History of US Naval Repair Base, New Orleans, Louisiana
The history of the Naval Repair Base, New Orleans, Louisiana, dates back to February 17, 1849, when three arpents (3.12 acres) of land fronting on the Mississippi River was purchased for a Naval reservation. For almost fifty years, however, the activity remained dormant. Not until 1893 was a Naval station with ship repair facilities established. Then, purchasing 212 more acres and spending nearly $3,000,000 on buildings and equipment, the Navy constructed the U. S. Naval Station, Algiers, Louisiana, completed in 1903. Included among the equipment was a floating drydock (YFD-2) purchased in 1901. This dock, which remained at the station until 1940 when it was moved to Seattle, was capable of raising ships of 15,000 tons weight.
In 1911 government economy forced the closing of the station and it was not reopened until 7 January 1915 for repairs and overhaul of gunboats, New Orleans class cruisers, and other vessels of the Special Service Squadron performing duty in the Gulf and Caribbean waters. During World War I the Naval Station was operated as an Industrial navy yard for repair of vessels small enough to be handled by the YFD-2. A Receiving Station was established, and the usual logistic support, including that of a Naval hospital, and a supply department was furnished. The Receiving Station was decommissioned in 1921, and the Naval hospital was taken over by the Veterans Administration in 1922. This hospital was then run as a veterans' hospital for two years.
In 1921 the Commandant of the Eighth Naval District moved his headquarters from the Navy building in New Orleans back to the Naval Station (it had been there from 1915 until World War I)1 where it remained (except for brief periods) until June 30, 1933 when the Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Naval Districts were consolidated.
At that time the Naval Station was reduced to a caretaker status and its facilities were used by various agencies during the years to follow: For example, during 1934, 1935, and 1936 the station was used to house and subsist transients. From 30 December 1938 to 30 September 1940 the National Youth Administration took over the greater portion of the station facilities. From 16 September 1933 to 30 June 1941 the wharves were utilized by the Federal Barge Line. And the United States Coast Guard established a training station there from 30 September 1940 until late in 1942.
During the period July 1933 to April 1941, while in an inoperative status, the Naval Station was administered by an officer with collateral duties as Commanding Officer. In April 1941, however, the Commanding Officer, Naval Station, moved his headquarters to the Naval station as the activity started to grow. A crew was assembled and the procurement of Chilean employees was started. From the reactivation until the end of the war the number of civilian employees increased from nine to over 1,400, the personnel on board to over 6,000, and the area of the station was expanded to 273.58 acres.
A Receiving station wee established at the Naval Station 1 August 1941 by Secretary of the Navy.2 The Commanding Officer of the Naval Station was ordered collateral duty, as its commanding officer. The Receiving Station was operated by an executive officer.
On 12 March 1942 the Armed Guard Center, Gulf, was commissioned as in activity of the Receiving Station, in compliance with a letter from the Bureau of Navigation.3
The U. S. Naval Section Base, New Orleans, Louisiana, was placed in commission under Secretary of the Navy directive of 22 March 1942.4 This activity was also placed under the command of the Commanding Officer, Naval Station and was operated by an executive officer. It was a Section Base in name only; manned entirely by Navy personnel, it actually performed the duty of an Industrial and Repair Department. It was not under the control of Commander, Inshore Patrol as were other action bases.
From 1940 until 1943 there was no drydock at the base. In May 1943 the YFD-41, a floating drydock of 1,000 tons capacity arrived at the yard. By the war's end it had docked 235 vessels. The title Section Base caused considerable confusion. The Jurisdiction of one commanding officer over the Naval Station, Receiving Station, Section Base, and Armed Guard Center brought increasing problems. The executive officers were actually acting as commanding officers
without disciplinary or operational authority. As the activities grew it became necessary that subordinate commands be established. Accordingly, upon recommendation of the Commanding Officer, Naval Station and the Commandant, Eighth Naval District, the Secretary of the Navy discontinued the old designations and combined their facilities to form the U. S. Naval Repair Base, New Orleans, Louisiana, with subordinate commands as follows:5
Personnel and Training Command, which included the Receiving Station, the Naval Prison, the Naval Training School, and the Armed Guard Center, Gulf.
