etc.

    One of his last jobs was cleanup where they loaded all the stuff they weren't taking home on a barge.
    He bulldozed off many loads into the lagoon and when all was sunk, had to run the 'dozer off the side.

    He also 'dozed "a big pile of dead Japs" into a hole and covered them.
    He had a rifle and pistol and other stuff from that.
    Last edited by forager; 09-29-2009 at 12:29 PM. Reason: SP

  6. #6

    Default Re: Seabee Stevedores

    17th Special N.C.B. Seabees at Peleliu - September 15, 1944.

    Volunteer services of a Seabee Stevedore battalion received high praise for a job well done during the 1st Marine Division's landing at Peleliu. First wavers landed less than 90 minutes behind the 1st assault waves, and fought side-by-side with the Marines in the same foxholes and were subjected to a deadly mortar barrage for days. The Seabees were part of the shore party, but while engaged in that duty, on the first night responded to a call for volunteers when a shortage of ammunition was reported in the front lines. Practically the entire battalion carried ammunition to the front and brought back wounded. The Seabees also took part in the fighting, when the Marines became shorthanded in one sector. Some of the men manned 37MM guns and did whatever was needed. Narrow escapes were a dime a dozen for the first week, from mortar,machine gun and sniper fire. After the Marines crowded the Japanese off their end of the island, the 17th Special turned again to it's important task of unloading supplies, working under the most difficult circumstances, their crack stevedores added new laurels for the battalion with some emergency unloading. The weather turned almost as hostile as the Japanese, and a couple of hurricanes and typhoons were added nuisances. The 17th Special shouldered the major part of the job alone of getting the supplies and equipment ashore for the thousands of men and various units on the island. "Can-Do"

  7. #7

    Default Re: Seabee Stevedores

    On 5 May, 1945, Roy E. Ellett, CM2c, and Quentin A. Carroll, MM2c, (130th NCB) did perform meritorious service in connection with military operations against the enemy on Okinawa Shima, Ryukyu Islands. Serious fires were blazing in native structures adjacent to an important supply road. One burning structure collapsed on the road, halting traffic and endangering personnel and military vehicles. Ellet, without considering his own personal safety, drove his bulldozer into the flaming structure. Despite the intense heat and choking smoke, he cleared the burning debris from the road, permitting military traffic to flow again. A strong breeze threatened to set afire an entire block of buildings at an intersection of the "utmost importance" Despite the intense heat blown into his face, Carrol, without hesitation and disregarding his own personal safety, drove his bulldozer up over an embankment, pushing flaming buildings back to a safe distance and smothering the burning debris with dirt. Due to his outstanding service, MM2 Carrol made it possible for the flow of military traffic to be resumed. So reads the recommendation for the Bronze Star medal signed and attested to by 1st Lt. Leon T. Struble, and USMC Sgt. Warren E. Brenfman, Headquarters, 1st Engineer Battalion, who witnessed the incident and heaped high praise on both Ellet and Carroll. During those first two weeks in May, the battle for the Shuri defense zone had reached a deadlock with the Japs holding the 1st and 6th Marine Divisions on their left, the Army's 77th Division on their center and the 96th and 7th Army Divisions on their right. Two strongly defended points, Chocolate Drop Hill and Connical Hill, had to be taken, in order to encircle Shuri and trap a portion of Jap General Ushijimas forces. It was during this critical stage that the construction and maintenance of roads solved the problem of supply for the five fighting divisions. Carroll and Ellett, heavy equipment operators went beyond the call of duty to uphold the Seabee tradition "Can-Do".

  8. #8

    Default Re: Seabee Stevedores

    Can-Do at Guadalcanal, September 1, 1942.

