Description of the 8th Naval District
The Eighth Naval District of the United States includes approximately 580,000 square miles, or more than the combined area of the British Isles, Spain, Italy, and Norway. The second largest Naval district in the country, it comprises the territory of the sovereign states of Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and that part of Florida west of the Apalachicola River. Flat sandy or loamy coastal plains stretch back from the Gulf of Mexico into these states, rising to low plateaus in northern Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, and to low mountains in Arkansas and Tennessee. One of the most important facts about the district is that it is bisected by the greatest waterway of the continent - the Mississippi River. Several other rivers - among them the Red, the Tennessee, the Alabama, and the Neches - cut through the territory, spreading fertile mud and providing cheap, facile transportation.
The district has a coastline of 1070 miles. The coasts are low and sandy, with many narrow islands, keys, reefs, and peninsulas backed by extensive shallow bays. In southern Louisiana much of the country is covered with water: lakes, bayous, and marshes interpenetrate the delta of the Mississippi. The entire region along the coast is sparsely populated. In earlier centuries a lurking place for pirates and buccaneers, before the last war it provided hide-outs for smugglers. The foreign commerce of the Mississippi valley and the Gulf coast
before the war flowed over the Gulf sea lanes primarily to and from Latin America and the West Indies. European and Asiatic trade were of secondary and tertiary importance. Imports from Latin America and Asia were of raw materials, exports were of manufactured goods. With Europe this trade relationship was reversed. All commerce across the Gulf to and from foreign ports was forced to exit or enter by means of two narrow channels: the Straits of Yucatan (105 miles wide), and the Straits of Florida (75 miles wide).
With the war the quantity of shipping passing through Gulf ports was increased: 155,113,701 tons of cargo moved through the ports of this district from May 1942 to May 1945. During the year 1944 alone 52,169,717 tons were moved. Approximately eighty percent of this cargo was moved in coastwise traffic. The ports through which most of this cargo passed were New Orleans, Louisiana; Mobile, Alabama; and Corpus Christi, Galveston, Port Arthur, Beaumont, and Houston, Texas. New Orleans, metropolis of the cotton belt, was the premier port. Located 114 miles up the Mississippi from the mouth of the passes, it served as the port of arrival and departure for most of the Mississippi basin products shipped by water. The intercoastal canal - an internal waterway starting at Corpus Christi, Texas, connecting with every major Gulf port, and running to the great cities of the Eastern seaboard - crosses the Mississippi River at New Orleans; moreover, nine railroad lines, running from Portland, Oregon, to Washington, D.C. with 50,000 miles of rail converge upon the city. With the available facilities more than 400 cars could be loaded and 250 unloaded each day. Wharves
stretch along the river for seven miles, and a canal five miles in length connects the river to Lake Pontchartrain, a large bay joining the Gulf east of the Mississippi delta.
Possessing all the requisites for a great port, New Orleans during the war ranked second only to New York in shipping. In 1943 New Orleans handled a larger amount of traffic than all the rest of the Gulf ports. During the period 1942-1944 78,000,000 tons moved through the port: 7,201,600 tons were exports, 8,462,533 tons were imports, and 5,455,331 tons were handled for export at the Army Port of Embarkation.
Mobile had one third the capacity of New Orleans. Situated on the well protected bay of Mobile at the mouth of the Alabama and Tombigbee Rivers, she was linked with the intercoastal waterway and was served by five railroads; 125 export cars and 125 import cars could be handled daily during wartime.
Galveston was the major seaport of Texas. It is located on Galveston Bay, into which the Trinity River flows. Five major rail lines and the Intercoastal Canal make connections there. Before the war its shipping was larger than that of New Orleans. As an export center it had twice the capacity of Mobile during the war, but it was not a great port of entry. The few imports received in that area (about three percent of the total sea traffic) generally were received in Houston, although Houston too was essentially a port of exit, with its exports averaging thrice its imports.
The relationship of Galveston to Houston is analogous to the relationship of Bremerhaven to Bremen. Houston is situated on a wide
channel, an arm of Galveston Bay. It is fifty-seven miles by rail from Galveston. Although much larger than Galveston (it is the second largest city in the district) its capacity as a port was only three fifths that of Galveston, for Houston was noted as the manufacturing capital of Texas. Six rail lines make connections there.
