The War Years

The 1940s

During the early construction of NTC, the majority of the land was undeveloped and underwater. What the Sailor sees today is the end result of engineering efforts from the 1940s to claim usable land from the bay.

At this time, the base undertook a huge hydraulic dredging project to fill the tidelands. In 1940, an area of land southeast of Worden and Decatur Roads was underwater. At low tide, this area was a huge mud flat. The dredging project filled the area giving NTC an addi-tional 200 acres for development. This area is presently the site of the tennis courts, softball fields, and building 85, the NTC bowling alley.

The Luce Auditorium was completed in May, 1941. This auditorium, named for Admiral Stephen Bleecker Luce, had a seating capacity of 2,305. Another new innovation occurred in September, 1941 when the base received direct dialing phone service courtesy of the Southern California Telephone Company. This enabled Sailors to dial direct anywhere on base.

In September, 1940, the base received equipment for the galley and bake shop. The bakery was equipped with the most efficient machinery needed to feed the multitudes of recruits passing through NTC on a daily basis. The new equipment included automatic cookie cutters, cake scales, dough mixers and revolving ovens. The cost of this reno-vation was $87,000.

In 1941, NTC was feeding 2,400 Sailors three times per day at an average cost of 29 cents per Sailor per meal.

"Secretary Knox Applauds Excellent Work Done Here"

was the headline from the Saturday, Sept. 21, 1940 issue of The Hoist.

Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox visited NTC on September 17 to review recruit graduation, hand out awards and have lunch with recruits. Knox visited again on June 28, 1943. He observed many station activities of the day, including Signalman students practicing their signals, Marines going through toughening-up exercises, recruits engaged in physical drill, and Sailors in whaleboats, on the rifle range and swimming in the bay.

The highlight of Knox’s visit was the inspection of the Waves (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) who lined up in front of building 200.

While Knox was visiting, the base continued to build. Construction began on a Seamanship and Training Building which would house various rigging and basic seamanship equipment.

A full-service telegraph office opened on March 20, 1942, in the northwest wing of the Camp Paul Jones mess hall. This new service enabled Sailors to send and receive telegrams or money orders.

A new six-lane bowling alley opened in March, 1942, and barracks for 18,000 officers and Sailors was constructed at a cost of more than $3,300,000.

California-style landscaping was completed and sidewalks were added. During this time, the station population tripled.

Hollywood descended upon NTC for a huge charity show to benefit the San Diego Naval Aid Society on October 18 and 19, 1941. Some of the many celebrities who appeared at the charity event were Marlene Dietrich, Charles Boyer, Claudette Colbert, Betty Grable, John Garfield, Chico Marx, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Jimmy Durante, Roy Rogers, Carole Landis and Abbott and Costello.

Milton Berle served as the master of ceremonies, and according to an Oct. 24, 1941 Hoist article, Berle "set a pace that kept both audience and the 29 performers going full steam."

The Naval Family Hospital at North Island Naval Air Station was the principal beneficiary of the money raised during the benefit.

The station received another Hollywood treat in October, 1941, when a 25-foot model of the H.M.S. Victory was given to the base. The two-ton model, an exact scale duplicate of Lord Nelson’s flagship which was used in the Battle of Trafalgar, was presented to NTC by Alexander Korda, a former British motion picture director and producer, who used the vessel in the motion picture "That Hamilton Woman." The model was originally on display in the station library and remained there until 1946 when it was moved to the WAVE galley. In July, 1955 it was moved to the Armory for restoration. Its final home at NTC was in building 30.

The models decks were planked wood and had completely functional hinged gunports. The Victory in had a 4 and a half foot beam, three foot masts from keel to truck and completely seaworthy. Even the and rigging were woven, blocked knotted like the original.

It cost $5,600 to build and it remained at NTC until 1996 when the Royal Naval Historical Society acquired it during base closure process. It was dismantled and shipped to the Museum in Portsmouth, England, the homeport of Lord Nelson’s oiqinal HMS Victory.

In less than two months, the coountry found itself at war following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The mood at NTC was calm according to The Hoist. An excerpt from the Dec. 12, 1941 issue stated:

"the only anxiety apparent was that displayed by the men -- who were afraid they would see no action. They wanted to be transported over night to a sector where they could sink their teeth into the job."

For the first time since 1923, NTC was a closed base. Security was tight and remained that way for four years. The gates were closed and civilians were not permitted access to any training or graduation ceremonies. The Hoist was censored regarding security and war procedures and routinely ran the following paragraph:

In keeping with United States Navy Security plans, The Hoist will at no time publish accounts or details of military procedure aboard the Station. Absence of news in the Hoist concerning precautionary measures at the Training Station should not be construed as meaning measures are not being taken.

War meant men and the men needed to be trained, so naturally training expanded. For the first time since 1922, the Navy recommissioned Balboa Park and it became an extension of NTC’s training. On Dec. 16, 1941, Capt. Gearing gave the order that established watch over all buildings in the Palisades section of Balboa Park. On Dec. 22, Lt. Cmdr. W. H. Gregg, officer-in-charge, raised the colors on the Federal Building, officially commissioning the Balboa annex.

To prepare the new annex, 12 carpenters worked during the Christmas holiday to refurbish several buildings for the Sailors use. This new annex had everything NTC had, including a sick bay, galley, a personnel office, and a ship’s service store.

One building was designated a reception area for visiting families. Phones were installed and more than 500 visitors came to Balboa Park the first week it was open. Just like the days of "Detention Camp", recruits once again slept in tents. This annex was later named Capt. Kidd after Rear Adm. Isaac Campbell Kidd, a flag officer who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Pearl Harbor. The Admiral Kidd Club, NTC’s Bachelor Officer Quarters and Officers’ Club, was later named after him, when it was designated on Jan. 14, 1960.

