Mare Island Naval Shipyard
The Mare Island Naval Shipyard (MINSY) was the first United States Navy base established on the Pacific Ocean. It is located 25 miles 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 US West Coast submarine port as well as serving as the controlling force in San Francisco Bay Area shipbuilding efforts during World War II.
Mare Island Naval Shipyard
USS Wadleigh at Mare Island Naval Yard, 10 April 1945.
|NRHP reference #||75002103|
|Added to NRHP||15 May 1975|
|Designated NHLD||15 May 1975|
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. Upon reaching San Francisco, Ewing and the other ship assigned to the survey, USS 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.
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 island across 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.
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.
World War I
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.
World War II
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.
Mare Island Naval Shipyard constructed at least eighty-nine seagoing vessels. Among the more important ships & boats built were:
- 1858 USS Saginaw – sloop-of-war, wood
- 1872 USS Mohican – sloop-of-war, wood
- 1874 USC&GS McArthur – Steamer
- 1875 USS Monadnock – monitor, steel
- 1886 USRC Cosmos – Revenue Cutter, wood
- 1904 USS Intrepid – training ship, steel barque
- 1907 USS Prometheus – collier, steel
- 1911 USS Jupiter – collier, steel. Later converted to aircraft carrier USS Langley
- 1913 USS Kanawha – tanker, steel
- 1913 USRC Guard – Revenue Cutter Service harbor tug, wood
- 1913 USS Palos – gunboat, steel
- 1913 USS Monocacy – gunboat, steel
- 1914 USS Maumee – tanker, steel
- 1915 USS Cuyama – tanker, steel
- 1916 USS Shaw, destroyer – steel
- 1916 USS California – battleship, steel
- 1916 USS Caldwell – destroyer, steel
- 1917 Fifteen submarine chasers – wood
- 1917 USS Fairfax – destroyer – (Destroyers for Bases Agreement)
- 1917 USS Taylor – destroyer
- 1918 USS Boggs – destroyer – (World War II)
- 1918 USS Kilty – destroyer – (Guadalcanal campaign – Philippines campaign (1944–45) – Battle of Okinawa)
- 1919 USS Kennison – destroyer – (World War II)
- 1918 USS Ward – destroyer – (attack on Pearl Harbor – Guadalcanal campaign – Philippines campaign)
- 1918 USS Claxton – destroyer
- 1919 USS Hamilton – destroyer – (invasion of North Africa – Philippines campaign)
- 1920 USS Montana – battleship scrapped before completion under terms of the Washington Naval Treaty
- 1920 USS Litchfield – destroyer – (World War II)
- 1920 USS Zane – destroyer – (attack on Pearl Harbor – Guadalcanal campaign)
- 1921 USS Wasmuth – destroyer – (attack on Pearl Harbor)
- 1922 USS Trever – destroyer – (attack on Pearl Harbor – Guadalcanal campaign)
- 1922 USS Perry – destroyer – (attack on Pearl Harbor – Battle of Peleliu)
- 1922 USS Decatur – destroyer – (World War II)
- 1927 USS Nautilus – submarine (sank 6 ships in 14 World War II Pacific patrols)
- 1928 USS Chicago – cruiser – (Battle of Savo Island – Battle of Rennell Island)
- 1931 USS San Francisco – cruiser – (attack on Pearl Harbor – Battle of Cape Esperance – Naval Battle of Guadalcanal – Battle of the Philippine Sea – Philippines campaign (1944–45) – Battle of Okinawa)
- 1934 USS Smith – destroyer – (Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands – Philippines campaign)
- 1934 USS Preston – destroyer – (Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands – Naval Battle of Guadalcanal)
- 1935 USS Henley – destroyer – (attack on Pearl Harbor – Guadalcanal campaign)
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.
