From the bloody beaches of Guadalcanal to the jungles of Vietnam, U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion SIX has upheld the Seabee motto - "Can Do!"
MCB 6 Through the Years
The first Seabee battalion to work under actual combat conditions was Naval Construction Battalion SIX. This unit went ashore with the Marines on Guadalcanal in 1942 under the command of Cmdr. Joseph P. Blundon. From. Aug. 7 to Dec. 9,-1942, NCB SIX fought beside, and built reinforced positions for, the first Marine Division. During this period, the men of NCB SIX worked as combat engineers, aviation engineers, and construction engineers 24 hours a day.
For the heroic efforts of 6th Naval Construction Battalion under fire, the battalion earned the Presidential Unit Citation.
MCB 6's First CO Cmdr. Joseph Blundon, peers out of his "office" on Guadalcanal during World War II.
After building and fighting on Guadalcanal, Espiritu Santo, Tulagi, Auckland, Noumea and Okinawa, 6th Naval Construction Battalion was decommissioned in October of 1945.
Six years later America again needed military construction units which could fight as well as build, so the NCBs were reactivated. On May 3, 1951, 6th Naval Construction Battalion was recommissioned as Mobile Construction Battalion SIX under the command of Cmdr. R. D. Pinkerton in Norfolk, Va.
The change from NCB to MCB was in accordance with. a 1949 order by the Chief of Naval Operations designed to emphasize the mobility of the Navy's Construction Battalions. Upon being re commissioned in 1951, Mobile Construction Battalion SIX became the only Seabee battalion in commission entitled to display the Presidential Unit Citation.
The first assignment given Mobile Construction Battalion SIX was the construction of various projects at the Naval Station, Bermuda. Upon arrival in Bermuda, SIX relieved MCB 4. SIX completed the construction duty in two months and headed for Guantanamo. Bay, Cuba. The battalion arrived on July 6, 1951. While in Cuba, MCB SIX built a complete Seabee camp at Leeward Point. SIX returned to the Davisville Seabee' Center in December of 1951.
In March of 1952, MCB SIX departed for construction duties at Argentia, Newfoundland, and remained there, until August of that year when they returned to Davisville.
In October of 1952, the battalion returned to Cuba and built both officer and enlisted berthing facilities.
After a brief homeport training period upon returning to the States in April, SIX deployed to French Morocco. The battalion arrived on June 2, just a few days before Cmdr. P. J. Simmons relieved Cmdr. Pinkerton as Commanding Officer.
From 1953 until 1956, MCB 6 'built a variety of projects in Puerto Rico, Cuba, San Salvador, Grand Turk Island, Nova Scotia, Bermuda, Nantucket, Cape Hatteras and Antigua. In November, 1953, after finishing several of these projects throughout the Atlantic and Caribbean areas, SIX returned home.
On Feb. 8, 1954, the battalion commissioned its first detachment, designated "DOG". This unit went to San Juan, P.R., in April of 1954 and the main body of the battalion returned to Cuba for the third time in three years. The battalion commissioned its second detachment, dubbed "EASY," while in Cuba. This party went to San Salvador.
Less than three weeks later on June 5, 1954, MCB 6 commissioned another detachment for duty on Grand Turk Island. This was detachment "FOX." After arriving back in Davisville in July, 1954, SIX commissioned its fourth detachment and received a new commanding officer. After commissioning detachments "GEORGE" and "HOW" in Davisville for duty in Bermuda and Nova Scotia respectively, Cmdr. C. Jaquess relieved Cmdr. Simmons in October. Only three of the original seven detachments were in commission by September. Detachments "ITEM" and "JIG" were working in Nantucket, Mass., and Cape Hatteras, N.C., respectively.
MCB 6's next deployment was to Antigua, where the battalion remained'' from. October, 1955, until July, 1956. MCB 6 returned to Cuba in 1956, arriving there on Oct. 3. On Oct. 27, 1956, Cmdr. V. M. Tregonis relieved Cmdr. Jaquess.
MCB 6 had hardly returned to the States when the battalion was sent, again to Cuba. While deployed in Cuba, SIX was awarded the title, "Best of the Atlantic Fleet Seabees." This title was earned through the hard work and sacrifices of the Officers and men of the battalion.
