Mare Island Naval Shipyard
California Historical Landmark No. 751
|NRHP reference No.||75002103|
|Added to NRHP||15 May 1975|
|Designated NHLD||15 May 1975|
The Mare Island Naval Shipyard (MINSY) was the first United States Navy base established on the Pacific Ocean. 25 miles (40 km) northeast of San Francisco in Vallejo, California. The Napa River goes through the Mare Island Strait and separates the peninsula shipyard (Mare Island, California) from the main portion of the city of Vallejo. MINSY made a name for itself as the premier U.S. West Coast submarine port as well as serving as the controlling force in San Francisco Bay Area shipbuilding efforts during World War II.It is located
The base closed in 1996 and has gone through several redevelopment phases. It was registered as a California Historical Landmark in 1960,and parts of it were declared a National Historic Landmark District in 1975.
In September 1849, Lieutenant Commander William Pope McArthur was placed in command of the US survey schooner Ewing, which had been brought around Cape Horn to the West Coast by Lieutenant Washington Allon Bartlett. Massachusetts, were hampered from progress due to desertions of their crews to the gold fields, including a mutiny when crew members rowing into the city from Ewing threw an officer overboard in an attempt to desert. They managed to survey the Mare Island Strait before steaming to Hawaii to obtain crewmen from Hawaiian monarch King Kamehameha III. They returned to San Francisco in the spring of 1850 with the coastal survey of northern California beginning on 4 April 1850 and continued up to the mouth of the Columbia River. On 1 August 1850, while still in Oregon, McArthur purchased a 1⁄16 interest in Mare Island for $468.50 then returned to San Francisco later that month to prepare charts and write reports.Upon reaching San Francisco, Ewing and the other ship assigned to the survey, USS
On 15 January 1852, Secretary of the Navy Will A. Graham ordered a Naval Commission to select a site for a naval yard on the Pacific Coast. Commodore D. Sloat along with Commodore C. Ringgold, Simon F. Blunt and William P.S. Sanger (former overseer of construction of Drydock Number One, Norfolk Naval Shipyard) were appointed to the commission. On 13 July 1852, Sloat recommended the islandacross the Napa River from the settlement of Vallejo.
The Navy purchased the original 956 acres (387 ha) of MINSY on 4 January 1853. McArthur's family share (he had died a few months after purchasing an interest in Mare Island) was $5,218.20.The Navy commenced shipbuilding operations on 16 September 1854 under the command of then-Commander David Farragut, who later gained fame during the U.S. Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay, when he gave the order, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" MINSY served as a major Pacific Ocean repair station during the late 19th century, handling American as well as Japanese and Russian vessels in the course of duty.
In 1861, the longest lived of the clipper ships, Syren, was brought to Mare Island Navy Yard for $15,000 of repairs. Syren had struck Mile Rock two times while trying to sail out of the Golden Gate.
Marines first arrived for duty in 1862 under the command of Maj Addison Garland, who was the first officer to command the Marine barracks on the island.
Mare Island Naval Shipyard also took a commanding role in civil defense and emergency response on the West Coast, dispatching warships to the Pacific Northwest to subdue Native American violence. MINSY sent ships such as Wyoming south to Central America and the Panama Canal to protect US political and commercial interests. Some of the support, logistics and munition requirements for the Spanish–American War were filled by Mare Island. MINSY sent men, materiel and ships to San Francisco in response to the fires following the 1906 earthquake. Arctic rescue missions were mounted as necessary. Ordnance manufacturing and storage were two further key missions at MINSY for nearly all of its active service, including ordnance used prior to the American Civil War.
In 1911, the Marine Corps established two West Coast recruit training depots first at Mare Island, the second at Puget Sound, Washington. Mare Island eventually became the West Coast's only recruit training facility when the Puget Sound operation consolidated to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1912. Instructors trained recruits there until 10 August 1923, when they relocated to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.
In March 1917 MINSY was the site of a major explosion of barges loaded with munitions. The blast killed 6 people, wounded another 31, and destroyed some port facilities. Agents of U.S. Military Intelligence tied the blast to roving German saboteur Lothar Witzke,who was caught and imprisoned in 1918.
MINSY saw major shipbuilding efforts during World War I. MINSY holds a shipbuilding speed record for a destroyer that still stands, launching USS Ward in just 17+1⁄2 days in May–June 1918. Mare Island was selected by the Navy for construction of the only US West Coast-built dreadnought battleship, USS California, launched in 1919. In 1904, the pre-dreadnought battleship USS Nebraska had been launched at Seattle, Washington. Noting the power of underwater warfare shown by German U-boats in World War I, the Navy doubled their Pacific-based submarine construction program at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard by founding a submarine program at MINSY in the early 1920s.
