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Mission

The mission of the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum is to select, collect, preserve and display historic material relating to the history of the Naval Construction Force, better known as the SEABEES, and the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps.


History

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War Trophies

During World War II, approximately 250,000 Seabees passed through Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC), Port Hueneme, on their way to or from the Pacific Theater. Anxious to get home after extended duty overseas, the Seabees left vast quantities of memorabilia and "war trophies" in Port Hueneme rather than dealing with the lengthy government paperwork required to ship them home. By 1946, the building known as "Theater C" was overflowing with abandoned war souvenirs. The Navy often publicly displayed these artifacts as local public events such as the Ventura County Fair.

First Seabee Museum

Commander Neil Kingsley, the Officer in Charge of the Training and Distribution Center, considered establishing a museum to stimulate interest in and preserve the history of the Seabees. Commodore Beauford W. Fink, senior officer at NCBC, Port Hueneme, strongly supported the idea. After sifting through the collection of war artifacts, Kingsley initiated a campaign to obtain more Seabee related memorabilia to balance the collections. Photographs, cruise books, uniforms, unit flags, newspapers, and other Seabee items were added to tell a more complete story of their accomplishments during the war.

"Theater C"

Rear Admiral John J. Manning, Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, dedicated the first Seabee Museum in "Theater C" in October 1947 (today "Theater C" is known as the Beehive Gym). Despite limitations of staffing, display equipment, and funding, the museum was buoyed up by the enthusiasm of Seabees, Civil Engineer Corps officers, and veterans for their history

1960s

By the early 1950s, the museum in "Theater C"had become more of a warehouse than a display area. Not only was the collection outgrowing the facility, but the location of the building on the base limited the access to the museum and attendance was down. In 1954, Captain William Church, Commanding Officer of NCBC, Port Hueneme, and Miss Helen Fairbanks, historian for the Bureau of Yards and Docks, pushed for the reorganization and relocation of the museum into a larger, more centrally located facility. The present facility comprised of two large Quonset huts known as "Elephant Huts," and remodeled between 1955 and 1956. The museum was rededicated in October of 1956 by the new base CO, Captain Eugene Peltier.

Gift Shop

The collection continued to expand, and by 1965, it once again faced outgrowing its facility. Discussions began on whether to relocate or expand the museum. The decision to expand the facility off the West Quonset Hut was made when ADM Ben Moreell (ret) decided to donate his complete collection, using modular facility construction that Seabees already used around the world. Construction materials were paid for from the profits of Museum Gift Shop. Seabees did the work!

Moreell Wing

The wing extension was dedicated in 1967 to honor Admiral Ben Moreell, known as the father of the Seabees, and is now called "The Moreell Wing". Admiral and Mrs. Moreell attended the official ribbon cutting with Felix DeWeldon, sculptor of the Marine Corps Memorial and the Seabee Memorial. A major portion of the new 4,500 square foot wing was dedicated to the Moreell Collection, which the admiral donated to the museum before the ribbon cutting.

Long Service

By 1984, the museum again needed more space for an ever-increasing collection that reflected the ongoing involvement of Seabees in world events. New offices for staff, an expanded Museum Store, as well as new artifact and archival storage spaces were created along with the CEC Gallery.

The gallery was dedicated to highlighting the accomplishments of CEC and its officers in the 1990s. The CEC Gallery tells the story of the Navy's Civil Engineer Corps, the officer arm of Seabee units. The CEC's old and proud tradition has its historical roots in the Civil War. Officers have served in every major US conflict since that time, and numbered over 10,000 during World War II.

As the second oldest official US Navy museum in the system, the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum looks forward to a new state-of-the-art facility, complete with new exhibits in 2011. With temperature and humidity controls, the complete collection will be preserved and maintained by the museum's professional staff. Best of all, the museum will be finally be more easily accessibly for the general public, with no restriction, for their education and enjoyment.