Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Naval Training Center, San Diego
(Camp Nimitz)
Naval Training Center, San Diego
by globalsecurity.org

In the mid-1920s, the City of San Diego hoped to strengthen its economic ties with the military, and offered more than 200 acres of land to the Navy at the north end of San Diego Bay to entice it to move the Recruit Training Station from San Francisco.

Throughout its 70-year history as a military base, the mission of Naval Training Center, San Diego (NTC), was to provide primary, advanced and specialized training for members of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Naval Reserve. In support of that mission, NTC expanded to include 300 buildings with nearly 3 million square feet of space. In designing the first buildings at the training station, Navy architects adopted the Mission Revival style. Within a few years, harbor improvements deepened the channel and anchorages in San Diego Bay and added 130 acres of filled land to the Naval Training Station, later renamed the Naval Training Center. Development of the base occurred in phases, often in direct response to national defense priorities. As a result, there was no comprehensive plan for NTC, and buildings are scattered throughout the base or exist in small clusters. The base eventually expanded to almost 550 acres.

By the early 1990s, San Diego had become home to more than a sixth of the Navy's entire fleet. San Diego had more than a dozen major military installations, accounting for nearly 20 percent of local economy with more than 133,000 uniformed personnel and another 30,000 civilians relying on the military for their livelihood.

In annual payroll alone -- for both military and civilian personnel -- NTC contributed almost $80 million to the San Diego economy, according to the Navy's proposed 1994 budget. More than 28,000 visitors a year came to graduations at NTC, and 80 percent of these visitors were from out of town and contributed almost $7 million annually to the local economy. Beyond these payroll and visitor expenditures, the Navy spent an additional $10 million for base operation support contracts.

The end of the Cold War led to military downsizing and the need to close surplus bases. The federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission eventually slated NTC for closure in 1993. The Navy closed NTC facilities incrementally. As the military functions on the base dwindled, so did the Navy's budget. Fearing the lack of activity on the base would lead to security problems, the City and Navy entered into a master lease agreement in 1995 allowing the City interim use of 67 acres of the base site. The agreement was later amended to include more than half of the NTC property with approximately 75 buildings occupied by interim users. These buildings were subleased from the City to various parties including film companies, nonprofit organizations, City departments, and small businesses. In addition, interim leasing allowed the City to maintain the buildings and landscape areas at a higher standard of maintenance than an otherwise decreasing Navy caretaker budget could provide. The Navy officially closed NTC on April 30, 1997, and ceased all military operations.

The former Naval Training Center (NTC) will be transformed into a new urban village called Liberty Station. Following several years of planning, including extensive public involvement, the San Diego City Council adopted a final Reuse Plan in October 1998 to chart a new course for NTC. The area will be a gathering place where San Diegans can come together in an active, productive, and stimulating environment. New homes, parks, businesses, and cultural and educational facilities will transform the former Navy base into a vital waterfront community.


Naval Training Center
by San Diego Naval Historical Association

The Naval Training Center, San Diego had its inception in 1916 when Mr. William Kettner, Congressman from the Eleventh Congressional District of California and spokesman for the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, interested the Honorable Franklin D. Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, in establishing a naval training activity on the shores of San Diego Bay. Due to the Nation's entry into World War I, further development of permanent site plan was postponed until 1919, when Congress authorized acceptance by the Navy of the present site of the Training Center. However in 1917 the City of San Diego made way for a temporary Naval Training Station. The station at Balboa Park ensured the a permanent naval training installation in San Diego. The original grant for the permanent site consisted of 135 acres of highland donated by the San Diego Chamber of Commerce and 142 acres of tideland given by the City of San Diego. Construction work began in 1921, and on 1 June 1923 the U. S. Naval Training Station, San Diego, was placed in commission under the command of Captain (later Rear Admiral) David F. Sellers, U. S. Navy.