Leaving detachment "OSCAR" behind, MCB SIX left Cuba for the U.S. in January and arrived in Davisville on Jan. 17, 1958. Before leaving for duty at Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, on May 15, 1958, MCB 6 commissioned and sent detachment "PAPA;" its ninth detachment, to Barbados, T.W.I. This detachment rejoined the main body in Puerto Rico. On Dec. 7, 1958, Lt. Cmdr. L E. Stiffier, who had relieved Cmdr. V. M. Tregonis in Puerto Rico on Nov. 22, 1958, was relieved by 'Cmdr. L. W. Graves. After returning to Davisville in December of 1958, MCB 6 prepared for duty in Rota, Spain.
On Jan. 5, 1959, detachment "ROMEO," the battalion's tenth unit, left for construction duties in Spain. When the main body arrived four months later, the advance party had built more than 50 Quonset huts, several buildings and other projects. SIX, upon arrival, became the first Seabee battalion to be on duty at Europe's newest base, Rota. Prior to arriving in Rota, MCB 6 had completed combat training at Camp Lejeune, N.C., earning for the unit another first as the only MCB to undergo extensive military training.
After arriving in Rota, SIX once again resumed building duties and constructed a school, gymnasium, library, enlisted men's ,club, service station, dry cleaning plant and other projects. In January, 1960, the battalion left Rota for the States. In February of that year, MCB 6 received a new commanding officer as Lt. Cmdr. O. R. Butterfield relieved Cmdr. Graves as C.O.
Later that year, MCB 6 tacked on another "first" by becoming the only Seabee command to be located in the States with two detachments deployed. On Dec. 11, 1960, MCB SIX again earned honors by becoming the first Mobile Construction Battalion to attend classes in disaster recovery.
On Feb. 27, 1961, Lt. Cmdr. Charles W. Calhoun relieved Lt. Cmdr. Butterfield. Later that year, the unit deployed to Argentia and re-roofed the 10-story Bachelor Officers Quarters, repaired and replaced lighting fixtures in the station hospital and among other duties, worked on a seaplane ramp. In August, 1961, MCB 6 went to Bermuda and performed repair duties at the Naval Station.
The battalion returned to Davisville on Dec. 15, 1961, and left again in March, 1962, for training in Camp Lejeune. In May the unit deployed to Roosevelt Roads to build a crash facility, several small buildings and 31/2 miles of road work.
MCB SIX deployed to Greece in late 1962. In March of 1963, now under the command of Lt. Cmdr., R. J. Biederman; SIX embarked on a series of "People to People" activities in Southern Europe. While there, the battalion saved a church from burning. Possessing the only fire-fighting equipment within 20 miles, the battalion's fire fighters quickly answered the call for help and brought the blaze under control.
During the 1962-63 deployment to Greece, MCB 6 built a complete Naval Communications Section. Despite the wind, rain and freezing cold along with other delays; SIX completed the facility on time.
On Feb. 18, 1964, MCB 6 turned to Rota, Spain. While there the battalion built an extension to the library and several other projects. Also while in Rota, the unit received a new commanding officer when Lt. Cmdr. Henry A. Tombari relieved- Lt. Cmdr. Biederman on May 27, 1964.
Leaving a detachment of men in Rota to finish transferring equipment and materials, SIX returned to Davisville to prepare for duty in the Antarctic.
Fiscal years 65-66-67 proved to be three of the most outstanding for MCB 6 since its recommissioning in 1951. With detachment "VICTOR" at Argentia and the remaining personnel in various schools, MCB 6 started to grow in August, 1965. Within a month the unit had increased from 200 men to more than 500.
In September, 1965, a detachment of 200 men left Davisville for month of military training at Camp Lejeune. While there, the unit learned offensive and defensive combat techniques, live firing of numerous weapons and patrolling.
After returning to Davisville in October, MCB 6 started to prepare for a "split assignment." Normally the unit would have deployed to the Antarctic but this time it was to be different. On Oct. 18, the "ICE detachment of 100 men left for duty in the; Antarctic and the main body of 350 men prepared for duty at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. MCB 6 arrived at "Gitmo" in November, 1965.
Immediately after arrival SIX assumed the duties of constructing facilities and manning the defense perimeter of the base. The unit worked day and night during the next 21/2 months to set several construction records.
One of the achievements was the construction of housing for Cubans and other non-American workers living on base. When this was done, MCB 6 returned to a joyous welcome at Davisville on Jan. 15, 1966, after having accomplished in about two months an amount of work intended for four.
In February, the "ICE" detachment returned from duty in support of the National Science Foundation in the Antarctic. This brought the battalion's strength to more than 600 men as MCB 6 returned to Camp Lejeune for its second month of combat training. The course this time was more intense and included training in guerilla warfare and tactics used by the Viet Cong.