Administration and Military Command, which furnished the logistic support.
Industrial Command, (formerly the Section Base) which included the Public Works Department.
On 23 September 1944, the Secretary of the Navy redesignated the Armed Guard Center as a separate subordinate command of the Naval Repair Base.6
On 14 December 1944 the Naval Training School (Surface Craft) was disestablished by the Secretary of the Navy as an activity under Personnel and Training Command and established as a subordinate command U. S. Naval Training Center, U. S. Naval Repair Base, New Orleans, Louisiana.7 This latter command was disestablished entirely on 1 July 1945.
History of the U. S. Naval Receiving Station, U. S. Naval Repair Base, New Orleans, Louisiana
The U. S. Naval Receiving Station, U. S. Naval Station, New Orleans, Louisiana, was established 1 August 1941, Captain Philip Seymour, USN (Ret.), Commanding Officer, U. S. Naval Station, was given the collateral duty of commanding officer, Receiving Station. Responsibility for direct operation was assumed by the Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Gilbert R. Whitworth, USN (Ret.). Under the reorganization of 17 August 1944 the Receiving Station was absorbed by the Personnel and Training Command under the direction of a commanding officer. Lieutenant Commander Gilbert R. Whitworth was relieved of his duty as Executive Officer, Receiving Station, and was assigned the duty as Commanding Officer of the Personnel and Training Command.
The primary functions of this command were properly to administer matters pertaining to personnel, commissary, brig, and barracks.
When first established, the Receiving Station shared one large building with other activities of the base, and personnel numbered but 2 officers and 350 men, including both ship's company and transients. With the rapid expansion of the Navy, the volume of the Receiving Station so increased that in August 1945 two large, administration buildings were inadequate for the 40 officers and 650 ship's company personnel processing some 5,000 transients. Sixty-five barracks, including three Waves Barracks, were available for berthing of enlisted personnel.
the paramount aim of the personnel office was expeditiously to process men awaiting ships and those awaiting assignments to other bases.
Personnel were processed for more than eight hundred ships, including craws for thirty-three AK's, eight AKS's, twenty-four AM's, four AN's, sixteen ACG's, twenty APL's, forty ARL's, and thirteen PCE(R)'s. The amphibious personnel pool serviced more than five hundred LCT and LST crews, fifty of which were ships returning for repairs from combat operations in the European Theater before proceeding to the Pacific.
While awaiting outfitting and commissioning of the vessels men were given training in cooperation with the Naval Training Center, a separate command of the U. S. Naval Repair Base. Classes were conducted in radio, signaling, telephone talker, aircraft recognition, seamanship, night lookout training, synthetic gunnery, and small arms.
The Naval Antiaircraft Training Center at Shell Beach, Louisiana, was used for training and actual practice in five inch, three inch fifty, forty millimeter, fifty caliber, and other guns.
Training in fire fighting was offered by the Fire Fighters School, an activity under the command of the Receiving Station after December 1944. This school was first established in November 1943 for the purpose of instruction in both shipboard and shorebase fire fighting end fire prevention. Before becoming a part of the Receiving Station, this unit was operated for one year as a sub-division of the Naval Training School (Surface Craft). Early in December 1943 a mobile fire fighting unit was established and operated by personnel of the Fire Fighters School for benefit of chips at sea in the Gulf, Caribbean, and South Atlantic area.
In November 1944, classes in velocity power tools were added to
the curriculum. A damage control officer conducted classes in damage control and battle damage aboard ship, while three officers and twenty-nine Specialists (F) supervised classes in fire fighting. Approximately 16,026 enlisted men, 1,307 Naval officers, 5,832 Army enlisted men, and 860 Army officers, together with 42 civilian fire fighting officials received training at this school.
