History Highlights

Family of 11th Seabee Battalions

11th NCB – 1942 – 1945

NMCB-11 – 1953 – 1969

Updated: April 12, 2005


Bruce B. Geibel

Captain, CEC, USN, Retired

MCB-11 Historian

Deployment Years 

 Highlights, Deployment Sites and/or Ship Voyages

    Chapter 1  
  World War II
  Background History of Seabees
7 December 1941 Pearl Harbor attacked by the Japanese Fleet. War declared on Japan & Germany.
28 December 1941 Rear Admiral Ben Moreell, Chief of the Navy’s Bureau of Yards and Docks (BUDOCKS), sent a written request up the line to establish Seabee Battalions.
5 January 1942 Bureau of Navigation (BUNAV) Circular Letter No. 1-42 approved the request to establish the Seabees. RADM Ben Moreell began establishing the organization known as the Seabees. He is known as the “Father of the Seabees.” He later became the first and only 4-star CEC admiral in the Navy.
21 January 1942  Authorization for enlistment and organization of the Seabees was requested.
27 January 1942 First Seabee “Bobcat” construction detachment deployed to Bora Bora, a small island in the South Pacific, located 140 miles from fabled Tahiti. They landed on Bora Bora on 17 February 1942.
3 February 1942  BUNAV authorized the enlistment and organization of the Seabees.
1 March 1942 Chief of BUDOCKS recommended to Chief of BUNAV that the Construction Battalion units be allowed to have a distinctive designation and insignia. It was subsequently approved.
5 March 1942 The date recognized as the official birthday of the Seabees. After this date 150 Seabee battalions and nearly 300 other Seabee units were formed to meet the growing military needs of World War II.
21 March 1942 Camp Allen, named in memory of CAPT Walter H. Allen, CEC, USN, was commissioned as the U. S. Naval Training Center (NTC), Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, Virginia.  Most Seabee Battalions commissioned during WW II would flow through this training center.
4 May 1942 LT Harry N. Wallin, CEC, USNR, (later a Rear Admiral) led his men from the 1st NCB ashore on Efrate and began construction of a Marine Airbase.
  11th United States Naval Construction Battalion (11th NCB)
1942 – 1945 11th United States Naval Construction Battalion. Participated in World War II.

Note: Although it has the same numerical number "Eleven" as a second battalion, Naval Mobile Construction Eleven (NMCB-11), commissioned in 1953, it is technically not related to that battalion. Informally, the Seabees of these two Battalions consider themselves "Cousins." Therefore, we will call them a "Family of Seabee Battalions Numbered Eleven."
7 June 1942 Organized initially as Unit “A” in Camp Allen, Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, Virginia, the first recruits of the 11th NCB commenced “Boot Training” in June 1942 along with similar units from other battalions.
28 June 1942 11th NCB was commissioned at Camp Allen, Virginia on Friday, 28 June 1942. A dress-parade commissioning ceremony held at Camp Allen, Virginia. CAPT John G. Ware, USN (Retired), Commanding Officer of the Naval Training Center, presented the colors and battalion flag to LCDR Ernest A. Heckler, CEC, USNR, who was assigned as the first Officer in Charge of the Eleventh Naval Construction Battalion.

They were the eleventh Seabee battalion in numerical order to be organized and commissioned.  Thus the Eleventh Naval Construction Battalion (11th NCB) was born.

The “Lucky Eleventh” the painters tagged the battalion, with a pair of dice showing an “11” throw (pair of dice, with “6” to the left and “5” to the right), became the battalion’s insignia.  The insignia was the creation of Howard “H” Briggs, Painter first class, assigned to “A” Company.
1 July 1942 Unit “A” – here after known as the 11th Naval Construction Battalion – packed up their gear on Monday, 1 July 1942 and busloads of men headed to their new training grounds at Camp Bradford, at Little Creek, Virginia, located approximately six miles from Camp Allen. They moved into a new type of living quarters—Quonset huts—housing 12 occupants each and shaded by stately yellow-pine trees. Half a mile from the camp was the Atlantic Ocean.

The OIC was LCDR (later promoted to CDR) Ernest A. Heckler, CEC, USNR, and the executive officer was LT Herbert J. Hartman, CEC, USNR.  At this time the battalion consisted of 21 officers, 90 chief petty officers and 857 enlisted men. The full complement of a standard battalion originally was set at 32 officers and 1,073 enlisted men, but from time to time the complement varied in number. It was not until well into the Battalion’s deployment in the South Pacific that they would achieve their full complement if for only a brief time.