Meanwhile, back at NTC, emergency construction was underway as almost 300 temporary wooden frame and stucco buildings were built. This tripled NTC’s capacity to 25,000 recruits and 8,000 staff personnel. By 1944, NTC added an additional 100 acres to its property enabling the station to add four more camps: Decatur, Farragut, Luce and Mahan.

These camps were like individual towns, with everything needed for basic training. Each camp had a recreation center, a gymnasium, a swimming pool and a canteen where recruits could pur-chase toiletries and snacks. A dispensary provided Sailors with their medical and dental needs. And, of course, what boot camp would be complete without a grinder for marching.

The wartime demands increased the number of Sailors trained to approximately 90,000 each year. Boot camp training was modified to accommodate wartime training. This included hand-to-hand combat, grenade throwing and shipboard firefighting. Additionally, an area south of the Harbor Drive Bridge (later Camp Nimitz) was designated for training in amphibious assaults.

In April, 1943, the mother and sister of the five Sullivan brothers who were killed during the war on the cruiser USS Juneau, visited NTC. Two of the five sons, George and Frank Sullivan, received their training in San Diego.

Women first came to NTC in May, 1943 when 15 WAVE yeomen from Stillwater, Okla-homa reported for duty. By June, 105 women were stationed here under the guidance of Ensign Vesta 0. Wiley, the WAVE administrator.

The women had their own barracks furnished with bunk beds, gear lockers and bureaus. They worked in the post office and at the base switchboard answering phones. Some were yeoman working for the commanding officer or as teletypists in the communications department. Other women worked as dental or medical assistants.

The women were expected to adhere to the policies and traditions of the Navy just like their male counterparts. They had reveille at 5:30 a.m., field days on Fridays and barracks inspections on Saturdays. They stood duty every four days and had liberty from Saturdays at noon until 7:30 a.m. Mondays. They took part in sports, including swimming, golf and bowling.

Seven WAVES made an impromptu appearance in a movie filmed on May 22, 1944. A film crew from Paramount Studios came on board to film scenes for the musical "Here Come the Waves" starring Bing Crosby. The women were used as extras in a scene filmed by the main gate.

In April, 1944, what had been a "Naval Training Station? for 21 years was now redesignated as "Naval Training Center". Capt. R. S. Haggart became the first Center Commander. This restructuring organized three subordinate, or component commands, each with individual Commanding officers: Recruit Training Command, or boot camp; Service School Command, which provided various levels of schooling to students learning a Navy trade; and Administrative Command, which handled the administrative paperwork for NTC and Sailors.

The first Yeoman "A" School began on Feb. 28, 1944 when 50 students convened for a 16-week course. The school taught basics in typewriting, Navy correspondence and filing, Navy records, reports, forms, shorthand and stenography. The Radio School at Service School Command saw an increase in students when it expanded the curriculum to training Sailors on the latest equipment used during wartime.

After a basic four-week course, students went on to advanced training in various areas such as: radioman, quartermaster and signalman or yeomen and storekeepers. The Hoist estimated that 75 percent of Sailors in radio school became radioman. These students learned how to send and receive Naval messages in mixed code, straight code and plain language. The men needed a minimum typing speed of 30 words per minute to graduate.

Following the conclusion of World War II, NTC re-opened its gates and the public flooded in for a huge two-day victory celebration. "Accompanied by a symphony of screaming whistles and cheering per-sonnel, the center lost its dignity for a few delirious minutes last Tuesday," said the August 17, 1945 Hoist article.

More than 300,000 civilians took advantage of the Navy’s hospitality and toured the base on Navy Day, 1945. NTC was now four times its original sizefrom 1923 and 41 Schools were in operation. During wartime, the average student population was 5,500 and a seaman earned $1,700 a year.

New courses of instruction were introduced to students following the war. The center now taught Fire Control Systems, Sonar, Radar, Electronic Counter Measures and Air Conditioning to accommodate the technological aviation and maritime advances. While the center’s reputation as a training command grew, the population decreased. Within a few weeks after the war, some 327,000 Sailors and Waves returned to civilian life as the Navy began a post-war demobiliazation. Barracks no longer used for recruits were convereted into clasrooms.

By 1949, NTC’s total base population was 5,800 personnel, down from 33,000 during peak war years.

Sports continued to played an imortant part of the Sailors’ lives before and after the war. Sam Snead, pro-golf champion, traded his bag of clubs for a seabag when he reported for duty at NTC in October, 1942. Snead, an Sp2c, played in an exhibition tournament on the Sail Ho Golf Course in March 1, 1943. He shot a 58.

Boxing continued to be popular an smokers were held weekly as a part of a recruit’s physical fitness training.

In February, 1944, the base built a new baseball stadium on Hull Field to accommodate 1,100 people and in September, 1947, a group of NTC Sailors won the Pacific Area baseball cl1ampionship in Hawaii by defeating the team from Submarine Base, Hawaii 6-3 and a team from Guam 9-2. These wins resulted in NTC receiving the Athletic Exce1leflcy Trophy from the commandant of the 11th Naval District.

On Oct. 29, 1949, the football team from MCRD trampled the NTC Bluejacket team 32-7 in a charity football game before 8,510 fans at Balboa Stadium. The following week the Bluejackets redeemed themselves with a 20-6 win over the visiting rival team from NTC Great Lakes.

NTC closed out the decade with a ceremony on July 28, 1949, when it officially commissioned the completely land-locked training ship, USS Recruit (TDE- 1). The ship was modeled after a destroyer escort and was an active ship until decommissioning in 1967.

Continue to 1950s