History of United States Naval Construction Battalion Nine

History of United States Naval Construction Battalion Nine

The predecessor of United States Naval Mobile Construction Battalion NINE was United States Naval Construction Battalion NINE which was established on June 6, 1942 with Lieutenant Commander Jarl E. Larson, CEC, USNR as officer in charge. After it was established at the Naval Construction Training Center, Norfolk, Virginia, the battalion moved to Camp Bradford, Virginia, for further military and technical training.

On June 29, 1942, the battalion was split into two sections.

Section One, consisting of Companies A, B, and D and three-fourths of the Headquarters Company, was sent to the Advance Base Depot, Davisville, Rhode Island.

Section Two, consisting of Company C and one-fourth of the Headquarters Company, was sent to Algiers, Louisiana. It arrived there on July 1, 1942, and the men performed public works functions. On September 3, 1942, Section Two left Algiers bound for Balboa, Canal Zone.

After a delay at Coco Solo in the Canal Zone, Section Two arrived at Balboa on September 3, 1942. While assigned to Balboa, small detachments were sent to perform construction work at many locations in Central and South America. On July 27, 1943, Section Two of Naval Construction Battalion NINE was redesignated Construction Battalion Detachment 1012.

Meanwhile, Section One of Naval Construction Battalion NINE left Davisville, Rhode Island on August 5, 1942, bound for the Naval Operating Base, Reykjavik, Iceland.

In Iceland, Section One constructed four bomber airstrips for the United States Army and the Fleet Air Base, built a Navy Fuel and Salvage Depot, a camp for the United States Army, and a 52-tank fuel farm with a total capacity of 28,500 barrels of aviation gas and 440,000 barrels of oil.

On August 10, 1943, Section One of Naval Construction Battalion NINE was augmented and redesignated as Naval Construction Battalion NINE. The battalion with a complement of 17 officers and 704 enlisted men sailed from Iceland in echelons between August 5 and August 18, 1943. After arrival at Davisville, Rhode Island, personnel were given leave. The battalion then reassembled at the Naval Training Center, Camp Endicott, Davisville, and underwent reorganization, retraining, and reoutfitting. After this was completed, the battalion performed public works services at Camp Thomas, Advance Base Depot, Davisville. On May 4, 1944, the men departed from Davisville for the Advance Base Depot, Port Hueneme, California.

The battalion remained at Port Hueneme until June 25, 1944, when it left for Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii. It arrived there on July 1, 1944. In Hawaii it constructed facilities for a naval aviation supply depot personnel camp at Pearl City, a rocket target range on Molokai Island, and an Army camp at Aiea. While working on the target range, a detachment of 2 officers and 63 men was accidentally strafed but suffered no casualties. Another detachment of one officer and 17 men was assigned to man assault barges in the Palau invasion, and fortunately incurred no casualties.

On November 10, 1944, Naval Construction Battalion NINE left Hawaii for Tinian, Mariana Islands and arrived there on December 1, 1944. While there, the men were employed on the construction of North and Northwest Fields, the bomber bases for the B-29s, and also on an Army camp and a camp for a bomber group. In addition, they erected and operated an asphalt plant.

In May 1945 the battalion was alerted for a forward move, and on June 19 the battalion left Tinian on seven ships. Between June 30 and July 5, 1945, the battalion arrived in echelons at Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. During the month of July, men of the battalion were engaged in sporadic action with Japanese troops and killed several of the enemy.

The construction on which the men were employed included a four-lane highway, a compound for the Seventeenth Naval Construction Regiment, internal roads, shops for aircraft repairs, a 1,600-foot quay wall, and a standard marine railway. The battalion also operated a coral pit and rock crusher.

On December 7, 1945 Naval Construction Battalion NINE was disestablished on Okinawa. Thus ended three and one-half glorious and fruitful years of service and achievement for the 9th Seabees.

