Intermission Story (1) – SeaBees on Bougainville

“SEABEES COVER SELVES IN BOUGAINVILLE LANDING” – First Hand Account

Landing under fire at Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville, Seabees first joined with Marines in defending the beaches against counter-attack, then got busy on construction of military roads feeding front lines. The fighting builders ran one of their roads 700 yards in advance of the Marines’ front lines before the Leathernecks yelled for them to hold up a while.

Sizable detachments of Seabees, who stormed ashore with Marine assault trrops in the first,second, and third waves to land on Bougainville in the Solomon Islands, distinguished themselves by the skill and valor with which they filled their combat assignments.

As the invasion forces approached the enemy beaches, the Seabees manned machine guns on Higgins boats, tank lighters and landing craft. Dare-devil builders leaped ashore from the first boats to nudge into the sand, and unloaded fuel, ammunition, rations and packs while heavy fighting broke out all about them on the beaches. Then, as the Japs were driven back into the jungle, the Seabees manned beach defenses side-by-side with the Marines.

In addition to these activities, which were beyond the normal call of duty, the volunteer group of 100 Seabee officers and men who landed with the first wave also were credited with additional acts of bravery performed with complete disregard for their personal safety.

unloading gas and oil drums on Bougainville

unloading gas and oil drums on Bougainville

Landing craft from one transport had to pass through a narrow channel between two small islands just off Bougainville. Japanese machine gun nests on the inside of both islands had been firing upon every boat that attempted to move through the channel until Seabees manning landing craft guns effectively liquidated them. The Seabee sharp-shooters also helped drive away Japanese Zeroes that attacked the mother ship.

On landing, the rugged construction men rushes supplies from landing craft to combat line. Seabees carried ammunition and water to the front and, as was learned later, kept a group of Marines from being wiped out because of lack of supplies.

One Seabee jumped aboard a crippled tractor after its Marine driver had been shot off, hauled large quantities of ammunition, and helped place 20-mm anti-aircraft guns. Another group of the aroused builders riddled enemy pillboxes while Marines moved in to remove the Japs with hand grenades. Still other Seabees moved a Marine heavy artillery battery to the front.

Without thought for their own safety, the Navy Construction men carried wounded from the front lines to the landing craft which would return the casualties to the transports for immediate evacuation. The Seabees scooped out foxholes, not only for themselves and the Marines, but for the injured who were unable to dig their own.

When one of the landing craft was hit by heavy artillery fire, a Seabee officer helped unload the wounded and badly needed supplies while other Seabees held the Japs at bay.

Piva Bomber Field, Bougainville

Piva Bomber Field, Bougainville

The medical department set up a first aid station and treated men on the front lines (which were still the beach) with morphine and bandages carried in their packs. The first night of the landing, the Seabee detachment was assigned the defense of a portion of the beach. The volunteer group continued to hold this area for the next twenty-four days.

For days after the landing, the battling builders teamed up with Marine patrols to locate and neutralize Japanese snipers infiltrating through the lines.

From the small galley they had set up on the beach, Seabee cooks served hot meals to men on the front lines a few hundred yards away.

If you are interested in reading more on the SeaBees, try their museumHERE!

Click on images to enlarge,

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Military Humor – 

by: Bill Mauldin

by: Bill Mauldin

Navy Humor - courtesy of Chris @ Muscleheaded.wordpress.com

Navy Humor – courtesy of Chris @ https:// muscleheaded.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Vincent Allen – Bridgeport, CT; US Air Force, Korea

Roderick Campbell – Ladysmith, CAN; RC Army, WWII/ RC Air Forcesalutetop

Santiago Erevia – San Antonio, TX; US Army, Vietnam, 101st Airborne, Medal of Honor

Brian Griffiths – W.AUS; RA Air Force, Korea & Vietnam

Theodore Hansen – Stuart, FL; US Navy (Ret.)

