On September 17, 1943, the original Naval Construction Battalion (NCB) 133 was commissioned at Camp Perry, Williamsburg, Virginia. After seven months of training at Davisville, Rhode Island; Gulfport, Mississippi; and Port Hueneme, California, NCB One-Thirty-Three was ready for action.
The battalion adopted the Kangaroo as its symbolic mascot and “Kangroo Can Do” as its slogan because the first scheduled deployment was to be to Australia. However, change is inevitable, Naval Air Station, Honolulu, became the first deployment site. One-Thirty-Three was tasked with expanding and improving the air station. The work involved raising the level of the airfield and building seaplane docks, fuel tanks, and buildings. The finished airfield became one of the largest and busiest in the Pacific Theater.
The invasion of Iwo Jima began on February 19, 1945. NCB-133 accompanied the invasion force, with two taskings: to secure the beaches after the first assault troops went ashore and to serve as the shore party maintaining supply lines to the Marines on the forward battle lines. After the invasion began, NCB-133 was tasked with repairing the island’s three bombed-out Japanese airstrips, which were needed as soon as possible for use by Allied bombers. The Kangaroos were ashore by 4 p.m. on D-Day. Although the initial landing was relatively easy, the Japanese held their first line of defense and delivered murderous fire from their guns high on Mount Suribachi, and the entire beach was covered by mortar, artillery, and machinegun fire from the surrounding hills. The Seabees were in a position even more precarious than the Marines on the front lines, but they took what the enemy threw at them, and carried on the job of establishing and operating supply lines to the fighting men. When the Marines captured the first airstrip, the runway was sufficiently repaired to be used by light observation planes. On the same day, the order came to begin rehabilitating the second airstrip, which as to become the longest in the Western Theater.
After the first weeks, work went on day and night on the two airstrips. Until then, Japanese resistance had prevented the men from working after dark. The battalion encountered sniper fire and mortar attack until, and even after, the island was declared secure on March 15. During the 26 day battle for Iwo Jima, 133rd NCB suffered 370 casualties of the initial 875 men who landed. This was the highest number of casualties of any Seabee unit in history.
In the five-month period the battalion spent on Iwo Jima, over 100,000 tons of rock was crushed, over a million cubic yards of earth moved, 5,900 feet of drainpipe was laid, 4,000 feet of conduit was installed and 725 cubic yards of concrete was placed. As the war drew to an end, the battalion finished its work on Iwo Jima. Shortly thereafter, in December of 1945, with the general reduction in military strength following the end of World War II, NCB-133 was decommissioned.
On August 12, 1966, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133 was re-commissioned in ceremonies aboard the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport, Mississippi. With Commander Edward H. Marsh at the helm as Commanding Officer, another proud and quality construction-filled chapter began for the battalion.
Since the battalions re-commissioning in 1966, NMCB-133 has played a vital role within the Naval Construction Force (NCF) during the Vietnam War, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. NMCB-133 has also provided humanitarian assistance around the world to include Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. For the battalions of various contributions within the NCF throughout the years, NMCB-133 has been awarded numerous Atlantic Fleet Best of Type Battle “E” awards. NMCB-133 continues to provide an adaptive and scalable Naval Construction Force ready and capable of executing quality construction in combat or support of civic action, humanitarian assistance, or disaster recovery.