Officers in Charge

LCDR Jarl E. Larson, CEC, USNR                        6 Jun 42 – 15 Apr 43
LT Edward M. Howard, CEC, USNR                        15 Apr 43 – 22 May 43
CDR George G. Lancaster, CEC, USNR                        22 May 43 – 16 Sep 44
LCDR Howard S. Shafer, CEC, USNR                        16 Sep 44 – 1 Oct 45
CDR Robert B. Atkins, CEC, USNR                        1 Oct 45 – 7 Dec 45

Officer in Charge, Second Section

LT James W. Head, Jr., CEC, USNR                                29 Jun 42 – 27 Jul 43

United States Naval
Mobile Construction Battalion Nine

Commanding Officers

LCDR Lyman W. Madsen, CEC, USN15 Apr 52 – 11 Jul 52
LCDR Harry P. Kwasny, CEC, USN11 Jul 52 – 11 Feb 54
CDR Robert E. Thomas, Jr., CEC, USN11 Feb 54 – 27 Mar 56
CDR John M. Raymond, Jr., CEC, USN27 Mar 56 – 12 Jun 56
LCDR Arnold G. Towle, CEC, USNR12 Jun 56 – 30 Jun 56
CDR Arthur F. Meeks, CEC, USN30 Jun 56 – 28 Sep 57
CDR Donald R. Rooke, CEC, USN28 Sep 57 – 27 Jul 59
LCDR Robertson W. Buck, CEC, USN27 Jul 59 – 5 Sep 59
CDR Ferdinand W. Arnold, CEC, USNR5 Sep 59 – 26 Aug 61
LCDR William H. Sturman, CEC, USN26 Aug 61 – 7 Jun 63
CDR Anson C. Perkins, CEC, USN7 Jun 63 – 6 Nov 64
CDR Richard E. Anderson, CEC, USN6 Nov 64 – 2 Dec 66
CDR Daniel M. Shockey, CEC, USN2 Dec 66 – 14 Feb 68
CDR John A. Wright, CEC, USN14 Feb 68 – 17 Nov 69

History of United States Naval
Mobile Construction Battalion Nine

On April 15, 1952, United States Naval Mobile Construction Battalion NINE was officially established at the Naval Construction Battalion Center, Port Hueneme, California. Lieutenant Commander Lyman W. Madsen, CEC, USNR was the first commanding officer. The first three months were spent in receiving personnel and preparing living quarters and office spaces. On July 11, 1952, Lieutenant Commander Harry P. Kwasny, CEC, USN assumed command of the battalion and Lieutenant Commander Madsen became the executive officer. On August 8, 1952, a colorful establishment ceremony was held on the parade ground of the Center. Then during the remainder of August and early September, the men underwent military training at Camp Pendleton, California.

On September 14, 1952, Mobile Construction Battalion NINE left Port Hueneme aboard the USNS GENERAL D.E. AULTMAN bound for Subic Bay, Philippine Islands. After stops at San Francisco, Honolulu, Kwajalein, Eniwetok, and Guam, the men reached the Philippines and were assigned to the Cubi Point Naval Air Station. For two months they were billeted on APL-27 while they concentrated on construction and preparation of living quarters and office spaces. These quarters, which consisted of 16-foot by 32-foot tents, were occupied by mid-December. Other major projects included construction of two 177-man concrete enlisted men’s barracks and a 1,000-man subsistence building. At the same time, drivers and mechanics of MCB-9 worked with Seabees of other construction battalions in moving hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of fill for the air strip. A detachment at Sangley Point constructed twenty units of dependent housing.

On October 31, 1953, the men boarded the USNS BARRETT bound for Port Hueneme, California.

In March 1954, a detachment of four officers and 200 men left Port Hueneme for Saipan. There it worked on various projects such as the construction of a new galley and dependent housing, the remodeling of the administrative building, and the renovation of the transportation shops.

In April 1954, the main body of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion NINE left for Adak in the Aleutian Islands. During the spring and summer it operated a rock crusher and asphalt plant, laid 23 miles of asphalt road, built a new enlisted men’s club, repaired damage done to the pier by marine borers, replaced 1,000 feet of steam line, and painted eight buildings and 21 fuel tanks. Other projects included rehabilitation of water, power and telephone systems, and tightening of truss bolts in 37 buildings. The battalion left Adak on October 2, 1954 aboard the USNS GENERAL W.A. GREELY and returned to Port Hueneme for leave and further technical training.

