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WW2 Seabee stories


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#26 Thurman

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Posted 28 December 2014 - 06:22 AM

SEABEE TAKES WING, WINS AIR MEDAL 
 
A Seabee whose unit was attached to a Marine division doubled as a combat pilot, it was disclosed recently when the Air Medal was awarded to Chester J. Perkins, MM1c, of Stonington, Conn., by Vice Admiral T. C. Kinkaid, USN, Commander of the Seventh fleet. 
Now stationed at Camp Endicott, l'erkins was a member of the 19th Battalion while that outfit was attached to the First Marine Division. The Seabee flew a total of 218 hours, 105 of them during combat, as pilot of a light, unarmed reconnaissance plane. He made daily flights over enemy territory, transported rations and supplies to isolated jungle patrols, and spotted for artillery batteries. He also carried blood plasma to Marines wounded in invasion operations, dropping the medical supplies while the fighting was still in progress. 
Perkins operated mostly from crude, improvised landing strips, "usually roadways and sandbars," he said. The Japs almost finished him off once, sending a stream of bullets through the floor of his tiny plane. The slugs just missed the Seabee.


#27 Thurman

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Posted 28 December 2014 - 06:24 AM

BRONZE STAR TO LTG ALLEN 
 
Lieut. Howard H. Allen, CEC, USNR, who organized his Seabee unit into a tactical command and established a defensive position to protect shore supply dump workers on Guam, has been awarded the Bronze Star by Marine Lieut. Gen. H. M. Smith. 
Lieut. Allen's detail eliminated eight snipers who were harrassing men working in the shore supply dumps during the early hours of the Guam assaults. 


#28 Thurman

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Posted 28 December 2014 - 06:28 AM

TOUGH 
 
There was little rest for the Seabee shore parties which accompanied the Marines in the opening phases of the Iwo JIma assault, reports  Dean S. Marshall, Sr., BM1c, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 
 
A squad leader in an infantry platoon of Seabees, Marshall landed on D-Day a few hours after the first Marine assault troops had cracked through the Japanese beach defenses. 
The first four days ashore were tough," he recalled. "We worked day and night unloading ammunition, under Japanese fire much of the time. The night of D-Day plus 4 was the first chance I had to get some sleep, and with a sore nose and leg, I didn't make out too well." 
The sore nose and leg were the result of two Japanese shells which landed near the Seabee's foxhole. Three pieces of shrapnel from the first explosive glanced off his leg, inflicting slight wounds. The second shell followed a few seconds later. I had my helmet down over my face so that only my nose stuck out," Marshall said. 'The next thing I knew, something hit me in the face. It cut my cheek and skinned the end of my nose. Later, I found a heavy hunting knife in the foxhole. Evidently it had been thrown into the air by the explosion and landed on me. I never did find out where it came from. 
If my nose was a little bit longer," he added, I might be missing the end of it now.' 
Marshall walked to a first aid station on the beach, had the shrapnel wounds treated, his nose and face bandaged and returned to his foxhole. He was on the job the next morning, working with his squad. 


#29 Thurman

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Posted 28 December 2014 - 06:42 AM

DOUBLE AS CORPSMEN ON IWO 
 
Scores of Seabees who landed on Iwo Jima on D-Day volunteered as first~aid men and helped care for wounded Marines and Seabees on the hard~won beachhead~ according to Staff Sgt. Bill Dvorak, a Marine Corps Combat Correspondent.
 
They carried stretchers, applied tourniquets, and assisted in administering plasma. All of this was accomplished with the front lines less than 400 yards ahead, and with Japanese shells and mortars coming down in a murderous barrage. . 
Among them were George Mabbett, Cox., of Plymouth, Mass., CEM L. B. Hunter of Shelton, 'iHash., and Henry A. Schmunk, Flc, of Scott's Bluff, Nebr. 
 
Our job once we hit the beach was to unload ammunition and supplies from the ships," said Mabbett, "When we landed, about two hours after the first Marine assault troops, the Japanese were making the entire beach hot, and the regular Doctors and corpsmen were unable to keep up with the casualties. Those of us with any experience stepped in to help, that's all.
 
It was rough the first few hours, like I never imagined it could be," said Hunter it was my first taste of combat and a pretty impressive initiation. I didn't like it but I admired the courage of the Marines so much that I hope I'll be with them again on future operations. 
Those boys have guts. Ordered to hug the sand on the beach when the Japanese fire was coming in thick, those around me weren't showing any fright--they were just asking permission to get going, cussing the Japs 'When they did. assault the pillboxes and other defenses, using flamethrowers and all their other weapons, they did. a workman-like job. They're all heroes. ,. .' 
Hunter and Schmunk, besides helping unload the first ships to reach the beach with ammunition, carried. the explosives on their backs up a sandy slope to the front lines, working almost without sleep for two days, until roads for vehicles could be established on the island.

 



#30 Thurman

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Posted 28 December 2014 - 06:43 AM

HEY WAIT A MINUTE ! 
 
The Marines expect fast service from the Seabees, if a story received from Marine Corporal J. M. Purcel is any indication. He described how one optimistic Marine, a few minutes after H Hour at lwo Jima, cheered his buddies by saying: "The way I figure it, the Seabees are just about starting to work on the airfield by now.


#31 Thurman

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Posted 28 December 2014 - 06:47 AM

LUCKY 
 
A lucky man is Chief Carpenter George E . Hermansen CEC1 USNR, of Chicago Illinois. In charge of a Seabee mapping team which hit the beach at Iwo Jima a few hours after the initial Marine landings, Mr. Hermansen became separated from his detail in the confusion of the landing. Digging in on the beach he remained there for two hours pinned down by the heavy enemy artillery barrage, then was called upon to attempt to locate the Seabee shore party commander. 
 
It got dark while I was searching, and I crawled into a shell hole with four Marine officers and three other men," he recalled. Twenty minutes later we were hit by three shells at once. I was unconscious for almost an hour and when I came to, I saw that four of the others had been killed. " 
After recovering from the effects of the blast, the CEC officer dodged across the sulfuric sands to another shell hole. 
There were two men in it when I got there," he said, but I never had a chance to ask their names. They were killed almost immediately by a direct hit. Once more I came through without a scratch.?' 
Mr. Hermansen spent the remainder of the night in the same shell hole under almost continuous fire, located his mapping team the next morning? and went to work


#32 Thurman

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Posted 28 December 2014 - 06:50 AM

MINE EXPLODES SEABEE LOSES HELMET 
 
As far as Clinton F . Trefethon, 23, MM3c, of Kerby Oregon is concerned, from now on bulldozers have only one speed--forward. 
Trefethon was cutting a road through on Iwo Jima. He had made one pass, but dissatisfied with the result, backed up and went over the same ground again.
 
