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129th Seabees collection

Date: c1943 - 2011

Level of Description: Coll./Record Group

Material Type: Manuscripts

Call Number: Unavailable

Unit ID: 47223

Restrictions: None

Abstract: The collection includes materials donated by Leland Workman (Company D) and by other members of the 129th Seabees. It consists of reunion materials, including photographs, correspondence, mailing lists, brochures and programs, etc.; as well as materials from the Seabees themselves, including copies and originals of Navy and Selective Service documents, photographs, passes, newspapers and fliers, etc. Also in the collection are newspaper clippings (such as obituaries), certificates, postcards, reminiscences, and other materials related to members of the Seabees after the war.

Space Required/Quantity:

  • 2.00 Cubic foot box(es)
  • 1.00 Flat Box(es) Size A [16 x 20 in.]

Title (Main title): 129th Seabees collection

Administrative History

Administrative History: After the 7 December 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States entry into the war, the use of civilian labor in war zones became impractical. Under international law civilians were not permitted to resist enemy military attack. Resistance meant summary execution as guerrillas.

The need for a militarized Naval Construction Force to build advance bases in the war zone was self-evident. Therefore, Rear Admiral Ben Moreell determined to activate, organize, and man Navy construction units. On 28 December 1941, he requested specific authority to carry out this decision, and on 5 January 1942, he gained authority from the Bureau of Navigation to recruit men from the construction trades for assignment to a Naval Construction Regiment composed of three Naval Construction Battalions. This is the actual beginning of the renowned Seabees, who obtained their designation from the initial letters of Construction Battalion. Admiral Moreell personally furnished them with their official motto: Construimus, Batuimus -- "We Build, We Fight."

The first Seabees were not raw recruits when they voluntarily enlisted. Emphasis in recruiting them was placed on experience and skill, so all they had to do was adapt their civilian construction skills to military needs. To obtain men with the necessary qualifications, physical standards were less rigid than in other branches of the armed forces. The age range for enlistment was 18-50, but after the formation of the initial battalions, it was discovered that several men past 60 had managed to join up, clearly an early manifestation of Seabee ingenuity. During the early days of the war, the average age of Seabees was 37. After December 1942 voluntary enlistments were halted by orders of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and men for the construction battalions had to be obtained through the Selective Service System. Henceforward, Seabees were on average much younger and came into the service with only rudimentary skills.

At Naval Construction Training Centers and Advanced Base Depots established on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, Seabees were taught military discipline and the use of light arms. Although technically support troops, Seabees at work, particularly during the early days of base development in the Pacific, frequently found themselves in conflict with the enemy.

After completing three weeks of boot training at Camp Allen, and later at its successor, Camp Peary, both in Virginia, the Seabees were formed into construction battalions or other types of construction units. Some of the very first battalions were sent overseas immediately upon completion of boot training because of the urgent need for naval construction. The usual procedure, however, was to ship the newly- formed battalion to an Advanced Base Depot at either Davisville, Rhode Island, or Port Hueneme, California. There the battalions, and later other units, underwent staging and outfitting. The Seabees received about six weeks of advanced military and technical training, underwent considerable unit training, and then were shipped to an overseas assignment. About 175,000 Seabees were staged directly through Port Hueneme during the war.

In the Second World War, the Seabees were organized into 151 regular construction battalions, 39 special construction battalions, 164 construction battalion detachments, 136 construction battalion maintenance units, 5 pontoon assembly detachments, 54 regiments, 12 brigades, and under various designations, 5 naval construction forces.

[Department of the Navy. Navy Historical Center. "Seabee History: Formation of the Seabees and World War II." http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq67-3.htm (accessed 6 November 2009).]

Scope and Content

Specific Contents Identified:

Headings or descriptors assigned to subsections of the material, for example labels on a particular box or group of boxes.

  • "We Build, We Fight" Limited edition print created in celebration of the 75th Annivesary of the U.S. Navy Seabees occurring March 5, 2017. Original oil painting by James Dietz.
  • Oversize
  • Panoramic photo: 129th Seabees Headquarters Company, c1943 (includes listing of names)

Related Records or Collections

Associated materials: Associated materials in the Photographs collections.
26 photos of activities of the 129th Seabees in Hawaii, 1944
1 photo: group of 129th Seabees at the heavy equipment machine shop
2 color photos: 129th NCB 6th Reunion, Baltimore, Maryland
George Wood (motor machinist second class) (unit 442323)

Index Terms


    United States. Naval Construction Battalion, 129th
    United States. Navy. Seabees
    Veterans' writings
    World War, 1939-1945 -- Veterans

Additional Information for Researchers

Restrictions: None