On December 29, 1954 the battalion again left Port Hueneme, this time aboard the USNS BARRETT, for its second tour of employment at Subic Bay. After arrival, it was divided into two groups, half of the men berthing at Cubi Point and the other half at Camayan Point. The division was effected to place the men closer to the projects on which they would be working. The Camayan Point group had the largest project that included construction of 15 reinforced concrete magazines and a mine assembly depot. The Cubi Point group resumed work on the concrete barracks and subsistence buildings that the battalion had started on its first employment at Cubi Point.

After leave in the United States, the Saipan detachment rejoined the main body at Subic Bay on February 26, 1955.

In July 1955, the entire battalion returned to Port Hueneme. Then October 13, 1955, it boarded the USNS GENERAL EDWIN D. PATRICK for a return trip to Subic Bay. It arrived in the Philippines on October 28 and began work on numerous small projects. Principal among these were airfield drainage, grass seeding, power and water distribution, construction of a seaplane parking area, and security fencing at the Naval Air Station.

On September 4, 1956 the battalion left the Philippines aboard the USNS BARRETT and once again headed for the Naval Construction Battalion Center at Port Hueneme. After the usual leave period, the men worked on several on-the-job training projects at the Port Hueneme Center. Included in these projects were a nine-hole golf course, renovation of the gymnasium, installation of concrete curbing, and the grading and asphalt surfacing of several parking lots in the Builder and Electrician School area. During this stay at Port Hueneme, a fire broke out in the foothills near Malibu, California. Many volunteers from the battalion fought in the fire lines for several days and nights. The region damaged by the fire was subsequently declared a national disaster area by the President.

Naval Mobile Construction Battalion NINE assignments in 1957 were many and varied and were located at widely separated places. Because of employment at three different locations, the officers and chief petty officers were spread very thin, but problems were met and solved with the full cooperation of everyone in a manner that typified the “Can Do” spirit of the Seabees.

In 1957 the battalion was split into three detachments: one assigned to Midway Island, another to Pearl Harbor, and the third to Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands.

The Midway detachment left Port Hueneme on January 20, 1957 aboard the USNS GENERAL D.E. AULTMAN. There it worked on the construction of the harbor control tower and the rehabilitation of the seaplane hangar, replaced 3,000 feet of the fresh water distribution system, and rehabilitated the movie theater. This last job was completed just in time for the presentation of a USO show. As a reward for their work on the theater, detachment personnel were the guests of honor at the show.

The Pearl Harbor detachment also left Port Hueneme on January 20. Major projects at Pearl Harbor included the remodeling and rehabilitation of 16 buildings at Camp Smith, the grading and surfacing of Camp Smith parking lots, and the demolition of structures at Iroquois Point.

The Kwajalein detachment left Port Hueneme on March 21 aboard the USNS DAVID C. SHANKS. Projects completed by the detachment on Kwajalein included the excavation for and the installation of an underground power and communications systems, the resurfacing of asphalt roads and parking lots, the rehabilitation of the outdoor movie theater, the replacement of topsoil in dependent housing areas, improvements to the officers club, and the repainting of fuel storage tanks.

On November 22, 1957, all detachments were disestablished and the battalion regrouped at Port Hueneme. This stay at Port Hueneme was climaxed by a three-day bivouac at Rose Valley, near Ojai, California.

On March 18, 1958, the main body, including a newly formed Adak Detachment, departed from Port Hueneme aboard the USNS FREDERICK FUNSTON. The destination was Alaska and the Aleutians. The main body disembarked at Kodiak on March 24, and despite adverse weather, the men successfully accomplished their assigned tasks. The major projects included the rehabilitation of two concrete runways and the construction of a bridge for a 16-inch waterline over the Bushkin River. Meanwhile, the Adak Detachment, having arrived at its destination on March 26, built two reinforced concrete bridges and completed several minor projects. The entire battalion then returned to Port Hueneme on October 29, 1958 on board the USS GENERAL J.C. BRECKINRIDGE.

The battalion’s next employment was scheduled for Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. Because it would be faced with many projects requiring construction techniques with which it had had no previous experience, such as tilt-up construction, it received special training at the Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro, California. On January 22, 1959, the battalion boarded the USNS HUGH J. GAFFEY, sailed for Okinawa, and arrived there on February 9, 1959.