- 1936 USS Pompano – submarine (sank 6 ships in 7 World War II Pacific patrols
- 1936 USS Sturgeon – submarine (sank 9 ships in 11 World War II Pacific patrols
- 1937 USS Swordfish – submarine (sank 12 ships in 13 World War II Pacific patrols
- 1939 USS Fulton – submarine tender – (World War II)
- 1939 USS Tuna – submarine (sank 4 ships in 13 World War II Pacific patrols
- 1939 USS Gudgeon – submarine (sank 11 ships in 12 World War II Pacific patrols
- 1941 USS Sperry – submarine tender – (World War II)
- 1941 USS Silversides – submarine (sank 23 ships in 14 World War II Pacific patrols (3rd highest number for a U.S. submarine)
- 1941 USS Trigger – submarine (sank 18 ships in 12 World War II Pacific patrols (11th highest number for a U.S. submarine)
- 1942 USS Bushnell – submarine tender – (World War II)
- 1942 USS Wahoo – submarine (sank 20 ships in 7 World War II Pacific patrols (6th highest number for a U.S. submarine)
- 1942 USS Whale – submarine (sank 9 ships in 11 World War II Pacific patrols
- 1942 USS Sunfish – submarine (sank 15 ships in 11 World War II Pacific patrols
- 1942 USS Tunny – submarine (sank 7 ships in 9 World War II Pacific patrols Vietnam War)
- 1942 USS Tinosa – submarine (sank 16 ships in 11 World War II Pacific patrols
- 1942 USS Tullibee – submarine (sank 3 ships 4 World War II Pacific patrols
- 1943 USS Howard W. Gilmore – submarine tender – (World War II)
- 1943 USS Seahorse – submarine (sank 20 ships in 8 World War II Pacific patrols (6th highest number for a U.S. submarine)
- 1943 USS Skate – submarine (sank 10 ships in 7 World War II Pacific patrols
- 1943 USS Tang – submarine (sank 24 ships in 5 World War II Pacific patrols (2nd highest number for a U.S. submarine)
- 1943 USS Tilefish – submarine (sank 2 ships 6 World War II Pacific patrols
- 1944 USS Spadefish – submarine (sank 21 ships in 5 World War II Pacific patrols (4th highest number for a U.S. submarine)
- 1944 USS Trepang – submarine (sank 11 ships in 5 World War II Pacific patrols
- 1944 USS Spot – submarine (sank 1 ship in 3 World War II Pacific patrols
- 1944 USS Springer – submarine (sank 4 ships in 3 World War II Pacific patrols
- 1945 USS Nereus – submarine tender
- 1945 USS Stickleback – submarine (1 World War II Pacific patrol)
- 1947 USS Tiru – submarine
- 1951 USS Bass – submarine
- 1951 USS Bonita – submarine
- 1957 USS Grayback – submarine
- 1957 USS Sargo – submarine (nuclear powered)
- 1959 USS Halibut – submarine (nuclear powered)
- 1959 USS Theodore Roosevelt – submarine (nuclear powered)
- 1960 USS Scamp – submarine (nuclear powered)
- 1961 USS Permit – submarine (nuclear powered)
- 1961 USS Plunger – submarine (nuclear powered)
- 1962 USS Andrew Jackson – submarine (nuclear powered)
- 1963 USS Woodrow Wilson – submarine (nuclear powered)
- 1963 USS Daniel Boone – submarine (nuclear powered)
- 1963 USS Stonewall Jackson – submarine (nuclear powered)
- 1964 Trieste II – deep submergence bathyscaphe
- 1965 USS Kamehameha – submarine (nuclear powered)
- 1965 USS Mariano G. Vallejo - submarine (nuclear powered)
- 1967 USS Gurnard – submarine (nuclear powered)
- 1968 USS Guitarro – submarine (nuclear powered)
- 1969 USS Hawkbill – submarine (nuclear powered)
- 1969 USS Pintado – submarine (nuclear powered)
- 1970 USS Drum – submarine (nuclear powered)
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 PBR, Assault Troop Craft ATC, 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) in 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.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mare Island Naval Shipyard.|
- Brief history written in 1939
- Recently written history with photos
- Mare Island Navy Yard – 1928. Elbridge Ayer Burbank pencil sketch.
- National Park Service World War II in the San Francisco Bay Area: Mare Island Naval Shipyard
- Mare Island Historic Park Foundation
- Library of Congress Americas Memory
- Darryl Manzer. "Straightening Nails: A Story of Reuse and Renewal". Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society. Retrieved 20 February 2005.
- "Mare Island Naval Shipyard" (pdf). Photographs. National Park Service. Retrieved 18 May 2012.