Seabee Teams in Vietnam, 1963-1968 by Kenneth E. Bingham | Books in Review

Seabee Teams in Vietnam, 1963-1968: The 13-Man Teams That Helped Rural Vietnamese and Who Fought Alongside the Special Forces (CreateSpace, 232 pp., $14.95, paper) is an excerpted reprint by Kenneth E. Bingham of the book,  COMCPAC REPORTS: Special Edition, Seabee Teams, Oct. 1959-July 1969,  written by Lt. Joseph L. Henley and Chief Journalist Thomas A. Johnson.

That volume also contained reports on Navy Seabee teams that served elsewhere around the world. In his book, Bingham has excerpted the sections on the Seabees in Vietnam beginning in 1954 when Seabees helped move about a million refugees (most of them Catholics) from North Vietnam to the south as the communists took over.

Two years later Seabees worked on surveying South Vietnam’s few roads and bridges. The first two thirteen-man Seabee teams arrived in Vietnam in January of 1963 to work with Army Special Forces in the CIA-funded Civilian Irregular Defense Group. Those teams built Special Forces camps and outposts, airfields, and roads, and worked directly with Vietnamese on many projects in rural areas.


Seabees taking a break while building a field hospital in Vietnam in 1967.

“Most of us took it for granted that the air bases we landed in, roads we drove on, helo-pads we mounted out from, and the camps we lived in, or passed through, and the water and food and fuel storage were somehow always there––or most likely didn’t give it a thought, ” Bingham says.

“But long before we arrived, military and civilian engineers were busy preparing the ‘ground’ to make it possible to fight a war; and begin attempts to win the hearts and minds of the South Vietnamese. A recent travel guide to Vietnam mentioned the superior roads and infrastructure in the Southern portion of Vietnam––as opposed to North Vietnam––due to the American presence there during the Vietnam War.”

—Marc Leepson

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