On Corpus Christi Bay, far to the south of Houston, lies the city of Corpus Christi. To the northeast of Houston on Sabine Lake and its principal estuary lie Port Arthur and Beaumont. Each city is served by the intercoastal waterway system. Corpus Christi has the facilities of two railway lines and Port Arthur and Beaumont have four. Almost all of the commerce of these cities is consigned to other United States ports - mainly via the Intercoastal canal.
Although the ports enumerated above were by no means the only ports in this district, they were the most important. The following table, which shows the commerce of the port cities of Eighth Naval District in June 1943 and May 1945, indicate the relative importance of the various ports, and the enormous increase in traffic during the two-year period (blank spaces indicate that the desired statistics are not available):
Port Tons Cargo
Mobile, Alabama 177,695 634,883 Pensacola, Florida 51,160 170,190 New Orleans, Louisiana 659,135 1,710,843 Baton Rouge, Louisiana 187,681 Lake Charles, Louisiana 162,263 Corpus Christi, Texas 350,623 1,277,262 Brownsville, Texas 101,994 Galveston, Texas 830,526 Houston, Texas 630,668 530,942 Bay Town, Texas 199,852 299,664 Texas City, Texas Port Arthur, Texas 515,820 796,119 Port Neches, Texas Smith's Bluff, Texas Beaumont, Texas 493,041 Lake Charles, Louisiana 162,268
That the traffic figures for the Gulf ports showed a largo increase in the latter part of 1944 was due partially to a survey by the Assistant Commandant (Logistics), Eighth Naval District, of shipping capacities of district ports. Since the report indicated that the Gulf ports could handle much more shipping than had been thought, the Chief of Naval Operations diverted more cargo through the ports of this district. The Eighth Naval District Property Transportation Officer in the last years of the war loaded 700 bottoms with supplies for the Pacific areas. (This cargo was not included in any of the above recapitulations of shipping totals.)
A tremendous quantity of goods came down the Mississippi River, which was an integral and important part of the national wartime transportation system. By means of the Mississippi River and the Chicago Ship Canal the Gulf of Mexico is Joined to the Great Lakes. Twenty-seven submarines built at Manitowae, Wisconsin, passed through New Orleans on their way to the theaters of war; 700 LST's from Ohio steamed down the Mississippi. Many other vessels built in the North came via the Mississippi for fitting out in the Gulf.
Millions of tons of commercial shipping were sent up and down the river. The traffic on the Mississippi for the years 1941-1944 was as follows:
Year Tonnage 1941 36,353,079 1942 36,242,903 1943 37,731,388 1944 44,586,664
Second only to the Mississippi River as the major water route of the Eighth Naval District was the Gulf Intercoastal waterway system. This system consists of land cuts, lakes, rivers, and protected bays of the Gulf joined together and dredged to a minimum depth of twelve feet and a minimum width of 125 feet. Navigation is toll free. The supervision of the waterway's construction, maintenance, and operation was delegated by Congress to the United States Army Engineer Corps. Protection against sabotage, regulations of navigation, and upkeep of the buoyage system have been the responsibility of the United States Coast Guard.
The waterway has afforded a natural and economical mode of transportation for the wide variety of commodities produced or consumed in the Gulf Region. The waterway has always been adapted to handling commodities which can be transported economically by barge, In 1944 the amount of barge traffic was more than five times that on the great New York State Barge Canal System. The following table shows a recapitulation of traffic on the waterway during the war years:
Year Tonnage 1940 11,593,279 1941 17,321,145 1942 21,268,123 1943 22,045,002 1944 29,085,087
The major product shipped on the internal waterways and from the
western Gulf ports was oil. A survey of traffic made in 1933 showed that thirty-two percent of all the oil produced in the United states passed through the Gulf ports with the Atlantic seaboard as its destination. Ninety-one percent of all the trade passing through the waterways of Sabine Pass and Galveston was petroleum products, as was eighty-three percent of the combined trade passing through the waterways of Sabine Pass, Galveston, New Orleans, end Corpus Christi. With the war the amount of crude and refined oil shipments rose.
German submarine activity, however, began to take a toll of tankers operating in the Gulf in 1942.1 The submarine activity caused officials to seek ways other than by tankers to transport the oil. Adding more work to the already overtaxed railroads and oil barge transportation along the Inland waterway system was one answer. Even tankers moved from the Gulf into the internal canals. In 1941 only sixty-eight percent of the canal tonnage consisted of petroleum products; in 1944 ninety-two percent of the tonnage moved was petroleum products. The amount in tons rose from 11,500,000 tons to well over 21,000,000 tons (this included over 32,000,000 gallons of Navy fuel oil per month). Over sixty percent Of the cargo carried on the Mississippi River was oil.