At the time of its commissioning in 1923 the station bore little resemblance to its present size or arrangement. At that time Camp Paul Jones housed the entire population of the station and the maximum recruit strength was 1,500. The period of recruit training was then sixteen weeks. The shore line of San Diego Bay extended considerably further inland than at present, and the land now occupied by Preble Field, the North Athletic Area and Camp Farragut was entirely under water. The recruit parade ground was located on the present site of the Public Works garage. During the 1920's the Recruit Receiving and Outgoing Units were housed in the Detention Unit, known as Camp Ingram, which consisted of a group of walled tents adjacent to the south boundary of Camp Paul Jones. Until Camp Lawrence was completed in 1936, recruits spent their first three weeks of training under canvas in this Detention Unit.

In 1939 a construction program was commenced which within three years was to increase the capacity of the station four-fold. This expansion went hand in glove with a large scale program of harbor improvements by means of which the channel and anchorages in San Diego Bay were deepened and 130 acres of filled land were added to the eastern boundaries of the station. By 1941 Camp Luce had been completed, and the construction of Camps Mahan, Decatur, and Farragut was already well under way when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Virtually all this construction work was completed by September, 1942, when the capacity of the station had reached its wartime peak of 33,000 men, 25,000 of whom were recruits. The period of recruit training during World War 11 varied between three weeks and seven weeks.

In April, 1944, the Secretary of the Navy changed the status of the Training Station to that of a group command and redesignated it the U. S. Naval Training Center, San Diego. Under the Center Commander were established three subordinate commands: The Recruit Training Command, The Service School Command and the Administrative Command.

The years immediately following World War II saw a considerable reduction in population of the Training Center despite a post-war expansion of the Service Schools, and by the end of 1949 the population of the Center had dropped to a twenty-year low of 5,800 men. Six months later, when the Communists invaded the Republic of Korea, an immediate expansion of all Naval training activities took place and by September of 1950 the Center was again operating at nearly full capacity.

During the early months of the Korean conflict it became apparent that the demand for trained personnel in the rapidly growing Pacific Fleet would require further expansion of this training center. Accordingly steps were taken by the Navy Department to reactivate Camp Elliott, formerly a World War II Marine Corps training camp which is located ten miles north of San Diego on Kearny Mesa. On 15 January 1951 Camp Elliott was placed in commission as Elliott Annex of the Naval Training Center for the purpose of conducting the primary phases of recruit training. In March, 1953, in line with the planned reduction in size of the Navy, training at Elliott Annex was discontinued and it was placed in an inactive status. During its two years of operation, over 150,000 recruits received training there.

Late in 1952 projects were approved to convert some recruit barracks into classrooms and to extend training facilities by construction of a permanent recruit camp on the undeveloped Training Center land lying to the south and east of the estuary. The six converted barracks went into service as recruit classrooms in April, 1953, and construction work on the new camp was completed in 1955. With the completion of this project the Naval Training Center filled out to its present boundaries of 435 acres.

In the furtherance of its mission of supplying trained naval personnel to the fleets and ships of the United States Navy, each of the three subordinate commands of the Naval Training Center has important roles to fill.

The Administrative Command has the responsibility of conducting most of the Center's administrative business and furnishing a wide range of services necessary to the daily life of the large community which the Center has become. The Administrative Command has the responsibility of maintaining the Center's buildings and grounds, and through its facilities all personnel on the Center are house, fed, clothed and paid, and receive their medical and dental car The Administrative Command also provides such other community services as recreational and Navy Exchange facilities; communications, postal and transportation services; and police all fire protection.

Under the Service School Command are grouped more than twenty Navy Schools in which recruits as well as men from the fleet receive training in the specialized duties of certain ratings. Most of these are Class "A" schools, where non-rated men learn the skills and information necessary to them to perform a specific pet officer rating. Among these schools are those which train firecontrol technicians, electricians mates, radiomen, yeomen, commissarymen and stewards. Other schools teach specialized skills such as motion picture operation, teletype maintenance and stenography. The present capacity of the Service Schools is about 5,000 men.

