SEC’Y: CAPT Dave Carruth, USN (Ret.)
CLASS OF 1948 SHIPMATE COLUMN
This column is being written on Jan. 1 st, 2009
I believe most of you are aware that back in 1992 Chuck Gorder established the Annual Bruce Gorder UCSD 5K Walk for Melanoma in memory of his son. The money goes to cancer research and as of October 11 th of ’08 passed the million dollar mark. Good show Chuck and Rhona.
In a similar positive note, I received this item from Bob Chadima 22 nd. Co.in Nov. He wrote: Over the years I have invested in the rehabilitation of old industrial and commercial buildings in Cedar Rapids. We had 5 buildings and organized our neighborhood into an arts and entertainments district. Cedar Rapids has a substantial Czech heritage so we called our district “New Bohemia.”
We are located in the 100 year flood plain of the Cedar River but had never suffered damage in past floods. This summer the forecast was a flood stage of 20 feet, the previous highest stage, which we could handle with minimum danger. But on June 9 th the forecast was raised to 22 feet. That gave us a real concern and little time for heavy preparation. On the tenth the forecast was raised to 24 feet.
It is a miserable feeling to know that you face disaster and that there is not one thing that one can do to avert it. (I’m sure that the Captain of the Titanic suffered the same agony when he learned that five compartments had been penetrated by the ice berg and that he and his ship were going to sink.) In the event the flood crested at 31 feet, 11 feet over the previous high record. We took a terrible hit for massive damage that wiped out years of work and saving. With the leadership and determination of my son and daughter-in-law we will recover and so will the city
Perhaps the most gratifying aspect of the flood in our town has been the response of the citizenry. No time for despair! Instead an immediate city wide public response to help the 5,000 people displaced from their ruined homes. After the immediate needs of the people were alleviated the entire city addressed plans to rebuild our town to be a better place for the future. In contrast to past news reports I have nothing but praise for FEMA and the SBA. Those organizations make our recovery possible and a certainty. Human determination aided by government help will put Cedar Rapids back together again as a delightful small town to call home
A good report Bob, and certainly a contrast to other responses to natural disaster with which we have been saturated in recent years. Bob’s new email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and his new phone number is 319-365-2936.
In this column let us take a look at the Civil Engineer Corps as presented by Charlie Heid 17 th Co. and Bob Jortberg 7 th Co.
USN Mobile Construction Battalion 7 commanded by Charlie Heid ,with 20 officers and 545 enlisted plus all the equipment shown. This picture was taken in Davisville, R.I. when the Battalion returned from an eight month deployment to Guantanamo during the Cuban Missile Crisis. MCB 7 was commanded by Bob Jortberg at an earlier date.
CLASS OF 1948 CIVIL ENGINEER CORPS
The Civil Engineer Corps was established by Congress in 1867. Prior to that time the civil engineering functions had been performed by civilian employees of the Navy. The increasing size of the small Navy shore establishment resulted in the recognition that this new staff corps was necessary. In February, 1881 the CEC consisted of ten officers. It would grow to over 10,000 active and reserve officers at its peak during World War II. The size is now defined to be 3% of the unrestricted line
The Corps became responsible for the administration of the Bureau of Yards and Docks—now the Facilities Engineering Command and for Navy public works, utilities and shore transportation, facilities planning, real estate, design and construction, and environmental support of Navy shore activities and Navy staff support.
World War II saw the CEC managing major construction programs throughout the world supporting the rapid, large increase in the size of the Navy and the Marine Corps. A similar large construction effort supported US forces in Viet Nam.
World War II also saw the establishment of the Construction Battalions (CB’s) aka “Seabees”, which were organized and equipped to support the Fleet and Marine Corps in a variety of combat support roles. Seabee units are commanded by Civil Engineer Corps officers and members of the Class of 1948 have served in many battalions, regimental and brigade staffs. Jim Day (deceased) 4 th Co., Dick Fluss (deceased) 17 th Co., Charlie Heid 17 th Co., George Hoffman (deceased) 24 th Co., Bob Jortberg 7 th Co., Bob Miller (deceased) 24th Co.,Cal Perkins (deceased) 18 th Co., and Dan Shockey 20 th Co. have all served as battalion commanders.
In the initial phases of World War II, the Fleet’s first priority was the need to establish a fleet fueling station on the supply line to Australia. A 300-man Seabee unit was formed and by way of Navy transport was ashore on site at Bora-Bora in the Society Islands on February 17, 1942. In three months time the Seabees constructed a seaplane ramp, emplaced heavy guns, cleared a landing strip for Army aircraft and had erected and camouflaged the fuel oil tanks. Thus were born the initial “Can Do” Seabees.
