Seabees Authorized Wearing Of USMC Uniform WW II?

Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

July 17th, 2007, 12:59 pm #1


Gunny - Reports attached for the 19th Seabees AKA 3/17 1st Marine Division at Cape Gloucester & Pavuvu.



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Page 1
The 19
Battalion recalls that it has many "firsts" to its credit --- being the first C.B. group to
receive "boot" training at Camp Bradford, Virginia, and being officially ordered to the Fleet Marine
Service was the first outfit attached to the Marine Corps with sanctions to wear the Marine uniform.
NEW CALEDONIA: The battalion landed at Noumea, New Caledonia, November 11, 1942 -- 52 days
after embarkation on Naval Transport at Norfolk, Virginia – having passed through the Panama Canal
and having made Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Balboa, POZ ports of call.
During four months at Noumea, the Nineteenth constructed 144 warehouses, built docks and
roads, as well as refurbishing and redecorating Hotel Du Pacifique as an Officers' Mess and building
the largest bar in the South Pacific area – 90 feet in length. For this work the battalion was given a
"well done" and highly commended by General Vogel, Commanding General.
Preliminary to construction was a mammoth grade job to the total of more than 100,000 cubic
yards. Concrete and rod cutting were done by hand. Rock crushers were put into immediate action, and
coral pits were working twenty-four hours a day. Of the 144 warehouses, 75 were of the Ducose
Peninsula type, (all steel), constructed for the 1st Marine Air Corps. Additional warehouses were
constructed for the Naval Air Dept, Signal Corps, and PX supplies. PX warehouses were 40' by 98'
while the NAD warehouses were 40' by 120' and utilized metal siding and roofing.
Water was badly needed! Geologic experts from the 1st MAC reported the job "impossible"
– too much coral – strats too deep. 19th well drillers completed the job to the satisfaction of the MAC's
Commanding General almost before the "impossible" order traversed official channels to his desk. Six
barges were operated twenty-four hours a day, 3-100 tonners and 3 –50 tonners. A pontoon dock was
constructed for the 1st MAC in record time. A 3000 volt power line was run from the Noumea Power
Company to the 1st MAC, and a communication line of twenty-five miles connected Tantouta Airport
with the outstanding organizations within the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Yards and Docks.
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA: March 1943, construction completed, the battalion was ordered to
report to the Commanding General, First Marine Division, which was undergoing a training and
recuperative period at Melbourne, Australia after its bitter campaign at Guadalcanal. Men of the "Old
Nineteenth" fondly refer to this period as the Ninety Day Stand.
The outfit was designated as the THIRD BATTALION of the SEVENTEENTH MARINE
ENGINEERING REGIMENT and immediately went into a training period under the supervision of
Marine Corps instructors in preparation for combat engineering. In addition, the Seabees conducted
heavy equipment schools for the Marines and did construction in and around the Marine Camp. As a
final stand for the "Battle of Melbourne" the Marine Corps rifle instructor invited experts from the
Nineteenth to a match, primarily to demonstrate fire superiority of the marines. The battalion placed
first while the Marine instructor took a second and third.
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CAIRNS, QUEENSLAND: July 1943, the Battle of Melbourne over, the Nineteenth was ordered to
Mt. Martha, Queensland some 2200 miles to the north to work with the U.S. 6
Army Engineers. The
project was to build a power of Cairns for use as a large Army Operations Base. Work included a
power plant, railroad spur, roads, campsites, and a large drainage project aimed at reclaiming the
malarial swamp area adjacent to the city. Here the Nineteenth added another "first" by going on an
atabrine "diet".
The malarial control drainage, 30 feet wide and 3000 feet long was aided by use of a ¾ yard
dragline. Wharves were constructed with the aid of floating pile drivers, and a Rex Steam Powered
Paver, (wt.15 tons, bucket 1 yd.) hastened road construction. The Fort Director's area was established,
and igloo type warehouses were constructed. The engineering office building was 198' x 47'. Again
water-wells were drilled to the depth of 150 feet to supply 3000 gallons of water per hour, and an