The second time did the trick, The mine exploded beneath me, blew my helmet off, and knocked a track loose from the dozer . 
It' s a good thing I was running a big machine," the Seabee added. ""There sure is a lot ot steel between me and the ground.. . 
Trefethon was back on the job the next morning with a new dozer,the biggest one I could find 


#33 Thurman

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Posted 28 December 2014 - 06:53 AM

THE FORTUNES OF WAR 
 
Narrow escapes on Iwo Jima were as numerous as .30 caliber slugs~ but three member of a Seabee shore party who lugged their machine gun ashore a few hours after the first Marine wave went in, have one to add to the list.
 
Olan E. Goodwin CM2c, Frank Johnesse MMlc, and Joseph Leese, Jr., F1C, sweated out the first night and at dawn started down the beach to locate the rest of their outfit. They came upon four Marines, paused for brief conversation and the seven of them started on. They had gone only a ten yards when a shell struck where they had  
been standing, wounding all four Marines, The three Seabees were unhurt, save for the blast, which flattened them.


#34 Thurman

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Posted 03 January 2015 - 09:10 AM

"AHEAD OF OKINAWAS FRONT LINES"
 
 
AHEAD OF OKINAWAS FRONT LINES WENT A FIVE MAN SEABEE SURVEYING TEAM TO LAY OUT THE SITE FOR A NEW AIRFIELD. CCM DOYLE L. CROWELL AND HIS MEN WORKING IN "NO MANS LAND" FOR TWO DAYS - SOMETIMES MORE THAN A HALF-MILE IN FRONT OF THE FIGHTING. THE MARINES DIDN'T CATCH UP WITH THE SURVEYORS UNTIL THE THIRD DAY


#35 Thurman

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Posted 03 January 2015 - 09:10 AM

"TANK TROUBLE SHOOTER ON IWO!"
 
 
TANK TROUBLE SHOOTER, WAS JOSEPH G. KISSEL, EM2CM ATTACHED TO THE MARINES "5TH TANK BATTALION" ON IWO WHO WORKED ON TANKS AT A TIME WHEN ALL PERSONNEL EXCEPT THE ASSAULT TROOPS, WERE BUSY DIGGING PRIVATE FOXHOLES.
 
PRAISE FOR KISSEL, WHO WAS ASSIGNED TO THE TANK BATTALION TO GIVE TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE WITH THE NEW FLAME-THROWER TANKS, CAME FROM COL. WILLIAM W. COLLINS, OF THE FIFTH MARINES.
 
SAID THE COLONEL;
 
"KISSEL WAS SENT ON TEMPORARY DETACHED DUTY TO FURNISH THIS NECESSARY TECHNICAL ADVICE AND ASSISTANCE. THIS DUTY HE PERFORMED TO A VERY HIGH AND PRAISWEORTHY DEGREE. HE LANDED ON D-PLUS-1, AND PROCEEDED IMMEDIATELY TO THE FLAME TANKS AND CORRECTED SOME REGULATOR TROUBLE. AT THIS TIME ALL PERSONNEL EXCEPT THE ASSAULT TROOPS WERE BUSY DIGGING A PRIVATE FOXHOLE. HE CONTINUED THIS HIGH STANDARD OF PERFORMANCE DUTY DURING THE ENTIRE OPERATION AND PERSONALLY ACCOMPANIED THE FLAMETANKS INTO JAPANESE POSITIONS TO OBSERVE THEIR EFFECT.


#36 Thurman

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Posted 03 January 2015 - 09:10 AM

"SEABEE OFFICERS HONORED FOR THEIR PART IN RISKY MARINE PATROL"
 
 
WHEN THREE CIVIL ENGINEER CORPS OFFICERS WERE NEEDED TO JOIN A MARINE RECONNAISSANCE PATROL ON A DANGEROUS VISIT TO A Japanese HELD ISLAND IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC, VOLUNTEERS INCLUDED LT. WILLIAM T. MALEY, CEC, USN. LT., CLEVELAND R. HORNE, JR., CEC, USN, AND LT. (JG) JOHN H. HARKER, CEC, USNR ALL OF WHOM WERE ATTACHED TO SEABEE BATTALIONS STATIONED AT ADVANCED BASES IN THE AREA.
 
FOR THEIR ACHIEVEMENTS WHILE ON THIS MISSION, LT. MALEY AND LT. HARKER HAVE BEEN AWARDED THE SILVER STAR MEDAL. LT HORNE HAS RECEIVED A CITATION FROM ADMIRAL HALSEY.
 
THE PARTY'S HAZARDOUS ASSIGNMENT WAS TO OBTAIN INFORMATION CONCERNING TERRAIN, HYDROGRAPHIC CONDITIONS AND HOSTILE DISPOSITIONS ON THE ENEMY HELD ISLAND. IT'S MEMBERS KNEW THEY WERE ENTIRELY ON THEIR OWN, THEY COULD EXPECT NO OUTSIDE ASSISTANCE FROM ALLIED FORCES. THE DATA THEY GATHERED IS EXPECTED TO BE OF CONSIDERABLE VALUE IN THE CONDUCT OF FUTURE OPERATIONS.


#37 Thurman

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Posted 03 January 2015 - 09:11 AM

HE HELPED TURN BACK JAPANESE ATTACK
 
The information carried by a Seabee who volunteered to act as runner from a beach command post to two Marine divisions, frustrated an attempt by a large concentration of Japanese to drive a wedge between the two Marine Divisions on Saipan.
The Seabee battalion 121st N.C.B., 3/20, 4th Marine Division, was holding down the position of beach security battalton during the invasion of the island. It was D-plus 1 and the situation as outlined on the CP s map looked bad. No information had been received on the progress of the 2nd Division for some time and besides, it was feared that the Japs were concentrating to split the two divisions with a drive to the beach.
CCM Leslie G. Smith of Los Angeles, Calif., chief in charge of the CP, called for a volunteer to run the gauntlet to the 2nd Marines, Frank H. Chmielewicz, Slc, of Camden, N. J. popped out of his foxhole to accept the assignmenL
Risking being shot at by his own mates as well as by Japs and Marines, Chmielewicz made his way up the fringe of the beach and found the Marine CP. Securing the desired information he made the perilous 2 1/2 mile return journey to the Seabee CP and then set off to contact the 4th Marine Division in the opposite direction.
With the maps prepared by the Seabee plotters at the beach CP, the Marines were able to locate the Japanese wedge and eliminate it.
Chmielewicz's battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its part in the capture of Saipan and Tinian. Chmielewicz was wounded during the later campaign and has received the Purple Heart


#38 Thurman

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Posted 03 January 2015 - 09:12 AM

DOZER OPENED PATH FOR TANKS ON SAIPAN
 
A bulldozer-riding Seabee, clearing the way for tanks and infantry, led American assault forces into Laulau Peninsula on Saipan Island, Marine Corps Combat Correspondent Sgt. David Dempsey revealed in an eye-witness account.
 
