Publish date:
Updated on
Year
1941

Request made for creation of construction battalions

On this day, Rear Admiral Ben Moreell requests authority from the Bureau of Navigation to create a contingent of construction units able to build everything from airfields to roads under battlefield conditions. These units would be known as the “Seabees”—for the first letters of Construction Battalion.

The men chosen for the battalions were not ordinary inductees or volunteers—they all had construction-work backgrounds. The first batch of recruits who made the cut had helped build the Boulder Dam, national highways, and urban skyscrapers; had dug subway tunnels; and had worked in mines and quarries. Some had experience building ocean liners and aircraft carriers. Approximately 325,000 men, from 60 different trades, ages 18 to 60, would go on to serve with the Seabees by the end of the war. The officers given the authority to command these men were also an elite crew, derived from the Civil Engineer Corps. Of the more than 11,000 officers in the Corps all together, almost 8,000 would serve with the construction units.

Although the Seabees were technically supposed to be support units, they were also trained as infantrymen, and they often found themselves in combat with the enemy in the course of their construction projects. They were sent to war theaters as far flung as the Azores, North Africa, the Mediterranean, the Pacific, and the beaches of Normandy.

Some of the Seabees’ feats became legendary. They constructed huge airfields and support facilities for the B29 Superfortress bombers on Guam, Saipan, and Tinian, as well as the ports needed to bring in the supplies for the bombing of Japan. The Seabees also suffered significant casualties in the process of providing innovative new pontoons to help the Allies land on the beaches of Sicily. During D-Day, the Seabees’ demolition unit was among the first ashore. Their mission: to destroy the steel and concrete barriers the Germans had constructed as obstacles to invasion.

The Seabees’ motto was “We Build, We Fight.”

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Dubcek returns to public office

Alexander Dubcek, former Czechoslovak leader and architect of the “Prague Spring,” is elected chairman of the new multiparty Czechoslovak parliament. It was the first time Dubcek held public office since being deprived of Communist Party membership in 1970. The trend toward ...read more

Calhoun resigns vice presidency

Citing political differences with President Andrew Jackson and a desire to fill a vacant Senate seat in South Carolina, John C. Calhoun becomes the first vice president in U.S. history to resign the office. Born near Abbeville, South Carolina, in 1782, Calhoun was an advocate of ...read more

America’s first Labor Day

The Knights of Labor, a labor union of tailors in Philadelphia, hold the first Labor Day ceremonies in American history. The Knights of Labor was established as a secret society of Pennsylvanian tailors earlier in the year and later grew into a national body that played an ...read more

Central Red Army defeats New York Rangers at MSG

On this day in 1975, a crowd of 17,500 ice hockey fans watch HC CSKA (also called the Central Red Army) from the Soviet Union defeat the New York Rangers 7-3 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The game marked the kick-off of the first so-called “Super Series”–a series of ...read more

An American hero is arrested in France

Thomas Paine is arrested in France for treason. Though the charges against him were never detailed, he had been tried in absentia on December 26 and convicted. Before moving to France, Paine was an instrumental figure in the American Revolution as the author of Common Sense, ...read more

William Booth Taliaferro born

On this day in 1822, Confederate General William Taliaferro is born in Gloucester County, Virginia. Taliaferro served under General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson for the first part of the war,and spent the second half preparing coastal defenses in the lower South. Taliaferro ...read more