THE 55TH BATTALION SEABEES
A UNITED STATES NAVAL CONSTRUCTION BATTALION
 IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

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The 55th US Navy Construction Battalion left America on 5 March 1943, arriving in Brisbane, Australia on 25 March 1943. They had anchored just outside the mouth of the Brisbane River the previous night. American cigarettes were exchanged for Australian pennies with the Aussie wharfies. The Seabees were amazed at the size of the penny. As big a an American half dollar. They marched to Doomben Race Track near Eagle Farm airfield. Here they slept in tents and had their first experience with Army chow. They soon started to build their camp known as Camp Seabee.

They built an advance base depot, a mine depot, a US Navy hospital (Mob 9), worked a sawmill near Yandina, and built many warehouses in and around Brisbane. Some of them also got involved in the infamous Battle of Brisbane.

 

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Arriving in Brisbane

Detachments were sent from Brisbane between May 1943 and April 1944 to Merauke, Kanakopa, New Guinea, and Port Moresby, Palm Island, near Townsville and Cairns. On 28 April 1944 the 55th Battalion left Brisbane and arrived at Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, on 1 June 1944.

Company "A" was sent to Merauke in Dutch New Guinea where they were regulary bombed by the Japanese..

A detachment of "B" Company were sent to Cairns in north Queensland to build another mine depot. A platoon from Company "B" were sent to Port Moresby.

Company "C" were sent to Palm Island north of Townsville to build the Palm Island US Naval Air Station. Company "C" learnt how to play baseball while they were on Palm Island.

"D" Company were kept busy building a mine depot at J.C. Slaughter Falls near the base of Mount Coot-tha in Brisbane. They were later sent to Milne Bay in New Guinea.

All companies eventually returned to Camp Seabee at Eagle Farm. After weeks of rumours and scuttlebutt they boarded two liberty ships and sailed north. When they left Camp Seabee it was handed over to the Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU).

CBMU 544 was a CBMU unit that left Gulfport, Miss. on 13 December 1943 bound for Brisbane. Could this have been the CBMU that looked after Camp Seabee when the 55th Battalion left? CBMU 554 left Brisbane in 2 echelons in January 1945, the rear echelon arriving at Leyte and Samar in the Philippines on 14 February 1945.

 

CBMU 552 and CBMU 553 are two units that are reported to have spent time
at Green Island. Can someone confirm if this is the Green Island off Cairns?

 

CBMU personnel are the men who keep a base running after it has been secured. Their jobs range from looking after the garbage to repairing ships and all the other odd jobs that need to be done on an operational base.

 

Camp Seabee at Eagle Farm in Brisbane

 

The Seabees in Australia

 

 

 

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This page first produced 20 May 2000

This page last updated 05 May 2013