    The Seabee story of Guadalcanal begins on the afternoon of August 20, 1942, when 45 year old Commander Joseph P. Blundon (CEC, USNR) arrived in a PBY off Lunga Point and promptly reported to General A.A. Vandergrift. I guess I was the first Seabee to go under fire, Commander Blundon recalled. The Marines had been on Guadalcanal thirteen days, and they had a tiny beachhead around Henderson Field. While I was reporting to General Vandergrift, the Jap bombers came over and I hit my first foxhole. A few days later my Sixth Seabee Battalion arrived, and we assumed full responsibility for the completion and maintenance of Henderson Field. The Japs had cleared an area 300 by 5600 feet, but it was by no means finished. The Japs were shelling the field with Howitzers, as well as bombing it night and day, and it was our job to keep the holes filled up while we finished the grading, laid Marston mat, built hardstands and revetments, and helped solve the fuel and ammunition problems. We had very little equipment, General Vandergrift assigned us a section of the beach to defend against the Jap landings, and we figured we could defend the beach and still do the job at Henderson Field. We realized at the outset that the battle was going to turn on how fast we filled up holes and how fast we could develop that field. When the Jap bombers approached, our fighters took off, the bombers blasted the airstrips, and then if we couldn't fill up those holes before our planes ran out of fuel, the planes would have to attempt to land anyway, and they would crash. I saw seven of our fighters crack up in one bitter afternoon. From "our" point of view the battle of Guadalcanal was a race between the Jap artillery and the air force and the Sixth Seabee Battalion. We played our cards fast. We pitched our camp at the edge of the field to save time. We dug our foxholes right up alongside the landing area. We found that a 500 pound bomb would tear up 1600 square feet of Marstom Mat, so we placed packages of this quantity of mat along the strip, like extra rails along a railroad. We figured out how much sand and gravel was required to fill the average bomb or shell crater, and we loaded these measured amounts on trucks and placed the trucks under cover at strategic points. We had compressors and pneumatic hammers to pack the fill into the craters. We organized human assembly lines for passing up the pierced plank and laying it. Then when the Jap bombers approached, every Seabee including even our cooks, manned his repair station. Our crater crews were lying in the foxholes right at the edge of the strip. The moment the bombers had passed over, these men boiled out of the holes and raced for the craters. Every man had to keep his eye peeled for Jap strafing planes, and when the Jap dived in, our men dived for the close at hand foxholes. We found that 100 Seabees could repair the damage of a 500-pound bomb hit on an airstrip on forty minutes. In twenty four hours on October 13 and 14, fifty-three bomb and shells hit the Henderson airstrip. During one hour on the 14th we filled thirteen bomb craters while our planes circled overhead waiting to land. In the period from September 1, to November 18, we had 140 Jap raids in which the strip was hit at least once. Our worst moments were when the Jap bomb or shell failed to explode when it hit. It still tore up our mat, and it had to come out. "When you see men choke down their fear and dive in after an unexploded bomb so that our planes can land safely, a lump comes in your throat and you know why America wins wars". Shell craters are more dangerous to work on than bomb craters. You have a feeling that no two bombs ever hit in the same place, but this isn't true of shells. A Jap five-inch gun lobs a shell over on your airstrip and blasts a helluva hole. What are you going to do? You know, just as the that Jap artillery man knows, that if he leaves his gun in the same position and fires another shell, the second shell will hit in almost the same spot as th e first one. So a good old Jap trick was to give us enough time to start repairing the hole and then fire the second shell. All you can do is depend on hearing that second shell coming and hope you can scramble far enough away before it explodes. But this is a gamble which is frowned upon by life insurance companies.
    Force Enablers for Henderson
    Field—Runway Construction and Repair