Living conditions for the men were a little primitive because they were billeted at Camp Kue, a World War II Army Quonset but camp. However, the battalion’s Camp Maintenance Division immediately began to rehabilitate the buildings and facilities, and in a short time the camp was made comparatively comfortable. The rest of the battalion started work on the initial phase of an 18-month project of constructing a permanent staging-out facility for the Marine Corps at Sukiran. This project included construction of five staging-out warehouses of 40,000 square feet each and six engineering shops of 10,000 square feet, each complete with area landscaping, utilities distribution, paved roads, and paved parking areas. The structures were designed for precast tilt-up structural frames, tilt-up wall panels, and precast roof panels. The battalion left Okinawa on board the USNS GENERAL J.C. BRECKINRIDGE on October 31, 1959 and returned to Port Hueneme via Formosa and Yokohama, Japan.

After arrival at Port Hueneme on November 14, the customary leave and training periods followed. Furthermore, something new was added in the way of military training. Early in March 1957, two weeks were spent at Camp Pendleton, California with the Marines. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion NINE was the first one to undergo this type of combat training.

On March 23, the main body of the battalion boarded the USNS GENERAL J.C. BRECKINRIDGE, departed from Port Hueneme, and arrived at Kodiak, Alaska on March 17, 1960. A detachment scheduled for Adak remained aboard ship, and arrived at its destination on March 31. The main body at Kodiak operated a rock crusher and a asphalt plant while repairing runways and improving other facilities at the Naval Station. In the meantime, the separate detachment was engaged in construction and maintenance at the U.S. Naval Station on Adak Island. The highlight of the tour in Alaska and the Aleutians came in August when Mobile Construction Battalion NINE was named Best of Type for Naval Construction Battalions in the Pacific Fleet.

In October the main body and the Adak detachment once again boarded the USNS GENERAL J.C. BRECKINRIDGE and arrived at Port Hueneme on October 21, 1960.

At Port Hueneme, leave was scheduled for two periods, one upon arrival and the other 30 days later. Regular training was completed in late January 1961 and the battalion then departed for Camp Pendleton for two additional weeks of combat training with the Marines. This training concluded with a two and one-half day bivouac. The men then returned to Port Hueneme and two weeks later, on February 21, 1961, they boarded the USNS DANIAL I. SULTAN bound for the U.S. Naval Station, Midway Island.

Arriving at Midway on March 3, the men began constructing barracks and administrative facilities and doing maintenance and rehabilitation work. During this tour, on April 25, the Society of American Military Engineers honored Naval Mobile Construction Battalion NINE with the Peltier Award as the Navy’s best Mobile Construction Battalion.

The battalion left Midway on December 12, 1961 and arrived at Port Hueneme on December 20, 1961. After the usual leave and training period, it was ready for its next assignment.

An advance party left by air from Point Mugu, California on February 24, 1962, and began the initial phase of constructing a project at the U.S. Naval Facility, Adak, Alaska. Then on April 7, 1962, the main body, including a separately organized detachment, boarded the USNS GENERAL DANIEL I. SULTAN. This time the detachment disembarked at Kodiak and the main body continued to Adak.

After arrival at Adak, the men started work on a variety of new construction and major repair projects at the Naval Station. This work included resurfacing the runway, completely rehabilitating dependent housing units, and constructing a Marine Rifle Range. Meanwhile, the Kodiak detachment repaired Naval Station housing units, and rehabilitated the station’s powerline system. Its tour completed, the battalion and its Kodiak Detachment left Alaska on the USNS GENERAL WILLIAM MITCHELL and arrived at Port Hueneme on November 14, 1962.

The battalion boarded the USNS GENERAL WILLIAM MITCHELL and arrived at Camp Kinser, Okinawa on April 1, 1963. Subsequently, it worked on construction projects at Camp Kinser, Camp Hansen and White Beach, then on May 28, 1963 it became the Pacific Alert Battalion. In September, the battalion sent a well drilling team to the Republic of Vietnam to aid the First Marine Air Wing in locating a water supply.

Something new was added to the battalion operations in 1963 when Seabee Teams 0901 and 0902 were established and sent to Thailand.

