A Little Flour, a Bit of .45…

80 Years Ago: A 6th Naval Construction Battalion (Seabee) baker, M1911 on his side for those special moments, bakes bread in an oven recycled from Japanese materials at Guadalcanal, 26 October 1942. The pistol is not puffery. Just a few weeks prior, a Japanese offensive pushed the Marine lines back to the Lunga River at a point only 150 feet from the West end of Guadalcanal’s embattled Henderson Field, home to the Cactus Air Force. With the Marines entrenched in fighting at one end of the field, the Bees were carrying on construction at the other.

Seabee Museum photo.

NCB 6 was formed from volunteers in May 1942 at Camp Bradford outside of Norfolk then, after a 48-hour train ride, arrived at Gulfport, Mississippi on 24 June– the first battalion at the installation where now about half of the Seabee force is based. Their first building task was to erect the flagpole at Gulfport.

Before the end of July, “equipped as a combination of soldier, sailor and construction worker, they were ready to tackle their first assignment” and shipped out of San Francisco for the Western Pacific in the holds of the SS President Polk and USS Wharton.

Most of the men of the battalion had been in the Navy for less than 90 days. 

The first elements of NCB 6 landed at Espiritu Santo on the morning of 17 August, just days after the Marines went in at Guadalcanal, and went about their work building three piers from a camp set up in a coconut grove. On 1 September, the Bees headed to Guadalcanal to get into the airfield business.

As noted in the unit’s war history:

At Guadalcanal, the Seabees of NCB 6 lengthened and maintained Henderson Field, constructed piers, bridges, tunnels, roads, a Patrol Torpedo Boat Base, a tank farm, and a power plant, which they also operated. Most of the work was accomplished under enemy fire: strafing and bombardment from Japanese aircraft and shelling from the Japanese fleet.

U.S. Naval Construction Battalion 6 was inactivated on 13 September 1945 at Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. However, it would soon be reformed as NMCB 6 and serve extensively in Vietnam, but that is another story.

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