    The ability to construct and then repair the airfield enabled the Cactus Air Force to fly in terrible conditions. For instance, the Marine engineering battalion performed magnificentlyto complete a 180-foot gap in the airfield in less than two weeks. The construction crews used captured Japanese equipment such as road rollers and handcarts to move 6,700 cubic feet of dirt and gravel to complete the airfield. The engineers also improved the approaches to the field by blasting away some dense jungle foliage. The Marines were relieved of their runway maintenance duties
    by the arrival of almost 400 Seabees from the 6th Naval Construction Battalion on 1 September.70 The Seabees quickly improved the landing surface of Henderson Field
    by placing perforated metal planks called Marston Mat over an improved base of gravel, coral, and clay. By 9 September the Seabees also completed an auxiliary field,
    called Fighter One or the cow pasture, of mowed Kunai grass that was used by lightweight fighters for the rest of the campaign. The ability to rapidly construct the expeditionary airfields on Guadalcanal enabled the United States to begin air operations from Henderson Field less than two weeks after the amphibious assault landed at Red Beach.
    Henderson Field was a prime target for the Japanese throughout the struggle for control of Guadalcanal. Henderson Field was a static target that represented the
    source of much of the Japanese military’s frustration with taking Guadalcanal back from the Americans. The ability of the Seabees to rapidly repair damage to Henderson
    Field’s runways was absolutely vital to maintaining a steady pace of combat sorties against the Japanese. According to Joseph Blundon, commander of the Seabee battalion,100 Seabees could repair a crater from a 500-pound bomb and replace the Marston Mat in 40 minutes.
    The bombardment of Henderson Field highlights the important contributions made by the Seabees. In preparation for a major offensive, the Japanese conducted
    a major attack on Henderson Field during the night of 13–14 October. That night, in addition to aerial bombingand artillery shelling, two Japanese battleships rained 918,
    14-inch shells on the Marine base and Henderson Field. This shelling, known as the bombardment, was described in one historical account as follows: “Heavy shells crashed into the gasoline storage and ammunition dump, while all over the field the aircraft went up in clouds of smoke and flame. In hundreds of foxholes and improvised bomb shelters, men clung to the ground, cursing, praying, and in some cases, going out of their minds. The morning after the bombardment, Henderson Field was unusable and only seven of 39 SBDs were flyable. Fortunately, the Cactus Air Force had Fighter One—which was not damaged by the shelling—and 24 Wildcats remained available along with six Army Air Force P-40s and P-39s. After the bombardment, the Seabees had their work cut out for them as Commander Blundon described afterward: “During one hour on the 14th, we filled 13 bomb craters while our planes circled overhead waiting to land. We got no foodduring that period because our cooks were all busy passing up the steel plank. There were not enough shovels to go around, so some of our men used their helmets to scoop up earth and carry it to the bomb craters. The almost daily shelling from artillery, bombers, and ships did not deter the Seabees’s extraordinary efforts to keep Henderson Field operational for the Cactus Air Force.
    Saluting the 6th Naval Construction Battalion
    " The First to Fight "
    Guadalcanal, 1942

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2009

    Default Re: Seabee Stevedores

    Thank you very much for your remarks. My father Just turned 83 years old (is sick) and all he's talked about all my life was when he was in the seabeas in the invasion of Okinawa. Few people care or understand the amazing impact of this. He was in the 36th special battalion. Working on a Stevedore. and taught us all the songs growing up ("we're the seabeas of the navy" etc..) He talks about the terror of kamikazes destroying ships all around him and how the news said only a few ships were hit when many were. How a monkey chased him around the ship and the incredible war effort made by all. He is the only one who I ever heard mentioned this and although I can't truly relate ,this forum is great.
    Thank you!

  10. #10

    Default Re: Seabee Stevedores

    Formed from personnel of the Seventh Special, the 36th Special was
    commissioned at Port Hueneme on Jan. 20, 1945. The first echelon shipped
    overseas April 20, 1945 and arrived at Okinawa May 27. The second
    echelon sailed from Hueneme July 4, 1945 and arrived at Okinawa on July
    14. Sept. 1, 1945 the outfit was still located at that island.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Pennsylvania, USA

