History of the Ben Moreell Battalion and Training Ship Nicholas H. Anderson
Admiral Ben Moreell
September 14, 1892 – July 30, 1978
“The King Bee”
Father of the Seabees
Admiral Ben Moreell was the chief of the U.S. Navy’s Bureau of Yards and Docks and of the Civil Engineer Corps. Best known to the American public as the Father of the Navy’s Seabees, Admiral Ben Moreell’s life spanned eight decades, two world wars, a great depression and the evolution of the United States as a superpower. He was a distinguished Naval Officer, a brilliant engineer, an industrial giant and articulate national spokesman. He was commissioned in June 1917 as a Lieutenant (junior grade) in the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps and spent the next 30 years in the service of his country.
On December 1, 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt personally selected Commander Moreell to be the Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks and the Chief of Civil Engineers of the Navy, and advanced him to the rank of Rear Admiral (without having ever been a Captain). With foresight and prudence, Moreell urged the construction of two giant drydocks at Pearl Harbor and initiated Navy construction projects on Midway and Wake Island long before Japanese bombs began to fall on December 7, 1941. The docks were completed in time to repair battleships damaged at Pearl Harbor, and the facilities at Midway were completed in time to play a stratgeic role in the Navy’s first significant victory over Japanese forces.
World War II requirements for advanced bases strung throughout the Pacific called for construction crews to be able to drop their tools and take up weapons at a moment’s notice. Admiral Moreell had the answer – sailors who could build and fight. The need for a militarized Naval Construction Force to build advance bases in the war zone was self-evident. Therefore, Admiral Moreell determined to activate, organize, and man Navy construction units. On December 28, 1941, he requested specific authority to carry out this decision, and on March 5, 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.”
Admiral Moreell’s Civil Engineer Corps was given command authority over what was to become a 250,000 man outfit that built $10 billion worth of facilities to support the war effort. In 1943, Admiral Moreell became the Chief of the Navy’s Material Division; and at the request of Vice President Truman, negotiated a settlement to the national strike of oil refinery workers. When the government seized the nation’s strikebound bituminous coal industry a year later, Admiral Moreell was designated the Coal Mines Administrator. On June 11, 1946, he became the first staff corps officer to achieve the rank of Admiral and transferred to the retired list three months later.
Admiral Moreell’s awards included the World War I Victory Medal, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Order of the British Empire. When asked which of his honors meant most to him, Admiral Moreell replied: “They are all very meaningful and deeply appreciated by me. I accepted all with pride and humility. The following excerpt from the citation for the Distinguished Service Medal presented in 1945 for World War II service gives me the greatest sense of a job ‘well done’ “:
‘Displaying great originality and exceptional capacity for bold innovation, he inspired in his subordinates a degree of loyalty and devotion to duty outstanding in the Naval Service, to the end that the Fleet received support in degree and kind unprecedented in the history of naval warfare.’
The Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) Moreell Medal is named in honor of Admiral Moreell. This medal is presented for outstanding contribution to military engineering by a civilian or military member of the U.S. Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps. This medal was first awarded in 1955.
In Admiral Moreell’s honor the Seabees named their Kuwait facility Camp Moreell, a military compound in Kuwait, Southwest Asia. The facility was home to U.S. Navy Seabees operating in the Persian Gulf region under Task Force Charlie as of early 2003. As of April 2003, Task Force Charlie comprised Seabees from several Naval Construction Force commands.
Admiral Moreell passed away in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on July 30, 1978, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
17 September, 1971, US Naval Sea Cadet Night at Dodger Stadium
Ben Moreell Battalion was commissioned on January 27, 1971 at CBC Port Hueneme. The original crew included seven adult leaders and 34 cadets led by CDR Billus Whitworth, USN (retired), who served as the unit’s first Commanding Officer. Ben Moreell Battalion was the first Sea Cadet unit to be modeled after the Seabees and Admiral Moreell himself attended the commissioning ceremony.
In those days, prospective cadets were required to pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test along with a regular military physical. Only about one in three cadet applicants passed the written examination. Cadets who successfully completed the Sea Cadet program, however, were eligible to enlist in the Navy at an advanced pay rate and to bypass Navy basic training.
Both the 31st Naval Construction Regiment and the Naval Construction School (now the Naval Construction Training Center) were originally tasked with providing training support to the unit. The NCTC still provides classroom and training support to Ben Moreell Battalion, especially during annual Seabee Training where regular Navy personnel conduct all construction-related classes. CBC Port Hueneme continues to provide berthing during our training evolutions on a space-available basis.
Ben Moreell Battalion currently occupies spaces on the entire second floor of Building 104, adjacent to the NCTC. The unit was previously located in Building 1156 across the street (now taken back by 31st SRG and under construction) and, before that, in the Teen Center across from the CBC swimming pool.
During its over 40 years of active service, hundreds of cadets have learned about naval life, and developed a sense of pride, patriotism, courage, and self-reliance, all within an environment free of drugs and gangs. We will continue to add new information about Ben Moreell Battalion, including profiles of some of those who have passed through our venerable unit.
Training Ship Nicholas H. Anderson
Lance Corporal Nicholas H. Anderson, USMC
1985 – 2004
Unit Commissioned January 23, 2010
Training Ship Nicholas H. Anderson was commissioned on January 23, 2010 at CBC Port Hueneme. Originally members of the Ben Moreell Battalion, the unit’s Navy League Cadets and the adult staff tasked with conducting their program were transferred into the newly created NLCC unit. TS Nicholas H. Anderson continues to share space and some support staff with the Ben Moreell Battalion, which currently occupies spaces on the entire second floor of Building 104, adjacent to the NCTC.
The Training Ship is proudly named for Lance Corporal Nicholas H. Anderson, United States Marine Corps. LCPL Anderson died in a vehicle incident while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, California. He died on November 12, 2004. Prior to his enlistment in the USMC, LCPL Anderson was a member of the Naval Sea Cadet Corps.
During the Ben Moreell Battalion’s 38 years of active service, hundreds of cadets have learned about naval life, and developed a sense of pride, patriotism, courage, and self-reliance, all within an environment free of drugs and gangs. TS Nicholas H. Anderson carries on that proud tradition with the younger members of the Corps, preparing them for future enrollment in the NSCC and beyond.