Moreel, Ben

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MOREEL, BEN (1892 –1978), U.S. admiral. Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Moreel worked as an engineer and in 1917 joined the U.S. Navy engineer corps. In the 1930s he served as public works officer at Pearl Harbor, and in 1937 he was made chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks. When World War ii broke out, Moreel created the elite naval construction battalions known as the Seabees, starting with 3,000 men. His Seabees developed airfields, roads, and housing on undeveloped islands in the Pacific. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Moreel recruited carpenters, machinists, electricians, and masons whose average age was 37. He valued work experience over youth. Eventually, more than 325,000 men signed on with the Seabees. On some 300 islands in the South Pacific, they went ashore shortly after the Marines had landed and began building hospitals, housing, and warehouses, in addition to the roads and airstrips. Proud of their reputation as fighters, the Seabees also became goodwill ambassadors who constructed orphanages, public utilities, and highways all over the world. In 1944 President Franklin D. Roosevelt made Moreel a vice admiral. Moreel retired as a full admiral in 1958, the first engineering officer and the first Jew to reach this rank. When he received his fourth star as admiral, he became the highest-ranking Jewish officer in Navy history.

In his honor, the U.S. Navy League created the Admiral Ben Moreel Award for logistics excellence.

Moreel's book The Admiral's Log Vol. 1 and 2 was published in 1958.


S. Howarth (ed.), Men of War (1993)

[Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]