Base facilities included a hospital, ammunition depot, paint and rubber testing laboratories, and schools for firefighters, opticians, and anti-submarine attack during World War II.MINSY reached peak capacity for shipbuilding, repair, overhaul, and maintenance of many different kinds of seagoing vessels including both surface combatants and submarines.
Up to 50,000 workers were employed.Mare Island even received Royal Navy cruisers and destroyers and four Soviet Navy subs for service. Following the War, MINSY was considered to be one of the primary stations for construction and maintenance of the Navy's Pacific fleet of submarines, having built seventeen submarines and four submarine tenders by the end of hostilities.
Before World War II the Navy established Station I at Mare Island as one of four High Frequency Direction Finding (HFDF) stations on the Pacific mainland to track Japanese naval and merchant shipping east of Hawaii. The other stations were: Point Arguello, California (Station Z), Point Saint George, California (Station T), and Fort Stevens, Oregon (Station S).
Patriotism and esprit de corps among the workers ran very high. Mare Island's military and civilian workforce raised almost $76M in war bonds; enough to pay for every one of the submarines built at MINSY prior to VJ Day. More than 300 landing craft were built at Mare Island.
Mare Island Naval Shipyard constructed at least eighty-nine seagoing vessels. Among the more important ships & boats built were:
With the prelude to, and the outbreak of World War II, the Mare Island Naval Shipyard specialized in submarines, and other than a few submarine tenders, no more surface ships were built there. MINSY continued building non-nuclear subs through the Cold War including two of the three Barracuda-class submarines and USS Grayback, an early guided missile launcher. In 1955, Mare Island was awarded the contract to build Sargo, the first nuclear submarine laid down at a Pacific base.
The shipyard became one of the few that built and overhauled nuclear submarines, including several UGM-27 Polaris submarines. 1970 saw the launching of Drum, the last nuclear submarine built in California. In 1972, the Navy officially ceased building new nuclear submarines at Mare Island, though overhaul of existing vessels continued. Nautilus was decommissioned at Mare Island in 1980, then rigged for towing back to Groton, Connecticut to serve as a museum of naval history.
In 1966, during the Vietnam War, the U.S. Navy transferred their Brown Water Navy Riverine Training Operations from Coronado, California to Mare Island. Motorists traveling along Highway 37 could often see U.S. Navy River Patrol Boats, among other river assault type boats, maneuvering through the sloughs of what is now the Napa-Sonoma State Wildlife Area, which borders the north and west portions of Mare Island.
U.S. Navy Reserve Units may still operate the slough portions of the State Wildlife Area for training purposes, as the navigable waters are considered public property. The U.S. Navy Brown Water Riverine Forces were inactivated after the Vietnam War, maintaining only the U.S. Naval Reserve PBRs and auxiliary craft at Mare Island, until the 1996 base closure.
Mare Island Naval Shipyard expanded to over 5,200 acres (2,104 ha) during its service life and was responsible for construction of over 500 naval vessels and overhauling thousands of other vessels. Though it remained a strong contender for continued operations, MINSY was identified for closure during the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process of 1993. Naval operations ceased and the facility was decommissioned on 1 April 1996.
The California Conservation Corps, Touro University California, and numerous commercial and industrial businesses are currently leasing property aboard the former naval shipyard. In May 2000, the Navy completed the transfer of a former housing area called Roosevelt Terrace using an "economic development conveyance"; a method to accelerate the transfer of BRAC facilities back to civilian communities for their economic benefit. The Navy is also transferring property at the shipyard to other government agencies such as Fish and Wildlife Service refuge, a Forest Service office building, an Army Reserve Center, a Coast Guard communications facility, and a Department of Education school.
The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, often called the Portsmouth Navy Yard, is a United States Navy shipyard located in Kittery on the southern boundary of Maine near the city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. PNS is tasked with the overhaul, repair, and modernization of US Navy submarines.
USS Pampanito (SS-383/AGSS-383), a Balao-class submarine, was a United States Navy ship, the third one named for the pompano fish. She completed six war patrols from 1944 to 1945 and served as a Naval Reserve Training ship from 1960 to 1971. She is now a National Historic Landmark, preserved as a memorial and museum ship in the San Francisco Maritime National Park Association located at Fisherman's Wharf.
USS Seawolf (SS-197), a Sargo-class submarine, was the second submarine of the United States Navy named for the seawolf.
USS Skate (SS-305) was a Balao-class submarine in service with the United States Navy from 1943 to 1946. She was used as a target ship in the 1946 atomic bomb tests and finally sunk as a target ship in October 1948.