Since barges on the inland waterways can hold so much more oil than rail-tank cars, they afford a very expeditious and inexpensive method of transportation (one barge holds 8000 barrels of oil, one tank car holds 6000 gallons). Prior to the opening of the "big-inch"
pipe line, barge transportation was the favorite method of oil shipping. Even after the enemy submarine activity had subsided, the shippers continued to use the waterways rather than the Gulf because to do so released many tankers for service elsewhere.
The famous big-inch pipeline from Longview, Texas, to Salem, Illinois, helped exceedingly to relieve the congested oil traffic situation. This twenty-four inch pipeline, begun in the summer of 1942 and finished in December 1942, had a capacity of 300,000 barrels of oil daily, or over six times the capacity of one tug with six barges in tow. At Salem it connected with local pipelines, railroads, and the Ohio River Barge system. This pipeline, together with a twelve-inch pipeline from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Greensboro, North Carolina, which was finished in February 1942, released many tankers from the hazardous Gulf-East Coast run; it helped thwart German submarines and released needed tankers for other areas.
Foodstuffs, lumber products, and non-petroleum minerals were the other important cargoes shipped in and out of the Gulf ports. Into Mobile and New Orleans flowed sugar, molasses, coffee, and tropical fruits from Latin America. Bauxite, so essential to the American aircraft industry, entered Mobile at a rate of more than 1,500,000 tons a year (1,653,045 tons in 1943). Sulphur, salt, rice, cotton, lumber, lime, and zinc were exported or shipped in the coastwise trade.
The exports from this district, as noted above, were mainly products of the earth. This is predominantly a rural district and the source of its wealth has been its natural resources. At the end of the war the
majority of the people of the Eighth Naval District still earned their livelihood by farming. This is the locale of the nation's cotton, rice, and sugar farms; here are the nation's greatest ranches; and many cereals for home consumption and interstate trade are raised on farms of the region. Many of the states are partially covered by forests. Forest products - lumber and resin - are important sources of income.
The minerals of the district, however, provide the greatest source of wealth. The majority of the country's oil comes from Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. The country's largest bauxite mines are in Arkansas, the most important zinc mines in Tennessee, and the greatest salt mines in Louisiana, where also there are large deposits of sulphur and limestone. In Alabama there are good deposits of iron and coal.
The important manufacturing industries of the section are mainly industries devoted to processing the raw materials produced here. There are great oil refineries at Lake Charles and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Freeport Sulphur Company in Louisiana is the chief producer of sulphur. Birmingham, Alabama, was the third largest steel-producing city in the country during the war. In Freeport, Texas, moreover, the Dow Chemical Company had a plant which extracted magnesium from sea water. Without this plant the nation would have lacked the quantity of magnesium needed during the war.
At Alcoa, Tennessee, the Aluminum Company of America had a gigantic plant. Most of its products were assigned to the Navy ($561,810,168 worth of aluminum from 1940 to August 1945). Naval supervision of production was undertaken by the Inspector of Naval Material, Atlanta.
Other companies supplying the Navy were as follows:
Name of Company Amount of products supplied
in dollars 1940-End of War
Fulton Sylphon Company
$134,300,000 Hardle Tynes Company
(This company furnished all the high pressure air compressors
used aboard submarines end battleships.)
$11,200,000 McWane Cast Iron Pipe Company
$10,300,000 Sloss Sheffield Steel and Iron Company
$71,000,000 Cameron Iron Works
(Manufacturers of ordnance.)
Many other concerns manufactured small orders for the Navy, but the above-named industries plus the shipbuilding industry produced more than ninety percent of the material sold the Navy.
