Sea Bees in Japan after the WWII

Signal Tower at Misarazu Air Station, built by the 136th NCB, 15 Oct. 1945

On V-J Day, thirteen Naval Construction Battalions (NCB), three Special Naval Construction Battalions (stevedores), and one Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) awaited assignment to Japan, where they were to aid naval forces at Hiroshima, Kabayana, Yokosuka, Omura, Nagasaki, Sasebo, and Kure. Their tasks included constructing, repairing, and maintaining Naval and Marine Corps bases throughout Japan to support US armed forces in occupying the country.

On 15 August 1945, Seabees with the 136th NCB embarked in 12 LSM’s at Guam headed for Iwo Jima and onto Yokosuka, Japan. They arrived at the badly damaged Yokosuka navy yard on 30 August 1945, where they established their camp at the Japanese navigation school. In preparation for the arrival of additional forces, the Seabees repaired housing, electric and telephone systems, and roads at the naval base; graded fields and remodeled buildings for the fleet recreation area; repaired housing and surfaced an airstrip at Kisarazu airfield.

Meanwhile, the 602nd CBMU arrived at Yokosuka to maintain runways and roads at the Marine Corps air base. They constructed a 2000-man galley, restored barracks and facilities for personnel, constructed a chapel and recreation facilities, completed a sawmill, public works shops, a cold-storage plant, and a chlorination plant for water treatment, and installed hot water showers in all barracks.

Galleys & mess hall built by 136th NCB for the Naval HQ, 14 Nov. 1945

During the month of September, the 41st Regiment, consisting of the 9th, 28th, 62nd, and 90th NCB, and the 28th Special Battalion, joined the 136th NCB at Yokosuka. Among the major projects included repairing and maintaining the naval base at Kisarazu naval air station, which included overhauling the gasoline system and providing housing facilities for air station personnel and repairing and maintaining the airstrip. They also repaired buildings and erected Quonset huts for housing and messing facilities for port director activities at both Yokosuka and Tokyo, and loaded gravel from the Atsugi River for use in repairing roads and runways.

Sasebo on the island of Kyushu, not far from Nagasaki, was the other big center of Seabees activity in Japan. For some time, the 7th Naval Construction Regiment, consisting of 4 NCBs and the 31st   Special, were working simultaneously at Sasebo to construct the naval base, clear the dock area in the navy yard and provide space for roadways and facilitating the unloading of ships. This required removal of large quantities of scrap metal, heavy marine equipment, and other debris. The Seabees used a Japanese floating crane and Japanese barges, together with some Japanese laborers, were used on the task.

Port camp for 31st NCB at Sasebo, Japan, Jan. 1946

In addition to repairing and maintaining the Marine Corps camp at Ainoura, the 116th NCB rehabilitated and constructed 5 miles of road from Ainoura to Sasebo, together with an alternate 5-mile stretch and operated two quarries to support road work construction. The Seabees also constructed a Quonset hut camp to house 400 men at the former aircraft factory at Sasebo. Seabees with the 72nd NCB constructed a 2000-man camp, two 200-bed hospitals, and recreational facilities in Sasebo to support naval forces.

Naval forces camp at Omora, Japan, built by 31st NCB, Jan. 1946

Upon its arrival in Japan, the 31st NCB had been sent to Omura, about 28 miles from Sasebo. At Omura, the battalion was given a former Japanese hangar for temporary barracks, messing, and work space, and assigned a former Japanese garrison force compound for permanent barracks and work space. The area was deliberately destroyed in an attempt to inconvenience occupation troops; all the latrines were in disreputable condition, lighting fixtures had been torn out, and the general litter and debris throughout the area was so extensive that a 40-man cleaning crew worked for more than a fortnight removing debris and trash.

One of the most unique duties the Seabees undertook in Japan after the war ended was working on the Bureau of Yards and Docks Technical Mission to Japan to survey damage wrought by the atomic bombs and other aerial bombing attacks. This group consisted of structural engineers and Seabees sent to Japan to survey the damage inflicted by atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as damage caused by high explosive and incendiary bombs.

31st NCB with Japanese aircraft set for destruction.

Unknowingly, these men exposed themselves to radiation and many died young of cancer, leukemia, and unknown illnesses all in an effort to assist the US in understanding the devastation atomic bombs leveled on a major city and industrial areas, and how to build facilities in the future to withstand atomic warfare.

By mid-1946, all Seabee units stationed in Japan were disestablished and the men were discharged from active duty. The Seabees were part of the demobilization plan, and by June 1946 their number had fallen from a peak strength of more than 250,000 men to approximately 20,000. The Seabees that served in Japan, during this time, played a key role in the construction of bases, roads, facilities, and infrastructure necessary to assist Japan in rebuilding their economy and country in the post-war years.

From the SeaBee Museum.

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Scott Bumpers – TN; Tennessee National Guard, MSgt., 118th Wing/118th Intel Surveillance & Recon Group

Clayton Eldridge – Williamsville, NY; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Dayton

11th Airborne Memorial

Betty Gill – Madison, WI; US Woman’s Marine Corps, WWII

Shelli Huether – TN; Tennessee National Guard, Lt. Colonel, 118/118th Intel Surveillance & Recon Group

Russell McCauley (101) – Altoona, PA; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Casey A. Popenoe – USA; US Army, Iraq, Chief Warrant Officer 3, 2/8/1/25th Infantry Division

William Rouch – Bangor, PA; US Army  / WWII historian

Robert Salgado – Palm Springs, CA; US Army, WWII, 82nd Airborne Division

David Smith Jr. – East Walpole, MA; US Navy, WWII

Jessica Wright – TN; Tennessee National Guard, Captain, 118/118th Intel Surveillance & Recon Group

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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 September 14, 2020, in Post WWII, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 80 Comments.

