In 1846, during the war with Mexico, the U.S. Navy briefly established a naval base at San Pedro but it was abandoned after that war. The Navy returned in 1917 to build a training station and a submarine base. By the late 1920s the facility was specializing in servicing Navy auxiliary ships and was no longer a submarine base. In 1939, with the onset of World War II, a massive and long-term construction program began to convert the facility into a naval operating base, a sizeable shipyard and a major fuel depot. As a result, here was constant construction at the base for a period of about 10 years.
In August 1941 construction began on the Terminal Island Dry Dock facility, the base's main entity, and was not completed until 1945. During the war the base acquired piers, warehouses, a Marine Barracks, large cranes, a boiler shop, a plate shop, massive above-ground and underground fuel storage facilities, a net depot, an ammunition depot, a large Navy hospital, a prison, a degaussing range, a radio station, an airfield, numerous smaller facilities and a variety of schools.
The lack of available space limited the base from expanding in size so it was never intended that it become a home port for many of the Navy's ships. Nor was it to become a major operating base compared to those at San Diego, Puget Sound and Pearl Harbor. Ship repair was the largest undertaking at the base during the war. From February 1943 to August 1945 the base docked 406 ships, performed 303 major repairs and overhauls including work on 9 battleships, 14 heavy and light cruisers, 46 destroyers, 31 destroyer escorts and 30 oilers. The base also made a major conversion to the famous hospital ship "Hope" and built five floating dry docks that were used at various locations in the western Pacific. The base also became an important convoy assembly point and loaded cargo ships.
At the beginning of the war the base was a receiving center and near the end of the war, a demobilization center.
With the end of hostilities the base was kept busy for several years deactivating, converting, moth-balling or selling ships. In 1947 a Naval Reserve Armory was established on the base. Also in that year the name of the base was changed to Naval Operating Base, Long Beach and, for decades to come, remained one of the Navy's most important facilities on the west coast. During the last years of their service lives, during the 1980s and early 1990s, the battleships MISSOURI and NEW JERSEY were based here.
In 1991, as a result of BRAC, the Navy announced that it was reassigning 38 ships and 17,000 Navy personnel based in Long Beach to other west coast homeports. This occurred during a period when McDonnell Douglas Corporation, the city's largest private employer, had laid off thousands of workers at its Long Beach aircraft manufacturing facility.
Long Beach Naval Complex (LBNC) included Naval Shipyard (NSY) Long Beach and its four associated housing areas (Los Alamitos, Palos Verdes, San Pedro, and Whites Point), Naval Station (NS) Long Beach and its two associated housing areas (Savannah/Cabrillo and Taper Avenue), and Hospital (NAVHOSP) Long Beach.
NS and NSY are located on the south side of Terminal Island within the boundaries of the cities of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The NAVHOSP is located in the northeast corner of the City of Long Beach. Palos Verdes, San Pedro, and Taper Avenue housing areas are located in southwestern Los Angeles County within the community of San Pedro in the City of Los Angeles. Whites Point housing is located south of San Pedro and Taper Avenue housing within the community of San Pedro in the City of Los Angeles. Los Alamitos housing is located east of Orange County in the City of Los Alamitos, and Savannah/Cabrillo housing is located in the northeast corner of the City of Long Beach. LBNC has been an industrial facility for over fifty years.
The NAVHOSP, and NS and its associated housing were identified for closure in BRAC II. The NSY and its Associated Housing were identified for closure in BRAC IV. The NS and its housing areas were closed 30 September 1994. NAVHOSP activities ceased 31 December 1993 and was officially closed 31 March 1994. NS is now in caretaker status. The NAVHOSP was transferred to the City Of Long Beach in May 97. The NSY and its housing was transferred September 97. The Shipyard closing came on top of an estimated 17,000 jobs lost in 1991 due to the reassignment of 38 ships based in Long Beach to other west coast home ports.
By early July 1994 a construction project to benefit navigational safety for the US Navy and improve the environment of the city of Imperial Beach was completed. About 233,000 cubic yards of sand were dredged at Naval Station, San Diego from 30 feet to 37 feet. The dredged sand was placed about 600 feet off the coast of Imperial Beach. The dredging improved US Navy ships' traversing Pier 2 and increased the width of beaches in Imperial Beach and beaches further north on the Silver Strand. The Navy awarded a $1.1 million contract 01 April 1994 to Great Lakes Dredging of Oakbrook IL. Great Lakes Dredging began work on the project on 19 May 1994.
The Chinese state-run China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) shipping firm, a tenant at the Port of Long Beach since 1981, had been negotiating with the Port for additional terminal space for the past few years. The expansion of Pacific Rim trade and the deep-water and rail infrastructure in the Long Beach-Los Angeles area has resulted in a substantial increase in volume. The Port of Long Beach planned to build and to lease to COSCO a $200 million container terminal on 145 acres of former Navy property, using a 10-year lease with additional five-year options. Annual lease payments, estimated at between $13-15 million, or about $100,000 per acre would be consistent with rates paid by other Port tenants. However, on April 21, 1997, the Long Beach Harbor Commission voted to cancel the lease with COSCO.
The Long Beach NSY, which closed in FY97, was located at Terminal Island between the cities of Long Beach and San Pedro and approximately 23 miles south of the Los Angeles International Airport. The Shipyard closing came on top of an estimated 17,000 jobs lost in 1991 due to the reassignment of 38 ships based in Long Beach to other west coast home ports.