The shipbuilding industry was the largest manufacturing industry producing for the Navy, for during the war $1,109,089,000 was spent in this district for Naval ships. Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Chickasaw, Alabama, superintended the construction of $385,283,280 of ships; Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Orange, Texas, $706,268,643, and the Inspector of Naval Material, Atlanta, $17,472,026. For this large Sum of money the Navy received 93 destroyer escorts, 46 destroyers, 287 auxiliaries, 4 CVE's, 13 AP's, 4 AS's, 1 AKA, and 14,415 Landing Craft and MTB's. The main companies producing these ships were as follows:
Gulf Shipbuilding Corporation, Chickasaw, Ala. $107,000,000 Higgins Industries, Incorporated, New Orleans, La. $130,000,000 Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation, Pascagoula, Miss. $125,000,000 Brown Shipbuilding Company, Houston, Tex. $18,000,000 Consolidated Steel Corporation, Orange, Tex. $581,112,800 Livingston Shipbuilding Company, Orange, Tex. $36,000,000 Gulfport Boiler & Welding Works, Port Arthur, Tex. $20,000,000 Pidgeon Thomas Iron Company, Memphis, Term. $17,472,029
Two other establishments in this district materially aided the war effort, although they did not produce for the Navy. Alabama Dry-dock end Shipbuilding Yards, Mobile, Alabama (largest yards in the district) built Liberty ships and a "top secret" establishment in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, manufactured atomic bombs.
Because of its geographical and industrial characteristics and Its salubrious climate, this district was chosen by the Navy as the location for numerous Naval activities. On 1 August 1944, a total of 164,048 enlisted men and 14,679 officers was attached to activities within the geographical limits of the Eighth Naval District. Furthermore, during the war years a construction program of almost $600,000,000 was completed for the Navy by private firms.
The main Naval establishments in the district during the war were as follows:
- Naval Repair Base, New Orleans, Louisiana
- Advance Base Depot and Naval Training Center, Gulf port, Mississippi
- Naval Ordnance Plant, Shumaker, Arkansas
- Naval Ammunition Depot, McAlester, Oklahoma
- Naval Ammunition Depot, New Orleans, Louisiana
- Naval Air Technical Training Center, Norman, Oklahoma
- Naval Air Technical Training Center, Memphis, Tennessee
- Naval Air Training Bases, Pensacola, Florida
- Naval Air Training Bases, Corpus Christi, Texas
The Naval Repair Base, New Orleans, Louisiana, was an outgrowth of the Naval Station, which expanded with extreme rapidity after Pearl Harbor. At its largest the base contained the following commands:
- Personnel and Training Command, which included the Receiving Station, the Naval prison, the Naval Training School, and the Armed Guard Center, Gulf.
- Administrative and Military Command, which furnished Logistic support.
- Industrial Command (formerly the Section Base), which included the Public Works Department.
the Repair Base covered 273½ acres and had 3,756 feet of wharves.2
The United States Advance Base Depot, Gulfport, Mississippi, was established 2 June 1942 to serve the Caribbean area. Its function was to receive, prepare for export, and ship the various construction equipment and supplies for Seabees in the field as directed by the Bureau of Yards and Docks. From 1943 to the end of the war about 30,000 tons of material were shipped from Gulfport each month. Advance Base Depot Receiving Barracks were set up 13 November 1942; these were barracks for Seabees. An Armed Guard School was set up March 1942 (discontinued 1 May 1944). Early in 1944 the Advance Base Depot Receiving Barracks were terminated and facilities taken over by Naval training schools. With the departure of the Seabees, the Advance Base Depot became secondary to the U.S. Naval Training Center, an activity established on 13 November 1942.3 The number of personnel stationed there was largest in December 1943, when 17,369 men and 565 officers were attached.4
The Naval Ammunition Depot, McAlestar, Oklahoma, was established July 1942.5 The cost of construction and facilities was $62,180,000, and It covered an area of seventy-five square miles. It's complement on V-J Day was 112 officers, 855 enlisted men, 346 Marines, and 7,985 civilian employees. Its function was the loading, assembly, and stowage of all types of ammunition. The magazine stowage had a capacity
of 945,350 tons.
The Naval Ammunition Depot, New Orleans, Louisiana, was commissioned 1 December 1942. Covering 3,351 acres, it cost $2,960,000; 21 officers, 175 enlisted men, 435 Marines, and 169 civilians constituted its manpower complement. The depot was responsible for the storage of and issue of adequate amounts of all types of ammunition required by merchant and Naval vessels and shore activities in the surrounding area. The magazine stowage capacity of 94,473 tons was augmented 26 April 1944 by the establishment of the Naval Magazine, Theodore, Alabama, with a stowage capacity of 40,810 tons.
