Chapter 2  
 

United States Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Eleven (NMCB-11)
Cold War Deployments: 1953 - 1965

 

6 July 1953 By direction of the Chief of Naval Operations, on 6 July 1953, U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Eleven (NMCB-11) was established under a commanding officer effective 5 July 1953.  As previously noted, NMCB-11 is not directly related to the 11th NCB commissioned during World War II. It is included here as part of the family of battalions with the number “eleven.”
 
15 July 1953 LT Fritz H. Hediger, CEC, USNR, was acting commanding officer, NMCB-11.
 
August 1953 LCDR Allison D. Froman, CEC, USNR, relieved LT Hediger as acting commanding officer, NMCB-11.
 
1 September 1953 LCDR James C. Castanes, CEC, USN, relieved LCDR Froman as acting commanding officer, NMCB-11. LCDR Froman became executive officer.
 
14 September 1953 A formal commissioning ceremony took place on 14 September 1953 at the U.S. Naval Construction Battalion Center, Port Hueneme, California. LCDR James C. Castanes, CEC, USN, was first commanding officer of NMCB ELEVEN.

The battalion's first log book entry 14 September 1953 read: "In compliance with OPNAV Notice 5440 (Classified) and COMSERVPAC Message 130044Z, MCB ELEVEN is formally commissioned. LCDR James C. Castanes, CEC, USN, has assumed command . . .the Battalion passed in review."


It was known as “The Newest Battalion in Existence.”
Logo. It adopted a battalion logo (plaque) which again reflected a pair of dice thrown in an eleven pattern ("6" dice on the left, and "5" dice on the right" that was superimposed on an enlarged numerical "11". This is the only similarity between this battalion and the 11th NCB of World War II. A large Seabee facing left was drawn above the "11" figure. It sat on a blue background, and was surrounded by a wide, yellow hawser (rope).

 
14 October 1953 Battalion deployed to Cubi Point in the Philippines, as part of the 30th Naval Construction Regiment.  Sailed on board the USNS General C. D. Barrett, T-AP 196 (ex- SS President Jackson).  It is interesting to note that the 11th NCB was last deployed to Subic Bay/Cubi Point at the end of WW II before decommissioning and NMCB-11 was first deployed to Subic Bay/Cubi Point at the start of their deployments after commissioning. This is another coincidental similarity of the two Battalions.
 
31 October 1953 Arrived in Cubi Point, Luzon, Philippines.  Worked on enlisted men’s barracks, transportation facilities at Blue Dike, aircraft carrier pier (largest project at Cubi Point), barracks, Mancha Blanca Quarry, reefer building, steam plant, shops and warehouses, roads, and utility systems.  They contributed to the large and continuous earth moving that reduced a 1,200-foot mountain to fill dirt for the construction of Subic Bay Naval Station and Cubi Point Naval Air Station. It was a massive project reportedly larger than the building of the Panama Canal.
 
10 November 1954 Battalion boarded the troop ship USNS General C. G. Morton, T-AP 138, bound for their homeport in Port Hueneme, California.
 
30 November 1954 Arrived at homeport in Port Hueneme, California, for leave, reformation and training to make the next overseas deployment.
 
23 February 1955 Boarded the USNS Marine Phoenix, T-AP 195, in Port Hueneme bound for Kodiak, Alaska.
 
6 March 1955 Arrived in “Big Bear” Country, at the U.S. Naval Station (NAS), Kodiak, Alaska.  Worked on Seabee shop facilities, dental clinic improvements, civilian cafeteria, piers and docks, bridges and roads, pile driving and station utilities.
 
5 September 1955 Boarded the USNS Frederick Funston, T-AP 48, in Alaska bound for their homeport in Port Hueneme, California.
 
12 September 1955 Arrived at homeport in Port Hueneme, for leave period, reformation and training for the next overseas deployment.
 