Marines advancing into Laulau Peninsula on this island yesterday met unexpected resistance in the form of tanks, pillboxes, and dugouts, Dempsey wired from Saipan. "The infantry requested tank support.
 
When the tanks arrived, they were unable to negotiate a particular strip of terrain leading from the beach onto the high ground of the peninsula. The tanks requested engineer support.
The engineers sent a bulldozer. Manned by a lone, exposed Seabee, it scooped out a passageway for the tanks and became officially the first American vehicle to enter the peninsula."


#39 Thurman

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Posted 03 January 2015 - 09:12 AM

 
Opening Omaha Beach: Ensign Karnowski and NCDU-45
 
 
During the invasion of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944, a select number of Civil Engineer Corps (CEC) officers and Seabees in Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDUs) numbered among the first Americans ashore to clear the beaches for the ensuing infantry assault. One of these CEC officers, 28-year-old reservist, Ensign Lawrence Stephen Karnowski, Tampa, Kan., would be awarded the Navy Cross for his valor that day amid the bloodstained sands of Omaha Beach.
 
In early 1944, as part of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall defenses, German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel ordered the placement of countless beach obstacles along the French coast to prevent landing craft and tanks from safely coming ashore. These obstacles ranged from steel tetrahedrons (dubbed “Czech hedgehogs”), to wooden posts with landmines attached, to large steel fences affectionately called “Belgian Gates.” All could destroy the hulls of landing craft or block entryways onto the beach. The Allied invasion could not succeed without first clearing the beaches of these obstacles, minimizing the exposure of infantry from debarkation to reaching defilade. Mechanical means of obstacle clearance proved inadequate. The only other alternative was to use men trained in demolitions to clear obstacles by hand while under fire.
 
In the fall of 1943, Allied planners turned to the untried NCDUs to clear the beaches for Operation OVERLORD. First established in May 1943, the units consisted of one officer and five ratings to constitute a single boat crew. Due to the vast number of obstacles along the Normandy beaches, the planners reinforced the NCDUs with three additional seamen and five Army combat engineers. This 13-man naval unit joined with a 26-man Army combat engineer detachment, together comprising a Gap Assault Team (GAT). A total of 11 GATs were created and then divided into Force O (Omaha Beach) and Force U (Utah Beach). Allied planners tasked the GATs in both forces with the following: land at 0633 (H-Hour plus three minutes), then clear a 50-yard gap from the low-water mark across 300 yards of sand and mud to the high-water line of rocks and pebbles (shingle) on their respective beach sector using satchel charges. The NCDU half of the GAT would handle seaward obstructions, while the larger Army engineer force would clear the landward obstacles.
 
Ens. Karnowski was the officer in charge of NCDU-45. A 1943 civil engineering graduate of the University of Kansas, he was commissioned in the Naval Reserve soon after and began his training at Camp Peary in June. Volunteering for naval demolition work together with two Seabees who would join his team, Chief Carpenter’s Mate Conrad C. Millis, Corona, Calif., and Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Lester J. Meyers, Freeport, Ill., Karnowski left Camp Peary and moved to Amphibious Training Base, Fort Pierce, Fla., for combat demolition training with NCDU-45 before shipping out to England in January 1944. Upon arrival in March, NCDU-45 was assigned to the 6th Beach Battalion, 11th Amphibious Force in Cornwall, England. From late April to early May, additional Sailors and Soldiers arrived to reinforce NCDU-45.
 
After weeks of training, NCDU-45 moved to the English port of Portland and boarded a landing craft tank (LCT) on June 3, 1944. First Lieutenant Joseph J. Gregory, Elko, Nev., commanding the Army engineer force, joined the Navy unit and together the assembled force comprised GAT-10. Hours later, all the NCDU officers went aboard the USS Anson to be briefed by Lt. Cmdr. Joseph H. Gibbons and Rear Adm. John L. Hall Jr., about their assignment. Assured that a pre-invasion naval bombardment would clear the beaches and overlooking bluffs, Rear Adm. Hall proclaimed, “Not a living soul would be left on that beach.” Neither Karnowski nor 1st Lt. Gregory shared this sentiment.
 
Drawn from memory weeks after D-Day, Karnowski sketched out the size of the areas cleared of obstacles, together with the times and locations of the shots detonated. Also indicated is the landing craft that carried GAT-10 to the sector, and the ensuing craft that disgorged vehicles and infantry to the beach. Courtesy of U.S. Navy Seabee Museum
 
For the next three nights and two days, the men endured rough sea conditions aboard the LCT as bad weather postponed the invasion. Cold and wet, often forced to sleep exposed on awash decks with poor rations, contaminated drinking water and a bucket for a head, the men waited for their rendezvous with destiny. Once word reached the team that H-Hour was set for D-Day, June 6, a grim reality settled over the men. Boarding a smaller mechanized landing craft (LCM) in the early hours of the sixth, the Sailors and Soldiers sighted their assigned beach sector and headed for shore.
 
Landing eight minutes ahead of schedule at 0625 hours on the beach sector code-named “Easy Red,” Karnowski led his team as they disembarked and began placing small satchel charges on the obstacles in the water. With minimal enemy resistance, they successfully blew a 100-yard line of obstacles at 0650. Almost immediately after Karnowski’s men fired their first shot, German machine guns and artillery zeroed in on the group from the bluffs above. Refusing to remain pinned down, CUC Millis grabbed a roll of primacord and sprinted from obstacle to obstacle, placing and wiring charges before being cut down. MM2 Meyers raced out to the chief’s body and continued his deadly work for a second shot. As American infantry waded past the NCDU men, Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Gale B. Fant, Minter City, Miss., took a machine gun round through his leg, and then a piece of shrapnel wounded Meyers. Another unit member, Brooklyn-native Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Robert L. Svendsen carried GM1 Fant on his back to the dune line as Karnowski waded out and rescued another wounded unit member, carrying him to higher ground.
 
At 0700, thanks to Millis’s sacrifice and Meyers’s quick actions, Karnowski’s men detonated their second shot and cleared obstacles up Gregory’s 26-man force. The Army engineers proceeded to detonate their first shot at 0710 and a second shortly thereafter, clearing almost the entire assigned 50-yard gap of steel hedgehogs from the surf to the dunes. Karnowski and his remaining men had begun placing charges for a third shot but advancing infantry precluded detonation.
 
