79th USN Construction Battalion
79th Detachment at Cold Bay, Aleutians:
During their first tour of duty in the Aleutians, a
Detachment of the 79th NCB served at Cold Bay, located near the end of the Alaskan
Peninsula and 432 air miles from Kodiak. Commissioned July 14, 1943 as a Naval airfield
for coastal defense of the main base on Kodiak Island, Cold Bay, originated during World
War II as Fort Randall Army and was changed to a Naval auxiliary air facility on April 1,
1943. Annual snowfall at Cold Bay is 55 inches with wind speeds commonly 30 miles
Cold Bay Naval Auxiliary Airfield (NAAF) included
two 150 X 5000-ft asphalt-surfaced runways, a gravel-surfaced satellite field of the same
size, and twenty-eight 25,000-gallon tanks for Aviation gasoline storage along with
distribution tank trucks. Quonset buildings housed 500 officers and men as well as
offices, communications, refrigerator and general storage. Other construction
included an Army T-type 66x810-foot wharf, with small craft repair facilities.
65,000-gallon capacity tanks stored diesel-oil. These outer defense positions were
constructed by Seabees for the Army's usage. A radio range, radio and radar beacon
as well as a weather-observation station were located 50 miles south of Cold Bay at Sanak
and Caton Island.
Initial construction at Cold Bay had been accomplished by a
detachment from the 8th Battalion and a company of the 23rd. That work was completed
in May 1943. CBMU 510 took over the maintenance, later being relieved by a
detachment of the 79th Battalion. NAAF Cold Bay was decommissioned on November 7, 1944 and
a few necessary services turned over to the Army. The site was abandoned in 1950
although structures, pipelines, tank farms and some support facilities were left standing
and Cold Bay was not incorporated as a city until 1982.
Often hampered by mists, fog, ice, cold and howling
williwaws, Liberty ships provided food, ammunition, guns and other logistical support for
the recapture of the Aleutians from the Japanese and further defense from reoccupation by
the Japanese. Williwaw -- an Aleut word meaning sudden, strong, violent winds that
sweep through the Aleutians, occurring frequently. Cold Bay was one of the sailings
logged by the Liberty ship SS DANIEL L. LAMONT, recorded in 1943:
|Feb. 10--Vessel rollling heavily. Wind
Feb. 11--Snow squalls. Very rough sea. Wind force 7-8.
Feb. 12--Wind force 7. Overcast with rain and rough sea.
Feb. 19--Freezing weather. Snow storm.
March 1--Rough head sea. Thick rain and mist. Very poor visibility.
March 26--Wind lauled from SE to SW, reaching hurricane force with rain squals.
Reduced speed to 50 rpm. Driving rain and snow.
Photo: The scene is of a 79th Battn. Seabee of Co. A-6 going to the Chow
Hall in the center of the picture on a cold, snowy day. The building to the right is
of Co. A-6 and A-5 barracks.
where the Williwaw whips with bone piercing chill,
and the skies are eternally gray"
- From Victory at Sea, "The
Any information on participation of the 79th Naval
Construction Battalion or other Seabee Battalions at Cold Bay during World War II will be
greatly appreciated. Please contact:
References to the Seabees at Cold Bay, Aleutians in World
- Building the Navy's Bases in World War II History of the Bureau of Yards and Docks
and the Civil Engineer Corps 1940-1946 Volume II United States Government Printing Office
Washington 1947 The Advance Bases Bases in Alaska and the Aleutians Pages 168-174 Kodiak
- 79th NCB records - CEC, Seabee Historical Center, Port Hueneme, CA