In May, the unit officially learned that its next assignment would be South Vietnam. The advance party left during the first part of May, 1966. Within the next three weeks, the entire battalion of some 700 men had been airlifted direct from Quonset Point Naval Air Station to Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam. The move was completed, except for the rear echelon, on May 24, 1966.
Upon arrival in Da Nang, MCB 6 made its presence known by setting several construction records. One of them was construction of a 314-foot pier, despite fighting between the Buddhists and rebels near the job site. The
new pier helped ease a critical shipping problem facing U.S. troops in Vietnam. The pier was completed two weeks ahead of schedule on June 20, 1966.
During the first month of its deployment, MCB SIX was first among Seabee units in terms of productive manpower. SIX also started an effective civic action program and during the remaining months of it’s more than eight months of duty in Vietnam, doctors and corpsmen of the unit treated some 11,000 Vietnamese for ailments ranging from tropical ulcers to routine cuts and bruises.
While in Vietnam, MCB 6 built enough "tinned huts" to house 12,000 U.S. Marines who were sleeping in leaky tents and on the ground. The unit also built a camp for captured enemy soldiers, moved 500,000 cubic yards of dirt, helped the Marines fight the VC and built enough galleys to feed 5,000 Marines three hot meals a day.
MCB 6 returned to Davisville in February, 1967, after completing a 356,000 cubic foot cold storage facility called one of the largest in the world.
For the next five months after arriving back in Davisville from Vietnam duty, veterans and newcomers alike in MCB 6 received extensive military and technical training. In March, 1967, Cmdr. Robert D. Keegan assumed command of the battalion.
After the leave period for the recently-returned battalion, the months of training began with refresher courses in building and learning to protect what they build. Classes in construction, mechanics and other technical specialties were attended by MCB 6 Seabees at Davisville and in schools, both military and civilian, throughout the U.S.
In May a small group of MCB 6 Seabees trained with MCB 121 at Camp Lejeune. A month later, some 400 Seabees from SIX landed, at the Marine- Corps training center there for a month of advanced military training under Marine guidance.
However, even before the Lejeune deployment, MCB 6 demonstrated the unit's mobility and readiness skills with an amphibious type exercise on "No Man's Island" 60 miles in the Atlantic.
Designated the "Alpha" Battalion for the Atlantic Fleet Seabees, MCB 6 had to be ready to deploy anywhere they were needed within hours. The Atlantic exercise gave the unit a chance to demonstrate that it was ready to meet this commitment.
The exercise scheduled for May 16-20 was moved ahead two days. On May 14,-a selected group of approximately 200 MCB 6 Seabees boarded the USS San Marcus and three hours later landed on the island.
Upon arrival, the unit moved swiftly through its planned maneuvers. Security elements established a beach-head and afforded protection for the unloading of equipment, weapons and personnel.
During the next two days, the men practiced working under combat conditions in cold weather, wind and rain. The "No Man's Island" exercise was considered successful.
Carrying experience from this exercise, Vietnam and training at Camp Fogarty to Camp Lejeune gave MCB 6 an advantage in what was ahead. During three weeks of training in offensive and defensive tactics, guerrilla warfare; landmines and "booby traps," transition firing, crawling under live machine gun bullets and many other facets of combat, SIX earned the praise of Marine instructors as an aggressive unit. This Marine sentiment was echoed by Major General Joseph O. Butcher, Commanding General of Camp Lejeune, during a pass-in-review ceremony by MCB 6. The general said, in part: "You look as good or better than any Marine or other military unit I have ever seen".
MCB 6 returned, to Davisville in late June with, the general's statement echoing in their ears and undoubtedly a deep feeling of pride in knowing that SIX was "ready".
Two months later, MCB 6 landed again in the Republic of Vietnam. A month after arriving at Chu Lai for its second tour of duty, SIX was once again well on its way to establishing records while carrying out the Seabee's basic mission of "Build and Defend. Immediately after arriving in Camp Miller during the first week in August, MCB 6 took over a host of projects. Among them was rebuilding an extension of Route 1, the allied supply route.
In addition, the Seabees of SIX took on operation of a rock crush and quarry to provide materials for construction projects. A detail of 50 men at Tam Ky built steel Fran cantonments to house a battalion of Vietnamese Army forces and hospital for the Vietnamese.