The property was first leased to the Federal government in 1935, but most construction occurred during World War II. The shipyard was closed in 1950, then reactivated in 1951 for the Korean War. By 1952, an attack carrier and destroyer escorts had transferred there. The shipyard also hosted minesweepers and MSTS* ships. Supply and fuel depots at the site were reactivated in 1955. Additional ships were ported at the shipyard, and other ships were refurbished for transport overseas. In 1974, base realignment downgraded the shipyard to a naval support activity, and dozens of ships were transferred elsewhere. However, the base was again upgraded to a Naval Station in 1979. During the 1980s two battleships were refurbished at the shipyard.
The Long Beach NSY industrial area encompasses 119 acres of the total 214 owned. There are 120 permanent, 39 semi-permanent, and 6 temporary buildings, for a total of 165 buildings. There are 17 different shop work areas and 2.4M SF of covered building space. The shipyard had three graving docks, and five industrial piers. There are 12,307 linear feet of total ship berthing space. Crane capacity ranged from 25 tons to 67 tons (portal) and from 25 tons to 112 tons (floating).
The Long Beach NSY was equipped with facilities and skills to perform all non-nuclear structural, sheetmetal, boiler, rigging, electronics, electrical, lagging, ordnance, sandblasting, welding, machining, woodworking, painting, pipe fitting, and other work pertaining to the overhaul and repair of surface ships. Dry dock No. 1 was designated the West Coast nuclear powered aircraft carrier (CVN) emergency dry dock. The shipyard possessed complete design, engineering, and planning capabilities to support its industrial work.
To meet its mobilization mission assignment the shipyard was equipped with facilities and skills capable of performing all structural, sheetmetal, boiler, rigging, electronics, electrical, insulating, ordnance, sandblasting, welding, machining, woodworking, painting, pipe fitting, and other work incidental to the overhaul and repair of surface ships. The shipyard possessed complete design, engineering, combat systems, quality assurance, planning and public works capabilities to support its industrial work.
Through the years the shipyard accomplished several special projects in addition to its primary mission. These included support or scientific projects in conjunction with programs like POLARIS, POSEIDON, and SEALAB. Currently the shipyard operated electronic and weapons checkout and evaluation functions.
Long Beach Naval Shipyard had a modernization and military construction program to meet the critical need to improve waterfront capabilities and facilities and to provide sufficient flexibility to meet workload changes and technological advances required for fleet support.
The Facilities and Maintenance Department had two main shops. These shops support the Fleet Industrial Supply Center, San Diego, Long Beach Detachment; various local Department of Defense activities; Navy housing at Seal Beach, Los Alamitos, and San Pedro; and numerous tenant commands.
The shipyard enjoyed an excellent reputation among its fleet customers. Past and current performance in terms of producing timely, economical and quality work coupled with a zeal in responsiveness contribute to this reputation.
The shipyard developed an ongoing business strategy that resulted in the establishment of the Navy's largest organic depot with unique repairable rework centers for electronics systems. The shipyard broadened its marketing scope to encompass soliciting for such programs as: modifications, self-help habitability modifications, female habitability modifications to combatants, and increases in manufacturing lines, i.e., jet blast deflectors, butterfly valves, etc.
In 1994 Long Beach employed approximately 3,000 civilian employees, approximately 800 MWR and Navy Exchange personnel, and was considered a major industry in the local area. Shipyard payroll is estimated at approximately $142.2M annually, plus $8.4M in MWR and Navy Exchange salaries. The workforce size is comprised of 84.5 percent highly skilled production workers and engineers. The remaining 15.5 percent consisted of administrative and clerical positions.
Immediately before World War II it became apparent that a major anchorage and operation area was needed in the Long Beach-Los Angeles-San Pedro area. Public Law 667 (76th Congress) authorized the establishment of a fleet operating base there, as well as land acquisition, harbor breakwater, buildings, and other accessories. The Second Deficiency Bill of 1940 provided $19.8 million, and Terminal Island naval dry docks was established. The location was ideal since it is within the doubly protected west basin of the Port of Long Beach and yet only minutes away from the open sea. In times past, the site has been an Indian burial ground, a shark oil center, a rum-runner's paradise, and a fashionable bathing beach. On 18 December 1940, a one dollar check was given to the city of Long Beach for the acquisition cost of surface rights. Early construction of the Moreell Dry Dock permitted ship work to begin on 7 April 1942. In 1945 an inner breakwater was constructed to protect ships against the surge of open sea waters.
During World War II, the naval dry docks provided routine and battle damage repairs to a parade of tankers, cargo ships, troop transports, destroyers, and cruisers. Peak employment of 16,091 civilian employees was reached in August 1945.
On 9 February 1943, the Secretary of the Navy established the facilities as the US Naval Dry Docks, Roosevelt Base, California. The name of this facility was changed to Terminal Island Naval Shipyard on 30 November 1945. The name became Long Beach Naval Shipyard (NSY) in March 1948.
The Long Beach NSY was placed in an inactive status on 1 June 1950. The Korean War began less than one month later. Reactivation of the shipyard was directed on 4 January 1951. Since then, the shipyard has provided fleet support in the Southern California area. The Long Beach NSY workload consists dominantly of overhaul and maintenance of non-nuclear surface ships of the US Navy.