*VMBB Senior Chief Of Staff*
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Marty Robbins old hometown, Glendale Arizona--a suburb of Phoenix.
SEABESS/TYPHOON BESS..1968..VIET NAM
NMCB-8’s Detail Tango returned to Camp Wilkinson via convoy.
…Typhoon Bess struck the Phu Bai area with heavy rains causing widespread flooding. No major casualties or damage was incurred by NMCB-133 personnel or property. The new Nam Hoa pontoon mounted pumping station floated about 100 yards downstream, was washed aground, and broke in half.
…Typhoon Bess hit the Northern I Corps area bringing high winds and torrential rains: 04 September-6.5 inches, 05 Sept-8.01 inches, 06 September-3.17 inches. A total of 17.73 inches of rain in a 72 hour period. The Typhoon resulted in considerable erosion of all surfaces and extremely high water conditions in all lowland areas. Bridge 9-15 was damaged beyond repair and the wingwalls on Bridges 9-4 and 9-7 were severely damaged. Route One south was overtopped by flood waters and severly damaged just north of Quang Tri Combat Base. Water damage at the ASRT bunker at Camp Carroll necessitated replacement of the facility. The storm also damaged virtually all defensive bunkers and trenches within the Camp Barnes area.
…NMCB-3 set mortar alert at 0530 due to mortar and rocket attacks in the Da Nang area. No NMCB-3 casualties; no enemy rounds fell in camp.
…One rocket attack on Quang Tri
…The Minimum Essential Requirement (MER) Project was the largest single project undertaken by NMCB-11 during the 1968 deployment. The seven-day workweek was begun for MER. MER was a project to get combat units out of the sand. Constructing over 2,000 structures-tropical huts and showers-and 302 standard four-hole heads in eight weeks at a cost of over $1.17 million, the men of NMCB-11 completed one of the largest scoped projects ever undertaken by the Seabees in Vietnam during their Quang Tri deployment. The work included construction of 1,964 tropical huts sized from 16’x24’ to 32’ x 40’, seventt-three shower facilities from four shower heads to twenty shower heads and sized 8’x18’ to 20’ x 48’; and 302 standard four-hole burnout heads. They also constructed 67 galleys and messhalls valued at $160,338, including one 40’x200’ rigid frame building, forty-two 16’x32’ timber-frame field gallies, and twenty-four 180-man to 250-man standard and field mess halls sized 1,024 sf to 8,000 sf. Through the Seabee’s efforts, the priority MER Project got thousands of Marines and GIs out of tents and into huts in time for the monsoon season and living conditions improved immeasurably. (Capt. Bruce Geibel “Family of 11th Seabee battalions”)
…Constructing over 2000 structures in eight weeks, the men of Eleven completed one of the largest scoped programs ever undertaken by the Seabees during their Quang Tri deployment.
Through the Seabee’s efforts, the priority project, Minimum Essential Requirements (MER), got thousands of Marines and G.I.s out of tents and into huts for the monsoon season.
To maintain the hectic pace helicopters were used at times to transport the builders when rains made roads impassable or the long workdays ended after the roads were closed for the night.
Five other Seabee battalions in Vietnam detached over 200 men to the building force of NMCB-11, Marine and Army units supplied working parties to aid the Seabees as laborers. The Seabee battalion’s administrative staff was stripped to a skeleton crew providing an additional 25 fleet-bee builders for the projects.
To the men of the battalion, who utilized over five hundred miles of two-by-fours and several million square feet of plywood during the project, MER ment 10 ½ hour work days and roast beef.
“Give us this day our daily bread, not roast beef” stated an anonymous plea tacked to the galley door during MER. “It’s all we got left and we haven’t got much of that,” Ltjg Melvin S. Lutjemeier, galley OIC, exclaimed while totaling his stores of C-rations.
The thousands of tons of materials for the massive project had a priority superseded only by ammunition and left little room on the barges and trucks, already running 24 hours a day, for lower priority supplies like food, soda, and beer.
In addition to the hundreds of SEA huts (living huts designed especially for South East Asia) which made up the largest part of MER, roads were carved and 75 mess halls, 77 shower buildings and 14 dispensaries were built.
Construction of the massive number of structures was accomplished by utilzizingg many assembly line practices. Lumber, whenever possible, was pre-cut before reaching the field, and in some cases it was possible to build entire walls in the yards and then transport them to the construction sites
…Typhoon Bess deposited 23 inches of rain at Quang Tri. Portions of Route 1 and 9 were washed out due to the torrential rainfall.
… Tropical Storm Bess hit the MCB-22 camp early in September with near-typhoon winds. In preparation, the men battened down the hatches and sanfbagged the roofs to give their hootches maximum protection; but Bess still was able to make short work of the EM Club roof. The CP shack and medical bunker had problems with humidity-abouit six inches worth-and the electrical power gave out at the start of the winds. Fortunately the battalion’s crew of cooks fired up the field ovens and kept warm food available all day.
…On 4 September, Typhoon Bess struck the Hue-Phu Bai area. Strong winds and heavy rains were experienced for approximately 54 hours. Camp Campbell received only minor damage during the storm. Damage was incurred on a few of the Battalion worksites. Three bridge approaches between Phu bai and Cau Hai and one approach between Phu Bai and Hue were partially washed out by flood waters. One bridge between Hue and Phu bai incurred deck failure and several culvert headwalls also failed north of Phu bai. The pumping station being constructed on pontoons at nam Hoa broke away from its moorings and was driven about 100 yards downstream. After grounding, it broke in half as the water level fell. The day after the storm ended, all bridge approaches were repaired. Because of the vital nature of QL-1, the bridge deck failure at Bridge 29 was repaired during the night of 14-15 September. The nam Hoa pumping station was salvaged and by 20 September it was in the condition it had been prior to Typhoon Bess. The MER program continued at an intense pace despite the storm.