For more than 70 years, the men and women of the Naval Construction Force have been giving their all to protect our Nation and serve our armed forces with pride. During World War II, approximately 325,000 Sailors served as Seabees in 500 various Seabee units, which included 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.
“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.” – an excerpt from The Naval Historical Center’s, “Seabee History: Formation of the Seabees and World War II“
Seabees continue to play a major role in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. There are currently about 18,000 Navy Seabees serving worldwide. With a primary mission of providing continuing construction in a war zone, the Seabees are ready to deploy on short notice to any point on the globe. Seabees also conduct humanitarian missions worldwide, including earthquake and hurricane recovery efforts in the United States. The imagery below highlights the Seabees’ “Can Do” service to the fleet.