The 18th battalion was commissioned at Camp Allen, Norfolk, Va., Aug. 11, 1942, and
transferred that day to Davisville R. 1. On Sept. 6, C Company was transferred to C.B.
Replacement Group, Fleet Marine Force, San Diego, Calif. The remainder of the Battalion
was transferred to the FMF Base Depot, Norfolk. Embarking on Sept. 11, 1942, the unit
arrived at Noumea, New Caledonia, Nov. 11.
At Noumea, the battalion was engaged in miscellaneous construction
projects such as camp improvement, fighter strip maintenance and general
construction. The battalion didn't languish in New Caledonia too long
for on Christmas day 1942 it arrived on Guadalcanal with orders to conrl
struct fighter strip number 1. The battalion tackled the job with alacrity
and finished the project in 44 days, though the men were subjected to
bombings by Japanese aircraft during the day and naval bombardment at
On Guadalcanal the battalion also built new roads and maintained
the airfields. For their leadership and hard work Officer in Charge
Lieutenant Commander L. E. Tull and Executive Officer, Lieutenant R. E.
Clausen, CEC, USNR, received the Legion of Merit.
The battalion finished the chores on Guadalcanal and on 11 April 1943,
embarked for New Zealand to join the Second Marine Division. On April
26 the battalion was designated as the Third Battalion, 18th Marine Regiment,
Second Marine Division. The battalion began intensive amphibious
training and combat exercise in preparation for a combat assault on an
enemy beach. The battalion trained for six sweaty months until it was
deemed ready to join the Marines in the proposed assault.
Two thirds of the battalion loaded aboard ship and accompanied the
Second Marines across the long reach of the Pacific Ocean for the invasion.
The remainder of the battalion stayed on Guadalcanal as the rear echelon.
After a month at sea the battalion looked out across the blue water
on November 20 and watched the Navy bombard the little atoll of Tarawa.
In the ensuing five days following their arrival, the men of the battalion
went ashore with the Marines-almost a third of the battalion participated
in the savage fighting. Many of the men were wounded as the battalion
repaired the Japanese Airfield under enemy fire in the first 30 hours of
The battalion made other repairs to bombarded facilities, built camps
and aid stations and had the grisly chore of cleaning out dead Japanese
from the wrecked blockhouses and trenches. The men of the battalion
bulldozed long trenches in the coral sands of the atoll and dumped the
hundreds of Japanese corpses in them. The battalion reworked the airfield,
NL laying down Marston matting, and parking facilities for aircraft.
The men of the battalion who actually participated in the invasion
and the fighting on Tarawa were allowed to wear the Presidential Unit
Citation awarded the 18th Marines by President Franklin Roosevelt. More
than a dozen of the men were wounded and awarded the Purple Heart decoration.
A portion of the battalion was sent to Hilo, Hawaii from the Gilbert
Islands and Guadalcanal while a third of the battalion stayed at Tarawa
to finish construction projects there. The Tarawa detachment left the
Gilberts on 8 January 1944 and rejoined the battalion at Hilo to bring
the battalion up to strength.
In Hawaii the battalion helped construct the Second Marine Division
camp, built a small service airstrip and engaged in a new training
program. The battalion also main~d the new camp and airstrip and improved
The battalion waS redesignated the 18th Construction Battalion and
assigned to the Fifth Amphibious Corps for further assignment with the
Second Marine Division on 1 April 1944.
Between 5 May 1944 and 11 May the battalion embarked for the Mariana~ •
Islands with the Marines with the assignment to act as shore party for the
invasion of Saipan. On 15 June the battalion went ashore with the Marines
on Saipan's beaches. The battalion carried out its
major assignment as the invasion shore party, unloading supplies, constructing
pontoon piers and effecting salvage of wrecked equipment. While
engaged in these duties the battalion was under constant mortar and small
arms fire and sustained numerous casualties. In addition to the main duty
of beach support, the battalion also built several roads and a hospital.
Six enlisted men and two officers of the battalion volunteered to
assist the amphibious landing on Tinian Island on "J" day. The Seabees
were presented with a unique problem of landing men and supplies because
of the peculiar configuration of the Tinian invasion beach. Commander
P. J. Halloran designed a wooden ramp which folded back over the top of
the LST and would drop forward over the bow when the craft grounded on the
beach. The high ramp would then allow the combat personnel and supplies
to be landed across the ramp over the cliff~ike Tinian shoreline.
The remainder of the battalion arrived on Tinian two days after the
invasion and set up a permanent camp. -The Seabees also, in part, helped
to establish Camp Churo. The camp was erected for the Civil Affairs
people of the Second Marine Division who were charged with the care of
the 11,000 civilian Japanese and Koreans on Tinian. The building of the
camp was a monumental task and included all housing, sanitation facilities,
food and water supply and securi perimeter. Also, the Seabees had to
build a camp for the garrison force guarding the civilians and a G-5
Hospital Unit for the Japanese and Koreans.
For more than six months following the invasion, the battalion ,
endured constant sniper fire and several banzai attacks by the remaining
die-hard Japanese who refused to surrender. Five men of the battalion
were killed in action and thirty seven enlisted men and one officer were
awarded the Purple Heart decoration for wounds from enemy attacks. Also,
five men of the 18th Construction Battalion were awarded the Navy and
Marine Corps Medal for heroism.
It was common for the Seabees, individually or in small groups, to
go "Jap hunting" when their construction chores were done for the day.
On numerous occasions small parties of Seabees and a few rugged individuals
would arm themselves with grenades and a rifle or submachinegun,
and clean out Japanese soldier~skulking in the innumerable caves on the
island. On one occasion an enlisted man killed five Japanese hiding in
a cave by throwing in a grenade. In one instance a Seabee of the 18th
charged into a cave and grabbed a live grenade from the Japanese defender,
throwing the bomb further into the cave to avoid getting hit. One time,
two enlisted men working on a road were fired upon by a group of Japanese
hidden in a dugout nearby. The Seabees grabbed their weapons and attacked
the dugout and killed nine enemy soldiers.
Combat activity, though dramatic, was sporadic for the Seabees made
their greatest contribution to the war effort in building tank farms for
lube oil and aviation gasoline storage. The big projects were servicing
facilities for the B-29s operating from North Field and West Field on
Tinian. The huge Army Air Corps bombers were raiding Japan daily and
the Seabees were the men who built and maintained the airstrips, tank
farms, bomb dumps and other support facilities for the airmen. Included
in the construction were the aircraft revetments and the fuel lines
from the tank farms to the airstrips.
The 18th Construction Battalion also built roads and streets, maintained
and enlarged Camp Churo for the military government and drilled
wells to obtain fresh water for various camps. The 18th also built a
large camp for the Quartermaster Corps and a depot. The project entailed
the construction of over 100 buildings, warehouses and barracks, a mess
hall, heads and bakery.
With all the construction and combat activity, the men of the 18th
found time to rig an ingenious cobbler's shop and a ;1e press resembling
a cookie cutter to make rubber heels for boots out of discarded tires.
USing the die and automobile jack and a block of wood, the men made heels
and soles for Seabee and Marine boots which were wearing out very quickly
on the coral studded island.
The battalion continued building and maintaining tank farms and roads
right up to the day it was in-Jactivated, June 15, 1945.