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United States Naval Construction Battalions, better known as the Navy Seabees, form the U.S. Naval Construction Force (NCF). The Seabee nickname is a heterograph of the first letters "C B" from the words Construction Battalion. Depending upon how the word is used "Seabee" can refer to one of three things: all enlisted personnel in the USN's occupational field 7 (OF-7), all officers and enlisted assigned to the Naval Construction Force (NCF), or Construction Battalions. Seabees serve outside the NCF as well. During WWII they served in both the Naval Combat Demolition Units and the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs). The men in the NCF considered these units to be "Seabee". In addition, Seabees served as elements of Cubs, Lions, Acorns and the United States Marine Corps.
They also provided the manpower for the top secret CWS Flame Tank Group. Today the Seabees have many special task assignments starting with Camp David and the Naval Support Unit at the Department of State. Seabees serve under both Commanders of the Naval Surface Forces Atlantic/Pacific fleets as well as on many base Public Works and USN diving commands.
Naval Construction Battalions were conceived as a replacement for civilian construction companies on contract to the Navy after the U.S. was attacked at Pearl Harbor. At that time civilian contractors had roughly 70,000 men working on U.S. bases overseas. International law made it illegal for civilian workers to resist an attack. To do so would classify them as guerrillas and could lead to summary execution. That is exactly what happened when the Japanese invaded Wake Island and would serve as the backstory to the WWII movie The Fighting Seabees.
Adm. Moreell's concept model CB was a USMC trained battalion of construction tradesmen: A military equivalent of those civilian companies, capable of any type of construction, anywhere needed, under any conditions or circumstances. It was realized that CBs were flexible, adaptable and could be utilized in every theater of operations. The use of USMC organization allowed for smooth co-ordination, integration or interface between NCF and Marine Corps elements. Additionally, CBs could be deployed individually or in multiples as the project scope and scale dictated. What distinguishes Seabees from Combat Engineers are the skill sets. Combat Engineering is but a sub-set in the Seabee toolbox. They have a storied legacy of creative field ingenuity, stretching from Normandy and Okinawa to Iraq and Afghanistan. Adm. Ernest King wrote to the Seabees on their second anniversary, "Your ingenuity and fortitude have become a legend in the naval service." Seabees believe that anything they are tasked with, they "Can Do". They were unique at conception and remain unchanged from Adm. Moreell's model today. In the October 1944 issue of Flying, the Seabees are described as "a phenomenon of World War II". Since their creation, all Seabee advanced military training has been under USMC instruction. Even so, they always bring their toolbox. One of those tools is the ingenuity Admiral King referenced. They gained fame for their application of it during WWII. The UDTs and flamethrowing tanks are declassified top secret examples. Postwar they followed with more of the same for the CIA and State Department. Together with their USMC training and ability to appropriate anything, they provide the Navy an unconventional asset found nowhere else in the U.S military.