    Default Re: Seabee Stevedores

    Quote Originally Posted by AJL View Post
    Thank you very much for your remarks. My father Just turned 83 years old (is sick) and all he's talked about all my life was when he was in the seabeas in the invasion of Okinawa. Few people care or understand the amazing impact of this. He was in the 36th special battalion. Working on a Stevedore. and taught us all the songs growing up ("we're the seabeas of the navy" etc..) He talks about the terror of kamikazes destroying ships all around him and how the news said only a few ships were hit when many were. How a monkey chased him around the ship and the incredible war effort made by all. He is the only one who I ever heard mentioned this and although I can't truly relate ,this forum is great.
    Thank you!
    My father who is now 86 was a Seabee, 1943 to 1946. He was a member of the 122nd NCB, with the rating of CM3 (Carpenters Mate 3rd class). He ended the war part of the occupation forces in Tientsein, China. On the west coast before shipping out he was at Port Huaneme. His unit servered as a color/honor guard at various events in the Los Angeles area. Said he used to go to the Hollywood Canteen where all the movie stars would dance with the men and serve them coffee and donuts. The 122nd was "adopted" by actress/singer Kay Francis and he still has a dollar bill signed by her. He first started out overseas in New Guinea (Hollandia), helped build the base there. While in New Guniea he saw the Bob Hope USO show. He also was in the Phillippines (Samar). From there he was a witness to the Battle of Leyte Gulf (he saw the gunfire flashes on the horizon). He finally returned stateside for discharge sometime in early 1946.
    Last edited by Laconia; 11-07-2009 at 11:55 PM.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Seabee Stevedores

    145th Seabees - April 1, 1945

    NCB Cruisebook: OKINAWA, April 1, 1945.

    Many of our men got in on the very beginning of the landings. We on the LST's had ringside seats, but we didn't get in until L-plus- two. We did get our share of action for our camp was situated on farmland between two airstrips and a harbor full of ships.

    The Japanese flyers that came over lived up to their reputation of being nearsighted, for although there were a number of nearby targets more important than we, the flying sons of heaven dropped "hot stuff" too close to us for comfort. The evening of D-plus-two, when we pitched camp, we joked and grinned in levity over the adventure, but after a few experiences of zooming, bombing Japanese planes, flak filled skies, and moaning sirens out interests in abodes centered on safety. Comfort ran a poor second.

    Biggest joba in April were construction of two roadways, Route No. 1 and Route No. 3, which included access roads; the improvement of Yellow Beach No. 3, one of the main man and supply landings, and access roads to it. One of the most important jobs was the construction of a 150-foot double-double Bailey bridge over the Bishi Gawa at Hiza.

    This was on Route 1, the main artery feeding supplies south to the battlefront. A crew of 80 men of the 145th built the bridge in two days and a night. The Japanese didn't want the bridge built, and signified their feelings in futile, but dangerous, air raids on the bridge site throughout the night.

    For their rapid and successful completion of the project, the workers were commended by commander White of the 44th Regiment. Also during April, the 145th constructed a camp for the Island Command, operated DDT mixing station at Yontan airfield, constructed the 3rd Amphibious Corps hospital, operated a water station at Hiza, furnished a bomb and mine disposal crew for all our own projects, numerous others, and for the policing of a large area for unexploded ordinance.

    The 145th road crews maintained and improved a section of Route No. 6 from Tokeshi to Yamada. Our surver parties did reconnaissance work on airfield sites, and another crew operated coral pits on around the clock schedules. During April the 145th suffered two casualties.

    In May, men of the 145th constructed a camp and facilities for the commander of construction troops. worked on the first Marine Division cemetery, constucted a large number of facilities for Yontan airfield; helped the 146th battalion establish an advance base construction depot, built the giant Machinato causeway and pontoon dock for unloading ships, salvaged materials and supplies at Naha, constructed many miles of new roads and improved many more miles of existing roads.

    All of this time other work was being done on our own camp. Our electric shop salvaged and put into operation Japanese equipment such as transformers. our sign shop painted signs that posted almost the whole island; messing facilities and showers were built, and almost from the start we had movies projected on a plywood screen while we sat on coral blocks, boxes and the ground. Throughout this entire period we experienced at least one air raid every night; some nights, an almost continuous succession of them.

    When an air raid stopped the movies, and they often did, we'd run for our foxholes and then return the next night to see more of the same movies from where we left off.

    It was toward the end of May that the Japanese tried one of their most daring attacks in our vicinity. With suicidal plans of wrecking grounded planes with grenades and scattering to the hills, they tried an airborne landing of troops on Yontan airfield, just above our camp.

    Only one plane made a successful landing on the field. Good quality and quantity of our anti-aircraft fire accounted for the others.