The battalion itself returned to Port Hueneme on December 13, 1963. After the leave period, preparations were started for the battalion’s next tour of duty overseas. However, on Good Friday, March 27, 1964 Anchorage and Kodiak, Alaska were struck by earthquakes and tidal waves. Within hours a Disaster Recovery Unit from the battalion was alerted and airlifted by jet aircraft from Point Mugu, California to Kodiak for clean-up operations. The next day an additional 38-man detachment was sent to Alaska to repair facilities at the scene of the disaster. This was done to protect government investments there until contracts could be awarded for permanent earthquake-tidal wave repairs. For its work during this emergency, the battalion was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation. The men returned to Port Hueneme on April 11.

On April 24, 1964 the battalion again left Port Hueneme for Okinawa, and arrived on May 12. Three months later, on August 12, 1964, the battalion for the second time was named Best of Type for Naval Construction Battalions in the Pacific Fleet. During this tour on Okinawa, the battalions was engaged in constructing camp facilities for a second mobile construction battalion at Camp Kinser. Between Janaury 20 and 23, 1965, the battalion left Okinawa by aircraft for Port Hueneme by way of Point Mugu.

By this time the United States was heavily involved in hostilities in the Republic of Vietnam. Therefore, the battalion was alerted for possible duty in Southeast Asia. This called for stepped up military training, so the two weeks of combat infantry training at Camp Pendleton concentrated heavily on weapons firing. On June 3 the battalion boarded the USNS GENERAL R.M. BLATCHFORD and arrived at Danang, Republic of Vietnam on June 28, 1965. After their arrival the men built a new Seabee camp on the coast of the South China Sea. On October 28, 1965 a Viet Cong mortar and small arms attack wounded almost one hundred of the battalion’s men. Two men later died from their wounds. In Vietnam this was the first enemy action directed against an entire Seabee battalion. The Seabee camp was later dedicated in honor of TN Restituto P. Adenir, the first battalion Seabee to die from enemy action. In addition to the camp construction, other major projects included construction of an advance base hospital for the Naval Support Activity, Danang, a road and missile site project on Monkey Mountain, and the Marine Air Group 16 cantonment. In addition, the men operated a rock crusher. On January 25, 1966, the battalion sustained a second, but less serious, Viet Cong mortar attack. On February 1, 1965 the battalion, now thoroughly familiar with construction operations under combat conditions, returned to Port Hueneme by jet transport aircraft.

While in homeport, on March 21, 1966, the battalion received its third Peltier Award as the Navy’s best Naval Mobile Construction Battalion.

Because of the war conditions, the battalion proceeded to prepare thoroughly for a second tour in Vietnam. On August 1, 1966, the men began departing by air for Vietnam. There they built a Seabee camp at Red Beach near Danang. Also during this second Vietnam tour the battalion sent out numerous platoon-sized units to perform construction tasks for the U.S. Army Special Forces at Minh Long, Thuong Duc, and Ba To. All materials for these isolated airstrips and fortified camps were airlifted by helicopter.

The first Seabee detachment in the Mekong Delta region built a boat basin and a 250-man cantonment on the My Tho River. In addition, several Ammi pontoons, the first to be used in Vietnam, were installed as a part of this waterfront in support of United States Navy Riverine Warfare Forces.

NMCB-9 brought the main Marine supply routes south of Danang to an all-weather capability by constructing 14 miles of roadway on old railroad rights-of-way and on berms pushed up from the rice paddy lowlands. As a part of this road, the men built the first major permanent bridge construction by 15 United States Military Forces in the I Corps Area and a 510-foot timber structure across the Ai Nghia River. Other major projects included the construction of a cantonment for Marine units at Phu Bai, several 50-foot timber sniper towers for isolated Marine outposts south of Danang, and a refugee center in Quang Ngai. Furthermore, the men developed a major quarry and rock crushing facility at a virgin site in Happy Valley near Danang. The complete rock production facility included defensive structures and a 250-man camp. Crushed rock was vital to holding tactical suppy routes open throughout the I Corps Area.

Between April 11 and 16, 1967, the main body of 716 men left Danang on ten military aircraft and returned to Port Hueneme. There they prepared for future wartime operations.