Since Lake Pontchartrain was chosen as the location for the Motor Torpedo Boat Program, it was necessary to establish berthing and messing facilities closer to the scene of operations. Therefore, the Commandant, Eighth Naval District, was authorized by the Bureau of Naval Personnel to obtain a lease on the Southern Yacht Club for use as barracks and mass hall.8 Under date of 9 August 1943, the Commandant, Eighth Naval District, directed the Commanding Officer, Receiving Station, U. S. Naval Station, to occupy this building and operate it as the West End Branch, Receiving Station, U. S. Naval Station, New Orleans, Louisiana.9 With the closing of the Motor Torpedo Boat Program, the West End Branch, Receiving Station was disestablished as of 16 July 1945 in compliance with Commandant, Eighth Naval District letter.10
On 21 January 1943 the brig began operation with eighty-two prisoners housed in one unit under the supervision of one chief machinists mate. The Secretary of the Navy designated the Receiving Station, U. S.
Naval Station, as a place of confinement for general court martial prisoners,11 thereby requiring an expansion of brig facilities. The Rehabilitation Program included classes of instruction in the use of laundry equipment and practical application of this instruction in the station laundry. Classes were also conducted in cargo net and fender making, harboring, mess cooking, tailoring, military instruction, metalsmith, carpentry, and painting.
History of Industrial Command, U. S. Naval Repair Base, New Orleans, Louisiana
The Industrial Command, originally the Section Base, was placed in commission by the Secretary of the Navy letter of 22 March 1942. The primary function of the Section Base at that time was to outfit, inspect, and make ready for sea small craft, such as YMS's, PC's, SC's, AM's, etc., arriving from building yards. The task then was much harder than it later became. The Industrial Section of the yard was overgrown with weeds and most of the area was swampy. Many needed buildings were nonexistent. Tools and industrial equipment were in many cases obsolete, and there was a pronounced shortage of heavy duty machinery and automotive equipment. The base passed through the usual growing pains in its rehabilitation program.
In December 1942 a new and heavy workload, namely, the landing craft program, descended on this activity. On December 14, 1942, LST-1 arrived at the Base for commissioning and installation of LCT launching
ways. In connection with the landing craft program, there were over 700 sets of launching ways fabricated at this activity, the majority of which were installed on newly built LST's. It required two weeks to fabricate and install a set of launching ways for the LST-1. It required less than twenty-four hours to fabricate and install the launching ways for LST-1152, which was the last ship of this class in the new-construction program. Of the LST's that passed through this Base for installation of launching ways, stepping of masts and checking of machinery, many were retained for completion, which involved the installation of ship alterations not accomplished at the builder's yard. From December 1942 to V-J Day the workload of the Industrial Department of this Base grew by leaps and bounds. in addition to ship repairs and alterations on all classes of vessels under 3,500 tons, a great deal of work came in from all points of the Eighth Naval District to the Gyro, Optical, Instrument, and Ordnance Shops. These shops were the only well equipped shops of their kind under Naval jurisdiction in the district. They not only served to accomplish a large and important workload, but in the last two years trained many valuable men for the fleet.
Beginning in September 1943, a new activity made its appearance as part of the Section Base; the base was assigned the task of training ship repair unit personnel. Originally the plan was to have 400 men under training at all times. At the end of the war it was training an average of about 1,100, and the ship repair personnel absorbed approximately fifty percent of the industrial workload. On V-J Day over 2,575
men and 98 officers had received training, and were actually engaged in ship repair work on every fighting front. In addition to training in their trade skills, the men and officers in the Ship Repair Unit were given additional training in general Naval indoctrination, fire-fighting, antiaircraft gunnery, and such other special courses as could be fitted in during their stay at the Base.
