See the Seabee Museum at Quonset Point

IMG_2856Like the Coast Guard, the Seabees — part of the U.S. Navy — sometimes get overlooked when the histories of World War 2 are written. The men who were there, however, fully appreciated the skills of the Naval Construction Battalion (CBs), who bravely ventured onto open fields under enemy fire to built the vital Pacific Theater airfields that allowed the U.S. to “island hop” to the very doorstep of Japan.

Davisville, Rhode Island was the birthplace of the CBs, first established as Naval units on the eve of World War 2. It was here that thousands of Seebees were trained, and where the legendary “Quonset huts” were invented.IMG_2871

The Seabee Museum tells the story of these fighting engineers and some of the truly remarkable feats they accomplished. A large exhibit hall — built in an oversized Quonset hut, of course — contains exhibits of Seebee equipment and memorabilia, while the museum grounds has original Quonset huts, heavy machinery, and even examples of the metal grids that were used to quickly lay down runways at primitive airfields. There’s also a memorial to the Seabees who died in the two Gulf Wars and Afghanistan.IMG_2873

And of course there is the famous “Fighting Bee,” designed by North Providence native and Seabee Frank Iafrate, and recognized around the world as the mascot of the Seabees.IMG_2860

Nearby is another example of Seabee ingenuity: the Chapel in the Pines, a surviving structure from the Camp Endicott Seabee base, with an A-frame roof built with poured concrete slabs.IMG_2861

The Seabee Museum and Memorial Park is located at 21 Iafrate Way, North Kingstown, RI, just east of the Kohl’s department store. Hours are Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., May 1 to Oct. 31. Also open by appointment. The museum is free, but donations are encouraged. (All photos © Bob Curley)IMG_2877

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