By now, Karnowski and Gregory stood in water up to their knees in the rising tide. For the last few obstacles in the gap, the officers swam out and together cleared the remaining obstructions one charge at a time. With the gap open, landing craft infantry (LCI) moved in to unload fresh troops. Karnowski and Gregory rounded up the remaining Navy and Army personnel, and led them to the dunes for protection from increasing shelling. A short time later, a shell burst and severely wounded Gregory. Sailor treated Soldier, but the wounds proved fatal. (Gregory posthumously received the Distinguished Service Cross.) Returning to his men, Karnowski learned four of his assigned Army personnel sustained shrapnel injuries. Exhausted, the ensign dug foxholes for his wounded while members of the 16th and 116th Regimental Combat Teams, 1st Infantry Division began to assault the bluffs overlooking Easy Red between 0730 and 0830, clearing them of German resistance by 0930.
 
For his actions on June 6, 1944, Karnowski was awarded the Navy Cross, the first CEC officer to receive the medal for actions in Europe, and the French Croix de Guerre with Palm. For his heroism that morning, Meyers received the Silver Star. The entire NCDU component of Force “O” received one of three Presidential Unit Citations awarded to the Navy for D-Day. Such honors, however, came at a bitter price. Navy personnel suffered a casualty rate of 52 percent on June 6, 1944, with 31 dead and 60 wounded. NCDU-45 suffered a casualty rate of more than 50 percent, with one killed, one seriously wounded and five slightly wounded.
 
Postwar, Karnowski remained in the CEC Reserve and served on active duty during the Korean War. He later served for the deputy public works officer, 11th Naval District, before joining the Bureau of Yards and Docks and its successor, the Naval Facilities Engineering Command. For his work in Thailand during the Vietnam War, Karnowski received the Southeast Asia Civilian Service Award. He retired at the rank of Commander in the Naval Reserve, and died on March 29, 1992, in El Cajon, Calif.
 
During World War II, Karnowski, NCDU-45 and GAT-10 managed to clear the largest gap along Omaha Beach. This enabled Army engineers to transform Exit E-1 at Easy Red into the principle egress off Omaha Beach, ensuring an American foothold at the bloodiest invasion beach on D-Day. 


#40 Thurman

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Posted 03 January 2015 - 09:26 AM

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 Japanese 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 Japanese 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 Japanese "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. 


#41 Thurman

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Posted 03 January 2015 - 09:27 AM

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 Japanese 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".



#42 Thurman

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Posted 06 January 2015 - 04:05 AM

The Dauntless Demolitioneers: 
A D-Day Hero Remembers
 
By John B. Dwyer
 
The beaches were designed for death. Expecting an Allied invasion, the Germans had organized their defenses in depth. Gen. Rommel ordered a row of mined obstacles nicknamed "Belgian Gates" at the low-water mark at either end of Omaha Beach. Behind them were irregular rows of V-shaped steel stakes, every third one "decorated" with a Teller mine, intended to rip open landing craft. The third band consisted of rows of "hedgehogs," steel rails bolted or welded together, producing three-directional impaling hazards. Further inland, along the seawall, the Germans had laid out concertina wire and more mines.
 
Behind this in-depth death field were fixed-gun emplacements and pillboxes. German 88 and other artillery pieces, mortars, an array of automatic weapons and riflemen waited to greet the assault force.
 
Allied commanders, supplied with aerial photographs and other intelligence, were all too aware of the deadly peril those men in the first wave would face. Building on British lessons learned during the costly Dieppe raid, the U.S. Navy and Army combat engineers established obstacle demolition courses at the Amphibious Training Base at Fort Pierce, Fla., to train six-man Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDUs) and the 146th and 299th Engineer Combat Battalions so they could meet the daunting challenge awaiting them.
 
Jerry Markham was there on D-Day, a member of NCDU-46 at Omaha Beach. Sixty years later, the Navy Cross recipient remembers it very clearly: 
 
"I was living in Jacksonville, Fla., when the war began, working as an engineer in the power department of a paper company. As such, I was exempt from the draft. But after several years with a lot of my buddies in the service I decided, with my engineer and construction experience, to join the SeaBees [Navy Construction Battalions]. 
 
"I was inducted into the SeaBees in New York City and reported for duty in February 1943. Along with the others who had joined, I boarded a cattle car at the train station and we traveled to Camp Peary, Va., the SeaBee training base."
 
In May 1943 Lt. Draper Kauffman, USNR, head of the recently established Navy Bomb Disposal School and holder of the Navy Cross for defusing an unexploded bomb after Pearl Harbor, was given a new assignment. Capt. Jeffrey C. Metzel of CNO Admiral King's Readiness Division told Kauffman that he'd been selected to organize and train a unit to destroy obstacles the Germans were expected to place at Normandy beaches. Given carte blanche authority, Kauffman first sought volunteers from his Bomb Disposal school. He then went to Mine Warfare School. Others wanting to join the new unit came from the Civil Engineer Corps and civilian firms whose work required demolition. But the bulk of the manpower for Naval Combat Demolition Units came from the Navy's rugged SeaBees, the construction battalions. They were trained at the SeaBee's Camp Peary Dynamiting and Demolition School. 
 
Markham continues: "Instruction consisted of close-order drill, physical training, other courses and guard duty. Several weeks later I was sent to the water-purification school, which meant I missed most of that basic training. I was then put into the pool of men ready for deployment. One day I noticed a bulletin in the office asking for volunteers for prolonged, distant and hazardous duty. Volunteers had to be fit and 20 to 35 years old. Men with swimming, diving and small-boat experience were preferred. I had always been interested in diving, so I volunteered for Naval Combat Demolition Units.
 
"All 90 of us volunteers were taken to a different part of the base at Camp Peary. There were six Marines waiting for us who told us they were going to separate the men from the boys. The training was based on Marine Raider courses and it was very tough, very physical. At the end of it there were only 30 of the original group left. Most of them were shipped off to Fort Pierce, Fla. I was kept behind at Camp Peary to help with the diving training, but first I had to take that course all over again. I breezed through it.
 
"Then I was sent to Fort Pierce. There, unlike Camp Peary, officers and enlisted men trained together. We spent a lot of time placing demolition charges on obstacles. Hell Week came next. It was called Hell Week because we spent 18 to 20 hours a day for a solid, grueling week swimming, hauling our rubber boat around, paddling it through the ocean, making rock portages and other exercises. At the end of it we all felt pretty good about ourselves. We had developed a real esprit de corps. Now it was time to select the men for the different units, a process that I think was unique in all the service branches.
 
