Naval Station San Diego: its history and development

Naval Station San Diego is a sprawling expanse of military seafront. With 12 miles of berths, it dominates ‘America’s finest city’ both physically and psychologically too. Since 1922 the Naval Station has grown in importance and size to be second only to Naval Station Norfolk Virginia.

The property on which Naval Station San Diego is located was deeded by the city of San Diego to the US government on 3 September 1919 in order for a docking and fleet repair base to be constructed. What the US government got was 21 water and 77.2 land acres, mostly composed of tidelands and marsh flats.

The US Navy must have seen potential, for two years later, on 15 February 1921, it bought the site. On 10 June 1921 USS Praire, commanded by Commander H. N. Jenson, arrived in San Diego Bay to start work on the site for the arrival of decommissioned destroyers, which were to be stored at San Diego. Accordingly, on 23 February 1922 US Destroyer Base San Diego was created by General Order 78.

For the next 20 years the yard was improved, with World War II providing the impetus to expand at a faster rate. During the conflict the Destroyer Base was renamed US Naval Repair Base San Diego, with 43,000 workers repairing and converting more than 5,000 ships.

After the war there was another name change, to the present title of Naval Station San Diego. The mission of the complex was also expanded to support the huge US Navy Pacific Fleet. Today Naval Station San Diego is homeport to 80 naval ships and 50 separate commands. It employs approximately 48,000 military and civilian personnel, and includes Fleet Training Center, Naval Dental Center, Shore Intermediate Maintenance Activity, Fleet Combat Systems Training, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Naval Electronics Systems Engineering Center and Naval Intelligence Service.

Fleet support has always been the mission of Naval Station, and that mission affects all warships homeported in the San Diego area. These include aircraft carriers at Naval Air Station, North Island, and the submarines at Sub Base in the Point Loma area. Pier space is also provided for homeported ships, for all Pacific Fleet ships undergoing refresher training or shakedown, for four Military Sealift Command ships, and for all foreign navy ships.

Carrier Row on Naval Air Station North Island is currently undergoing extensive modifications that will enable a fifth aircraft carrier to be berthed at the Naval Air Station. San Diego Bay remains a busy waterway as, within the confines of the Bay, more than 3,500 naval ship movements take place each year.

Today Naval Station San Diego occupies 1,029 acres of land and 326 acres of water. The seafront has 14 piers with berths totalling 12 miles, and the commanding officer of the Naval Station has an annual budget of $35 million. He is also designated as assistant chief of staff for Regional Port Operations. As such he is responsible for all regional Navy ship traffic and port berthing spaces in the San Diego area. He is also responsible for port services such as pier side logistics, a Liquid Cargo Division for fuelling, and a bay-wide on-call fuel spill rapid reaction team.

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