electrical reticulation unit carried 6900 volts to the railroad right-of-way.
GOODENOUGH ISLND: Later in October 1945: H.M.A.S. Westralia carried the Nineteenth out
through the great barrier reef and up to Goodenough Island where it rejoined the First Marine Division.
During a short stay the Nineteenth built bridges, maintained roads, and constructed a major Army
Hospital for the area's first contingent of Army Nurses. Here air-raids were first experienced – later to
become an accustomed occurrence. Speculation was high that this was to the "jumping-off place" for
Bridges built were either 23' x 65' or 12' x 40'. The hospital was comprised of 32 wards 20'
x 100'; 16 utility huts 20' x 20'; and a surgical ward 20' x 72' – all concrete decks and corrugated
metal roofing. Novel to the Nineteenth was Amphibious Tractor salvage by special request of the
Commanding General. Tractors and other valuable utilities were raised from great depths.
ORO BAY and CAPE GLOUCESTER: By LST the battalion was moved to Oro Bay, New Guinea to
receive final instructions for the amphibious assault on New Britain. Christmas Morning – along with
two battalions of the Marine Engineers, the Nineteenth again boarded LST's and moved on to Cape
Gloucester to hit the beach at dusk on D-Day plus one. In record time the landing craft were unloaded
by dark and the next morning moved into the bivouac area. Work began immediately – roads, bridges,
and communications.
Cape Gloucester's prime task was to keep communication open to the front lines, and the
battalion was limited to the natural materials at hand, sea gravel, volcanic ash, teak and mahogany.
General Sherman tanks firing armor-piercing 75MM shells to a depth of ten feet superceded pneumatic
drilling and dynamite crews in the opening lava pits. Working twenty-four hours a day, a total of
75,000 cubic yards of lave were removed from these pits for road surfacing. This Sherman Method of
drilling increased production 350%. Piers were thrown out for LST and LCM landing and a sawmill
was erected to turn out finished lumber. Continual rain and spotty sniper fire were no aid to progress.
While on Cape Gloucester, the battalion experienced well over 125 red alerts and 95 actual
bombings. The Purple Heart was awarded to twenty-seven members of the battalion, five of them
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posthumously. Chester Perkins, MM1c, (CB) USNR, flew a Marine Corps Observation plane over
enemy territory dropping flares and directing artillery fire, as well as dropping supplies to the fighting
units. He also transported high ranking officers. Perkins, besides receiving meritorious promotion in
the field from Major General Ruperts, Commanding General of the First Marine Division, received the
Navy Air Medal and a citation from the Admiral of the First Fleet.
PAVUVU – NEW CALEDONIA - U.S.A.: Early May 1944 – Orders – "Leave Cape Gloucester and
return with the First Marine Division to Pavuvu in the Russell Islands". Until relieved by the 33
and sailing to New Caledonia for rest, the Nineteenth built installations and facilities for the Pavuvu
Marine Rest Camp, and though the New Caledonia stop was primarily recuperative in purpose,
beginnings were made on a Seabee staging area. Order to sail for the U.S.A. halted the project, and on
September 6
, 1944 the Swedish Liner Torrens carried the returning complement under the Golden
Gate -- ending a two year cruise about the South Pacific. Transportation had been under the flags of
four nations, on seven transports, and six LSTs. Returned, the Nineteenth voted a new name, the
GLOBETROTTERS, which was later to become the name of the battalion newspaper. Three men had
married Australian girls and another had become engaged to a French girl in Noumea.
STATESIDE – PARKS – HUENEME: It was at Camp Parks, California that the Globetrotters
underwent reorganization, training, and recuperation. Many men who had been the victims of malaria
were transferred to the Naval Hospital.
On February 21 the battalion transferred to Port Hueneme to pick up its final contingent
before embarking on a second tour of duty. Most new men were fresh from "boot" and an additional
training period was required while trained men were working as stevedores. Many men were able to
live with wives and families through facilities of the Navy Homoja Project, and it was not until the
12th of June that troops embarked on APA#6, the Haywood.
TENGEN, OKINAWA: A trip of 42 days gave the battalion stops at Pearl Harbor, Eniwetok in the