"First, the officers got together and picked who they wanted for their senior enlisted man. That man could accept or reject the selection. If he accepted, he was asked to pick four more men, who had the same options. In other words, the members of NCDUs were all together because they wanted to be. John Bussell from St. Louis was my officer and he was a fine young man.
 
"NCDU-46 then went through six to eight weeks of courses on explosives, various types of demolition charges, boat handling, seamanship, shallow- and deep-water diving, but the emphasis was on demolition. 
 
"In December 1943 we were given a leave of absence and then reported to Lido Beach, Long Island, where we were given winter clothing for the Atlantic crossing. From there we went to Hoboken, N.J., to board one of the fleet of LSTs [328-foot Landing Ship, Tank]. There were 11 LSTs with an NCDU on each one. We made the crossing in January 1944 through high seas and rough weather. The salt spray froze on our clothing while we stood watch.
 
"We landed in Plymouth and traveled to the amphibious base there. Our unit was so classified and so secret that nobody knew who or what we were, so they gave us guard duty at the ammunition dumps. Even our officers stood watch. Then somebody figured out who we were and we got assigned to a Navy beach battalion. That's when our training for D-Day began. Six NCDUs, including ours, went to Wales and trained with Army combat engineers [299th Engineer Combat Battalion]. The Army engineers adopted us and we practiced obstacle demolition on Normandy-like beaches." 
 
The first NCDUs had arrived in England in November 1943. By January 1944 all NCDUs were assigned to Rear Adm. John L. Hall's 11th Amphibious Force of Rear Adm. Alan G. Kirk's Western Naval Task Force 122, and attached to the 2nd, 7th and 6th Naval Beach Battalions based at Fowey and Salcombe on England's south coast, and in Swansea, Wales. 
 
In the last weeks before D-Day, NCDUs and combat engineers practiced demolition at the U.S. Assault Training Center situated in the southwest coastal town of Woolcombe. There, the 146th ECB erected realistic models of the different kinds of obstacles the demolitioneers would encounter. 
 
There were a total of 21 NCDUs and units from the 146th and 299th ECBs assigned to Omaha Beach. Five of the 21 NCDUs were held in reserve. Twelve NCDUs and units from the 237th and 299th ECBs were assigned to Utah Beach. 
 
All demolitioneers at Omaha were commanded by Lt. Col. John T. O'Neill, CO, V Corps Provisional Engineer Group. Major Herschel E. Linn was in command of the Utah Beach Obstacle Demolition Party.
 
Army and Navy demolitioneers were organized into boat teams commanded by Army officers, which were assigned beach sectors. Once at the beaches, they became assault gapping teams of 25 to 27 combat engineers and NCDUs.

 

"After two months we were all assembled and told how to use the Hagensen pack. This was a foot long canvas sack, two feet wide, stuffed with 2lbs of C2 explosives with primacord running through it and a hook at one end to attach it to an obstacle. It was designed for what was called 'Element C' or the 'Belgian Gate' to sever the obstacle structure and collapse it. 
 
"It was about that time that we learned exactly what our mission was going to be. We knew that our six-man NCDUs were too small to tackle the job. We were allowed to recruit three additional seamen to augment our unit and were assigned five Army combat engineers. The Army combat engineer teams had 26 men. Our assignment was to demolish a 50-yard-wide gap in the seaward band of obstacles closest to the water. The combat engineers would then move inland to do the same thing with those obstacles. They would then continue on to take care of mines at the beach exits. 
 
"Omaha Beach was crescent-shaped and four to five miles long with cliffs 100 to 150 feet high beyond the high-water mark. It had five exit ravines. When the tide was running, it did so at one foot per eight minutes. That calculation determined our time of landing if we were to be put ashore on dry sand.
 
"We traveled to Portsmouth on June 2 or 3 and went aboard LCT-2049 [115-foot Landing Craft, Tank] with the combat engineers. Together, we formed what was called a 'gap team.' The LCT carried three Sherman tanks and a Jeep. There was no food onboard and we slept wherever we could on the steel decks in the rain. Our uniforms consisted of heavy fatigues, sweaters and long johns with regulation Army shoes and helmet liners. Officers carried .45 caliber pistols. We could carry our weapon of choice. I had a carbine during training but it stayed in my footlocker. On the night of the 4th we sailed. But the invasion fleet ran into a severe storm so we all were ordered back to port. By that time everybody was seasick. 
 
"We sailed again on the night of the 5th. The 50-foot LCM [Landing Craft, Mechanical], which would take us ashore and which carried our extra explosives and rubber boats, was towed behind our LCT. As we proceeded across the Channel, now about three to four miles from the coast of France, I began to notice that the bow of our ship was very low in the water. So I went to the captain, a lieutenant, junior grade, and told him about this. Both of us then went and looked over the side. We saw a hole. Water was coming in fast. I went to Ensign Bussell who told me we'd better get off because we're sinking. We were able to bring the LCM alongside and transfer all hands aboard her before that LCT, with its tanks and Jeep, sank. After putting ship's company and tank crews on a nearby transport ship, we proceeded shoreward."
 
The order of landing for Assault Force "O" was: DD (dual-drive) "floating tanks" (many of which foundered and sank), tank dozers, infantry units and NCDUs. Due to strong cross currents, bad navigation and the confusion of D-Day's mortal chaos, that order was destroyed. Men and equipment were landed on the wrong beaches at the wrong time and upon arrival were met with scything artillery, machine-gun, mortar and small-arms fire. The 116th Regimental Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, went ashore at Easy Red sector, Omaha Beach.
 
"We were three minutes late for h-hour and got to Easy Red Beach on Omaha at 6:33 a.m., one of 16 gap teams put ashore that morning. Now we had been briefed that the Air Force would carpet the beach with thousands of tons of bombs. Big naval guns would lay on a massive bombardment just prior to our landing. Rocket ships would fire off their salvos. Most of the rockets were duds or fell short. Naval gunfire had little or no effect on the convex-shaped pillboxes. Most of the bombs landed too far inland to have any effect. The Germans had the beaches zeroed in and our unit ran into the strongest opposition. As we went in, we could see paratroopers who had undershot their drop zones in the water. We had to keep going and couldn't pick them up. 
 
