Original Navy Seabee from Durham honored on 100th birthday

Posted August 27, 2013
Updated August 28, 2013

— The U.S. Navy on Tuesday honored one of the original Seabees who was also marking his 100th birthday.

Jerry Smith of Durham was recognized in a ceremony at the Governor's Mansion in Raleigh. Family, friends and state and local leaders joined the Navy in showering Smith with flags and other gifts. 

"I'm starting a flag collection," Smith said. "It just overwhelms me. This is something I never expected in my lifetime."

Smith is a "plank owner" in the First Naval Construction Battalion – members of which are called Seabees – which was commissioned on March 15, 1942. He served in the Navy from January 1942 to September 1945.

A Navy plank owner is an individual who was a member of the crew when the ship or command was placed in commission. His battalion is credited with completing construction projects during the war, risking their lives to build hospitals and airfields.

Navy throws 100th birthday party for Durham Seabee Navy throws 100th birthday party for Durham Seabee

"It's something we did because it had to be done," Smith said. "Other jobs I could leave. I couldn't leave the Seabees, and I'm glad I was in the Seabees."

Rear Adm. Doug Morton, also a Seabee, said Smith is a role model in his career and life.

"There's just this vibrancy to his life," Morton said. 


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  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Aug 28, 2013

    What a wonderful example of a truly great man. There aren't many like him around anymore, sadly.

    Happy Birthday dear man, Happy Birthday!!!

  • Lyle2 Aug 28, 2013

    This fellow looks amazing for 100. I'm 53 and look older than he does.

  • Mr. Middle of the Road Aug 28, 2013

    The SeaBees I knew were tough as pine knots. From a grateful nation, thank you for your service sailor. He is a young looking 100!

  • trogers386 Aug 28, 2013

    Happy Birthday and Thank You for your service!

  • 426X3 Aug 28, 2013

    My grandfather was a Seabee during WWII. He was stationed at Okinawa. A Japanese zero attack ended his life. God Bless all those who served in the Seabees.

  • streetfightinman Aug 28, 2013

    My father was in the SEABEES in WWII he was at wake island, and in Saipan on the USS pennsylvania ,A purple heart recipient,making
    airstrips out of coral shell, A group effort no doubt,
    happy bithday MR SMITH thank you for your service!

  • cringercat1862 Aug 28, 2013

    Happy birthday Mr. Smith, and godbless.

  • Cock a doodle doo Aug 28, 2013

    My grandfather was a SeaBee in the Navy during WWII, he used to always share his stories about Guadacanal and the Marianas. Most, believe it or not, were quite humorous - he liked to tell the story about all the antics going, even when talking about being under attack by the Japanese.

    Congratulations Mr. Smith on your 100th and Thank you!

  • Workingrepublican Aug 28, 2013

    Thanks for your service and thanks for your generations sacrifice. It was definetly the greatest generation this country has or ever will see. I am sorry you had to see the direction this country is going in now. God Bless You!!!

  • Union Cavalry Aug 28, 2013

    Mr. Smith--Congratulations on your 100th birthday, and
    thank you for your service in the Seebees during World War II.
    You are a perfect example of "The Greatest Generation".

    A Vietnam Veteran