The battalion’s third consecutive tour to the Republic of Vietnam began on October 1, 1967 when it arrived at Camp Hoover, near Danang. Detachments were sent into forward areas south of Danang to live, work and on occasion share military duties with United States Marine units while at the same time constructing galleys, living huts, and shower facilities. On October 10, a detachment began repairs to the 2,040-foot Liberty Bridge, the largest timber bridge in Vietnam. This bridge was severely damaged by monsoon floods that carried away 800 feet of the center spans. While this work was underway, the crews were subjected to continuous sniper harassment. This led to the construction of sniper towers and 175-mm gun platforms.

Rock production and quarry development were high on the list of battalion priorities. While production of rock materials proceeded at the Phuoc Tuong quarry on a 24-hour-day basis, a new 200-ton per hour crushing facility was developed adjacent to the quarry. When the haul roads and the crusher site were completed, the quarry was turned over to a civilian contractor for operation.

A battalion detachment of 180 men began developing a new quarry, rock crushing facilities, and a 250-man cantonment near Phu Loc, 45 miles north of Danang. The men arrived on January 28, 1968, only two days before the massive Tet Offensive began. Despite problems in getting supplies over enemy-controlled roads, twenty-eight days of continuous rain, and enemy mortar and recoilless rifle attacks by night and day, the facility was in operation within ten weeks after the detachment’s arrival. On March 31 the detachment came under enemy attack at 0225. Seabee 81-mm mortars and U.S. Marine Corps 8-inch artillery returned the fire. Seven Seabees were wounded, including CMHCN James F. Galati, who afterwards died of his wounds. Later in the day, the enemy attacked again. While the detachment’s Seabees were returning the fire, two enemy rounds exploded within their mortar position and killed five and wounded one seriously. Those killed in action were BUL3 George R. DeShurley, a mortar crew leader, and four members of his crew, BULCN Mark E. Hodel, BUL3 Allan L. Mair, BUL3 John F. Peek, and BUHCN James R. Retzleff, Jr. On April 6, 1968, the quarry cantonment was dedicated a Camp DeShurley in honor of the slain mortar crew leader.

Projects within the Danang military complex were many. Near the Danang air base, the men built a 1,000-man cantonment for the Naval Support Activity, complete with utility systems. They also built a prisoner-of-war compound and a 500-man galley for the III Military Police Battalion. Other projects included storage facilities, a fire station, a bowling alley, an indoor theater, a communications center, and paving and maintaining of roads.

On June 12 the battalion returned to Port Hueneme to prepare for its next overseas assignment. On December 2 and 3, 1968, the main body, comprising 14 officers and 499 men, left on Boeing 707 aircraft for Camp Kinser, Okinawa to serve as the Pacific Alert Battalion. A secondary responsibility was the first-phase development of a permanent two-battalion Seabee base at Camp Kinser.

Almost simultaneously with the departure of the main body, a detachment of one officer and 99 men left Port Hueneme for Phu Loc, Vietnam. There the detachment operated and maintained the Camp DeShurley Rock Quarry.

Between June 26 and July 2, 1969, the main body left Okinawa for Port Hueneme. At almost the same time the Camp DeShurley detachment left Vietnam and headed for Port Hueneme.

While in homeport, the battalion began preparing for another tour of duty. However, by this time the United States was gradually withdrawing from military operations in the Republic of Vietnam, and thus, in turn, United States military forces were being drastically reduced. As part of this policy the Navy decided to disestablish several of its Mobile Construction Battalions. On October 17, 1969, the commanding officer of Mobile Construction Battalion NINE was instructed to prepare for the disestablishment of his battalion. Consequently, during the next thirty days, the�battalion systematically closed itself down.

It was officially disestablished on November 17, 1969 at the Naval Construction Battalion Center, Port Hueneme, California, but the disestablishment ceremony actually was held earlier on November 4, because most of the men were already dispersing. This ceremony included a regimental review and the hauling down of the battalion flag. Between November 10 and 17, the officers and men not released from active duty were transferred to other naval activities.

Thus ended more than 17 years of historic achievement in peacetime and wartime. Although Mobile Construction Battalion NINE ceased to exist, its Seabees and their glorious deeds will forever remain enshrined in the hearts of their fellow countrymen.

Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Nine’s flag is lowered for the last time in anticipation of its official disestablishment at Port Hueneme, California on November 17, 1969.