The Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Corona Division - a Naval Sea Systems Command activity, is the Navy's only independent analysis and assessment center. The mission of the NSWC Corona Division is to "Gauge the warfighting capacity of ships and aircraft, from unit to battlegroup level, by assessing the suitability of design, the performance of weapons and equipment, and the adequacy of training." In order to carry out this mission, NSWC Corona Division possesses a number of unique capabilities. Foremost among these is the Warfare Assessment Laboratory - the cornerstone of an integrated approach to warfare assessment and the focal point of internal and external interconnectivity.
NSWC Corona Division is comprised of three Centers of Excellence, four departments, and more than 950 scientists and engineers, 700 contractors, and one of the Navy's largest scientific and engineering computer operations. More than 180 critical programs are assigned to the Center with about $180 million dollars of annual expenditures.
The site of the NSWC Corona Division was once a playground for the rich and famous. A 700-acre luxury resort once operated here in Norco, built by Rex Clark in 1928. Frequented by silent-screen stars, the complex sported a gambling casino, golf course, 55 acre lake, a hot sulfur spring spa, an airport, and a magnificent, 5-story hotel. Sitting atop a knoll, the hotel had a commanding view of Lake Norconian and the surrounding countryside. With the stock market crash of 1929, the resort plunged into a 12-year decline culminating in Clark agreeing to sell the complex to the Navy for 1.6 million dollars December 6th, 1941, one day before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The Navy quickly began to convert the complex into a hospital. Behind the ornate facade of the main building, murals were removed from the walls, chandeliers were taken down, furniture was stored, draperies and Persian rugs were removed, and soon the elegant hotel was turned into an aseptic, strictly functional hospital. Even the sulfur baths were converted to functional hydrotherapy mineral baths. By 1944, there were 100 officers, 184 nurses, and 1200 corpsmen at the hospital, and that year alone, they cared for almost 12,000 patients.
Under the direction of Dr. Robert D. Huntoon, most of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) Missile Development Division began to move to the west coast and Unit II was formally designated as the NBS Corona Laboratories. Under Dr. Huntoon's leadership, the organization rapidly expanded to 250 scientists, technicians, and necessary support personnel. This staff continued to concentrate on missiles and improving methods of guiding and fusing them.
In 1952, there occurred a key event in the evolution of the NSWC Corona Division. By that year, the Navy's Terrier guided missile had completed development and was considered ready for full-scale shipboard firing tests. Recognizing the need for accurate and objective evaluation of these firings, the Navy assigned responsibility for this task to the government group whose work on guided missiles it had been sponsoring for more than a decade-the NBS Corona Laboratories.
By 1953, the NBS Corona laboratories were in full operation with a staff of more than 400. On 24 July of that year, following a decision that weapons research and development were more properly a function of the military than NBS, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of Commerce jointly announced plans to transfer seventeen NBS technical divisions to the Department of Defense. As part of that transfer, the NBS activity at Corona was transferred to the Department of the Navy, redesignated the Naval Ordnance Laboratory, Corona (NOLC) and assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance, thus becoming an official part of the Bureau it had served since 1941.
The Naval Warfare Assessment Division of the Naval Ordnance Center dedicated a new 48,000 square-foot Warfare Assessment building April 6th, 1994. The $9,425,532 Warfare Assessment Laboratory provides a consolidated secure facility to analyze fleet readiness and capability during world-wide multi-service training exercises.
The site now occupied by Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach Detachment Corona was once a playground of the rich and famous. In 1928 City of Norco founder Rex B. Clark built a 700-acre resort hotel complex on the site that included a lakefront casino, golf course and airport. The location became a hit with Hollywood celebrities, but experienced tough times following the stock market crash of 1929.
On December 6, 1941, one day before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Clark agreed to sell the complex to the Navy for use as a naval hospital. Naval Hospital, Corona was established on December 15, and served wounded Sailors and Marines throughout World War Two. The hospital was disestablished in 1949, but was reestablished in 1951 to care for casualties of the Korean War.
Also in 1951, as the Navy's guided missile development efforts began to expand, personnel from the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) Missile Development Division began arriving. The organization was designated as NBS Corona Laboratory in 1952 and initially shared property with the naval hospital. In 1953, the NBS laboratories were transferred to the Department of Defense, and the Corona Laboratory was re-designated as Naval Ordnance Laboratory, Corona.
This was just the beginning of what would become a long and proud history of weapons research and assessment work at the Corona site, culminating with work done by the detachment's current primary tenant, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Corona Division.
The naval hospital was permanently closed in 1957, and in 1962 this portion of the property was turned over to the State of California to be used as a narcotics addicts rehabilitation center, and later as a prison.
In 1971 weapons operations in the Southern California area were consolidated, with assessment work at Corona coming under the command of Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach. Throughout the ensuing decades, several additional re-organizations took place as the Navy sought to maximize efficiencies in both its weapons laboratories as well as its shore-based infrastructure in general.
Finally, in July 2005, the Corona site was
re-designated as a detachment of Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach,
with the facility's primary tenant, Naval Surface Warfare Center,
Corona Division, retaining its own command structure.
The United States government acquired a total of 713.665 acres of land in fee and direct purchase for the former Corona Naval Hospital, located in the city of Norco, Riverside County, California. The site was originally a resort hotel located on a 694.555 acre tract. This tract was purchased by the Navy Department from Rex B. Clark on 9 December 1941 through condemnation proceedings. Three additional parcels associated with this hospital site were purchased by the Navy Department as follows: 1.322 acres acquired in condemnation proceedings from Rex B. Clark on 22 September 1942, 4.458 acres acquired in condemnation proceedings from the North Corona Land Co. on 30 March 1943, and 13.33 acres acquired by direct purchase from George E. McCauley on 26 February 1946.
The Navy Department converted the main hotel building into a hospital. Additional buildings were constructed to house additional patients and Navy personnel. By conversion and additions, the hospital had a capacity of 2,160 beds. The site was exclusively under Navy control during the periods of ownership and use.
Disestablishment of the hospital was declared by the Navy on 1 November 1949. The hospital was reopened on 1 June 1951 and the Navy inactivated the hospital again in September 1957. On 21 September 1959, 580 acres of the former hospital site were transferred to Bureau of Naval Weapons for use by the Naval Ordnance Laboratory. The remaining 115 acres were declared excess and recommended to the General Services Administration for disposal. On 30 March 1962, 92.3553 acres were transferred to the State of California for use as a Narcotics Rehabilitation Center. On 15 May 1962, an additional 14.6014 acres were transferred to Corona Unified School District, Corona, CA. On 4 June 1985, 141.86 acres were transferred to Riverside Community College District.
Approximately 219 acres were transferred by quitclaim deeds to two private owners on 19 May 1967 and 23 June 1972. These parcels were subsequently purchased by two housing developers Lewis Homes and Crestwood Homes. The Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station currently controls 245.75 acres.
Source: Los Angeles District, US Army Corps of Engineers, 1999