A 1945 Navy film on the Seabees.
At the outset of World War II, the Navy faced a task of unbelievable difficulty. Around the globe, and especially in the Pacific, the Navy would be fighting in regions practically untouched by the modern world. Everything to support military operations would have to be built from scratch: bases, ports, airstrips, and an endless parade of other facilities. The task was daunting, perhaps impossible. However, the Navy had a secret weapon: the American worker.
Forming Navy Construction Battalions, (C-Bs), the Navy turned to the civilian construction trades and asked for volunteers. The response was overwhelming with civilian workers flocking to the task, and placed under the leadership of Navy officers. These were older men, the average age of the volunteers being 37, and masters in their trades. They formed the bedrock of the eventual 325,000 men who would serve in the Seabees during the War. By V-J Day they had completed construction projects on six continents and 300 islands, many of the islands bearing strange and unfamiliar names like Guadalcanal, Tinian, Saipan, Tarawa and Iwo Jima. They went about their work often under fire, sometimes participating directly in combat, and usually in conditions that were miserable beyond belief. Tropical jungles, deserts, alpine mountains, arctic wastelands, nothing stopped them from doing their jobs, and usually completing their tasks ahead of schedule.
Wherever this nation has fought since World War II, the Seabees have been there, carrying out construction projects around the world, and not just military ones. Frequently the SeaBees have helped civilian populations in war torn regions with civilian construction tasks, and trained local construction workers. These sailor workers have been some of the best good will ambassadors this nation has had, often in their free time helping to build schools, orphanages, hospitals, clinics and places of worship. Labor Day weekend is a good time to salute the men and women of the SeaBees who typify the best in the spirit of the American worker.