27 September 1955 CDR John A. Dougherty, CEC, USN, relieved CDR Castanes as commanding officer, NMCB-11.
 
26 October 1955 After a very short homeport period, boarded an old U.S. Army Transport, later the USNS General Fred C. Ainsworth, T-AP 181 (originally the SS Pass Christian), bound to Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands.
 
8 November 1955 Arrived at U.S. Naval Station, Kwajalein, in the Marshall Islands. Site known as “The Rock.” Worked on construction of 78 buildings for the Department of Defense (DOD), comprising 175 one- and two-story military apartments (2 and 3 bedrooms), and miscellaneous utility upgrade projects.
 
6 October 1956 Boarded the USNS David C. Shanks, T-AP 180 bound for homeport in Port Hueneme.
 
16 October 1956 Arrived at homeport in Port Hueneme, for leave period, reconstitution and training for the next overseas deployment.
 
29 March 1957 Battalion boarded the USNS General C. D. Barrett, T-AP 196 (second voyage this ship) in Port Hueneme bound for Adak, Alaska.
 
6 April 1957 Arrived at the U.S. Naval Station, Adak, Alaska. In response to a major 9.1 magnitude earthquake and some 200-300 aftershocks, worked to repair damage to runways, office buildings, military and civilian housing, and roads. Other work was on dams, POL facilities, utilities, barracks, supply buildings, etc.
 
17 August 1957 LCDR William R. Reese, CEC, USN, relieved CDR Dougherty as commanding officer of NMCB-11.
 
17 October 1957 Boarded the USNS General Charles G. Morton, T-AP 138, bound for their homeport of Port Hueneme.
 
29 October 1957 Arrived at homeport in Port Hueneme, for leave period, reconstitution and training for the next overseas deployment.
 
November 1957 CDR Harold F. Liberty, CEC, USNR, relieved LCDR Reese as commanding officer, NMCB-11.
 
8 January 1958 Battalion departed Port Hueneme. Boarded the troop ship USNS Barrette bound for Subic Bay and Cubi Point, in the Philippine Islands.
 
4 February 1958 Arrived at Naval Station, Subic Bay, Philippines.  The Battalion had previously deployed there in 1954 for construction at the Cubi Point Naval Air Station and other base facilities.  They worked on construction, maintenance and repair projects in the Philippine Islands to attain and maintain unit proficiency. In March 1958 they celebrated the 16th birthday of the Seabees.
 
24 June 1958 Battalion boarded USNS David C. Shanks, T-AP 180, bound for their homeport in Port Hueneme.  They left a Detachment of 219 men in the Philippines to complete any remaining projects and maintain the housing area for future occupancy. The Detachment returned to Port Hueneme in the fall of 1958.
 
15 July 1958 Arrived at homeport in Port Hueneme, for leave period, reconstitution and training for the next overseas deployment.
 
13 September 1958 After a typically short two-month homeport and military training period, the battalion departed Port Hueneme aboard the USNS General Daniel L. Sultan, T-AP 120, bound for Guam, in the Marianas Island.  Guam was also known as “The Rock” and/or “Duva Duva” to the Seabees and sailors who served there.
 
28 September 1958 Arrived at Naval Station, Guam, in the Marianas Islands.  The Commanding Officer was CDR Harold F. Liberty, CEC, USN.  Battalion worked on Fadian Point quarry sites at the “A” and “B” Crushers—the backbone of Fadian’s operation.  Quarried over 65,000 tons of coral, produced over 63,600 tons of sand and coarse aggregate, batched over 21,800 cubic yards of concrete, and made over 1,104,500 masonry block units. Other projects were at the Naval Magazine, and B-52 facilities at Anderson AFB.  A Detachment was deployed by LST to Chi Chi Jima Island to work on a pier and seaplane ramp extension. Zorro Teams I and II deployed to Laos to perform work for OICC Thailand doing work in Laos.
 
10 June 1959 With their work completed, Battalion boarded the USNS David C. Shanks, T-AP 180, for their return voyage to their homeport in Port Hueneme.
 