"By the time our LCM reached the low-water mark, which was dry, the machine guns opened up. The Army combat engineers were the first off the ramp ashore and they were pretty badly shot up. Then it was our turn. The seamen unloaded our rubber boat with the extra explosives. Each of us carried 40 pounds of Hagensen packs. I was the last one out. My job was to tie up the primacord from all the charges so they could all be detonated simultaneously. I carried the detonators under my armpit for safety's sake. All of a sudden a mortar round hit our rubber boat, killing one of the seamen. When I turned back around I saw John Bussell lying face down in the water. I turned him over. He had been mortally wounded by shrapnel. The machine gun fire was really heavy now. The only cover was the mined obstacles. The tide was coming in and we kept moving forward. Two more men from my unit were killed. Four were killed in all and one of the engineers. 
 
"The crosscurrent was strong, and units to the left and right were being shot up pretty badly. I was able to pull together survivors from one of them and combine them with ours. Together we salvaged enough explosives to blow a partial gap through the mined obstacles. I spent the rest of the time trying to help the wounded reach the high-water mark dune line where there was a little bit of cover from the machine guns. It took three hours all told just to get there. At the dune line, I noticed four soldiers in a shallow foxhole. A mortar round had hit right behind them and shoved sand forward, practically burying them. I ran over there and helped dig them out, not realizing I had just run through all that machine gun fire. 
 
"At that point I saw some destroyers coming in close to the beach. They fired into the mouths of the ravines, the primary exits. This allowed the combat engineers to move forward and start to work on the minefields so the Army could continue on inland.
 
"After the beach was secured, all NCDU personnel were assembled. We commandeered bulldozers and whatever else was needed to clear those beaches of all mined obstacles. It took us two days to clear 80 percent of them." 
 
D-Day casualties for NCDUs amounted to 41 percent of their manpower. 
 
"On the third day I started passing blood. Turned out it was from concussions of the severe explosions I'd been near since landing. I was sent to a hospital ship, an LST, to get medicine for it. The doctor took one look at me and sent me back to England. The doctor there told me that I'd probably been saved from a deadly blood clot by the greasy K rations I'd been eating. Ten days later I was back at the amphibious base where we'd last trained before crossing the Channel. 
 
"Survivors of all the Naval Combat Demolition Units were assembled in England and then sent back to Fort Pierce, Fla. There, we were given the option of any Navy assignment we wanted or to join the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs). When Lt. Scotty Cooper, who had been our NCDU section commander at Omaha Beach, asked me if I wanted to be his senior chief for UDT-25, I said "yes" and then recruited 33 NCDU veterans for the team."
 
In June 1945, the commander of the Maui, Hawaii, UDT Base awarded Chief Jerry Markham the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism on June 6, 1944. Six other NCDU personnel earned Navy Crosses for their actions on that momentous morning. Fifteen Army combat engineers earned the equivalent Distinguished Service Cross. In the opinion of Jerry Markham, everyone on Omaha Beach that day was a hero. 


#43 Thurman

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Posted 06 January 2015 - 09:01 AM

STEVEDORING SEABEES HAVE VITAL PART IN WINNING WAR. 14TH SPECIAL N.C.B. DID GREAT JOB.
 
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 Japanese "Bettys". Many other times serious setbacks would have occurred if ammunition and tanks had not reached the assaulting forces taking the initial beachhead.


#44 Thurman

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Posted 13 January 2015 - 05:55 AM

"SEABEES CAN SHOOT"
 
When the U.S. Marines stormed ashore at Iwo-Jima, the Seabees swarmed with them, armed and ready to fight, if needed. In the early days of the assault there was no opportunity for the Seabees to fight. They were too busy handling materials, supplying the men on the line, and doing whatever construction could be done under fire. Although, they didn't have time to shoot back, they were shot at, Mortar shells and small-arms fire rained incessantly on the beachhead area. One tired and dirty -faced Seabee crouched in a shell crater when a mortar barrage let go. As the fierce fighting left the beaches and Motoyama airfield was wrested from the Japs, the Seabees moved in behind the lines. Frequently they had to move their bulldozers and earth-moving equipment from the area because of enemy fire. No place was secure. They worked- and took it. But they got their chances at the Japs after the battle lines were pushed back far from their construction projects, that is, as far as they could be on an island that was only five miles long and about half as wide. It was then that the Seabees showed they could shoot! Tactics reminiscent of Indian fighting days were brought into use. The men went to work in the inevitable green uniform, wearing helmets and carrying carbines and other weapons. On every project "Up North" as the boys termed the central portion of the island, it was necessary to post sharpshooting guards. The survey crews kept an armed guard with the transitman and each rodman. The M1 carbine was a favorite weapon because of its portability,fire power, and effectivness at the short ranges at which the enemy was encountered. 
 
Bulldozers were busy pushing the rough terrain into usable areas. Suitable space was needed for air strips, for camps, and for roads. Sentinels were stationed at vantage points to protect the equipment operators, the oilers, and the other men in the work details. The Japs that had not been killed when the Marines mopped up the last pockets of resistance, crawled into the maze of tunnels and caves that hollowed the central and northern portions of the island. From the caves they fought with fanatical fervor and with the finesse of an intelligent enemy. The terrain favored their passive defense. The need for water and food brought nocturnal forays that kept the camp guards busy. One night, long after "D" Day, Seabees spotted a thin veil of steam coming out of a cave less than 100 yards from two battalion guard posts. A few minutes later, a trip flare was kicked off and there were Japs. Instantly, a hail of Seabee fire was directed at the cave dwellers. I grabbed a tommy gun and started spraying the hillside, said Calvin E. Broady SF1. Those nips began ducking behind rocks or anything else they could find. Normand L. Baker, CM3 was in the guard post adjacent to Broady. The first thing I knew was the flare going off and Broady yelling, There's one over there, and another one and another one- Christ there must be a thousand of em. It sounded like "D" Day all over again, added Baker. My gun jammed and I was really scared. I didn't waste any time tradin it. One Japanese had almost reached the dugout when I got him. When the shooting started I joined in with an M1 (Garand), said Russell J. Mellinger, CM3. After the flares burned out the Sergeant of the Guard came up behind the dugout and fired some parachute flares they call bouncing betties. We saw a nip try to hide in an oil barrel that had the head knocked out of it . Next morning we examined the barrel and it was a sieve, so was the Japanese! 
 