Meanwhile, battalions of Seabees were being organized, trained and moved to forward areas. The first battalion to work under combat conditions was the 6 th, the first contingent of which went ashore with the Marines at Guadalcanal on September 1, 1942. Work began immediately on lengthening and maintaining Henderson Field and the construction of three adjacent fighter strips. This battalion engaged in waterfront construction, road and bridge construction, electric power installations, and tunnel construction on Guadalcanal.
Seabees continued this “build and fight” participation in every major amphibious assault in WWII in the Pacific, the Mediterranean, Italy and including “D Day” in France. There the “Can Do” Seabees had fabricated pontoons which were towed to Normandy to create harbors, piers, and causeways which facilitated movement of troops, tanks and motorized equipment ashore.
From a Seabee strength of 8000 officers and 238,000 enlisted on V-J Day, the number decreased to a total of 400 officers and 20,000 enlisted men. In the years prior to Vietnam, the number of Seabee battalions had declined to five in each of the Pacific and Atlantic theaters
In May of 1965, the first of many battalions entered the Republic of Vietnam in support of the Third Marine Amphibious Force (III MAF). Ultimately, some 25,000 Seabees in 22 battalions, two regiments, a brigade and a host of Civic Action Teams experienced the building of logistic complexes in Danang, Chu Lai, Phu Bai and Dong Ha. Seabee Petty Officer Marvin Shields was awarded the Medal of Honor (posthumous) for heroic actions in the defense of Dong Xoai, a Special Forces Camp on 10 Jun 1965. (If you have access, Google MOH and read the citation.)
Elsewhere, the Seabees have completed major peacetime projects including the Cubi Point Naval Air Station, the Naval Base, Diego Garcia and a nuclear power plant at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica….plus erecting a geodesic dome at the South Pole Station to house the base and its scientific equipment. Peacetime construction efforts have resulted in a force ready for war at no cost to the Navy.
The Operations Iraqi Freedom and the War Against Terrorism have again engaged the Seabee battalions, both active duty and mobilized reserves. They accompany combat forces doing the things that Seabees do best…..building bridges, air fields, hospitals and logistic bases while defending what they have built.
The basic professional qualification of CEC officers is an engineering degree from an accredited college or university. Naval Academy graduates who serve in the CEC receive graduate level education. The members of the Class of 1948 received this education at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Nine members of the Class were commissioned directly into the CEC on graduation in June, 1947. This was the first time that Academy graduates were commissioned directly into the Corps. Other members of the Class entered the CEC by transfer from the line and subsequent graduation at RPI.
A total of 30 members of the Class have retired after service in the Corps. Ten members of the class retired as Commanders—Gordon Anderson (deceased) 8 th Co., CharlieButler 8 th Co., Jim Day (deceased) 4 th Co., Elliott Dewey (deceased) 5 th Co., George Hoffman (deceased) 24 th Co., Jack LeDoux 11 th Co., Bob Litke 15 th Co., Bob Miller (deceased) 24 th Co., Gene Portner 13 th Co., and Bud Vance 4 th Co. Six retired as Captains—RHP Dunn (deceased) 24 th Co., Dick Fluss (deceased) 17 th Co., Ed McManus 4 th Co., Cal Perkins (deceased) 18 th Co., Bill Reed 18 th Co., and Dan Shockey 20 th Co. Two retired as Rear Admirals—Charlie Heid 17 th Co.and Bob Jortberg 7 thCo.
Charlie and Bob have brought all of us up to speed on the CEC. Thank you.
A letter to Sumner from Ernie Castle 3 rd Co. took a long time to reach me but finally did. Ernie reported that his wife Jeanie passed away on 9 September ’08. Ernie sent me the obit from the Richmond Times Dispatch and Jeanie had a fabulous life-
The Charlottesville native moved with her family to the Richmond area in 1958. She graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in music from Lynchburg College. She later earned a master’s degree in music with organ emphasis at Indiana University and her doctorate in organ literature and pedagogy from Iowa University. She used a sabbatical to do post-graduate study at Oxford University. A woman of “intellectual curiosity, she had a very lively mind. She was always astonishing me about things she knew,” her husband said. She became a scholar on medieval cathedral architecture and had taken trips to England to study cathedrals.
Our condolences Ernie
On 20 Dec we lost a friend and Classmate. Clayton Rand Adams 12 th Co. passed away unexpectedly. He was born on 5/16/25. Our condolences to Nancy and family.