24 June 1959 Arrived at homeport in Port Hueneme, for leave period, reconstitution and training for the next overseas deployment. Battalion won “Cock of the Walk” honors on three occasions signifying the best battalion in regimental pass-in-review competitions.
 
15 October 1959 Battalion departed the homeport onboard the USNS General James C. Breckenridge, T-AP 176, bound for Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands.
 
31 October 1959 Arrived on Okinawa after a two-week voyage across the Pacific and an over-night stop in Yokohama, Japan.  Relieved NMCB-9. Battalion worked on five large 100’ x 400’ warehouses, two engineer shop buildings, a Motor Transport shop, an ordnance shop, a supply and administration building central head, vehicle wash and grease rack, and electrical services.  Construction consisted primarily of pre-cast, heavily reinforced, concrete units, some weighing 20 tons. Infrastructure suffered some damage when hit by a typhoon with 90-110 mph winds. Detachment “B” deployed to Midway Island. Celebrated the Seabee’s 18th birthday in March 1960.
 
16 February 1960 CDR John P. Williams, CEC, USN, relieved CDR Liberty as commanding officer, NMCB-11.
 
20 July 1960 With their work completed, Battalion departed for homeport aboard the USNS General William A. Mann, T-AP 112.
 
3 August 1960 Arrived at homeport in Port Hueneme, for leave period, reconstitution and training for the next overseas deployment.  Held the annual Battalion homeport picnic aboard the Construction Battalion Center (CBC) with family and friends.
 
16 November 1960 After another short 3-month homeport period, Battalion departed aboard the USNS General James. C. Breckenridge, T-AP 186 bound for Guam, in the Marianas Islands.
 
30 November 1960 Arrived on Guam after a two-week voyage across the Pacific. The Commanding Officer was CDR John P. Williams, CEC, USN.  Battalion worked on multiple housing projects NAS Agana. In the eight months on Guam, NMCB-11 poured as many roofs, laid as many blocks and turned over as many houses as the previous three battalions.  Comments from one end of the island to the other were about NMCB-11 and their ability to do a job and do it well. Deployed a 37-man Detachment to Saipan to work on a 500,000-gallon concrete water tank and site preparation for a new hospital. The HAM-Radio station now resident at each battalion deployment site operated so all Seabees could make a periodic call home to family and friends.  Battalion softball team the “Vagabonds” won the Naval Station League Championship Trophy. Battalion awarded the first of four Navy “E” awards for efficiency for FY-61.
 
4 August 1961 With their work completed on Guam, Battalion boarded the USNS William L. Mitchell, T-AP 114, bound for their homeport in Port Hueneme.
 
18 August 1961 Arrived at homeport in Port Hueneme, for leave period, reconstitution and training for the next overseas deployment.
 
3 December 1961 After another short 3-month homeport, Battalion boarded the USNS General Hugh J. Gaffey, T-AP 121 (formerly Adm. W. L. Capps), bound for Midway Island.
 
18 December 1961 Battalion arrived on Midway Island.  They averaged between 12-17 officers and 484-500 enlisted men during the deployment. It was not at full strength. Six men left behind on rear echelon in homeport.  Battalion worked on major repairs including a seaplane ramp, station roads, civilian housing, military housing and messing, repair and rehabilitation of an elevated water tank, repair of the public works garage, and other base projects.  Approximately 7,935 man days of direct-labor work were performed on Midway. HAM-Radio Station, KG6AKS, was active and patched twice as many calls at Midway than during the previous longer deployment on Guam.  Deployed Detachments (Details) to Kwajalein, Eniwetok and Nevada for special projects for the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). Reserve Seabee Units from 11th, 12th, and 13th Naval Districts in CONUS performed active duty training with NMCB-11 on Midway. CDR John P. Williams, CEC, USN, was relieved by CDR Paul J. Doyle, CEC, USN, as commanding officer. Battalion awarded the second of four Navy “E” awards for efficiency for FY-62. Battalion awarded the BUDOCKS “Safety Achievement Award" the first of its kind to be presented to a Pacific Fleet Construction Battalion.
 
