By 1944 the United States had produced a long range bomber that
had the capability of flying the round trip distance from the Mariana
Islands to the Japanese home islands. In June 1944, the islands were
assaulted by U. S. forces for the purpose of obtaining airfields from
which to launch the new B-29 Superfortresses against Japan. Airfields
were constructed on Guam, Saipan and Tinian.
The construction of the airfields on Tinian was the largest
building activity the United States Naval Construction Battalion
(Seabees) had ever undertaken up to that time. They built six huge
bomber strips, each a mile and one half long and a block wide, along
with eleven of taxi ways with "hardstands" sufficient to park 300 aircraft.
The Seabees dug, blasted, scraped and moved eleven million cubic
yards of earth and coral on Tinian. This quantity of material would fill
a line of dump trucks 900 long. Piled on a city block, the earth and
coral they moved could form a pyramid two-thirds of a mile in height.
Their equipment was kept busy 20 hours a day while welding crews
worked to repair bulldozers, shovels and trucks damaged as a result of
the rough construction activity. One Seabee had a Marine tank team fire
armor-piercing shells into the side of a hill so dynamite charges could
be placed to break up the coral. The 15,000 Seabees on Tinian operated
equipment and constructed facilities of all types. In addition to the
machines listed in the accompanying table, they operated a wide
assortment of cranes and other equipment including asphalt plants to
pave the airstrips. In addition to the airfields they built Quonset huts
and other service buildings. Every airstrip was completed on time and
none required more than 53 days to build.
The Seabee's motto, "We Build, We Fight" and their "Can Do Spirit"
distinguished this group as being able to do any kind of work, any
place, under any conditions. The efforts of the 6th and 107th
Construction Brigades were remarkable.
Many Seabee groups would "adopt" an aircraft and when they did so
the quality of life for the crew of the plane improved considerably as
the Seabees provided the crew of "their" Superfortress with better
Quonset huts, washing machines, better mattresses, ice cream and
other comforts of life.
The men, equipment and construction material sent to this one
island required a degree of logistical support almost beyond
comprehension, all of which had to be planned, coordinated, assembled
and safely transported across the Pacific in hundreds of ships. When the
work was completed it all had to be repacked and loaded back aboard an
armada of naval vessels for transport to still another island where the
work would start all over again.
Some 7,300 miles east of Tinian, a plant had been constructed at
Oak Ridge, Tennessee in early 1943 for the manufacture of materials for
the atomic bombs that would be launched from an island in the Marianas.
This huge effort involved 200 prime contractors, 200 million board feet
of lumber, 400,000 cubic yards of concrete, 100,000 tons of steel, 750
buildings, 30,000 bachelor quarters, 15,000 family housing units, 55,000
carloads of material and equipment and 12,000 pieces of construction
equipment in use at the same time. The main building was over a mile
long. The facilityís steam power plant generated 238,000 kilowatts and
three boilers produced 750,000 pounds of steam per hour. Fifty railroad
cars were required each day to fuel the plantís boilers.