Important projects around Chu Lai included a top-priority hospital for the Army's 274th Medical Battalion, a power distribution system for the entire Chu Lai Combat Base, three oil storage tanks for the Naval Support Activities Detachment, and an engine repair shop and library for Marine Air Group 36.
Sniper fire at the quarry, mines on the roads and enemy attacks at Tam Ky were problems faced by SIX in Chu Lai.
In the early morning hours of Jan. 31, 1968, MCB 6's detail of 50 men at Tam Ky Was attacked by a large force of Viet Cong. After a few hours of fierce fighting, the enemy retreated before the fire of the Seabee and Army defenders, leaving 581 bodies in the field. The Seabees, who had 46 confirmed kills, had only one man wounded.
A few days later, the senior U.S. Army officer in the Tam Ky area praised the men of SIX in a letter to Cmdr. Keegan, saying, "The combat performance of the Seabees during this action was up to the standards of experienced combat units and reflects great credit on the entire Seabees organization "
Earlier in the same month, SIX suffered its only combat fatality of two Vietnam deployments when E01 Henry C. Cousineau was killed by enemy fire while riding in a helicopter.
After a fruitful deployment, MCB 6 returned to Davisville in April, 1968. While in Vietnam, the Seabees of SIX poured enough concrete to build a sidewalk from Davisville to Boston, drove their equipment more than 1 million miles, and moved more than 300,000 cubic yards of earth enough to build a dam across the Mississippi River. The value of construction materials used 2,445,912 would pay the President's salary' for a quarter of a century.
After a leave period for the Vietnam veterans, the battalion began a period of military and technical training for the next deployment. In early June, the first group of Seabees left for Camp Lejeune and were, followed in mid-August by a second group. Meanwhile, supplementary military training, continued at Camp Fogarty near Davisville.
In October MCB 6 underwent its semi-annual administrative and military readiness inspection by Commander Construction Battalions, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, and his staff. The battalion's excellence was proven as SIX earned the highest score in the recent history of the Atlantic Fleet Seabees. Because of this and the battalion's equally noteworthy achievements in construction and intramural sports competition, MCB 6 was given the unofficial title of "Super 6."
As the homeport period drew to a close, earlier rumors were confirmed: SIX was not going back to Vietnam. Instead, the battalion was chosen to be the first Seabee unit to deploy in the Caribbean since 1965.
In mid-December, 1968, MCB SIX flew to Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, where the Seabees, were tasked with the construction of a modern, 65-acre camp for future battalions deploying there. While on deployment, SIX restored the "Alert Battalion" plan by maintaining a readiness to move out on 48 hours notice to any spot in the world where Seabees were needed.
In Puerto Rico the Seabees did much construction, road paving and maintenance work supporting other naval activities in addition to work on their new camp. A 50 man detail in Cuba did similar work at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station. SIX's details also worked on the islands of Vieques and Culebra near Puerto Rico and the island of Andros in the Bahamas.
Through the battalion's civic action program, Seabee volunteers devoted their off-duty time to construction and repair work beneficial to the Puerto Rican people. An active military training program kept, the Seabees ready for any hostile situation they might have to face as "Alert Battalion."MCB 6 Seabees in Puerto Rico
In February, Cmdr. Hugh A. Crisp relieved Cmdr. Keegan as SIX's new commanding officer.
Late in May the Seabees of SIX returned to Davisville after a successful deployment as the "new pioneers" in the Caribbean. After a leave period, the battalion began to assimilate the many new men who would bring the strength up to the necessary level for a Vietnam deployment. Training, both military and technical, was started to provide the necessary skills. In mid-August a group of SIXers flew to Camp Lejeune for special heavy weapons schools while the remainder of the battalion prepared for military training at Camp Fogarty.
However, as the homeport period drew to a close, speculation began that MCB 6 would be affected by the cutbacks in military spending announced by President Nixon's administration. On October 18, 1969, it was officially announced that MCB 6 was to be one of seven; Seabee battalions being decommissioned.
Preparations began immediately to handle the massive job of transferring the men and equipment of SIX to other commands. By mid November the job was completed. At ceremonies on November 14, the battalion lowered its colors and officially ceased to be a part of the active Navy.
From World War II through the Vietnam conflict, MCB 6 had established a tradition of high-quality work, done quickly, under any conditions of weather and enemy harassment. Whether or not the battalion is recommissioned at some time in the future, it will be remembered that the officers and men of MCB 6, for more than 20 years, exemplified the Seabee "Can Do" tradition.
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