Monday, February 3, 2020

The Seabees in Vietnam: My Washington Times Review Of 'Seabee 71 In Chu Lai'

The Washington Times published my review of Seabee 71 in Chu Lai.

David H. Lyman, like a good number of potential draftees in the 1960s, joined the military reserves in a desire to stay out of Vietnam during the war. Ironically, he ended up in Vietnam as a member of the Seabees (construction battalion) in 1967.

“I joined the Naval Reserve in 1963, primarily to avoid the draft and stay out of a foxhole in Vietnam,” Mr. Lyman writes in the preface of his slim memoir. “With my background and education in journalism, I wound up a JO3 Journalist Third Class. In 1966 I was commandeered off a Navy ship because a newly forming Seabee outfit, Mobile Construction Battalion 71, needed a journalist. I was not a real Seabee, I was a ‘fleet-bee,’ one of the office guys from the fleet.”

He said it was his job to publicize the battalion’s actions and accomplishments by writing press releases for the service members’ families back in the states and by writing stories and taking photographs that appeared in the battalion’s monthly newspaper, The Transit, which he edited.

“I was more PR hack than journalist,” Mr. Lyman notes.

In his book, “Seabee 71 in Chu Lai: A Navy Journalist’s Memoir of His 14 Months with MCB 71, 1966-67,” Mr. Lyman recounts his time serving with the Seabees in Chu Lai, where the Seabees built roads, airfield runways, buildings and other projects.

Mr. Lyman describes the battalion’s combat training given by Marines who served in Vietnam, as Seabees are trained and required to fight to protect themselves if attacked. After shipping out to Chu Lai in South Vietnam, the then-27-year-old sailor and the other men of the battalion lived in plywood huts called “hooches” with basic (some would call it primitive) facilities in a camp set up along the beach and the South China Sea.

“A Seabee outfit, or Naval Mobile Construction Battalion, is sort of like MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) unit, as seen in the popular movie and TV series. It is a self-contained unit of around 800 men and officers with its own cooks, office personnel, chaplain, engineers, architects, construction workers, doctors, and a monthly newspaper,” explains the author. 

You can read the rest of the review via the below link: 

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