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November 12, 2010

An Honor To Serve…and Support

Joe Charlebois

Marvin Glenn Shields, Petty Officer Third Class (CM), NMCB 11(Naval Mobile Construction Battalion) died the 10th of June 1965, Dong Xoai, South Vietnam.


He was the first and still the only Navy Seabee to receive the Medal of Honor.


He received the medal posthumously. He was mortally wounded after he, and the commander of his unit, Lt. Charles Q. Williams were returning from taking out an enemy’s machinegun emplacement.


Having been twice wounded, Petty Officer Shields once again put himself in a vulnerable position to save his fellow servicemen. He and Lieutenant Williams attacked the enemy at the point of fire. The enemy fire was extremely accurate and the entire unit was locked in its crosshairs. It was imperative that it be destroyed. They succeeded, but Petty Officer Shields was mortally wounded while returning to his unit.


He was there in support of an Airborne 5th Special Forces Group detachment.


His Medal of Honor citation reads:


"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Although wounded when the compound of Detachment A342, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, came under intense fire from an estimated reinforced Viet Cong regiment employing machineguns, heavy weapons and small arms, Shields continued to resupply his fellow Americans who needed ammunition and to return the enemy fire for a period of approximately 3 hours, at which time the Viet Cong launched a massive attack at close range with flame-throwers, hand grenades and small arms fire. Wounded a second time during this attack, Shields nevertheless assisted in carrying a more critically wounded man to safety, and then resumed firing at the enemy for 4 more hours. When the commander asked for a volunteer to accompany him in an attempt to knock out an enemy machinegun emplacement which was endangering the lives of all personnel in the compound because of the accuracy of its fire, Shields unhesitatingly volunteered for this extremely hazardous mission. Proceeding toward their objective with a 3.5-inch rocket launcher, they succeeded in destroying the enemy machinegun emplacement, thus undoubtedly saving the lives of many of their fellow servicemen in the compound. Shields was mortally wounded by hostile fire while returning to his defensive position. His heroic initiative and great personal valor in the face of intense enemy fire sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service."


What makes Petty Officer Shields and every other Seabee’s actions over the past 70 years even more incredible is the fact that the Navy’s Mobile Construction Battalions by definition are defensive units. They are land based units with the purpose of providing support to the Navy and other service branches with construction of landing strips, roads, hospitals, bridges, housing and other various construction needs. Because they are considered non-combatant, they are constantly put in perilous positions close to fighting without being specifically trained for offensive maneuvers. More accurately they are taught to take up defensive positions in time of need. (For more on the history of these units see Seabees.)


Founded in 1941 for WWII duty, the Seabees led by Admiral Ben Moreel have had a long history of support to our various branches of armed forces. That same history shows time and time again that the founding father of the Navy’s first Construction Battalion, Admiral Moreel, had it right when he gave the first Battalion the motto “Construmus Batumius” or “We Build, We Fight.”


The Seabees have never backed down from a fight and have had to defend themselves even while building hospitals, drilling wells for water, or building roads for local villages to get aid and supplies to other units or native peoples.


In that same tradition of “We Build, We Fight!” Marvin Shields, Medal of Honor recipient, obviously never knew that he would receive such an honor, nor, I’m sure, did he ever care. That is not why he did what he did.


We are proud of what he and others have done in service to their country – the United States. It is our duty to make sure that those who have served are remembered and thanked for their service.


I am grateful to have been able to serve our country. I am proud to have been a Seabee.


Those who have served and are serving now will have my undying support. Our service men and women are deserving of our support no matter what one thinks of past or current wars. They are willing to lay down their lives in service to our country at an age that human beings shouldn’t be thinking about death on a daily basis.


Thank Petty Officer Marvin Shields! Thank you to all veterans!


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