Battalion was organized into five companies: “A” Company, construction equipment and mechanic specialists; “B” Company, utilities specialists; “C” Company and “D” Company, construction specialists; and “H” Company, the latter company a combination of cooks, bakers, yeomen and other specialists.
12-22 July 1942 Battalion’s first five-day leave periods were authorized.
26 July 1942 Seabags were packed and lashed to hammocks and piled in monstrous heaps awaiting transport to the Diamond Springs train station in Norfolk, Virginia.  Battalion had a noon meal and headed to the train station. Received blessings from the base chaplain and boarded trains headed to Camp Hueneme, California.
31 July 1942 Battalion arrived in Camp Hueneme, California. Camp Hueneme (later called Port Hueneme) was gradually being made into one of the largest embarkation points for Seabees headed to the South Pacific.  The 11th Battalion occupied this base with another battalion.  Commenced final military training but had some liberty time as well to visit nearby places such as Oxnard, Ventura and Hollywood.
11 August 1942 Battalion packed their seabags and headed to the port to board a ship bound for their overseas journey to Island “X”.  They were all aboard by midnight. At this time, the Battalion consisted of 24 officers, 77 chief petty officers and 905 men. They were not yet at full complement strength, and would not reach full strength until they were well into their wartime deployment.
12 August 1942 The anchor was raised at six o’clock on the morning of 12 August 1942 and the troop transport ship with the 11th Battalion on board made its way out of the harbor in Port Hueneme.  Sailing down the coast of California, a convoy of ships and escorts was met and they sailed into the Pacific on their way to Island “X.”
19 August 1942 King Neptune and his cabinet presided onboard their ship to indoctrinate Seabees as they sailed south across the Equator.  About ninety-nine percent of those aboard were inexperienced “Pollywogs” much to the pleasure of the experienced “Shellbacks” who had previously crossed the Equator.

Battalion’s First Wartime Deployment: 1942-1944
Southern Cross Duty


26 August 1942 After a “rock-and-roll” two-week voyage, the men of the 11th Battalion disembarked at Pago Pago (somehow pronounced Pang-o Pang-o) Harbor, Tutuila Island, in the Samoa Island Chain.  Battalion worked on Poyer School, Marine Airfield at Tafuna, Fleet Marine Force Headquarters, and MOB Hospital 3 and facilities at Pago Pago, Utalei, Faagalu, Fatamafuti, Illilli, and Fatiga.

Note:  It was during this overseas deployment that the Battalion took on a name for their first duty in the South Pacific: “Southern Cross Duty 1942-1944.”  The Southern Cross was a passenger-cargo liner that in peacetime had accompanied Admiral Richard E. Byrd on his journeys to the South Pole. She was converted to a troop transport, renamed NSTS Wharton, and designated AP-7 for service during WW II. It was on this ship that the men of the 11th and 58th NCB’s sailed in mid-April 1944 from Banika (Russell Island) in the British Solomon Island Group to Milne Bay (Manus Island) in the Admiralty Island chain, at southern tip of New Guinea.

Battalion Plaque.  The 11th Battalion created a wooden plaque featured on their Cruise Book (1942-1944). The “11th U.S. Naval Construction Battalion” was featured in the center. The names of deployment sites: Tutuila, Samoa; Noumea, New Caledonia; Auckland, New Zealand; Russell Island, British Solomons; and Los Negros, Admiralty Islands, were featured below the 11th designation.  Around the edges of the plaque were arranged numerous symbols of the ratings assigned to the battalion.  Crossed anchors were featured in the center top, flanked by a world globe on the left and ships wheel on the right.  “CEC” was featured at the bottom center of the plaque.  This became their plaque and symbol during their first duty in the South Pacific in World War II (1942-1944).
September 1942 Permanent detachment of 75 Seabees from the 11th Battalion was detached to work with another battalion on a nearby island. This transfer happened frequently between the various battalions deployed to the South Pacific.
25 December 1942 Battalion spends first Christmas on Samoa in the South Pacific.
January 1943 Another 154 men joined the Battalion and brought it to full complement for the first time since organization in June 1942.
18 June 1943

Battalion departs Samoa sailing to the next Island “X” (New Caledonia).

