NSN is one of several major military bases in the Hampton Roads region. Some of the other facilities include Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek also in Virginia Beach, Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Fort Eustis in Newport News, and Fort Monroe, a mid-nineteenth-century coast defense structure that is currently used by the Army as a headquarters for various commands. As the largest base in Hampton Roads, NSN provides the military community a focal point for coordination of joint operations between the different branches of the Armed Forces of the United States.
NSN has two primary functions: port operations and air operations. NSN controls more than 3,100 ships' movements annually as they arrive and depart their berths. Port facilities extend more than four miles along the waterfront and include some seven miles of pier and wharf space. For air operations, NSN conducts more than 100,000 flight operations each year, an average of 275 flights per day, or one every six minutes. More than 150,000 passengers and 264,000 tons of mail and cargo depart annually on Air Mobility Command (AMC) aircraft and other chartered flights from our airfield. It is the hub for Navy logistics going to the European and Central Command theaters of operations, and to the Caribbean.
The Department of the Navy founded Naval Station Norfolk in 1917 on the grounds of the 1907 Jamestown Ter-Centennial Exposition. In 1908, the Norfolk-based Fidelity Land and Investment Company was given the task of finding a buyer for the grounds from the bankrupt Jamestown Exposition Company.
The Navy initially called the new base Naval Operating Base Hampton Roads, or NOB, a term that is still incorrectly used by sailors. The facility went through several changes to meet the growing and changing demands of the fleet. Air operations with lighter-than-air balloons and seaplanes began soon after the establishment of the base when an air training facility was built on the eastern side of the base.
By World War II (1939–1945), the base had established itself as the headquarters of the Atlantic Fleet with one hundred ships and several naval air squadrons calling it home. During the war itself, the base supported Allied ships and aircraft engaged against German U-boats throughout the six-year-long Battle of the Atlantic. The base grew by several hundred acres to accommodate the pace of the war. Among the new facilities constructed was a major aircraft factory.
In 1943, a vehicle carrying depth charges mysteriously exploded. The explosion killed several sailors including Elizabeth Korensky, the only Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVE) to die in action during the war. The sound of the explosion was heard more than twenty miles away.
At one time, the air station side of NSN was host to more than seventy tenant commands, including several carrier groups, carrier airborne early warning wings, helicopter sea control wings, and Naval Air Reserve units. In addition, the station rendered support in photography, meteorology, and electronics to the fleet commands of the Hampton Roads naval community.
As part of the Navy's response to the post–Cold War drawdown of the 1990s, many new initiatives were implemented at Navy shore installations to reduce their operating cost, improve their efficiency, and match better their capacity to the reduced size of the Navy. In 1998, the Navy began a major realignment of shore command organizations and processes throughout Hampton Roads in a process known as "regionalization." The separate Naval Station and Naval Air Station (which were directly adjacent to each other) merged into a single installation called Naval Station Norfolk. This consolidation became official on February 5, 1999.
Today NSN is rich with historic architecture. It is the site of the second-oldest brick baseball stadium in the United States, where major league baseball players competed during World War II. It is also the location of numerous structures from the 1907 Jamestown Ter-Centennial Exposition including thirteen models of the state capitols that the United States had constructed at Jamestown. Many of the commands located at NSN are also housed in historic buildings dating from the World War I through World War II eras.
1908 - The Norfolk-based Fidelity Land and Investment Company takes on the task of finding a buyer for the grounds of the recently bankrupt Jamestown Exposition Company. These grounds would later be purchased by the U.S. Navy and turned into Naval Station Norfolk.
1917 - The Department of the Navy founds the Naval Operating Base Hampton Roads, which would later become Naval Station Norfolk.
September 17, 1943 - Naval Operating Base Hampton Roads (later renamed Naval Station Norfolk) is the site of a major accident when a vehicle carrying depth charges mysteriously explodes. Several sailors are killed including Elizabeth Korensky, the only member of Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service to die in action during World War II.
February 5, 1999 - The Naval Station and the Naval Air Station in Norfolk are merged into a single unit, which is renamed Naval Station Norfolk.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Taylor, M. V., & Calhoun, G. B. Naval Station Norfolk. (2012, September 19). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Naval_Station_Norfolk.
- MLA Citation:
Taylor, Michael V. and Gordon B. Calhoun. "Naval Station Norfolk." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 19 Sept. 2012. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: November 6, 2008 | Last modified: September 19, 2012