On September 1, 1944, the Section Base ceased to exist, and by order of the Secretary of the Navy, became the Industrial Command of the U. S. Naval Repair Base, New Orleans. In that status, the activity was organized as a shore-based repair ship entirely manned by officers and enlisted men. Although the Public Works Department, manned by civilians, was under the Industrial Command, it functioned for Base maintenance only, and was in no way involved in ship board repairs, although it did assist the repair activity by providing crane service and automotive equipment, and maintaining the power facilities at the waterfront
History of U. S. Naval Armed Guard Center, U. S. Naval Repair Base, New Orleans, Louisiana
By letter dated 28 February 1942, the Bureau of Navigation directed the Commandant of the Eighth Naval District to "establish as soon as practicable and as a separate activity under the Receiving Station, New Orleans, a Center to be designated as the Armed Guard Center, Receiving Station, New Orleans, Louisiana."
The purpose of the center was to provide at one central location facilities for receiving, berthing, messing, equipping, and training
men in the Naval Service assigned to duty as Armed Guard gun crews on merchant vessels. Records and accounts were to be retained by the Center and kept separate from those of other personnel handled by the Receiving Station.
The Armed Guard School, San Diego, was directed to transfer approximately one-third of its output of trained personnel to the Center for assignment to duty afloat. This was estimated to be about 18 officers and 130 men per month.
When officially commissioned on 12 March 1942 the Armed Guard Center, New Orleans, had an authorized ship's company of three officers and eight enlisted men. Provisions for office space, quarters, and messing facilities were meager. The lower deck of one building housed administrative and disbursing offices with one wing set aside as a combination bunk and ward room for officers; the topside was fitted out for the bunking of survivors from torpedoed ships and for housing ship's company.
Most of the ships manned by personnel from the center were sailing out of Gulf ports for the European-African and American theaters. At that time German submarines were sinking many ships in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico. Since merchant ships had no protection and met with catastrophe so often, the quarters at the Center for survivors overflowed constantly with gun crews rescued at sea. It was not unusual for a crew sent out from the station to return after two or three days, their ship on the bottom of the Gulf.
By June of 1942 approximately 2,900 officers and enlisted personnel
were sailing out of the Center.
The greater part of a large building was taken over by the Center for its administrative offices in August 1943. Facilities for berthing 2,000 enlisted men were provided in the form of four large barracks in the training area. Armed Guard officers were quartered in the Bachelor Officers' Quarters.
At the peak of the Center's activity in January 1945, approximately 20,000 enlisted personnel and 900 Officers were on the roster. The monthly payroll had reached one million dollars. Armed Guard gun crews from the Center were sailing out of ports in the Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Tenth, and Fifteenth Naval Districts on 700 merchant ships operating in all of the oceans.
A Supply Office was set up on February 20, 1943, for the purpose of issuing supplies to Armed Guard crews afloat. The various issues of clothing and recreational gear exceeded one million dollars in value annually.
Approximately 2,500 disciplinary cases were heard at Captain's mast annually by the Commanding Officer. Two-thirds of the offenses involved absence from station and duty. The reasons underlying the absences were traceable in part to the long periods of time the Armed Guard spent at sea.
Following the surrender of Germany, the Bureau of Naval Personnel decided to reduce the strength of the Armed Guard. consequently there was a gradual decline in the size of the Center's enlisted personnel. The removal of officers and gun crews from ships plying the Atlantic
and Indian Oceans caused the Bureau to assign many of them to the Center for refresher instruction preparatory to further assignment in the Pacific. This Center had superior training equipment and facilities for giving such instruction.
In June 1945 the shore-based staff included 32 officers and 268 enlisted personnel. Of this number 11 officers and 70 enlisted men were on duty at the Naval Training School (Armed Guard Gunnery). Attached to the Center were 14,120 enlisted men and 1,118 officers. Approximately one-third of ship's company consisted of Waves.
Gunnery instruction was begun in June, 1942. The embryo school started ambitiously in one of the enlisted barracks which was equipped with one 20-millimeter, one 50-caliber, and two 30-caliber guns. Transient officers with combat experience were assigned to instructional work for brief periods between voyages. A Gun Dock was completed late in 1942 and it became the nucleus of the Gunnery Department. One officer was in charge of instruction with three gunner's mates assisting.
