More Expansion

The 1950s

The end of the 1940s saw a huge drop in the number of Sailors at the center and by 1949, asfewas 5,800 Sailors were at NTC. On Feb. 19, 1950, 33 men reported for duty in a newly established Naval Reserve Recruit Training Unit. This trained the Sailors during their two-week active duty training.

In May of that year, San Diego held a huge parade for Armed Forces Day. At the time, it was the largest parade since the end of the war. NTC staff personnel and 30 recruit companies forming five battalions marched in the parade. A sixth battal-ion of WAVES also par-ticipated. The parade went from Broadway and India Streets in San Diego to Balboa Park. The center held an open house for visitors to tour the facility, visit the USS Recruit and observe recruits in training.

Whaleboat racing was very popular in the 1950s. Since base commissioning, "Man the Boats" was an order recruits heard before entering the whaleboats. Whaleboat racing began in 1923 with two objectives: to train recruits and enact competitive racing. Under the first objec-tives, recruits were taught water safety, lowering and hoisting of life boats, commands for boats under oars, the handling of life saving equipment and seamanship.

When NTC established whaleboat racing as a team sport, the competition placed on recruits expanded their seamanship abilities and teamwork. These races contained from two to eight boats. A whaleboat team was not qualified to race until the team learned the main objective and completed at least three hours of actual whaleboat rowing. Each company commander hand picked their teams. Each team consisted of 13 recruits and two alternates and a coxswain was chosen from these 15 Sailors. The coxswain’s job was important. He was the one who gave the order to "man the boats" and all other orders during the race. Recruit companies practiced once each week in preparation for the big race held each Saturday.

Each race began at the airport approach lights on base and continued down through the estuary (channel) toward the Harbor Drive bridge. The bridge was the halfway mark where boats turned around and raced back to the ap-proach lights. In 1950 and again in 1956, RTCs whaleboat team won the Armed Forces Day whaleboat trophy. Racing continued until May 29, 1967.

The base population increased again in the early 50s because of the Korean War. NTC reverted to wartime status in July, 1950 after North Korea invaded South Korea. By October of that year, recruit training was reduced from 14 weeks to 11 weeks. The three-week reduction cut out a recruit’s leave and retraining time. The following subjects were shortened: ordnance, sea-manship, indoctrination, small arms instruction and physical training. Immediately following graduation, recruits reported to their next assignments. Three months later, training was reduced again to nine weeks. This second reduction led to a record number of recruits graduating in one day. On Jan. 6, 1951, more than 4,600 recruits graduated from 52 companies, the most companies at one time sincer World War II.

While recruits were caught up in training for the war, they were called assist in another emergency. Just like the 1928 Cuyamaca fire, more than 2,000 volunteers from NTC returned to the Cuyamacas in August, 1950 to quell a major forest fire. The fire scorched 100 square miles of timber and Sailors worked approximately 20 hours fighting the fire before it was extinguished. During graduation ceremonies on August 25, Mr. Graydon Hoffman, president of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce witnessed pass-in-review and thanked the Sailors for their hard work.

Two weeks later another fire broke out near Mount Palomar. Four recruit companies were dispatched to the fire which was the result of an electrical storm.

By February 1, 1951, there were 23,660 Sailors at NTC. This huge increase was more than NTC could accommodate, so Camp Elliott was reactivated and called the "Elliott Annex".

Recruits went to the new annex during their fourth through sixth weeks of training, before returning to NTC to complete final weeks of advance training. According to the Hoist, in June, 1950, there were 445 staff personnel. Eight months later, staff increased more than 100 percent to 1,007 people and the recruit population was five times’ larger.

Camp Elliott was built in 1941 as a Marine Corps training facility. It was located on 28,740 acres near Kearny Mesa road and Miramar Naval Air Station. From 1944 to 1946, the Navy utilized the land as a training and distribution camp until disestablishment in 1946. Capt. John Nelson Hughes was named NTC’s assistant center commander and first commanding officer of the new annex.

More than $450,000 was spent to renovate medical and dental facilities and a galley. The annex contained a movie and recreation center, a swimming pool, a bowling alley and a gymnasium. By August, 1951, a gradual transition began to move all primary training to the Elliott Annex for a three week initial training for recruits. Recruits reported to NTC for REOU -- Recruit Evaluation and Outfitting Unit. Here they received medical examinations, haircuts, shots, and clothing issue for their company. For two and a half years, recruits used the Elliott Annex, until the last company left on March 29, 1953 and it was deactivated on April 30.

More than 154,000 Sailors were trained during this time. Construction work continued to expand NTC. A steam plant built in 1951 furnished steam for the base. During this time, NTC acquired 28 acres of land across the channel from Camp Farragut. More than $6 million would be put into construction on this land, which would be called "Camp Nimitz."

This new home for recruits initially provided 16 barracks for 3,248 Sailors. There was also a galley with eight different mess hail wings big enough to accommodate 5,000 Sailors. New medical and dental facilities and a headquarters building were built.

To get to Camp Nimitz, a bridge was designed adjacent to Harbor Drive. This two-lane bridge allowed recruit companies to march to and from NTC. It cost $70,000 to build and construction began in early 1952. By 1955, the initial phase of Camp Nimitz construction was complete. The camp was temporarily closed a few months in 1957 due to a decrease in recruit strength.