2 March 1962 CDR Paul J. Doyle, Jr., CEC, USN, relieved CDR Williams as commanding officer, NMCB-11.
 
20 July 1962 With their work complete on Guam, Battalion boarded the USNS General Daniel L. Sultan, T-AP 120, bound for their homeport in Port Hueneme.
 
3 August 1962 Battalion arrived at homeport in Port Hueneme, for leave period, reconstitution and training for the next overseas deployment. Two glorious weeks at sunny old Camp Pendleton USMC Base were on their agenda. “John Wayne-ing” in Devil’s Canyon was just part of the action.

This trip to Camp Pendleton would become part of the regular homeport military-training cycle until 1969. The Battalion was preparing to deploy to Sangley Point, in the Philippines. But, on November 11, 1962, Super Typhoon “Karen” hit Guam with winds in excess of 155-160 knots and gusts to 220 plus knots. Change One! The battalion was diverted to Guam at the last minute to work on restoration of typhoon-damaged military facilities, utilities and infrastructure.

 
15 November 1962 An advance party of 100 Seabees from NMCB-11 deployed from Port Hueneme to Guam to start the typhoon recovery.
 
18 November 1962 Battalion’s main body boarded the USNS General C. D. Barrett, T-AP 196, bound for Guam.
 
2 December 1962 Battalion arrived on Guam. Their job was described as being “awesome!” The island resembled a bombed out Guam during the Second World War. The Super Typhoon had devastated the island infrastructure.  In April 1963, Typhoon “Olive” brushed the Western Coast of Guam with winds of 125 MPH causing minor damage and power interruptions. Battalion, besides making typhoon repairs, worked on other base infrastructure projects.  Old WWII and Korean War vintage M-1 rifles were exchanged for the newer M-14 rifles. Battalion awarded the third of four Navy “E” awards for efficiency for FY-63.
 
4 June 1963 With their work complete on Guam, Battalion boarded the USNS General William A. Mann, T-AP 112, in Apra Harbor, bound for their homeport in Port Hueneme. On board with them were thousands of U.S. Army men who had completed a tour in Korea and were also headed home. The USNS Mann picked up these Soldiers in Korea before loading up the Battalion on Guam They had a short layover in Hawaii and were able to take some liberty in Honolulu.
 
18 June 1963 Arrived at homeport in Port Hueneme after a brief stopover in San Francisco to disembark the soldiers who were arriving home from Korea.  They took some well-earned leave and then settled down for a period of reconstitution and training for the next overseas deployment.
 
7 November 1963 Battalion boarded the USNS General William L. “Billy” Mitchell, T-AP 114, bound for Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands.
 
1 December 1963 Seabee Technical Assistance Teams (STAT) 1101 and 1102, the first Seabee Teams formed by NMCB-11, deployed to Thailand.  The STAT teams were later called Seabee Teams with the commissioning of Seabee Team 1105.
 
4 December 1963 Battalion arrived at Port Naha, Okinawa.  They deployed to Camp Kinser on Okinawa as the Pacific Fleet “Alert” Battalion. The advance party had already laid out a work schedule for them. They lived in Quonset huts in the Seabee camp. Deployed first Seabee teams STAT’s 1101 and 1102 to Thailand in December 1963. Worked on rehabilitation of BOQ and BEQ projects, a 21-mile water supply pipeline, a telephone exchange, new boiler in the Seabee camp, radio and telephone projects, and an LST Ramp at Camp Schwab.  Heavy rains threatened the Zukeyama Dam site and the Seabees had to abandon their Camp for a short period of time. Participated in Exercise “Backpack” as part of the Military Training Program.  Seabees boarded the LST 1161 Vernon County at Naha Port and in U.S. Seventh Fleet exercises in support of the Nationalist Chinese on Taiwan.
 