    The Japanese who did land, damaged a number of our planes, but they never got off the field alive. The following morning presented a bloody scene in the vicinity of Yontan airfield.

    During the next two months our road crew continued their endless job of networking the island wide, smooth, coral-topped highways to replace the one way cart trails that composed most of Okinawa's roadways.

    And the coral diggers and hauers continued to move out coral for these and other jobs, such as the construction of taxiways at Yonabaru airfield. Workers built a fleet post office at Naval Operations Base to handle the Navy's mail on the island.

    The 145th also furnished a crew of men and a fleet of trucks in operation of the islands provisional trucking company. In July we moved to a new camp and were back on the pacific ocean again. It was at least a help to look out over the ocean and know you were looking toward home and not China.

    The battle for Okinawa ended officially on June 22 when the American flag was raised over the island. Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr., Commander of the Tenth Army on Okinawa, was killed Monday, June 18.

    The Okinawa campaign occupied 82 days of fighting. a total of 100,000 Japanese were killed, paid for in American dead at a one-to-13 ratio. It was on June 22 that the 145th was detached from the First Marine Division, to which we had belonged since December 3, 1944.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Seabee Stevedores

    Seabees Say Work Does it - Pacific Jobs No Miracle:

    Milwaukee Jounal - July 16, 1945

    By Robert J. Doyle

    GUAM- If you ask the Seabee Stevedores, they will tell you that the miracles worked in supplying our increasing forces in the Pacific are about 90% perspiration. Jake Haffner, Milwaukee Wisconsin, former chief clerk in the Milwaukee office of the FBI, is Chief Yeoman of a stevedore battalion which arrived on Guam nearly a year ago with the invasion forces. He tells how the men began unloading ships even before they came ashore and have been unloading cargo ever since, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The stevedores live in tents near the harbor. Five or six men sleep in each of the 14 foot square, screened tents. The climate is so warm that they sleep in their shorts and need neither blankets nor sheets. Their working hours compare to those in steel mills in America 50 years ago. The men are divided into day and night shifts. They reverse shifts every two weeks. Even figuring time off for meals, the men put in 60 to 70 hours a week, and no time and a half for overtime.


    The stevedores draw the regular pay of Navy enlisted men, depending on their ratings. The base pay of the majority is less than $100 a month. Many Seabee construction outfits here now work eight hour shifts, six days a week, but the stevedores are so hard pressed to keep up with the ships constantly arriving that they have been unable to shorten their hours . The men seldom find relief from the heat. They work on the docks and on the decks and in the holds of ships, piling boxes into cargo nets and loading them on trucks. In the daytime their tents approach Turkish bath conditions. Haffner works in one of the Heaquarters office tents. He handles correspondence, reports and service records of the men. He worked in the Milwaukee FBI office from 1935-40 and then worked for Ford Motor Co. before entering the Navy in July 1943. He has been overseas for 19 months.


    If any of the stevedores were downhearted, as the outfit waited in Hawaii for orders to move west, about the prospect of being service troops with nothing exciting to tell their grandchildren, that worry was thoroughly dispelled when Guam was invaded. After 59 days on the same crowded LST's caused by the neceassity of turning back a couple of times while our battle fleet slugged it out with Japanese forces, the invasion convoy arrived at Guam. The stevedores lined the decks to watch the dive bombers and shelling of the enemy positions and saw the assault troops go ashore. On D-plus-4 the LST on which Haffner was riding moved in and dropped it's ramp. The Japs had been waiting and they began peppering the LST with mortar shells, wounding some of the men. The ship backed away until the Jap mortar crew in an old concrete water tank was wiped out by dive bombers. Haffner and his comrades came ashore the next day and set up pup tents in a swampy area near the shore. The first night ashore included a mortar barrage and a suicide charge toward the camp area.


