Ted Schwab

Ted was a Navy Seabee during World War II, stationed at first in the South Pacific, specifically on islands around what is now known as Papua New Guinea. Ted was a general welder and offers a unique glimpse on life as a Seabee with the 55th Construction Battalion. He was also stationed at Point Barrow, Alaska as the Head Baker until he was discharged in 1945.

Aboard Ship en route to Australia, January 1943
Ted heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor after he got home from checking traps at Defenbaugh's. He then went to work in the shipyards of Portland, welding for the Kaiser Company. The wages at the time were really quite high, at $1.40 per hour and 15% more for the graveyard shift ($1.60 per hour).
He then joined the Navy, as part of the Naval Construction Battalion, the famed Seabees. In January 1943, his battalion, the 55th shipped out to Australia aboard a Dutch freighter. Life aboard ship wasn't too bad according to Ted, I played pinochle the whole time, and we had to sleep in hammocks because it was so crowded.
On arrival in Australia (3 weeks at sea) they built 2 hospitals in Townsville, operated logging facilities in Brisbane during an acute lumber shortage, and established and operated a river-gravel plant from which all the Navy's concrete aggregate came from. The camp that they established outside of Brisbane, "Camp Seabee" would later become the staging camp for all the Seabees in the Southwest Pacific. Ted said they would spend time in Sydney and Brisbane for liberty, but the best place to go was Sydney.
Townsville Hospital
In July 1943 Company C (Ted's Company) went to Palm Island to construct a naval air station for patrol bombers, then in April 1944 the entire battalion (1015 men) was sent from Brisbane to a forward area, where they arrived at Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea in June 1944.
Sydney Harbor, 1943
Japanese Plane on HollandiaLanding on Mios Woendi
On June 11, 1944 Companies C and D left for Mios Woendi where they would spend much of the war building the facilities for a PBY seaplane base, hospital facilities for wounded from advanced areas, repair facilities for landing craft (from LST size down).
PBY Base, Mios Woendi
While on Mios Woendi, the 55th Battalion also went to other islands, building such things as a tank farm, a port director's office, an ammunition storage unit, and a mine-warfare facility.
Cat and Scraper Working Hard LCT (Landing Craft, Tank)
Shelling Japanese on Biak
The problems that the 55th encountered while on Mios Woendi were such things as to be expected in a tropical war zone - night air attacks, daytime alerts, heavy rains, and worse of all for a construction battalion, lack of proper aggregate for the concrete.
While Mios Woendi was enduring its share of Japanese bombings, Biak (7 miles away) was getting hammered. We were 7 or 8 miles from Biak, and we had front row seats to the bombings from Mios Woendi.
Biak Beach After the Fighting
Japanese Cave on Biak Island

While on Mios Woendi the battalion was treated to two shows from the great Bob Hope and Frances Langford, among other USO stars. He was also able to get a ride on the now-famed PT Boats (picture on the right). Of their skippers, he said, They were a bunch of glory hounds.

Unloading Supplies, Alaska

After work was completed on Mios Woendi, the 55th CB was sent back to the States in January 1945. Ted then volunteered to go to Point Barrow, Alaska, where he worked in the Camp Parks bakery. After the "Point Man" - the man with the most points to go home after the war ended - he became the head baker. According to Ted, This was the best job!

Bakery at Camp Parks, Alaska (Ted center 1st row) Bread Dough Rising, Camp Parks, Alaska
He received his discharge from the Navy in January 1946 as a petty officer, second class and returned to Newport. I wouldn't give any money for his experiences, but didn't want to do it again. Also, he remembers friends such as Red Shoemaker from Cusick and Al Sharton, who were just like brothers.
Ted's Friends (L to R): Tiger, Bill, Mort?, Ted, Al


Copyright © 2004 by Kristen Cornelis