When daylight came, the Seabees discovered eleven Japs before their posts. Ten had fallen before the deadly fusilade and the eleventh had successfully escaped the scathing fire by hiding in a hole. Total-count ten killed, one prisoner, three escaped. Apparently the Japs had not realized that, on opening the entrance to the cave, steam came seeping out of the hot ground. It gave them away before the flares were tripped. Some of the caves become unbearably hot from the underground temperatures when the entrance is closed. Upon opening a cave, or during rainy weather, This time, nature was on the side of the Seabees. We had some interesting evenings at that post besides that night, said Robert S. Humphrey, Coxswain, but it was usually one or two instead of a dozen. There were a few times I was glad I had learned to shoot bull's-eyes! 
Marines were still patroling a section where one of the construction battalions was busy building the battalion camp. Someone suggested that the battlewise Marines divide their nightly ambushes and guard posts with Seabee camp outposts. This was done. After three or four nights, in which combined efforts netted several dead Japs, the Seabees were on their own. The coaching and seasoning were excellent, for the Seabees soon performed like veterans. Getting Japanese was a nightly occurrence. The posts were manned on a volunteer basis and soon the battalion commander was besieged with requests to do guard duty at the new camp site. One night we put an ambush on top of a high rock near the battalion water point. Robert P. Hopkins CM2 said. There were three of us in the ambush and it was my turn on watch. I saw three Japs in the moonlight, creeping toward the rock. I pointed them out to my two companions and then fired a burst with a tommy gun. Two of the Japs were knocked down. The next morning we found we had killed two, the other one had escaped. One of the funny things that happened that night was the new youngster we had with us, added Fred G. Fogg Shipfitter Second Class. He manned the .30 caliber machine gun. When the firing started, he yanked back on the trigger and the next thing Hopkins and I knew he was firing at an elevation that would make you think we were having an air-raid. Hopkins is a thirty year old ex-Texan who really knows how to handle a gun, earned the Navy Expert Rifleman Medal by shooting 182 out of 200. We killed several Japs from our guard posts while building the camp, Hopkins added, but the biggest thrill was capturing twelve prisoners. It was about an hour after daylight. The Marines had secured their posts and left for chow. We were getting ready to return to our bivouac for breakfast when I saw a movement behind a rock. I fired a quick shot but didn't connect. A minute or so later a white flag was struck up over the crest of the ridge. We flanked the ridge with another group of guards and asked for the flag waiver to come out. The flag bearer came out, followed by others in single file. We made them take off all their clothes so they couldn't hide hand grenades. Next we searched their clothing and then let them dress before we loaded them on the truck. The driver took us by the Marines bivoauc so we could show them what they had missed. The Marines looked at us with amazement. One of the veterans said, Hell you Seabees don't need us around anymore. 
 
Surveying roads, camp boundaries, and pipe lines brought the most oportunities for contact with the enemy. Each rock, each gulley or draw, each cave opening was a potential hiding place for a Japanese. One "CB" camp is named in honor of a member of their survey crew killed while running the traverse for their camp site. LT (jg) Hiram H. "Fuzzy" Farnsworth CEC U.S. Naval Reserve, of Las Cruces, N.M., was in charge of the party. On that particular day, Farnsworth demonstrated that his Expert score with the carbine and the two sharpshooter qualifications with the Springfield and .45 caliber pistol were no fakes. We were running a traverse control that crossed deep ravines, which were full of brush and caves. All morning we had struggled through and over this type of terrain. We were on the alert and kept two men as lookouts on each side of the line. Also, we had one guard follow about fifteen yards behind the crew so that we would not be attacked from the rear, said Farnsworth, describing the area he was working. About three o'clock in the afternoon we were moving up to a new transit point when I heard an explosion behind me and two my left. I whirled, thinking that one of the men had stepped on a mine. Instead, one of the men had been hit by a hand grenade thrown from a slit trench in a draw. A Japanese moved in the trench and I fired two shots into his head with my carbine. At the same time another started running down the draw. I knocked him down. At that moment two hand grenades were thrown toward me by three Japs farther down the ravine. I ducked from the grenades and emptied my clip through the brush at them. That ended the fight. When it was all over, I found that it lasted only about ten or fifteen seconds. 
 
Edwin A. Mullin CM1 from another battalion, had a similar experience as chief of a survey party. Mullin isn't a gun nut but he has hunted coyotes, deer, and antelope on his father's ranch. The transitman had moved up to a point on a ridge and was getting the transit leveled. I was copying some notes, said Mullin. One of the guards was scanning the countryside when he saw the officer in charge of the survey paties coming down the ridge. The guard turned and found the transitman standing motionless by the instrument. Get on the Ball!, the boss is coming, said the guard. Lets look like wer'e at work. The transitman lost his paralysis and pointed toward some rocks about fifty feet away. Theres a Japanese down there! he stammered,. We hit the dirt and I began stalking those rocks like I was after an antelope. Pretty soon I had a good view of the spot and I waited for theJap. A minute or so passed and I saw the top of a brown cap slowly raising above the top of a rock. He didn't have on a helmet. I didn't wait for him to expose his entire head. I fired. At the crack of the carbine he disappeared. We waited awhile and nothing happened, so I sent two guards to flank the draw. They found him. He was harmless even he did clutch a grenade in his hand. The bullet from my carbine plugged him in the firehead right at the hair line. There was one organized banzaiaatack after Iwo was secured. The path of the attack stopped at the edge of camp where a battalion, which had just reached the island, was bivouaced. For two or three hours it was a real initiation for the newcomers. It was hardly daylight when the charge started, said Richard C. Webster, CM2. I was on watch and, the first thing I knew, there was shooting all around me. It was being done by some Marines waiting to go aboard ship, and by some Army groups. I did alot of shooting, too. When it was all over, there were ten dead Japs in one shell hole not far from my post. Seabees are more noted for their building than for their shooting, but they do both, One ennterprising bee, mounted a light-machine gune in the body of a dump truck. He jockeyed the truck around where he had a good view of the area for frontal fire. For two or three nights he found enough targets to keep interest but, as the Japs thinned out, he let boys in their dugout guard posts take over. Perhaps the Japs became suspicious ofd the vehicle. On Iwo-Jima, the Seabees did more than build bases en route to Tokyo. They demonstrated they could protect themselves, and fight when needed, as well as construct airfields. And they used all of the various types of small arms a construction battalion carries. The Seabees are a versatile organization, They are sharpshooters with carbines, Thompson sub-machine guns, and machine guns, as well as experts with their famous bulldozers. On Iwo-Jima they proved that "Seabees Can Shoot" as well as build. 


#45 Thurman

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Posted 15 January 2015 - 03:36 AM

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.


#46 Thurman

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Posted 15 January 2015 - 03:36 AM

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 Japanese 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 Japanese 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 Japanese 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.


#47 Thurman

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Posted 15 January 2015 - 03:37 AM

74TH N.C.B. TARAWA ATOLL, GILBERT ISLANDS. 
 
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.


#48 Thurman

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Posted 15 January 2015 - 03:37 AM

"BULLDOZER" DECEMBER 2, 1943.
 
SEABEES AT SALERNO!
 
