Arising from a need to rapidly build bases on remote islands for the push across the Pacific during World War II, today’s Seabee force turns 80 this month.
Tracing their unofficial origins to 300 skilled artisans who built an advance base in 1813 for Captain David Porter’s squadron operating against the British along South America’s west coast, the Navy officially formed and christened its first Naval Construction Battalions in March 1942.
Recruited from tradesmen in 60 skilled trades– both “vertical” such as in building construction and “horizontal” such as in the construction of roads and airfields– the new “Seabees” were also trained to defend their positions as the islands and beaches they would land on would often still be very much in an active combat zone. Fitting the job, Rear Admiral Ben Moreell set their motto as “Construimus, Batuimus” roughly meaning “We Build, We Fight.”
Early members received only three weeks of training and were sent overseas. They carried at one time or another just about every rifle and pistol in the Navy’s inventory and pioneered such exotic arms as the Sedgley Glove Gun/Haight Fist Gun.
During World War II, some 350,000 men served in the Seabees, organized into no less than 315 regular and special construction battalions. They would construct over 400 advanced bases spanning from Iceland to New Guinea and Sicily to the Aleutian Islands, operating in all theaters.
In the Pacific alone, they would build no less than 111 airstrips while suffering over 200 combat deaths. A further 500 Seabees were killed during their highly dangerous construction work under adverse field conditions. In addition to 33 Silver Stars and 5 Navy Crosses, ‘Bees also earned more than 2,000 Purple Hearts in WWII, the hard way.
Korea and Vietnam
Drawn down to a force of just 3,300 by 1949, the Seabees remained a “Can Do” part of the Navy and Marines’ shore establishment and would rapidly expand to serve in the Korean War and Vietnam. During the latter conflict in Southeast Asia, the Seabees expanded to over 26,000 men in no less than 23 assorted Naval Mobile and Amphibious Construction Battalions by 1969.
In most cases, the bases in which Marines fought from during those conflicts were constructed and improved by Seabees, often, as in WWII, under threat from the enemy.
The Cold War, Desert Storm, and Beyond
Besides service in Korea and Vietnam, the “Fighting Seabees” engaged in new frontiers around the world during the Cold War, constructing bases everywhere the Navy went including in remote Diego Garcia, Greece, Spain, Antarctica, the Caribbean, and elsewhere. They served in Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Restore Hope, in Bosnia, in Panama, in Iraq, and Afghanistan.
The Seabees today still train to “build with rifles on their back.”
The unique Seabee Combat Warfare Specialist insignia, issued to qualified Naval Construction Force members since 1993, tells a bit of the unit’s history.
The Colt Canada-produced C20 semi-automatic Intermediate Sniper Weapon is being acquired for the Canadian Army in small numbers.
Produced domestically by Colt Canada in Kitchener, Ontario, the semi-automatic C20 has an 18-inch barrel with a 1-in-10 twist and is reportedly pretty friggen accurate. Testing showed the rifle to fire 8,000 rounds with no stopping and deliver an average of .66 MOA over 144 five-round groups using 175-grain Federal Gold Medal Match.
The overall length on the C20 is 38-inches while weight is 9.1-pounds. It has a 46-slot continuous MIL-STD-1913 top rail and a handguard with M-LOK accessory slots in the 3-, 6-, and 9-o’clock positions. (Photo: Colt Canada)
The humble original M16 was originally Armalite’s AR-15, and was first ordered for military service with a contract issued to Colt Firearms in May 1962 for the purchase of early Model 01 rifles to be used by Air Force Security Police.
Note, these guns had waffle-pattern 20-round mags, no forward assist, a thin 1:14 twist barrel, and the early three-prong flash hider.
Fast forward to the XM16E1, which became the M16A1 in 1967, and you started to come closer to the standard Army/Marine rifle used in Vietnam and throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. It used a forward assist and a 1:12 twist barrel.
By 1983, the M16A2 came about, it had a thicker barrel in front of the front sight, a modified flash suppressor (closed on bottom), a new polymer buttstock (lighter and stronger), faster barrel twist (from 1:12 to 1:7), and a spent case deflector for left-hand users. Considered downright vintage by the Army and Marines, the Navy still sports them these days.
M16A2- check M9 in drop leg holster- check Body armor- um, about that……
By 1998, the M16A4 was in play, primarily for the Marines, which had a removable carry handle, a Picatinny top rail to allow for optics, short rails on the handguard for accessories, and a 20-inch barrel with a 1:7 RH twist rate.
Note the size difference between the compact M4 Carbine, top, and the full-length M16A4 rifle, bottom. (Photos: Department of Defense)
In response to unrest at the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on 27 December following a series of CENTCOM strikes on Kata’ib Hizbollah (KH) bases, a group of 100 Marines from 2/7 attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command (catchily abbreviated to just “SPMAFTF-CR-CC”) 19.2, rushed from Kuwait to beef up the MSG and State Department DS contingents on New Year’s Eve. They arrived via MV-22 Osprey, as shown in the below USMC videos by Sgt. Robert Gavaldon & Sgt. David Bickel.
Of interest, 2/7 recently filmed this short where they talk about training to do more expeditionary stuff of a ship-to-shore nature.
They were quickly backfilled in the region by a reinforced battalion of the 82nd Airborne (All Americans), which were airmailed over the New Year’s holiday from Fort Bragg to Kuwait. The unit on IRF rotation was the famed 2nd Battalion, 504th PIR. The 504th since 1944 has carried the nickname “The Devils in Baggy Pants,” taken from a comment by a Wehrmacht officer at Anzio.