The largest of the three commands at the Training Center is the Recruit Training Command. Here the recruit undergoes his transition from civilian to military life; learns the history, tradition customs and regulations of his chosen service; and receives instruction in naval skills and subjects which will be basic information throughout his period of naval service.

Most of the facilities of the Recruit Training Command are centered on Bainbridge Court and occupy the western half of the Training Center. Here are concentrated the barracks and headquarters of the recruit brigade, and nearby are located the mess halls, classrooms, athletic fields and recreation buildings used by the recruits.

Now in its forty second year of service to the Navy, the Naval Training Center, San Diego, faces with confidence the challenges an unsettled world.
(The Anchor, United States Naval Training Center, San Diego California - 1964)

Before 1993 NTC expanded to over 300 buildings with nearly 3 million square feet of space occupying almost 550 acres onsite plus training buildings at 32nd Street Naval Station.

Hundreds of thousands of civilian and military passed through the gates of Naval Training Center in the course of it's history. This base remains a proud memory for over a million civilian and military personnel who provided support functions, taught or received training here.

Contributing to the Economy

In annual payroll alone -- for both military and civilian personnel -- NTC contributed almost $80 million per year to the San Diego economy, according to the Navy's proposed 1994 budget. More than 28,000 visitors a year came to graduations at RTC, and 80 percent of these visitors were from out of town and contributed almost $7 million annually to the local economy. Beyond these payroll and visitor expenditures, the Navy spent an additional $10 million for base operation support contracts. With all finances taken into consideration, NTC provided over 2 billion dollars to the local economy over it's lifetime.

NTC Closes

The end of the Cold War led to military downsizing and the need to close surplus bases. The federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission eventually slated NTC for closure in 1993.

The Navy closed NTC facilities incrementally with Recruit Training Command closing in 1995, Service School Command in December 1996 and many smaller tenant commands closed or moved during these years. The Navy officially closed NTC on April 30, 1997, and ceased all military operations.

1994-1996 - City's NTC Reuse Committee, with input from interested citizens, makes recommendations resulting in a draft Reuse Plan.

Nov. 1996 - City Council adopts draft Reuse Plan as the City's preferred alternative.

March 1996 - Voters approve changing designation of NTC property from future urbanizing to planned urbanizing.

April 1997 - The Navy closes NTC and all active military uses of the base concludes.

May 1997 - City Redevelopment Agency adopts the NTC Redevelopment Project Area.

Dec. 1996-Aug. 1997 - Navy and City prepare joint draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) for public review.

Aug. 1997-July 1998 - Navy and City prepare joint Final Draft EIS/EIR.

July 1998 - Navy issues contract for its appraisal of property.

Aug. 1998 - City completes Final Draft Reuse Plan.

Aug. 1998 - City issues Request for Qualifications for master developer/partner.

Oct. 1998 - City Council adopts Reuse Plan and certifies EIS/EIR.

Jan. 1999 - City issues Request for Proposals for master developer/partner.

Feb 1999 - Navy receives draft appraisal from its contractor and allows the City limited review.

Mar. 1999 - Navy signs Record of Decision, Navy's final approval of Reuse Plan and certification of the EIS.

June 1999 - City Council selects master developer/partner.

May 1999 - City submits Economic Development Conveyance application (including business plan and offer to purchase) to Navy.

May-Nov. 1999 - City and Navy negotiate property transfer.

May-Nov. 1999 - City negotiates Disposition and Development Agreement with the master developer.

Mar 2000 - City receives property from the Navy and signs Disposition and Development Agreement with the master developer.

(Facts About Naval Training Center, San Diego, The City of San Diego 1999)

NTC Reuse

A large portion of Naval Training Center has been designated as a historical site. It's only fitting that where hundreds of thousands of men and women transitioned from civilians to Sailors and learned advanced training that a museum be set up in this historical site. The city in 1997 set down this vision for the historic core.