The Naval Ordnance Plant, Shumaker, Arkansas (near Camden, Arkansas) was established 7 October 1944. The cost of construction of this establishment, covering 106 square miles, was originally estimated at $92,000,000; this was later cut to $77,000,000. Although the plant began to turn out rockets about 27 March 1945, it was not completed when hostilities ended. The construction of this plant was the largest construction job undertaken by the Navy in this district. Navy owned, but commercially operated by National Fireworks Company, it was the only plant in the country dedicated exclusively to the manufacture of rockets.
Though there were many Naval air stations and training fields in this district, the size of four was such as to merit applause for the Navy which created them from almost nothing in a short space of time. Pensacola was the oldest station, established in the infancy of flying. 10 August 1944 this station became the U. S. Naval Air Training Base,
encompassing the following activities - Navel Air Training Center, Naval Air Bases, Naval Air Station, Naval Hospital, Naval Training School, and six auxiliary air fields. Air patrols from these fields materially aided in the elimination of the German submarine menace. In November 1944 personnel on board, including ship's company and trainees, numbered 27,506. During the war $60,000,000 was spent on construction.
The Naval Air Training Base, Corpus Christi, also was established 10 August 1944 by the same General Order (General Order 210) which established Pensacola Naval Air Training Base. Furthermore, some of its component stations had existed before the war. The personnel on board in Corpus Christi in November 1944 was 29,552 officers and men. It included Naval Air Technical Training Center, Naval Training School, Naval Air Station, Naval Air Base, Naval Air Intermediate Training Command, and six auxiliary air fields.
The Naval Air Technical Training Centers at Norman and Memphis were established 31 July and 10 August 1942 respectively. Although they never attained the size of the older establishments, they had complements of 16,656 and 16,613 respectively.
The logistic problems of this district were relatively great.
Large numbers of ships were built and commissioned here; 2,642 combat craft came down the Mississippi alone to be outfitted, But this was not an industrial district. The problem of supply accordingly was more complicated than in districts where supplies were nearer at hand. Men to build the great Naval installations were scarce. Especially scarce
were skilled workers for the shipyards. These problems were expeditiously solved by the endeavors of such officers as the District Transportation Officer, the District Civilian Personnel Officer, and the Assistant Commandant (Logistics).
The Naval Supply Depot at New Orleans, established in 1942 in the large cotton warehouse, was the main supplier of general material for this district for both ships and shore activities. The Supply Department of the Naval Station, New Orleans, had previously been the main district supply activity; it continued to supply ordnance equipment. One other supply depot was established, at Gulfport; this, however, supplied only Construction Battalions in the Caribbean area.
Three large receiving stations, at the Repair Base in New Orleans, Gulfport, and Galveston, supplied trained men to the ships outfitting in this district, to forces afloat, and to the shore activities. The station at Gulfport was a Construction Battalion receiving barracks and furnished Seabees for overseas duty. The New Orleans barracks was the largest; with 40 officers and 650 men at the end of the war, it was processing 5,000 transients.
Small receiving stations were set up at Chickasaw, and Mobile, Alabama; Galveston, Houston, and Orange, Texas; and Pascagoula, Mississippi. These small barracks held the men who were to be in the commissioning details for the ship yards located in those cities.
Two large Armed Guard Centers in New Orleans and Gulfport supplied well trained officers and men for the armed guard details. Four NROTC and thirty-three V-12 units sent thousands of trained officers into the
Naval service. Amphibious training centers, St. Andrews Bay, Florida, and Galveston, Texas, trained many men for the Pacific and Atlantic operations. For the medical care of the men of the district large hospitals were built. Before 1941 there was but one Naval hospital in the Eighth Naval District. On V-J Day there were five, and two large dispensaries. The hospitals were located at Pensacola, Corpus Christi, New Orleans, Norman, and Memphis, and the dispensaries at the Naval Repair Base, New Orleans, and the Naval Training Center, Gulfport. With 4,678 beds these institutions accommodated 6,805 patients. The complement of doctors was 253 and the complement of nurses 311. Located in central positions, these hospitals served all the personnel of this district, necessitating no exportation of men long distances to other districts.
Even so general a survey of the facilities of the Eighth Naval District testifies to the significance of its contribution to the war effort. Later chapters present more detail on various aspects of this contribution. The next chapter relates the historical development of the district from its inception in 1903.
1. See Chapter V "Operational Organization" 2. See Appendix A. 3. SecNav Ser. SO 11131055. 4. See Appendix B. 5. SecNav ltr. 141913, SO 7 8 283, dtd. 9 Jul, 1942.
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