Gustave Karge – Cleveland, TN; US Navy, WWII, carrier pilot

James Maxson – Roseville, CA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne

Victor Ostini – brn: SWITZ; US Army, WWII

Keith Saull – Auckland, NZ; RNZ Navy, RAdmiral

Warren Warchus Sr. – Chicago, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, B-29 bombardier

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on April 7, 2016, in First-hand Accounts, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 73 Comments.

  1. July 20, 1943:

    MM3c Richard M. Maurer of Naval Construction Battalion 63 was cited for the Navy Silver Star following an attack near Bairoka Harbor, Munda by the 1st Marine Raider Regiment. A resident of Seattle, Wash. before becoming a member of the 63rd Battalion, Maurer had made many friendships among the Marine Raiders when they were encamped close to the Seabees on Guadalcanal. When the Raiders embarked for their historic attack, Maurer slipped aboard without the permission of his superior officers. The gravity of his offense, for which he was ultimately brought to trial, was extenuated, however, by his gallant actions during the attack. From Marine sources, it was learned that Maurer, after attaching himself to a machine gun crew, had serviced and manned the gun with devastating effect upon the enemy when all other members of the crew had been killed or disabled by mortar fire. He continued by his gun until reinforcements arrived. The Marine officer in charge was enthusiastic in his praise of Maurer’s performance and it was he who instituted citation proceedings.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 1968: Builder 2nd Class Gary Murphy of New Albany, Indiana was traveling as part of a 30-truck unit of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 121 Seabees in a U.S. Marine Corps convoy on National Highway One, south of Phu Loc, Republic of Vietnam (RVN), when the unit came under sudden and heavy enemy fire. Heavy mortar and automatic weapons fire were directed against the Seabee vehicles from concealed enemy positions. The truck upon which Murphy was riding was disabled in the initial onslaught. From an exposed position on the rear of the truck, he laid down a heavy covering fire allowing other Seabees to reach the safety of the ditch. After they had reached cover, he withdrew to a more secure position. From there he killed two enemy soldiers who were moving toward the disabled truck. As smoke from another burning vehicle partially obscured the enemy, Murphy, without regard for his personal safety, returned to the damaged truck, climbed onto an exposed position on top of it, and retrieved a machine gun and ammunition that had been jammed in place during the initial attack. Murphy passed the gun and ammunition down to other Seabees and returned to the ditch to man the gun. An enemy sapper exposed himself and threw a satchel charge but was promptly shot down by Murphy. He then continued to direct heavy fire against the enemy positions, holding them in place until armed helicopter gunships and a Marine Corps relief force arrived. For his actions during the attack, Petty Officer Murphy was awarded the Silver Star Medal on January 23, 1969 during a ceremony at Camp Wilkinson, Gia Le, RVN.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much.
      Do I have your permission to submit this to a SeaBee historian? I will be certain to give your name as the resource of this story.

      Like

    • GUNNERS, FIRST CLASS, TEMPORARY APPONTMENT…April 3, 45

      It’s a long cry from Broadway to Iwo Jima, but Jimmy Durante’s classic comment, “Ev’rybody wants ta get in ta da act !'” well describes the activities of Sea bees Frederick E .. Althaus, SF2c, of Lowell, Michigan, and Earl R. Elliott:, F l c, of Akron, Ohio, who were bored with what they considered a routine construction assignment.

      They had been working in front of a Marine battery which had been lobbing howitzer shells over the Seabee project into the Japanese positions. Every few minutes, they cast envious eyes over their shoulders as they watched the guns blast at the Nips. After all, the two reasoned, they’d learned how to use howitzers during their training period in the States, and now what the hell were they doing with a couple of shovels while there was action to be had for the asking!

      They found a break in their work, cornered Marine Corporal John Sidor, and poured out their troubles.
      “So you want a win the war said the Leatherneck. “Okay! gents, here’s your chance so saying, he put the men to work on the howitzer, checking them as they loaded and fired.

      Observation reports showed that Althaus, Elliott, and their Marine instructor received partial credit for destroying an enemy pillbox besides inflicting casualties on Japanese personnel.