    A few days later, Haffner and another man from the stevedore outfit were ordered to deliver a message to the Marine Headquaters. After delivering the message they took the wrong trail back and had run the gauntlet past many cave openings. Several enemy soldiers were killed in the caves by Marines the following day. About two weeks after the Marines and Soldiers landed on Guam, the stevedores in Haffner's outfit unloaded the first American ship to drop anchor in Apra harbor. Now, as they look at the harbor and other parts of the island, it is hard for the stevedores to realize that such great changes have taken place and such mountains of equipment and supplies have been unloaded in less than a year. It's a miracle - 90% perspiration.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Seabee Stevedores

    82nd N.C.B. Company "C" at Vella Lavella - To members of the Battalion, Company "C" will always be associated with Vella Lavella and to us of that company and the five Headquarters Company men temporarily attached with us, that island will probably stay foremost in the memories of our time overseas. We had no definite idea of what to expect that Sunday, 29th of August 1943, as we boarded the three LST's for the trip, although scuttlebutt had been telling us that the Seabees already there had been in serious trouble. The next morning around 0400, the anchors were raised, and we started off with our seemingly not too large Destroyer escort.

    The first inkling of trouble occured at night between Rendova and New Georgia when a lone plane suddenly came in to bomb and strafe us. The following morning, August 31st, as we neared Gizo and Gononga, we found our escort nearly doubled and several LCI's added to the convoy. The Destroyers, however appeared to have no fear of land based guns or troops for they skirted close to these Jap held islands as well as to Kolombangara. But, as we pulled in to our beachhead about 0820, hell broke loose- Japanese planes had the landing spotted and came in with bombs and sputtering maching guns. Our fighters downed three enemy planes and sent the rest aflying.

    The 58th Seabees, we soon found, had really been in trouble and after two weeks, many were still living in foxholes. Scant crews had started the job at hand, the Barokoma airstrip, and were making some headway. Innocently, most of our first day we wandered from one possible camp-site to another. We finally were assigned a spot and set up a pup and fly tent camp, with dozered foxhold ditches, near the end of the strip and close to the offensive, dead Jap ridden and oil slicked shore. The site was but a temporary one, and on September 5th we packed off to a height behind the strip, later nicknamed "Daisy Cutter Hill".

    This camp, in contrast with the shoreline growth of cocoanut trees and bamboo, was in dense jungle with huge kneed trees, little or no sunlight, lizards two and three feet long, huge land crabs, bats, parrots, night noises of all sorts,rain, and deep mud.

    Since we were having alerts by day and night, foxholes and bomb shelters were much in evidence. Air operations recored 144 conditions Red with 93 bombings, the first month of the island's occupation. We, too were on the receiving end, just after midnight, September 14: The Japs who must have spotted our camp on the hill or suspected that something must be at the of the road, let go with two personnel bombs. One hit the woods behind the Chief's and officers tents and the other on the edge of the enlisted men's section of the camp. They broke trees, flattened a row of tents, and caused sixteen casualties including the loss of Patrick Begley, and injury causing ampuation of Keith Shattuck's arm.

    With duds passing over us and hitting the strip area the next two nights and more bombs hitting in the midst of the 58th Battalion's motor pool across from the road from us, we decided it was time to move again, and fortunately too, for the following night our former galley was hit. This time we built camp on a cocoanut plantation on a knoll behind the Naval Base, near the end of the island. Higher on a hill behind us were the Marines with 90mm AA Guns. While most of the motor pool men were busy assisting with the strip or working on our special assignment - taxiways, hardstands, and revetments, most of the other crews were working on the Barokoma River Bridge, the tank farm, the hospital with it's bomb shelter operating room and ward, chow halls, framed and decked tents , furniture and other equipment. Twice small crews under Mr. Gordon went on special assignments - radar installations, deep into unoccupied and possibly Jap infested sections of the island. Road work came after some of the equipment was released from the airstrip and storage facility areas, and it was on one of these jobs that one of the dozer men stopped short, thinking he was climbing a pretty big boulder, only to find that it was Lieutenant Gordons jeep beneath his dozer. Later, another operator was odered to push some trees and brush into the sea only to have the machine suddenly fall out from under him. But more serious was an accident which occurred when a damaged plane came in with an unexploded bomb load. The rendering safe of the bomb attracted a large number of by-standers among which were a group of our boys. The bombs untimely explosion cost us three more men, as well as seriously wounding another.