On December 12, 1944, the Gunnery Department became the Naval Training School (Armed Guard Gunnery). The school expanded its program immediately until it included training in petty officer duty, seamanship, visual and radio communication, gun maintenance, synthetic devices, lookout duty, aircraft recognition, and navigation. By June 1945 the Naval Training School had reached its peak of efficiency. It had the latest ordnance equipment and synthetic training devices, some of which had been developed by the Officer-in-Charge and his staff. A
practical course in celestial navigation, the only one offered in the Eighth Naval District, attracted officers from the various Naval services. Special work in gun maintenance fitted gunner's mates for additional responsibility. Although instruction was designed primarily for the Armed Guard, approximately thirty percent of the 1,100 officers and enlisted personnel under training in June 1945 were from fleet ships or other Naval commands. Marines, Army personnel, and some merchant marine officers also received instruction, as did some men from the navies of Great Britain, Russia, France, Norway, Brazil, and Greece.
Equipment used in giving Armed Guard training included five inch fifty-one, five inch thirty-eight, four inch fifty, three inch fifty, twenty millimeter, fifty caliber, and thirty caliber guns, various synthetic training devices, three outdoor signal bridges, four large boats used on Lake Pontchartrain, and many other devices.
At its peak the School occupied one large building housing administrative offices and class rooms, a gun dock, Mark I (Polaroid Trainer) building, night lookout building, rifle range, and training facilities on the lake. Practice firing of guns at towed and stationary targets was provided by the Antiaircraft Training Center, Shell Beach, Louisiana.
History of the Supply Corps, U. S. Naval Repair Base, New Orleans, Louisiana
With the reopening of the Naval Station on the eve of the Second World War, the primary function of the Supply Department was to do the intermediate outfitting of Naval craft being constructed in the Mississippi
Valley and on the Texas coast. When on 31 July 1941, Captain R. S. Robertson, (SC) USN, reported as Supply Officer, he faced the problem of organizing a supply department for which no definite long-time function had been determined and the scope of which had not been established. At this time, only limited warehouse and office facilities were available. Building four was used as a general warehouse and as offices. Building fifty, which was the receiving and shipping building, was also used to a large degree as a storage building.
From the inception of the revived Naval Station until 1 March 1943, the Naval Station handled all shipments for minor activities in the Eighth Naval District; however, on that date, the Naval Supply Depot was officially opened and took over this function, together with the handling of export shipments to the Commandants, Tenth and Fifteenth Naval Districts.
The ordnance activity at this station increased and with the designation of the Naval Station as the ordnance supply point for the entire Eighth Naval District this particular phase continued until it became one of the major activities of the station. In a similar manner the radio supply activity gradually grew, and was designated as the radio-radar supply point for the district.
With the development of an organization and with the receipt of the increasing volume of outfitting supplies, attention was directed to the complete invoicing and handling of materials from the Supply Department to the vessels visiting this station. Few of the vessels carried a supply officer, and line officers, unfamiliar with the intricacies
of the supply system, did their best to get the job done. They were successful, but months and years later others perspired over incomplete records in an effort to satisfy government requirements.
By the end of Juno 1944 1,777 vessels had been supplied and serviced, and 516 vessels had been outfitted. During the six-month period between 1 July 1944 and 31 December 1944, 2,977 additional vessels were supplied and 89 were outfitted.
With the crystallization of the Navy Surplus Material Redistribution Program in the fourth quarter of 1944, the supply department set up a procedure whereby excesses were determined and either returned to the major supply point, or reported for disposition to the District Redistribution Office or Material Redistribution and Disposal Office. In this connection, in November and December 1944, approximately one and one-quarter million pounds of carbon steel excesses held by the Industrial Command were diverted to other Naval activities through the District Redistribution Office.