      The two Seabees now claim honors as the first Naval Construction artillery team in World War II.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a good example why young marines today shouldn’t think of their Navy brothers as “so they’re our ride”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it’s more of a tradition and effort for competition than an actual snub. Those that do believe it, it probably stems from the fact that they rarely go to ground combat (of course, nowadays SEALs are an exception). There will always be a Army/Navy/Air Force rivalry with the Marines and each other…..

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I always thought the Seabees came in after beachheads had been secured. Learned something new here.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your Blog is unique and interesting. will catch up next week and will spend some good time on it. week starting tomorrow is hectic and full of meetings and travel. have spent entire sunday working.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Wow! I had no idea that the Seabees did so much!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Excellent background on the outstanding works by the SeaBees.
    Interesting to know what awards many SeaBees must have qualified for, in their achievements during the Bougainville landing, if any did qualify.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Ralph C Toothaker
    PO1 US NAVY WORLD WAR II
    From the State of Kansas
    Born and raised and died

    Thank you for offering to do this for him. I wish I had more information but this is all I know about his military career.

    Thank you – Diann Handy Brumley Branches

    Liked by 2 people

  9. CAN-DO!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Something I didn’t know about

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I visited the US Navy Seabee Museum site and did some googling… Now I know why they were called Seabees. It is actually “CB” or Construction Battalion.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Great post on the Sea Bees. They represent all that is good in America.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. A great story of these heroes.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Great to see that the men who fought in “the forgotten war” aren’t truly forgotten, especially the SeaBees. Those great engineers.

    One question though, when you mentioned the SeaBee “sharp-shooters,” did you mean snipers or anti-aircraft gunners? Because if a sniper can drive a Zero away, that man’s got good aim!

    Liked by 2 people

    • As the invasion forces on Bougainville approached the enemy beaches, the Seabees manned machine guns on Higgins boats, tank lighters and landing craft. The builders leaped ashore from the first boats and unloaded fuel, ammunition, rations and packs while heavy fighting broke out all about them on the beaches. Then, as the Japanese were driven back into the jungle, the Seabees manned beach defenses side-by-side with the Marines. Thanks for your interest.

      Like

  15. I had an uncle who was a Seabee during WWII his name was Ralph Toothaker and he lived in Manhattan, Riley, Kansas. He was married to my dad’s sister. Great post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You had an honorable and brave uncle. If he is still with us, please tell him Thank you for me, if he is not, would you care to have him listed in the Farewell Salutes?

      Like

  16. Great article and tribute to the Seabees. I too remember the movie. Also many moons ago had a boss that was a former Seabee. Very nice but tough as nails.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. A great story on the heroic efforts of the Seabees! After reading the many details of their work I wonder if there was anything worth mentioning that they did NOT do. Thanks GP!

    Liked by 2 people

  18. What incredibly brave men they were. To do all that whilst under fire and then taking the war to the enemy – incredible. One question GP, could you clarify what a ‘leatherneck’ is? I know John Wayne was in a film ‘the flying leathernecks’, and so I thought they were all pilots. Thanks for another great post, Andy

    Liked by 2 people

  19. A group of very brave men without whom there would have been no roads through difficult terrain or airstrips where none had existed before. Another vital cog in a very complex machine!

    Liked by 2 people

  20. OohRah! Thank you for this posting.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Krieg ist nicht gut war damals schlimm Lieber Gruß Gislinde

    Liked by 2 people

  22. It’s good to see these brave men get the credit they deserve. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Nothing but good about the SeaBees …

    Liked by 2 people

  24. I can’t help but think of the John Wayne film, ‘The Fighting Seabees’ as I read this. From your account, it would appear to confirm that the scenes in that film were all based on actual events. Brave soldiers indeed, GP.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Thank you for helping me to give these troops the recognition they deserve.

    Like

  26. Terrific story from John R. !

    Like

  1. Pingback: Intermission Story (1) – SeaBees on Bougainville | Practically Historical

  2. Pingback: Intermission Story (1) – SeaBees on Bougainville — Pacific Paratrooper – A Conservative Christian Man

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