26 June 1943 Battalion arrived at Noumea Harbor, New Caledonia. Seabees disembarked at Nickel Dock on 27 June and moved to their primitive campsite at Conception. Battalion worked on MOB Hospital 5, Magenta Airfield and Transmitter Site, and other projects at Magenta, Ducos, Ile Nou, and in the Seabee camp.
1 November 1943 A huge ammunition explosion at Nickel Dock caused considerable property damage and loss of life.  Men of the 11th Construction Battalion helped man the base fire department.  MM1 Alex P. Rempelakis, of the 11th Battalion died of injuries sustained while fighting the fire. He was the only reported Seabee from the 11th Battalion to lose his life during World War II. ADM W. F. “Bull” Halsey, USN, Commander Southern Pacific Forces, commended the men of the 11th Battalion for services rendered during the Nickel Dock ammunition explosion and resulting fire.
26 November 1943 Battalion departs American Samoa sailing to New Zealand for R&R (Rest and Rehabilitation).
30 November 1943 Battalion arrives at Auckland, New Zealand, for 30-days R&R.
25 December 1943 Battalion spends second Christmas in the South Pacific, in New Zealand.
1 January 1944 LCDR Benjamin Evans, CEC, USNR, relieved CDR Heckler as OIC of the 11th Construction Battalion.
2 January 1944 Battalion departs New Zealand and sails to the British Solomon Island Group.
8 January 1944 Battalion arrives at Banika, Russell Island, in the British Solomon Island Group. Here they worked on a six and one-half day schedule with Sunday afternoon devoted to military instruction and practice. Eventually they got a half-day off.
January 1944 Group of fresh replacements joined the Battalion, but within one month they were reassigned to another battalion making an early forward movement.
16 February 1944 LCDR Lionel C. Tschudy, CEC, USN, reported aboard as the new Officer in Charge. He had previously been the OIC of the 141st NCB and took BUPERS orders to the 11th to relieve LCDR Evans.
27 February 1944 Additional 293 replacements joined the Battalion for the trek northward.
3 April 1944 Battalion boarded a troop transport, the USS Wharton (AP-7), a ship that in peacetime had been known as the “Southern Cross” and had accompanied Admiral Richard E. Byrd on his journeys to the South Pole. Battalion took their deployment name—Southern Cross Duty—from the earlier name of this ship. Aboard the ship with the 11th NCB was the 58th Battalion. They sailed for Island “X” in the Admiralty Islands. Reaching New Guinea, they waited a week at Milne Bay for a convoy and then sailed through the treacherous and narrow straits on a starless night they sailed for on for the Admiralty Islands.
17 April 1944 As the Battalion arrived in Seeadler Harbor at Manus, in the recently won Admiralty Islands, their ship—USS Wharton—ran aground due to an inaccurate chart and poor placement of buoys marking the channel. The Seabees and their gear were offloaded and the ship was refloated early on the 18th. It was a minor incident and no damage to her hull occurred. War-weary Japs were being captured daily ashore. Eleven’s duty was to be at Lombrum Point, the ravaged entrance area of initial American troops on Los Negros. They were the first Seabees to deploy to Lombrum Point. The men of the 11th Battalion worked on aviation, powerhouse, dispensary, seaplane base, landing craft, ship repair, and Seabee camp facilities. The rainy season left their trucks and carts bogged down in bottomless mud. The campsite was wet as well. It was not a comfortable site.
April 1944 Additional 110 replacements joined the 11th Battalion in Lombrum Point.
1 October 1944 Battalion completed work assignment at Lombrum Point, Los Negros and turned over all activities to a brother Seabee battalion.  They continued to work with the relieving battalion until their troop transport arrived to take them home.
21 October 1944 LCDR Edward K. Bryant, CEC, USNR, relieved LCDR Tschudy as OIC of the 11th Battalion.  Their first of two tours in the Pacific Campaign was ending.
4 November 1944 Battalion boarded one of the nation’s newest transports, with 28 officers and 570 men, and sailed off on their homeport cruise.  Of the enlisted men, 425 were from the original crew, 47 from the October 1942 draft, 90 from the January 1943 draft, 292 joined in February 1944, 110 joined in April 1944 and the others were men who had joined the Battalion from time to time.
22 November 1944 After an 18-day voyage across the Pacific, the Battalion arrived at Camp Parks, near Shoemaker, California, to begin their 30-days leave. Then they were reformed and reorganization to make ready for their next wartime deployment. Upon arrival at Camp Parks, the battalion had been deployed for 27 months and had traveled over 20,000 miles from Camp Allen, Virginia, to a point halfway around the world and back to San Francisco. Tutuila, American Samoa, was the Battalion’s first destination and 10 months were spent there. This was followed by 5 months in New Caledonia, a one-month rehabilitation stop over in New Zealand, two and a half months in the Russell Group of the British Solomon Islands, 6 months in the Admiralty Islands and about two and a half months on shipboard.

Battalion’s Second Wartime Deployment: 1945

15 May 1945 Second deployment begins for the 11th Battalion.  Battalion departed Camp Parks headed for the Philippine Islands, a sailing time of approximately 40 days.
24 June 1945 Battalion arrives at Subic Bay, Philippine Islands.  Begins work on constructing facilities at Naval Station Subic Bay and Naval Air Station Cubi Point. They worked on the Amphibious Training Center, Fleet Recreation Center, Naval Supply Depot, and ABCD sites, Seabee areas, utilities and other miscellaneous projects.
5 July 1945 General Douglas MacArthur, USA, announced the Philippines was completely liberated.
14 August 1945 Victory in Japan (V-J) Day was announced after the signing of peace documents on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
1 November 1945 LCDR Roger G. Witherell, CEC, USNR, relieves LCDR Bryant as OIC of the 11th Battalion. As the war was winding down, this would be a frequent occurrence until the end of the war.
8 November 1945

LCDR Robert F. Wambsgans, CEC, USNR, relieved LCDR Witherell as OIC.

1 December 1945 Battalion decommissioned in Subic Bay, Philippine Islands The officers and men of the 11th NCB either made their way to other battalions or headed home to the United States for reassignment or release from active duty.
  This Chapter of the “Family of 11th Battalions” ended in the Philippines.
Chapter 2 Cold War Deployments: 1953 - 1965