16 April 1964 CDR William W. Barron, CEC, USN, relieved CDR Doyle as commanding officer, NMCB-11.
 
1-4 August 1964

USS Turner Joy and USS Maddox attacked by North Vietnamese patrol boats in the Tonkin Gulf.
 

7 August 1964 Congress passed the “Tonkin Gulf Resolution” on 7 August. President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered retaliatory strikes against North Vietnamese targets.
 
13 August 1964 With their work complete on Okinawa, Battalion boarded the USNS General James C. Breckenridge, T-AP 176 in Naha Harbor, Okinawa, bound for their homeport in Port Hueneme.
 
1 September 1964 Battalion arrived at homeport in Port Hueneme, for leave period, reconstitution and training for the next overseas deployment.
 
November 1964 STAT 1103 deployed to Nam Pat, Thailand.
 
18-21 January 1965 With their training period over, the Battalion boarded aircraft for the long flight to Okinawa, their second consecutive deployment to that island.  They were the FIRST Seabee battalion to deploy completely using air resources.
 
20-23 January 1965 Battalion arrived on multiple flights from their homeport in Port Hueneme.  They would become the “Standby” battalion on Okinawa.  Battalion worked on permanent USMC camp facilities, but was interrupted thrice by typhoons during the deployment. Battalion worked six-day-a-week schedules to work around the typhoons and constant rainfall. Later, in June they switched to seven-day-a-week split-shift schedule.  Battalion was selected as “Contractor of the Month” by OICC Camp Butler for their work performance.  This was the FIRST time a Seabee battalion had received this honor.
 
February 1965 STAT 1104 deployed to Ben Soi, Vietnam and later in June 1965 redeployed to Dong Xoai, Vietnam.  STAT teams were called Seabee Teams after this team.
 
May 1965 As "Standby" Battalion, NMCB-11 helped NMCB-10, the Pacific "Alert" Battalion, mount-out for Vietnam the first week of May as part of the 3rd Marine Division who was quickly deployed to Vietnam as the war heated up there. NMCB-11 became the Pacific "Alert" Battalion at that time.
 
9-10 June 1965 A significant date in NMCB-11 History.  On June 9, 1965, STAT 1104 was involved in heavy fighting when overwhelming North Vietnam forces overran their camp in Dong Xoai (pronounced Dong “Sway”), a small village north of Saigon, Vietnam.  They suffered two men KIA and 7 men WIA. CM2 Marvin G. Shields, USN was KIA and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and Purple Heart for his heroism. Shields was the first and only Seabee, and the first Navy man in Vietnam, to receive the Medal of Honor.  A Seabee camp in Vietnam and one in Okinawa were named in his honor. A destroyer escort, USS Marvin G. Shields, DD- 1066, was also named in his honor. An Army Special Forces officer, 1st Lt. Charles Williams, also received the Medal of Honor and Purple Heart for his heroism in the same action.  SW2 William C. Hoover, USN was KIA and posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his heroism. A Seabee camp in Vietnam was named in his honor.  Two other team members, including the Team OIC, LTJG Frank Peterlin, CEC, USN, and Team AOIC, EOC Johnny McCully, USN were awarded Silver Star and Purple Heart medals. The remaining five team members on site received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals.  Members of Seabee Team 1104 at the site on 9-10 June 1965 were awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for their actions.

For its outstanding deployment to Okinawa, the Battalion won the fourth Pacific Seabees “Best of Type” award (the Battle Efficiency “E”) in five years. The award read in part: “MCB-11 excelled in management effectiveness, deployed mission accomplishment, military training and readiness and in responsiveness to the requirements and desires of higher authority.”   This would be the last deployment of NMCB-11 to the islands in the Pacific.  Hereafter, they would deploy to Vietnam for four consecutive deployments.
 
1 August 1965 Seabee Team 1105 deployed to Tan Son Nhut Airbase, near Saigon and later redeployed to Pleiku, Vietnam.
 
Chapter 3 Vietnam Deployments: 1965-1969