Naval Station Norfolk celebrates 100 years in 2017

The USS Harry S. Truman deploys from Naval Station Norfolk in November of 2016. Credit: WAVY viewer Mary Oder.

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The world’s largest naval base is turning 100 this year.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued a proclamation Thursday on the 100 years of Naval Station Norfolk.

Image Credit: Naval Station Norfolk/Facebook
Image Credit: Naval Station Norfolk/Facebook

The land on which Naval Station Norfolk sits was originally the site of the 1907 Jamestown Exposition, during which high-ranking naval officers came to the conclusion that the site was ideal for a naval base.

A bill passed in 1908 proposed that Congress appropriate $1 million for the purchase of the property and buildings, but it died when the Assistant Secretary of the Navy was given a choice between this property or a new coal ship.

Immediately after the United States entered World War I in April 1917, the Secretary of the Navy was persuaded to buy the property. A bill was passed for the purchase of 474 acres. It also set aside $1.6 million for development of the base.

Over the next six months, the Fifth Naval Headquarters, the Naval Operating Base (NOB), Naval Training Station, Naval Hospital, and Submarine Station were all established.

By Armistice Day in 1918, there were 34,000 enlisted men at the base.

An airfield for seaplanes was built at the Naval Operating Base in October 1917. In August 1918, it was detached from NOB and became Naval Air Station Hampton Roads. It was renamed NAS Norfolk in July 1921.

During WWI, the Navy realized the base needed more land. Officials decided to dredge the Elizabeth River to deep enough so that large ships could dock at NOB. During the fall and winter of 1917, about eight million cubic yards was dredged, moving the northern shoreline from along Dillingham Boulevard to its current location.

During the late 30s and early 40s, tons of construction took place at the Naval Operating Base and Naval Air Station as war loomed on the horizon. New buildings and piers were built, along with runways, hangar, and ramps for the large landplanes and seaplanes flown by the Navy in World War II.

In December 1942, recruit training at the base was discontinued in order to focus on advanced training for men going directly to the fleet. The Naval Operating Base and Naval Air Station, then collectively referred to as Naval Base Norfolk, continued their significant role as the home of the Atlantic Fleet after World War II. In January 1953, Naval Operating Base Norfolk was renamed to Naval Station Norfolk as part of a Navy’s effort to standardize base names.

On February 5, 1999, NAS Norfolk was disestablished and Chambers Field became part of Naval Station Norfolk.

Naval Station Norfolk has 13 piers and an 8,000 foot airfield. It supports more than 59 ships and more than 187 aircraft and 18 squadrons.

The base has been the site of many deployments and homecomings for carrier strike groups, including the Dwight D. Eisenhower, George H.W. Bush and Harry S. Truman. Today, Naval Station Norfolk employs more than 116,600 personnel, including service members and civilians. The annual payroll is about $9.2 billion.

A logo signifying the base’s centennial celebration has been posted to the Naval Station Norfolk Facebook page.

The City of Norfolk says more than 30 events throughout the year will honor and celebrate the anniversary. The 41st Harborfest along Norfolk’s downtown waterfront will be the signature event. Find a list of events here.

Stay with WAVY.com for the latest updates on Naval Station Norfolk’s 100th anniversary.