Seabee 71 in Chu Lai

Memoir of a Navy Journalist with a Mobile Construction Battalion, 1967


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About the Book

Hoping to stay out of Vietnam, David Lyman joined the U.S. Naval Reserve to avoid the draft. By summer 1967 he was with a SeaBee unit on a beach in Chu Lai. A reporter in civilian life, Lyman was assigned to Military Construction Battalion 71 as a photojournalist. He documented the lives of the hard-working and hard-drinking SeaBees as they engineered roads, runways, heliports and base camps for the troops.
The author was shot at, almost blown up by a road mine, and spent nights in a mortar pit as rockets bombarded a nearby Marine runway. He rode on convoys through Viet Cong territory to photograph villages outside “The Wire.” The stories and photographs Lyman published as editor of the battalion’s newspaper, The Transit, form the basis of this memoir.

About the Author(s)

David H. Lyman is a writer, photographer and entrepreneur. He left the Navy to become a newspaper and magazine editor. In 1973, he founded The Maine Photographic Workshops, and built his summer school into an international conservatory for the world’s photographers, filmmakers, writers and media producers. It is located in Rockport, Maine, and continues today as

Bibliographic Details

David H. Lyman
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 240
Bibliographic Info: 131 photos, maps, glossary, appendices, index
Copyright Date: 2019
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7844-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3688-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments v
Glossary ix
Preface 1
1. All This to Avoid the Draft? 5
2. Off to Sea, with a Camera 10
3. I’m Going to Be a Seabee 18
4. Training for Combat Duty 30
5. Waiting to Deploy 40
6. Hello, Vietnam! 48
7. Life in This ’Bee Hive 62
8. The Battalion 77
9. The ’Bees Get to Work 92
10. Close Calls Come in Many Sizes 133
11. Outside the Wire 147
12. The Vietnamese People 159
13. Civic Action Program 168
14. Putting the Pieces Together 177
15. The End Is in Sight 195
16. The Last Month in ’Nam 206
Appendices: The End Is Never Really the End 213
The Faces of Vietnam’s Future 213
What Happened to MCB-71? 214
Lessons Learned 214
Our Commanding Officers 215
What Are the “Boys” Doing Now? 217
The One Who Didn’t Return 220
The History of NMCB-71’s Pacific Deployment in World War II 220
Index 227

Book Reviews & Awards

• “This well-researched and well-written story of his seven-month in-country tour chronicles the projects, people, and adventures of his unit. Lyman draws deeply from his notes he took at the time, as well from the many photos he took to construct a compact book that centers on the story of what the Seabees built and maintained in support of the U.S. war effort. This is a refreshing offering…quite readable and provides another perspective on the Vietnam War”—The VVA Veteran

• “Through Lyman, we realize the uniqueness of Navy Seabees and their contributions to the war effort in Vietnam. … Lyman’s memoir is unique among memoirs of military service. …highly recommended”— Army University Press

• “A compelling and chronological retelling of [Lyman’s] memories”—Sightings

• “The book is a compelling, chronological retelling of [Lyman’s] memories, supplemented by still-living shipmates and their family members.”—United States Navy Public Affairs Association