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Fighting 54th's SeaBee Dedication Page
My Father, Thomas P. Brown Jr. of San Francisco, California, whom along with other men of his era helped to preserve the rights of freedom that we experience today died in September of 1993. This page is in memory of him and the men of the 54th Construction Battalion who fought in Tunisia, North Africa and on the beaches of Anzio, Italy. My father never spoke much about the war to end all wars; he was a proud and quite man who often told me "war is hell, but a necessary thing at times" I believe he did not enjoy war per say but also knew that America's involvement in WWII was necessary to defeat the great evil of that time, Adolph Hitler. The Seabees motto was and still is "We Build, We Fight" and boy could they. The SeaBees " Can Do" spirit with a hammer in one hand and a rifle in the other built landing fields, barracks pontoon bridges and such, while still fighting a war. My Father will always be my hero for he was a man of conviction and honor.
He was stationed out of Camp Thomas, Rhode Island and that's where he met his future bride, my mom, Elma Mancini. My mother helped out at the USO hostess house on the camp, sort of  a place for dances and the guys to unwind before shipping out. My father asked her to dance one night and the affair began. He wrote to her constantly while he was overseas in Africa and Italy, never missing a chance to let my mother know she was the gal for him.
My father once told me of the loss of a friend he went through boot camp with while disembarking from the LST's at Anzio. The germans were lobbing mortars and gunfire at the incoming LST's, while in the water they had been instructed to fan out while heading towards the beach and as he went one way and his friend went the other, his friend got caught by one of the mortars. My father told me that was the scariest of times for him, watching his friend die and feeling so helpless  to assist in the situation. I have a deep sense of respect for the men and women who during the worlds darkest hour stood up and were counted on. The era that was the 40's did so much to help shape and give us the life we enjoy today, if not for their sacrifice, were would we be? I thank you, for your unwavering and unending "can do" commitment to help make the world a little bit better place to live in. Gen. Douglas MacArthur was quoted as saying, "The only trouble with Seabees is that we don't have enough of them."
     SeaBees Origin
The Boys On The Town
My Dads Battalion
After the Allies had driven the Axis forces out of Tunisia, the Seabees began a large-scale buildup at their new base in Bizerte. There they prepared a new weapon of war, the steel pontoon, that was to be used for the first time on the invasion beaches of Sicily. Actually, pontoons were not new to naval warfare. Xerxes had used such devices to cross the Hellespont when he invaded Greece in the 5th Century B.C. The Seabees, however, had added some new innovations and cleverly adapted them to the requirements of modern amphibious warfare. The classic pontoons were standardized in size and fitted with special tackle so that they could be quickly assembled to form causeways, piers, and other structures. As a result, these versatile "magic boxes" could be used to meet the exigencies of any number of situations.The beaches of Sicily had previously been considered by both the Allies and Axis as an impossible site for a major amphibious landing. Nevertheless, with help of the Seabees and their new pontoons, the Allies were able to carry off a surprise attack on the weakly defended Sicilian beaches. The enemy was quickly outflanked and overpowered as large numbers of men and huge amounts of equipment poured ashore over pontoon causeways with a minimum of casualties and delay. Thus, the Seabees were instrumental in spelling the beginning of the end for the southern stronghold of the Axis.
These same landing techniques were later used at Salerno and Anzio on the Italian mainland. Unfortunately, the Germans had learned their lesson from the Sicilian debacle, and this time they were lying in wait. It was in the face of fierce resistance and heavy bombardment that the Allies suffered heavy casualties as they stormed ashore at both Salerno and Anzio, and the Seabees absorbed their share of the casualties. At Anzio the situation was particularly desperate. Anzio had been a diversionary landing behind enemy lines and, when the Germans staged a massive counterattack, the defenders were in critical danger of being pushed back into the sea. It was the Seabees' task to keep essential supplies and ammunition moving across their pontoon causeways to the struggling forces on their precarious beachhead. Only with their vital assistance were the Allies able to turn the tide of battle and push inland in the wake of the slowly retreating Germans. For many months, however, the Seabees remained at Anzio and, under continuous German bombardment, built cargo handling facilities, unloaded tank landing ships, and kept supplies moving to the front. German resistance in Southern Italy finally collapsed and Rome was taken on 4 June 1943. Even so, the Seabees had one more task in the Mediterranean, the invasion of Southern France through Toulon. While this was a relatively important job, it was eclipsed by the much bigger assignment they were handed on the North Atlantic road to victory, the Normandy invasion.
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