Historic Core Development Concept

At the north end could be a retail marketplace featuring restaurants, marine-oriented crafts, farmers markets, and other festive retail uses. Along with traditional retailers, uses that combine crafts and manufacturing with retail sales are encouraged. The main body of the Historic Core could be rehabilitated into a variety of commercial uses including offices, small retail uses, and live/work spaces. The NTC headquarters building and its grounds could become the site of a military and maritime museum celebrating San Diego's maritime history and military heritage.

2002 - Five hundred military family housing units are under construction.

Sep 2002 - The first military housing units are completed, Sailors and their families start to move in.

McMillin Companies, the Master Developer for the former Naval Training Center now named "Liberty Station" starts the horizontal improvements for the 350 civilian housing units that will be built.

May 2003 - The NTC Foundation receives approval from the San Diego City Council for loans to advance the reutilization of the Arts, Culture and Civic center now named "Promenade Center."

June 2003 - First family moves into new McMillin constructed home at Liberty Station.

Naval Training Center, San Diego
by Justin Ruhge
For years San Diego citizens sought a Naval Training Station. This interest dates back to 1893. A Training Station for California was approved for California by Congress in 1894 but the location was to be Mare Island Shipyards and not at San Diego. The actual location was at Yerba Buena Island or Goat Island in the San Francisco Bay.

However, in 1904 San Diego did get a coaling station for Naval ships but no coal was stored there. But this was not the goal and the citizens persisted over the years. San Diego's mission to obtain the training station was driven by the election of Congressman William Kettner in 1915. Through his tireless promotions in Congress, Kettner earned the title of "the father of San Diego's Navy." Kettner sent home funds to deepen the bay for future Naval use, the coaling station on Point Loma, the proposed new Naval radio station, the coastal defenses at Fort Rosecrans and mapping offshore kelp beds. With the help of then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, a renewed effort was made to move the training station to San Diego. In November 1918, Captain Arthur MacArthur selected a site on Point Loma. The citizens of San Diego then scraped together the funds for the purchase of the land. In all, 214 acres were deeded to the Navy. Congress appropriated over $2 million in funds for the training station at San Diego. On June 1. 1923, the U.S. Naval Training Station, San Diego was placed in commission. The first commander was Captain D. F. Sellers. William Kettner was given the honor of dedicating the new station.

The Station was staffed by 10 officers and 50 enlisted men. Initial facilities accommodated 1,500 recruits. The Station also provided schools in preliminary radio, yeoman, bugler and band.

While the Station facilities were being constructed, the recruits were housed at Balboa Park on the site of the Panama-California Exposition.

By 1925, the Station had trained 10,000 recruits. By July 1926, the Station included 12 barracks with 2,100 recruits in training. There were 45 buildings on 238 acres of land and 40 acres of water. A total of $3 million had been spent on construction costs. The Station newspaper was dubbed The Hoist.

By the 1930s, the Station was contributing $1.5 million to the local economy per year.

The basic training was 12 weeks following a two-week stay at Camp Ingram for inoculations, tests and quarantine. At the time, the Navy operated under the Articles of War so training conditions were strict.
In 1939 a construction program increased the capacity of the Station by four times. During World War II the Station had 40,000 men, including 25,000 recruits at its peak. Forty-one service schools were activated to train 5,500 men.

In the spring of 1944, the Station was renamed Naval Training Center following a new Navy requirement.

In 1994, the Training Center was on 546 acres with some 300 buildings, all valued at $335 million. Center population was 5,000, however, the recruit command was closed and the function transferred to The Naval Training Center at Great Lakes, Illinois. There were 2,200 students at the Center's seven service schools.

The Naval Training Center was closed by the Base Realignment and Closing Commission (BRAC) in 1997. Captain Jack C. Ensch was the last commanding officer.
References: San Diego Battled for Bluejackets by Ellen B. Hozman, Traditions Magazine, June 1994; Early Days at NTC: A Tough Boat to Row, by Ellen B. Holzman, Traditions Magazine, July, 1994.
Other Online Histories
Extract, US Navy and Marine Corps Installations - Domestic (1985)


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Updated 8 February 2016