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First Name: Ben

Last Name: Moreell

Birthplace: Salt Lake City, UT, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Home of Record: Salt Lake City, UT

Date of Birth: 14 September 1892

Date of Death: 20 July 1978

Rank or Rate: Admiral

Years Served: 1917 - 1946
Ben Moreell
'The Master Bee'

•  World War I (1914 - 1918)
•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Ben Moreell

Admiral, U.S. Navy

Ben Moreell was born on 14 September 1892 in Salt Lake City, UT.

As a young Civil Engineer with a Bachelor of Science degree from Washington University (1913) in St. Louis, MO, he chose to defend his country by joining the U.S. Navy during World War I. He was commissioned in June 1917 as a Lieutenant (J.G.) in the Navy's Civil Engineer Corps and spent the next 30 years in the service of his country.

During the war, he was stationed in the Azores, there getting to know an Assistant Secretary of the Navy named Franklin D. Roosevelt, and afterwards served at Navy yards and installations in Massachusetts, Haiti, Virginia, and Washington. Recognized early for his exceptional capabilities, as a Lieutenant Commander he was sent to the École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées in Paris to study European military engineering design and construction practices. In 1933, he returned to the States to supervise the planning of what would eventually be called the David W. Taylor Model Basin in Carderock, MD.

On 1 December 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt personally selected Commander Moreell to be the Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks and the Chief of Civil Engineers of the Navy, and advanced him to the rank of Rear Admiral (without having ever been a Captain). With foresight and prudence, Moreell urged the construction of two giant dry-docks at Pearl Harbor and initiated Navy construction projects on Midway and Wake Island long before Japanese bombs began to fall on 7 December 1941. The docks were completed in time to repair battleships damaged at Pearl Harbor, and the facilities at Midway were completed in time to play a strategic role in the Navy's first significant victory over Japanese forces.

World War II requirements for advanced bases strung throughout the Pacific called for construction crews to be able to drop their tools and take up weapons at a moment's notice. Admiral Moreell had the answer - sailors who could build and fight. The need for a militarized Naval Construction Force to build advance bases in the war zone was self-evident. Therefore, Rear Admiral Ben Moreell determined to activate, organize, and man Navy construction units. On 28 December 1941, he requested specific authority to carry out this decision, and on 5 January 1942, he gained authority from the Bureau of Navigation to recruit men from the construction trades for assignment to a Naval Construction Regiment composed of three Naval Construction Battalions. On 5 March 1942, permission was granted for the construction battalions to use the name "Seabees." This was the beginning of the renowned Seabees, who obtained their designation from the initial letters of Construction Battalion. Admiral Moreell personally furnished them with their official motto: Construimus, Batuimus - "We Build, We Fight."

Ben Moreell's Civil Engineer Corps was given command authority over what was to become an organization of 250,000 people that built $10 billion worth of facilities to support the war effort. In 1943, Moreell became the Chief of the Navy's Material Division; and at the request of Vice President Truman, negotiated a settlement to the national strike of oil refinery workers. When the government seized the nation's strikebound bituminous coal industry a year later, Admiral Moreell was designated the Coal Mines Administrator.

On 11 June 1946, Moreell was promoted to the four-star rank of Admiral and became the first staff corps officer to achieve the rank of Admiral. He transferred to the retired list three months later.

In Retirement

For the next 12 years, Admiral Moreell turned his attention to industry, serving first, briefly (October 1946 - March 1947) as President of Turner Construction Company.

Moreell became President, Chief Executive Officer, and Chairman of the Board of Jones and Laughlin Steel Company, then one of the nation's largest steel manufacturers. In 1951, Moreell denounced attempts by the United Steelworkers of America to win an 18.5-cent-an-hour wage increase. In government hearings on the issue, Moreell doubled the cost of the union's wage increase and demanded a $12 a ton increase in the price of steel to make up the labor costs. Jones and Laughlin Steel was one of the steel companies seized by President Harry S. Truman on 8 April 1952. The seizure was overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States on 22 June. The union struck the next day. After a 53-day strike, Moreell and other steel manufacturers settled for the same terms the union had offered them four months earlier.

Admiral Moreell served as Chairman of the Task Force on Water Resources and Power of the Second Hoover Commission, directing a twenty-six man committee from November 1953 through June 1955. President Herbert Hoover called the work of this Task Force "the most far-reaching and penetrating inquiry into our water problems ever made in our history."

Always an active and exemplary citizen he was instrumental in organizing American for Constitutional Action (ACA), a national nonpartisan political action organization. This citizenship and service to country was further exemplified through his significant contributions to the Naval Academy itself. He was a member of the Board of Visitors (1953-1955) and Chairman of the Board in 1955. His accomplishments as Chairman of the Special Advisory Commission on Future Developments of Academic Facilities are seen today in the Naval Academy's superb educational complex.

Moreell wrote articles for The Freeman, a publication of the Foundation for Economic Education, a group that advocates free markets and libertarian philosophy.


Admiral Moreell's life was punctuated by accomplishments, awards, and well-earned recognition. He was honored 12 times with doctoral degrees, was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, and was named one of the 10 men who contributed most to the advancement of construction methods in the U.S. between 1925 and 1975.

In 1957 Admiral Moreell was awarded The John Fritz Medal, referred to as the highest award in the engineering profession, the award is presented each year for scientific or industrial achievement in any field of pure or applied science. It was established in 1902 as a memorial to the great engineer whose name it bears.

When asked which of his honors meant most to him, Admiral Moreell replied: "They are all very meaningful and deeply appreciated by me. I accepted all with pride and humility. The following excerpt from the citation for the Distinguished Service Medal presented in 1945 for World War II service gives me the greatest sense of a job 'well done'":

'Displaying great originality and exceptional capacity for bold innovation, he inspired in his subordinates a degree of loyalty and devotion to duty outstanding in the Naval Service, to the end that the Fleet received support in degree and kind unprecedented in the history of naval warfare.'


• The Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) Moreell Medal is named in honor of Admiral Moreell. This medal is presented for outstanding contribution to military engineering by a civilian or military member of the U.S. Navy's Civil Engineer Corps. This medal was first awarded in 1955.

• Admiral Moreell was one of the founders along with Dr. Samuel Moor Shoemaker, rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in Shadyside (Pittsburgh), of The Pittsburgh Experiment, a Christian interdenominational ministry that provides spiritual resources to business, professional and working people. The birthing vision challenge for The Experiment in the 1950s was "to make Pittsburgh as famous for God as it is for steel"...

• In Admiral Moreell's honor the Seabees named their Kuwait facility Camp Moreell, a military compound in Kuwait, Southwest Asia. The facility was home to U.S. Navy Seabees operating in the Persian Gulf region under Task Force Charlie as of early 2003. As of April 2003, Task Force Charlie comprised Seabees from several Naval Construction Force commands.

Death and Burial

Admiral Ben Moreell died on 30 July 1978 in Pittsburgh, PA. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

Origin of Nickname/Handle:
He is best known to the public as the 'father' of the Navy SeeBees; men who work for the Navy's Construction Battalions.

Honoree ID: 605   Created by: MHOH




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