  1. Rarely do people know about the effects and efforts not connected with the front. This post is absolutely thought-provoking.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent reflection on the role of the Seabees, the amount of reconstruction they faced was phenomenal. Thanks for sharing mate, one of your cartoons sums up The Seabees perfectly I think, cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Will have to share this w/ a young man in our family who hopes to become an engineer. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I never quite understood who the Sea Bees were or what they did. It is sad so many of them died from radiation exposure and other illnesses. Thanks for the post, GP!

    Our evacuation Level 1 was lifted on Tuesday night. We were lucky. There has been progress on containing the fires, the percent containment varies from fire zone to fire zone. Rain (and thunder) started at 3:00 AM. Rain is a beautiful thing! We are still leaving things packed and ready, for now, as our status could change again. The air quality is still bad, but improving.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. GP, those guys really had their work cut out for them. That last photo really brings it out vividly. Unsung heroes. Hugs on the wing!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Forwarded the link to Gina Elise. There’s a Seabee or two among the pin ups.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. So sad about the Seabees and the radiation poisoning, a fate so many Japanese suffered from. But I am always amazed at how quickly the Seabees could build things! –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    • They were in such a rush to build a bomb that not very much was studied and known about radiation poisoning.
      I agree, when things needed to get built, the SeaBees or Engineers did it well!

      Like

  8. It is amazing what the Sea Bees did in Japan after the war.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Deze seabees deden veel en gevaarlijk werk, wel spijtig dat men hen zolang aan kwalijke stoffen blootstelden zodat velen nadien stierven aan allerlei soorten kankers

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Unbelievable how much manpower they had used. Thinking on all the things could be built far away from war, its horrible. Thank you for sharing, GP! Enjoy your week! Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  11. God bless the Seabees

    Liked by 1 person

  12. What an amazing amount of work they did, and in difficult circumstances, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. What a busy group of young men the Sea Bees were!! The Japanese must surely have recognised that they had lost the war without the slightest possible doubt when the Americans set up hot showers won the sacred soil of Japan.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Great work by the Seabees. Do hope their efforts were appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you for another informative post! I didn’t know that the Sea Bees were involved in surveying the damage to Japan by the atomic bombs.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Amazing work done by these SeeBees. Thanks for the story, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Always seemed strange to me that they’d spent a shed load of money bombing the s**t out of a place, and then spent shed loads more fixing it up! Love the toons!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. It’s amazing how generous we in the USA really are. Re-building their country is pretty big, I’d say. I am curious, have you ever considered turning your blog into a book?

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Early during my combat tour in Vietnam, our company moved south (“south” for us, that is!) from the Con Thien AO on the DMZ area to provide security for a Seabees unit constructing a Marine Corps base at Ai Tu (sp?), a small village near Quang Tri City in northern I CORP. We Marines loved those guys, and didn’t consider them regular “squids” (a good-natured ribbing) like all other Navy personnel, except our own beloved CORPSMEN. Of course, them allowing us to eat REAL chow in their mess hall whenever we had the chance didn’t hurt matters either. 🙂
    Several months later (after TET ’68) I was wounded three times in one day and spent the better part of 3-months in the Naval Hospital at Yokosuka, Japan, then on to Pensacola Naval Hospital back in the “World” for another six months. I’ve always wondered if the Seabees built that hospital. Still don’t know for sure, but those guys were top-knotch squids–er–sailors! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • It appears from their history, the Yokosuka Hospital’s core was originally built by the Japanese Navy. Thank you for giving us your story, EM. I’m always eager to have eye witness info like this.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. It gobsmacks me what we can build and repair during wartime.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I love you Seabee story. Many Americans probably do not know that the Navy still has Seabee units (which is outside the scope of your blog.) They are probably the Navy’s cumshaw kings (what the Army refers to as scrounging.)

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Now I know what Seabees are, GP. Thanks very much

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Something’s wrong with my sign in…?

    Like

    • NO, I think wp hides the questions and comments these days until I approve them and it takes people off-guard. I just left a comment on your site. Let me know what’s going on.

      Like

  24. WOW! It’s hard to imagin the tasks at hand during the post surrender occupation! Casually, we think “Win the war, head home!” Clearly there was a monumental task at hand, and done in a remarkably short period of time. The Japanese couldn’t have ever imagined the positive aftermath of losing the terrible war. Thanks for this enlightening viewpoint. M:-)

    Liked by 1 person

  25. It’s nice to read about a wartime effort in a time of peace. We were determined not to make the mistakes made after WWI.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. I still remember learning that Seabees weren’t really bees. I was pretty young — young enough to be disappointed. Today, I have nothing but admiration for those Construction Battalions. So many of their tasks were critical, and their dedication’s obvious. That’s one reason the CB cartoon you added is so humorous. They no doubt helped a good bit with troop morale. I smiled when I came across hot showers in their list of accomplishments.

    Liked by 3 people

  27. On a different topic altogether, we are escaping from The Peoples Republic of Calizuela.
    We head to Oklahoma on Thursday. Grapes of Wrath in reverse …

    Liked by 4 people

  28. It’s easy to forget how much work was needed after the war had ended. So sad about the young men contracting illnesses caused by radiation. They survived the war only to die young because of the after-affects.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 3 people

  1. Pingback: Sea Bees in Japan after the WWII | The Inglorius Padre Steve's World

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