During the quarter 1 January 1945 through 31 March 1945, 935 vessels were supplied and 68 were outfitted. During the following quarter, April through 30 June 1945, 578 vessels were supplied and 96 were outfitted.
Many problems were faced by the Supply Officer and his staff, but all were solved in the most expeditious manner. As a result, prompt and valuable service was furnished to the Ships of the United States fleet.
Other important activities were also located at the Repair Base. Thee included the General Court-Martial Board for the Eighth Naval District, the Commissioning Detail, and the Naval Medical Supply storehouse. The Court-Martial Board was a permanent one established by the Commandant, Eighth Naval District; it tried cases from all over the district.
The Commissioning Detail furnished crews for the ships completed by the Industrial Command, Repair Base, and by Higgins Industries, New Orleans.
The Medical Supply Storehouse furnished commissioning allowances of medical material to ships, and also filled requisitions for all ships for the Armed Guard, and for small shore establishments.
The Repair Base in toto was an important and well-managed activity which aided the war effort materially.
During the operative periods Commandants and Commanding Officers were as follows:
Capt. JOHN P. MERRELL, USN
Nov. 1901 - May 1904
REAR ADM. S. E. W. KETTELLE, USN
Mar. 1924 - Sept. 1924
Capt. FREDERICK SINGER, USN
May 1904 - June 1909
LT. CDR, J. C. VAN DE CARR, USN
Sept. 1924 - Dec. 1924
CMDR. BEN W. HODGES, USN
Dec. 1909 - Dec, 1910
COMDR. H. A. McCLURE, USN
Dec. 1924 - July 1927
CAPT. J. M. HELM, USN
Dec. 1910 - Sept. 1911
COMDR. R. E. CASSIDY, USN
July 1927 - June 1930
Sept, 1911 - Jan, 1915
REAR ADM. T. P. MAGRUDER, USN
July 1930 - Nov. l93l
CAPT. MARBURY JOHNSON, USN
Jan. 1915 - Mar. 1917
REAR ADM. H. H. CHRISTY, USN
Nov. 1931 - June 1933
COMMODORE V. NELSON, USN (RET.)
Mar. 1917 - Oct. 1919
SUPERVISION OF BASE MAINTENANCE FORCE
FROM 1933 to 1939
CAPT. G. F. COOPER, USN
Oct. 1919 - July 1921
CAPT. P. SEYMOUR, USN (RET.)
Dec. 1939 - June 1943
CAPT. H. P. BRYAN, USN
July 1921 - Dec. 1921
CAPT. J. C. THOU, USN (RET.)
June 1943 - May 1945
REAR ADM. T. P. MAGRUDER, USN
Dec. 1921 - Jan. 1924
CHANGE in DESIGNATION SEPT. 1944
U. S. NAVAL REPAIR BASE
CAPT. R. F. CARTER, USNR
May 1945 - to date
1. See Chapter II. 2. SecNav ltr. file 0p13C-je, Ser. 217713, dtd. 1 Aug. 1941. 3. BuNav ltr. file Nav-61-CKH, NM22-3CL, dtd. 28 Feb. 1942. 4. SecNav Ltr. file Op-12 cse, Ser. 55613, dtd. 22 Mar. 1942. 5. SecNav Ltr. Opl3-lC-jc, Ser. 209913 6 6 174, dtd. 17 Aug. 1944. 6. SecNav Ltr. Opl3-lD-oma, Ser. 353513 9 14 36, dtd. 23 Sep. 1944. 7. SecNav ltr. 0pl3-lDMMS, Ser. 398613, dtd. 14 Dec. 1944. 8. BuPers desp. 081710 of October 1943. 9. ComEight ltr. ND8/17, Ser. 20184, dtd. 9 Aug. 1943. 10. ComEight ltr., Ser. 19061, dtd. 16 Jun. 1945. 11. SecNav Ltr. Ser. 30511, dtd. 5 Jun. 1944.
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