Duane Earl Regal was born on December 14th, 1924 in Everett, Washington. His family moved to Wisconsin during his childhood, and he ended up graduating from Rock Island high school. Quickly after graduation, Duane was drafted into the United States Navy in 1943. Regal was a part of the largest draft contingent from Rock Island. Duane would find out that he was to be a part of the Navy’s newest battalion, the US Naval Construction Battalion no. 115.1
Before Pearl Harbor, the United States’ Naval forces hired civilian construction companies to construct bases and other facilities they needed during wartime. After the surprise attack, the Navy decided to construct a battalion to serve that purpose. This battalion would be tasked with building bases and supplies for the forces on the battlefront.2 They would soon gain the nickname the “Seabees” due to the abbreviation C.B. (from “Construction Battalion”).
Training began in Camp Perry on August 13th, 1943. On December 10th, 1943 the Seabees boarded the Alcoa Patriot due for Milne Bay, their first assignment. The journey took 83 days on ship. When the Seabees landed in Milne Bay their first task was to build a base. The Base took only two months to complete, and could hold 40,000 troops.
Duane would be in the Pacific for three years, and the Philippines for 26 months. While the Seabees did not see much of the actual war, they did battle harsh conditions. They battled mud, mosquitos, jungle rot, and homesickness. In back to back years, the Seabees celebrated Christmas on a naval ship.3
The Seabees were a part of the U.S. Military’s plan of “island-hopping.” This meant that each island in the Pacific needed to be taken from Japanese control. The plan was to take each island, and inch closer and closer to mainland Japan. This “island-hopping” plan dealt the U.S. forces 48,000 casualties. The Seabees did see real military action in Luzon. Luzon is an island in the Philippines. The Battle of Luzon saw the United States’ forces defeat the Japanese forces. The Seabees were called upon to complete emergency repairs and landing strip, while being exposed to large caliber shelling and Japanese air attacks. The Seabees completed this valiantly, and were awarded a commendation for their work and bravery.4
Duane returned home after three years. He married Rosealie DeSchepper on May 31, 1947. They would go on to have four children, and both work at Downing’s Dairy in Rock Island. Duane worked at Downing’s for 31 years, retiring in 1982, and then moving to Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas. Duane lived in Arkansas for ten years, then moved back to Milan, Illinois. He lived there with his wife until his death in 2006.5 Duane Regal lived a tremendous life, and served his country bravely.
3 National Archives Veterans’ Service Records
4 Edmund Castillo, The Seabees of World War II (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 2nd edition (February 1, 2011)