Secretary of the Navy Robert B. Anderson visited NTC for a tour of the facility on June 20, 1953. He observed recruit review and highlights of his visit during graduation were shown on a local San Diego television station. Anderson presented the American Spirit Honor Medal to Seaman Recruit Harold J. Walmsley, the honor recruit.

In September, the Navy’s Surgeon General and Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Rear Adm. Lamont Pugh, inspected the medical and dental facilities. Recruit training underwent a mild modification when the tradition of "clothes rolling" ceased in October, 1953. The old Navy custom of rolling uniforms and living out of a seabag was replaced by a new system of living out of a barracks locker.

The recruit yearbook "The Anchor" was first published in 1953. The 88-page book sold for $4 and covered a recruit’s boot camp life from start to finish.

For the first time in five years, USS Recruit (TDE-1) was placed in dry dock for a minor "face lift". The commission pennant was hauled down and the ship was temporarily decommissioned.

The primary project on the renovation was to convert the after-classrooms into berthing and install head facilities. These compartments were outfitted in typical ship-board fashion with three-tiered bunks and lockers.

The plan was to have one recruit company move on board for a 24-hour period to experience actual seagoing routines including watches, docking, general quarters and fire drills. The ship was placed back in commission in August, 1953.

Construction on a new enlisted club began in October, 1954. The club, located in building 193, cost $90,000 and included a dining room, bar, lounge and dance floor. Also, the Luce Auditorium was one of the first military theaters in the country to have CinemaScope installed in the auditorium at a cost of $2,000.

Stained windows were installed in the North Chapel in April and October, 1957. The windows cost approximately $1,000 each and they all followed a "sea motif." At the bottom of each window is a Navy rating badge.

In the 1950s, Service School Command instructed Sailors from foreign navies including Greece, Thailand, Japan, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, the Philippines, Korea, Spain, China and Vietnam. Most of the schools were class "C" schools like advanced Metal School and SSC Instructor School. During the 1950s, NTC athletes excelled, receiving the Eleventh Naval District Commandant’s Athletic Excellency Trophy from 1950 to 1953.

Two NTC Sailors, Gene Littler and Billy Casper took first and second place trophies in the Eleventh Naval District Golf, Championship, 1952.

The big sports news of 1956 occurred in July when three NTC Sailors made the U.S. Olympic team. Lt. j.g. Jack Davis and Seaman Recruit Benny Garcia both earned positions on the 1956 U.S. OlympicTrack and Field Team following qualification trials in Los Angeles. Seaman Apprentice Milt Campbell made the U.S. Decathlon Team and was cho-sen as an alternate in high hurdles. Campbell also competed in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, where he was runner-up to Bob Mathias in the Decathlon. Campbell went on to shatter Mathias' Decathlon score in the 1956 Olympics with 7,939 points and win the gold medal.

Davis, who was the world’s fastest 110-meter high hur-dler at that time, qualified with a time of 13.8 seconds, setting a new Olympic quali-fying record. His world record was 13.3 seconds. Davis won the silver medal in ‘56 with a time of 13.7 seconds. Garcia, who was still in boot camp during qualifications, earned his place on the Olympic javelin team by one inch. He needed to throw the javelin 234 feet, 4 inches to qualify; he threw it 234 feet 5 inches. Garcia failed to medal at the Olympics, placing ninth out of 15.

In March, 1957, the NTC WAVE basketball team took home the all-Navy championship trophy beating Norfolk Naval Station 60-38 in the finals in Bainbridge, Md. That season, the WAVE’s team was 31-3, including a 20-0 record in the Eleventh Naval District.

The female population at NTC had grown significantly during the 1950s. By 1959, there were 225 WAVE enlisted and 5 female officers stationed at NTC. At that time, women were allowed to go into 14 different ratings. Some of the jobs women performed at NTC included administrative assistants, photographers, yeomen, legal assistants, hospital corpsmen, storekeepers, radiomen, and disbursing clerks.

In July, 1959, a female Marine Lance Corporal named Primrose Thies became the first woman to be accepted in a Navy Preparatory School at NTC, a six-week pre-college course. She was the only woman out of 141 Sailors and Marines in the class. Thies attended Marquette University following her prep class.

In entertainment, the 1950s saw a variety of celebrities appear at NTC. Paramount Studios came to NTC in September, 1951 to film scenes for the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis com-edy entitled "Sailors Beware".

Another entertainer, Nat King Cole performed at the Luce Auditorium and at Camp Elliott in 1951. On March 9, 1952, Bob Hope honored women in the military with a special television salute at the Camp Elliott Annex. Other celebrities who performed at or broadcasted from Luce Auditorium included Jack Benny, Tommy Dorsey, Edgar Bergan (with Charlie McCarthy) and Lawrence Welk. Burt Lancaster and Clarke Gable visited on Sept. 18, 1957. The two stars were in San Diego filming "Run Silent, Run Deep" and lunched with recruits from company 217 in galley 8. Two days later, Tennessee Ernie Ford served as Guest of Honor at the Brigade Recruit Review during graduation ceremonies on Sept. 20, 1957.

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