U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, deploy from Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina, Jan. 1, 2020. Elements of the Immediate Response Force mobilized for deployment to the U.S. Central Command area of operations in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities. The IRF and the All American Division remain postured and ready to deploy in support of the National Command Authority. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Robyn J. Haake)
At the direction of the Commander in Chief, I have authorized the deployment of an infantry battalion from the Immediate Response Force (IRF) of the 82nd Airborne Division to the U.S. Central Command area of operations in response to recent events in Iraq.
Approximately 750 soldiers will deploy to the region immediately, and additional forces from the IRF are prepared to deploy over the next several days.
This deployment is an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities, such as we witnessed in Baghdad today. The United States will protect our people and interests anywhere they are found around the world.
Further, the U.S. upped the ante on Friday by dusting Gen. Qassem Suleimani, who had almost cult hero status within IRGC and Quds Force Shia militias in the region, with many referring to him as the real man behind the curtain. The pressure for Tehran to retaliate will be immense.
From DOD this morning:
General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more. He had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months – including the attack on December 27th – culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel. General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week.
This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans. The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.
The improvised gun-truck, where you bolt on a crew served machine gun or light artillery piece and run around taking shots at stuff, has been around since the Great War at least. In more recent times, this blend of civilian or commercial truck and a heavy weapon has been called “the technical” since the Toyota Wars of Libya in the 1980s.
The Syrian civil war gave birth to a wide array of makeshift vehicles, often cobbled together by the many factions fighting there, using whatever is at hand. Here we have something really special, a T55 turret mounted on an improvised pedestal on the back of a 8 wheeled civilian truck and another turret mounted on a trailer, both obviously used as artillery pieces. (~ Marcus, The Armor Journal)
The below video, from June 2016, which may or may not be the same vehicle shows the turret of a T-55 tank (Chinese Type 67?) used as Mobile Artillery by Iraqi Badr Forces near Jabal Makhoul (Salah Ad-Din province).
With news the Marines have adopted a variant of the Magpul PMAG as standard, four U.S Senators with military service on their resume asked the Army where they stand on polymer mags.
The lawmakers penned a letter to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley last week, calling the branch’s top officer out when it comes to the fact that polymer mags are not currently authorized.
“We request a response as to why the Army has not approved any polymer magazines for use in combat, or in training, and an update on if the Army is considering approving them now,” noted the lawmakers, pointing out that the Marine Corps recently approved use of a polymer magazine for their rifles after a five-year moratorium on such devices by both services.
Soldiers, assigned to 1st Armored Division, Task Force Al Taqaddum, fire an M109A6 Paladin howitzer during a fire mission at Al Taqaddum Air Base, Iraq, June 27, 2016. The strikes were conducted in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and aimed at eliminating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The Alpha 6 (Paladin) variant is mega sweet as far as 155mm SP guns go and only about a sixth of all M109s operational in the world got the upgrade which includes the longer 39-caliber 155 mm M284 cannon (which gives a max range of over 30,000m with RAP rounds) in a more advanced M182A1 mount, an increased 39 shell internal mag, beefier engine and an integrated fire direction center which moves well beyond the 1960s tech the gun originally carried, allowing it to be fed data in real time from brigade level and pop off a round in seconds after moving if doing “shoot-and-scoot” artillery fire, which is the only way to ensure survival on the modern combined armed battlefield.
Then of course there are hyper velocity projectiles (HVP) in the testing phase for Paladin that could hit Mach 3 and enable larger caliber guns to launch HVPs at air and missile threats over medium ranges (10–30 nautical miles) turning the howitzer into a very capable surface to air defense weapon if needed.
On a hot August morning in Samarra, Iraq a four man Reaper Team of the 82nd Airborne’s 2-505 Parachute Infantry Regiment’s Scout Platoon found themselves in a tight spot. Led by 22yr old Sergeant Josh Morley the team contained 21-yr old Specialist Tracy Willis, 23-yr old Specialist Chris Corriveau and unit armorer 23-year-old Specialist Eric Moser. Detailed to provide an over watch for a search operation below, they secretly climbed an apartment rooftop set up shop. With the search operation coming off without a hitch, the Reaper team went to displace, only to find that insurgents had followed and surrounded them. Armed Al-Qaeda foot solders held the stairwells and streets below them, trapping the team on the roof. Within the first few minutes a bad situation got worse. First Sgt Morley and then Spec. Willis were killed, leaving only Corriveau and Moser in the fight. Bombarded by grenades thrown up the stairwell by unseen hands and taking fire from multiple weapons the two snipers fought on unsupported, with a blown radio and dwindling supplies of ammunition.
The ten minute firefight ultimately ended with a nearby friendly infantry platoon coming to the sound of combat and the insurgents withdrawing. An after-action review found that the Reaper team had held off a squad to platoon sized group of men and inflicted no less than ten casualties. More importantly they kept both the bodies of their fallen brothers and their own from falling into the insurgent’s hand- preventing a propaganda victory for the insurgents. Morser and Corriveau were promoted to Sergeant and awarded the DSC, the 2nd highest award for valor in the Army. Morley and Willis were posthumously awarded the Silver Star. Read more in Jeff Emanuel’s excellent piece.