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18TH N.C.B. SEABEES - PACIFIC

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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

night.

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 invasion.

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

facilities.

 

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.

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Once again, we'd like to thank you for your time and dedication to the Seabees of WWII. It's great to see every story that you print.

 

All the best,

M1

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The Odyssey: 18th U.S. Naval Construction Battalion

 

You can scroll through the entire book on Google.

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Received a letter from a woman looking for info on this unit, this week and listed her father's name as Cody O. Isbell. Believe it or not, I went through the entire book above and guess what, pages 88 and 89 are missing, and those are the pages her dad's name would have appeared. I am going to try and find another copy of a fully intact book. Dang!

 

Just found a copy of the book on CD on Ebay and sent her the link.

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Well, Karena received the CD from EBAY, but guess what, she reported to me today that CD version is also missing those two pages. So whoever took the time to create the CD, didn't do their homework and never took the time to confirm if the entire book was complete. Sad, sad, sad!

 

I told her to contact them and let them know about this.

 

:armata_PDT_23:

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Well I just contacted the http://seabeemuseumstore.org/ (Seabee Museum) and told them of our plight. Waiting to see if they have a complete version.

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