    All could not be work for such a group of men and there were lighter moments, highlighted by the "Kiwi" concert party, the preliminaries for the boxing championships of the South Pacific with six of our men competing and three reaching the islands finals, the cat-eye and shell hunting, the hikes to the lemon and lime grove or to the o'd native villages and beautiful beach on the other side of the island, concerts by the 4th Marine Defense battalion orchestra, soft ball in the park on the hill top, and of course, movies every other night. Some enjoyed simply watching the sun rise over the extinct volcanic cone of Kolombangara or sitting beneath the huge tree which extended out over the water on the beach below the camp.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Seabee Stevedores


    INVASION - The convoy of LST's lay over at Funa Futi in the Ellice Islands for several days. On the night of 13 November, "Sewing Machine Charlie' came over (presumably from Tarawa) and dropped a number of bombs near the airstrip. For our men this was the firste taste of danger - their first participation in an Act of War. Some thought it would bring them a combat star for their theatre ribbon, but they were wrong. As all the world remembers, the Marines went in on Betio 20 November 1943. Two of our LST's entered the lagoon that afternoon to discharge their deck-loaded LCT's. It was not until three days later that the island was declared secured. Tuesday afternoon, the 23rd our men began unloading the LST's at the edge of the reef, and some stood guard duty ashore that night. Meanwhile the cargo ships carrying the second wave had circled with a convoy many miles to the southeast, where lay the carriers whose planes had been bombing the atoll. These cargo vessels entered the lagoon on the morning of the 24th and anchored off Betio. All men too up their assigned duties imeediately.

    The assault troops of the Marines were evacuated and their places taken by a Defense Battalion of Marines. We shared the ensuing months with them on the island, Marines and Seabees ate in each others mess halls, wore each others clothing, and existed on the friendliest basis. Besides operating the anti-aircraft batteries, the Marines set up aircraft detection units and their own communications, providing an effective military defense of Betio while the Seabees work went forward. At this point it is appropriate to relate some of the difficulties that faced the battalion personnel. It must be kept in mind that Betio, an island of only 285 acres, was a mess of ruins and strewn with unburied dead. Not a single tree remained undamaged and most of the palms were beheaded. Huge piles of partly burned and decaying food lay where the Japanese had maintained supply dumps. Flies and mosquitoes multiplied in inconceivable quantity and infested the entire island area. Live Japs remained in hiding for some days and constituted, especially at night, a menace to security. Furthermore, many of us were aware of our exposed position in the Pacific. Tarawa had been the curtain-raiser of the Central Pacific campaign and was within easy flying distance of such enemy held bastions at Nauru, Kusaie, and the Marshall Island airfields. It seemed possible that even a concerted assault by the Japanese fleet might take place, or failing that, a submarine attack by night.

    Most of the American and enemy dead were properly buried by the end of the second week and sufficient area cleared of debris to speed the construction of an air base. But another threat to our safety and peace of mind supplanted that of Japanese snipers, almost as soon as they had been dealt with, on 3 December just at dusk a group of enemy bombers flew over Betio and dropped their bomb patterns squarely on the runway area. From that date through 17 January, raids occurred every two or three nights, sometimes on succesive nights. On 23-24 December, four separate raids occurred and noone slept for more than an hour or two. The intensive phase of the battalions work lasted until somewhat after the period of bombings. During this time all men worked twelve hours a day, seven days a week, Christmas and New Years day were no exceptions. Battalion morale was maintained at a good level considering the dangers and burdens of life, the absence of any receational facilities, and the deprivations we underwent. Lack of sleep was probably hardest to take. Food began with k-rations and progressed very slowly toward the level of good Navy diet. Quaters gradually improved from foxholes to shacks, the lucky ones provided with tarpaulins but others covered with galvanized corrugated iron, most of the sections being riddled. Sudden, violent showers inundated these shanties and flooded under the tents that replaced them. But finally we had ordered tent areas with platforms and screening which were both weatherproof and secure from insects.

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