Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command

"Father of Seabees" Honored at Dedication Ceremony

04/19/17 12:00 AM

By Naval Facilities Engineering Command Headquarters Public Affairs

ST. LOUIS (NNS) -- Rear Adm. Bret Muilenburg, commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) and chief of Civil Engineer Corps (CEC), delivered key remarks today at a dedication ceremony honoring Adm. Ben Moreell, founder of the U.S. Navy Seabees at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis, Missouri.

The dedication ceremony, a joint effort between the CEC/Seabee Historical Foundation, the U.S. Seabee Veterans of America Island and the St. Louis Soldiers Memorial, honored the memory of Moreell's life in St. Louis, his naval service, including the creation of the Seabees and his other contributions to victory in World War I.

The ceremony was attended by a number of active duty and retired CEC officers, Seabees from World War II and subsequent operations, as well as civilians, who took pride in seeing Moreell recognized for his lasting contributions to the Navy.

Retired Rear Adm. Kate Gregory introduced Muilenburg and compared him to Moreell by noting their "passion for taking technical knowledge and putting it to work around the globe."

Gregory, a former NAVFAC commander and chief of Civil Engineers, went on to praise Moreell for leadership.

"He took pride in being viewed as someone who inspired his subordinates to service of their country," said Gregory.

Muilenburg thanked the crowd in attendance for joining him in honoring Moreell, who made lasting contributions to NAVFAC, the U.S. Navy and the nation.

"It is an honor to be asked to offer a few words," said Muilenburg. "Although nothing I can say today could come close to capturing all he is rightfully deserved."

Moreell's granite plaque was formally presented to the city of St. Louis during the ceremony and will be on display in the memorial when current renovations are complete, which are expected to be in November 2018. Accepting on behalf of the city was the superintendent of the Soldiers Memorial Military Museum, Dr. Lynnea Magnuson. Magnuson expressed excitement in receiving the plaque.

"We are thrilled that the Soldiers Memorial will be the home of this plaque," said Magnuson.

World War II Seabees have a storied history. Convinced that war was coming, the Navy realized that fighting in theaters halfway around the world would present new challenges in logistics and would require a vast infrastructure. Beginning in 1940, the Navy began a program of building bases on far-flung Pacific islands using civilian contractors. When the United States officially entered the war, the use of civilian labor had to stop. Under international law, civilians were not permitted to resist enemy military attack. If they did, they could be executed as spies.

The need then for a militarized Naval Construction Force to build advance bases in a war zone became self-evident. Rear Admiral Ben Moreell, "Father of the Seabees," was determined to activate, organize, and man Navy construction units. On Jan. 5, 1942, he gained authority to recruit men from the construction trades for assignment into 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. Adm. Moreell personally furnished them with their official motto: Construimus, Batuimus - "We Build, We Fight."

March 5, 2017 marked the 75th anniversary of the Seabees.


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