USS Grayback (SS/SSG/APSS/LPSS-574), the lead ship of her class of submarine, was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named for the grayback.
USS Nautilus (SF-9/SS-168), a Narwhal-class submarine and one of the "V-boats", was the third ship of the United States Navy to bear the name.
USS Sailfish (SS-192), was a US Sargo-class submarine, originally named Squalus. As the Squalus, the submarine sank off the coast of New Hampshire during test dives on 23 May 1939. The sinking drowned 26 crew members, but an ensuing rescue operation, using the McCann Rescue Chamber for the first time, saved the lives of the remaining 33 aboard. The submarine was salvaged in late 1939 and decommissioned.
USS Stickleback (SS-415), a Balao-class submarine, was named for the stickleback, a small scaleless fish.
USS Albacore (SS-218) was a Gato-class submarine which served in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II, winning the Presidential Unit Citation and nine battle stars for her service. During the war, she was credited with sinking 13 Japanese ships and damaging another five; not all of these credits were confirmed by postwar JANAC accounting. She also holds the distinction of sinking the highest warship tonnage of any U.S. submarine. She was lost in 1944, probably sunk by a mine off northern Hokkaidō on 7 November.
USS Shark (SS-174) was a Porpoise-class submarine, the fifth ship of the United States Navy to be named for the shark. Her keel was laid down by the Electric Boat Company in Groton, Connecticut, on 24 October 1933. She was launched on 21 May 1935, and commissioned on 25 January 1936, Lieutenant Charles J. Cater in command.
USS Gudgeon (SS-211) was the first American submarine to sink an enemy warship in World War II. One of the long-range Tambor-class vessels, Gudgeon scored 14 confirmed kills, placing her 15th on the honor roll of American submarines. She was declared overdue, presumed lost, on 7 June 1944.
Mare Island is a peninsula in the United States in the city of Vallejo, California, about 23 miles (37 km) northeast of San Francisco. The Napa River forms its eastern side as it enters the Carquinez Strait juncture with the east side of San Pablo Bay. Mare Island is considered a peninsula because no full body of water separates this or several other named "islands" from the mainland. Instead, a series of small sloughs cause seasonal water-flows among the so-called islands. Mare Island is the largest of these at about 3.5 miles (5.6 km) long and a mile wide.
USS Gar (SS-206), a Gar-class submarine, was the only ship of the United States Navy to be named for the gar, a fish of the family Lepisosteidae. It was a slightly improved version of the Tambor-class submarine. Its sisterships Grampus (SS-207), Grayback (SS-208), Grayling (SS-209), Grenadier (SS-210) and Gudgeon (SS-211) were all lost during the second World War.
USS Skipjack (SS-184), a Salmon-class submarine, was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named after the fish. Her keel was laid down by the Electric Boat Company in Groton, Connecticut, on 22 July 1936. She was launched on 23 October 1937 sponsored by Miss Frances Cuthbert Van Keuren, daughter of Captain Alexander H. Van Keuren, Superintending Constructor, New York Navy Yard. The boat was commissioned on 30 June 1938 with Lieutenant Herman Sall in command. She earned multiple battle stars during World War II and then was sunk, remarkably, by an atomic bomb during post-war testing. Among the most "thoroughly sunk" ships, she was refloated and then sunk a second time as a target ship two years later.
USS Redfin (SS/SSR/AGSS-272), a Gato-class submarine, was a ship of the United States Navy named for the redfin, any of several North American fishes with reddish fins.
USS Spadefish (SS/AGSS-411), a Balao-class submarine, was the first ship of the United States Navy to be named for the spadefish. Although she was commissioned late in the war and spent only one year in the Pacific war zone, she was able to run up a record of 88,091 tons in 21 ships and numerous trawlers sunk.
USS Spot (SS-413) was a Balao-class submarine of the United States Navy, named for the spot, a small sciaenoid food fish of the Atlantic coast, with a black spot behind its shoulders.
Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company, located in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, was a major shipbuilder for the Great Lakes. It was founded in 1902, and made mainly steel ferries and ore haulers. During World War II, it built submarines, tank landing craft (LCTs), and self-propelled fuel barges called "YOs". Employment peaked during the military years at 7000. The shipyard closed in 1968, when Manitowoc Company bought Bay Shipbuilding Company and moved their shipbuilding operation to Sturgeon Bay.
USS Harold C. Thomas (DE-21) was an Evarts-class destroyer escort constructed for the United States Navy during World War II. It was promptly sent off into the Pacific Ocean to protect convoys and other ships from Japanese submarines and fighter aircraft. At the end of the war, she returned to the United States with two battle stars.
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