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Post World War II Seabees

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POST WORLD WAR II SEABEES

Since World War II, Seabees have participated in all kinds of training exercises. They have been part of the naval Antarctic expeditions, and they participated in the atomic bomb tests on the Pacific Islands. Seabees have engaged in constructing overseas bases, such as those at Subic Bay, Philippines, and the Marine Corps Air Facility at Futema, Okinawa. They have manned Arctic test stations, and they have been associated with resupply expeditions to Alaska.

SEABEES IN KOREA

In Korea, the Seabees rose to the challenge of the Cold War in the tradition of their "Can Do" predecessors. At the Inchon landing in September 1950, Seabees positioned pontoon causeways within hours of the first beach assault under continuous enemy fire and in the face of enormous and strong tides.

In addition to amphibious operations, the Seabees were broken up into numerous detachments to service the K-fields of the various Marine air groups. Each airfield of the Marine air groups was designated with a "K" number, such as K-3 at Pohang, K-18 at Kimpo, Seoul, and K-2 at Teagan. As the war continued, the need arose for an advance airfield to retrieve damaged aircraft unable to reach home bases or carriers after raiding the North Korean interior.

The project was code named Operation "Crippled Chick," and a detachment of Seabees was sent to Yo Do in the Bay of Wonson to build an airstrip. The Seabees were given 35 days to complete the job-the strip was ready in 16 days. While building the strip, the Seabees were under constant artillery bombardment from enemy forces on neighboring islands.

The rapid demobilization that followed World War II was not repeated after the signing of the Korean Armistice in July 1953. The Cold War had created a necessity to maintain military strength and preparedness. Crises in Berlin, Cuba, Africa, South America, and especially in Southeast Asia kept the Seabees strong and active.

Just before the outbreak of the Korean War, a basic reorganization was substantially completed. Two distinct types of battalions were established to gain specialization and mobility. The amphibious construction battalions (PHIBCBs) are landing and docking units. The PHIBCBs have the mission of planning causeways, constructing pontoon docks, and performing other functions necessary for landing personnel and equipment in the shortest possible time. The naval mobile construction battalions (NMCBs) are responsible for land construction of a wide variety that includes military camps, roads, bridges, tank farms, airstrips, and docking facilities.

BETWEEN KOREA AND VIETNAM

After the Korean War, the Seabees' efforts were directed toward more building and less fighting. Their peacetime achievements were no less impressive than their wartime achievements. In Okinawa, for example, the Seabees built a Marine Corps air facility using concrete precasting methods that drew the admiration of contractors throughout the Pacific area. At Holy Lock, Scotland, Seabees assembled a floating dry dock for the Polaris submarine facility. In far off Antarctica, a group of Seabees earned a round of tributes for their installation of the first nuclear reactor power plant at McMurdo Station, despite weather conditions that are laughingly called "summer" in the forbidding region. Elsewhere, while Ecuadorians were building a new naval academy, a small detachment of Seabees supervised and instructed them in modem construction methods.

By far the largest and most impressive peacetime project was the construction of Cubi Point Naval Air Station in the Philippines, the largest single construction job ever tackled by the Seabees. At Cubi, Seabees cut a mountain in half to make way for the nearly 2-mile-long runway, blasted coral, and filled in a section of Subic Bay that is almost a mile wide and nearly 2 miles long. The Seabees took nearly 5 years and 20 million man-hours to construct the air station and its adjacent aircraft carrier pier that is capable of docking the Navy's biggest aircraft carriers. The amount of coral and fill required for the job-some 20 million cubic yards-was equal to the task of building the Panama Canal.

During this period, Seabees could be found everywhere. They participated in building missile ranges both in the Atlantic and the Pacific and housing complexes at naval bases and stations all over the world. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, Seabees hastily erected and helped man a strong defensive perimeter of fortifications at Guantanamo Bay.

Disaster relief became more than just another mission. When the island of Guam was devastated by Typhoon Karen in 1962, Seabees restored power and rebuilt damaged structures. Another team of Seabees helped the Chilean Navy repair the earthquake-damaged waterfront of their principal shipyard. Later in 1964, Seabees were on the scene restoring utilities and rebuilding roads in a matter of hours after Alaska was stricken by a devastating earthquake and tidal wave.



   


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