Rose S. Prinzi
A special bond is shared by those who served as SEABEES during World War II. Locally, a group of former WW II Seabees, the Island X-11 NY Navy SEABEES, organized by Roland Swanson, meet monthly and, when possible, attend national conventions throughout the states.
These former Navy members maintain a bond so enduring that the local group established a scholarship fund in memory of the late John Oleszak, a former SEABEES, who joined the local group from the Buffalo area. The Island X-11 NY Navy SEABEES John Oleszak Memorial Scholarship Fund administered by the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation is designed to assist student(s) pursuing a career in auto-body repair and mechanics; carpentry; metalworking and machine shop; electrical and electronics; computerized information technology; diesel mechanics; graphics; technology; HVAC repair; plumbing or construction training.
Mr. Oleszak enlisted in the U.S. Navy in September 1944 and trained with the Navy SEABEES in Rhode Island prior to being shipped-out from California. He served in the South Pacific and Okinawa prior to serving with the 96th Navy Construction Battalion (NCB) and the NCB Unit 625 in China. He was discharged on July 3, 1946.
Who are the SEABEES?
In 1941, Rear Admiral Ben Moreell, Chief of the Navy’s Bureau of Yard and Docks, was authorized to develop a Naval Construction Regiment comprised of three Naval Battalions. These battalions were referred to as the CBs, Construction Battalions, better known as the SEABEES. They were designed to recruit for construction skills and experience.
For local resident Roland Swanson, this event was to have a lasting impact on his life.
While the nation was engaged in World War II, the newly recruited and trained SEABEES Roland Swanson was involved in the construction and upgrading of landing strips for the new bombers being introduced for the war effort.
Over 60 years have passed since Mr. Swanson was with the SEABEES, but his zest for this special Navy unit and what they represent continues today.
The “Can do!” spirit that embodies the SEABEES attitude is still held today by those who served. It is said of the Seabees, “With willing hearts and skillful hands, the difficult we do at once. The impossible takes a bit longer.” It is this local group’s intention that this SEABEES motto continues to live through those who receive the Island X-11 NY Navy SEABEES John Oleszak Memorial Scholarship. Through this scholarship fund, the members of the Island X-11 are investing in the future skills of local students who represent the spirit of the SEABEES.
If you are interested in learning more about the Island X-11 NY Navy SEABEES John Oleszak Memorial Scholarship or Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, call 661-3390 or go to our website at www.crcfonline.org.