Long after this struggle is over and every serviceman is home, the story of the heroic exploits of the Seabees shoulder to shoulder with the Rangers and Commandos at Salerno will be told at many a fireside throughout the country. And here's one that won't be overlooked. Shortly after the first landing. English Army Engineers were prevented from laying down a section of wire mesh roadway by heavy fire from a strongly entrenched German Maching gun nest. It couldn't stop a Seabee bulldozer, however from hauling several English trucks which had bogged down. The maching gun nest was finally cleared out, and Commandos were taking care of the Nazis, the trucks were rumbling their badly needed loads inland, thanks to Seabee resourcefulness and courage. Moving in on the exploding beaches together with the first wave of assault troops, and working under severe continuous maching gun, plane and shell fire, the battling builders piled vital supplies ashore, often completely unloading heavily packed LST's in less than an hour per ship. Picked Seabee platoons also unloaded roughly 10,000 vehicles at Salerno and earned high praise for excellent performance.


#49 Thurman

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Posted 15 January 2015 - 03:38 AM

Milwaukee Journal - Jan. 3, 1944.
 
BOUGAINVILLE FIELD IN USE, SEABEES DID JOB!
 
With U.S. forces on Bougainville - A 6,500 foot field for light and medium bombers, within less than 250 miles of Rabaul, and only 850 miles from Japan's mighty Naval base of Truk is now in operation in these northern Solomon Islands.
 
The airfield, at the base of the fuming volcano, Mount Bagana, was carved out of the heaviest of jungles and was dedicated Christmas day. Called Piva field, after the river village of that name. It is the second field to be established on the expanding beachhead which U.S. Marines first won November 1, 1943 with a landing at Empress Augusta Bay on Bougainville's west central coast. The Torokina fighter field of 4,200 feet, superimposed upon a swamp, has been used since Dec. 12. Torokina has been dispatching fighter planes for sweeps over Rabaul. Now they can screen bombers flying from Piva, a mere aerial skip and jump from Rabaul. The Piva field is the nearest one of the allies to Truk in the Carolines. The building of Piva was accomplished with heroics and utter dis-regard of danger.
 
Once tractors were leveling ground within a few feet of where a bomb disposal crew, under Marine Lt. Ed Curry of Bostom Mass. was supervising the digging up of a string of Japanese duds and time bombs. Again a Japanese patrol harassing the Seabees got so close to the field that a Seabee was captured. When Seabee surveyors started laying out the field, they actually worked for several days beyond our lines. As they returned from work, they would chide the Marines. If you guys don't hurry up and take that country, we'll have the field finished before you get there.
 
The Bougainville fields put dive bombers and torpedo planes within reach of Rabaul. The Piva field was ready for bombers less than six weeks after the Seabees broke ground. The toughest job was in pushing roads through swamps to it, often under Japanese fire. Once that was accomplished. the clearing, grading and surfacing proceeded swiftly.


#50 Thurman

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Posted 15 January 2015 - 03:40 AM

24th N.C.B. at Rendova, & Munda, New Georgia.
 
The battalion was divided into two echelons, the first to participate with a task force of Army, Navy, and Marine units in establishing a beachhead: the second to carry the heavy equipment and household gear to Guadalcanal for staging when the beachhead would be ready to receive it. The second echelon left Noumea, New Caledonia on May 25, 1943 and after a five day trip on four LST's established a bivouac on Guadalcanal. There the men made their first acquaintance with the darkness of coconut groves, the fever of malaria, the urgency of operations on the beaches of a staging area. It was to be seven weeks before the battalion was to be reunited.
 
The first echelon, under the command of the Officer-in-Charge, Commander Horace R. Whittaker, on the 7th of June sailed from Noumea harbor aboard the converted President liner, U.S.S. Jackson and the U.S.S. Hayes. With them, and on other ships, the U.S.S. Adams, and the U.S.S. McCawley, were the 172nd Infantry Combat Teams and Boat Pool 8. On the tenth of June came the tautness of the first air raid at sea, then a day in Guadalcanal, then two weeks of training on the beaches of New Hebrides. On the 29th of June the task force was back at Guadalcanal. There it was joined by the attack cargo ships, U.S.S. Libre and Algorab, embarking the Marine Ninth Defense Battalion and additional men of the Twenty-Fourth.
 
At dawn of the morning of June 30, the task force stood off Rendova. There was a light drizzle, later to turn to rain. A few miles away Japanese coastal guns at Munda airfield opened up. A Destroyer returned the fire and the guns were silenced. The men stood quietly around the decks and then were over the sides into the landing craft. There were the shots of snipers as the boats neared the beaches of Rendova; the brief fight, the confusion and uncertainty of the beaches; and as the day wore on, the back breaking labor of unloading supplies. Overhead were the corsairs with the Marine pilots standing between the beaches and the persistent Japanese air attacks.
 
There was the nervousness of the first bivouac, the eerie sounds of a wet tropical night, the constant bark of uncertain rifles. Dawn found the roads collapsing, the urgency, the back-breaking labor of coconut log corduroy over which to move the 155mm guns, the ammunition, and vital supplies. At the beaches the LST's came in, each to be unloaded by hand between dawn and dark. It was to go on day after day. On July 2, the Japanese planes broke through. That grim night the battalion mourned the death of twenty-one men. On July 4, they broke through again, and again the battalion was hard hit. Through all of July on Rendova, with few respites, continued the rains, the heavy labor at the beaches, the nightly air raids, and the mud.
 
On July 18 the second echelon arrived and established its camp on Kokorana. At last, on August 5, the airfield at Munda was taken. The next day the battalion began moving to Munda, until on 15 August, the entire unit was bivouacked three quarters of a mile north of the airfield. The 73rd battalion moved in to take over construction of the airfield on which our equipment had set to work at once. The battalion turned to the construction of vital roads, of coconut log crib quays at the beaches for LST's and pontoon lighters, of a tank farm, distribution system, and tanker berth for aviation gasoline, of a base hospital, a widely dispersed bomb dump, a splinter proof radio communications center- rough work and fast work to make Munda a base. The 73rd made great progress on the airfield, the first plane landing a week after construction started.
 
First came the Marines with their Corsairs, SBD's and TBF's. Then came the Army bombers. Air raids became infrequent. Munda was in full tactical operation. As we passed the first of the year the work abated. Scuttlebutt ran wild "we were going home"- we were going to New Zealand- we were on our way. And then at last came final word. We were to have a rest. It was to be New Zealand. But there was something we wanted to do before we left. Quietly the battalion marched to Munda cemetery, there to say good-bye to the two officers and twenty-five men who had given their lives for their country.



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