Marshall's, and Ulithi in the Carolines before going ashore on Okinawa Shima the evening of July 24
one month and two days after the island was finally secured.
The campsite, located on the south shore of Kimmu Bay on the Pacific side of the Island,
comprised some thirty acres, twelve of them being actively used for quarters and battalion activity. In
addition to quarters were seven quonsets, one Butler building used by Supply, and a composite of three
Butler buildings fabricated for a T shaped Mess Hall and Galley. "Post Typhoon" – a number of
wooden barracks were erected as well as corrugated steel heads and showers.
Prior to August 15th, the Tengan area was destined to be converted as a huge supply and
warehousing area. The Nineteenth was one of the battalions used for this task. In the SPDC area some
50,000 cubic yards of earth were moved preparatory to the construction of seventeen proposed
Multiple Arch Warehouses, 100' x 400', better known as Mae West warehouses. Only one of these
was erected with surrounding drainage and one modified quonset (SSAR).
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In the GSK area, earth moving, grading, and surfacing greatly outweighed the pending
building job. More than a half million cubic yards of earth were moved and an intricate drainage
system developed. Concrete pads were poured for five multiple arch warehouses 100' x 400'. Four
were erected. An area of 300' x 600' was graded and surfaced for an Ordnance Open Storage and
warehouse. The warehouse did not materialize.
In the NSD Camp Area approximately 25 quonsets, (SSAP's) were constructed with an
additional fifteen combination 120 man heads and shower. Electric, sewer, and water lines were
extended. An Officers' Mess of four buildings was also erected: one 40' x 100' Butler building and
three 20' x 48' quonsets.
The Tengan Fire Station was erected and area completed with three quonsets 20' x 56' and
one combination head and shower. At NSD Captain Quarters were built; two quonsets with adjoining
It is estimated that 75% od all standing structural work on Mae West warehouses was
destroyed in the great typhoon of October 9 and 10. Nearly all buildings were reconstructed on
repaired and in many cases previously installed foundations of timber, etc., were replaced by concrete.
All the buildings were reinforced and thoroughly storm-proofed, a gigantic job in itself.
The Nineteenth had a hand in many other projects: It provided an underground main for
electrical distribution in the Medical and Ordnance storage areas from the LOSCO generators;
maintained telephone lines to the 46
Regiment and the 11
Brigade with an average ten man crew
watching over these and on generator watch; operated Regimental garbage dump; completed a four
million gallon per day water pumping and purification unit started by the 68
Battalion; graded and
surfaced open storage area for Oxy-Acetylene plants 100' x 300'; and built a generator station for five
75 KW generators in the NSD Transportation area as well as transmission lines both underground and
overhead for warehouses #1 and #2 and NSD Administration and Dispensary Areas. Coral fill of an
inestimable amount was furnished for the NSD Docks. There was a continual call for smaller working
parties for other projects giving the 19
a hand in numerous other projects not mentioned herein.
Although the island had been secure more than a month on the date of our landing, we lost
one man by enemy action and experienced many air alerts and attendant anti-aircraft fire.
One of the most important functions performed by the battalion during its closing days was
that of receiving and transferring men for discharge and release to inactive duty. From 1 September to
10 December 1945, approximately 700 men were transferred to the United States for discharge. In the
vicinity of 1,000 men were transferred to other units.
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1952--(Plt #437, PISC)--'72
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Gunny G's GLOBE and ANCHOR
R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GnySgt USMC (Ret.)
1952--(Plt #437, PISC)--'72
"The Original Gunny G!"
Old Salt Marines Tavern Weblog...
The GyG GLOBE and ANCHOR Weblog...
The Gunny G Weblog
GyG's History/Traditions, etc.
The GyG Mailbag* Archive*Bookmarks @FURL

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Send/Reply: GunnyG*At*
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Latest Posts-/Archive GyG @ FURL...
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Semper Fidelis
Dick Gaines