Map of Naval Districts (1944)
Geographic Description of Districts (1945)
Fifty Years of Naval District Development 1903-1953
Naval District Manual (1927)
Records of Naval Districts and Shore Establishments (Record Group 181) 1784-1996
Records of Naval Districts and Shore Establishments in the Regional Archives
IntroductionThe principal of regional administration of the Navy's Shore Establishment during much of the 20th century goes back to the Revolution. It received more explicit recognition during the Civil War when the Commandants of Navy Yards had to organize defense forces to pursue Confederate raiders appearing off the coast, and received further confirmation during the Spanish-American War in 1898.
In 1902 the Secretary of the Navy reported to Congress, "The Navy Department has for many years considered the question of a proper system for naval defense of the coast . . . it is believed that better results can be attained in developing and organizing the naval defense of our coast, if we divide the coast into districts . . . The Bureau of Navigation, after consultation with the general board . . . has, therefore recommended . . . and the Department has, for the purposes of experiment, named three sections of our coast [as Naval Districts]. It is believed that from these districts will come, after a certain experience has been gained, suggestions of a system which will in time prove an efficient method for the naval defense of the coast . . . ." [Secretary of the Navy Annual Report, 1902.] The three sections included almost the entire coast line: one extended from Cape Cod to Barnegat, N.J., on the Atlantic coast; a second included the whole Gulf coast; and the third the Pacific coast.
The Naval District system was finally established on May 7, 1903, and consisted of thirteen districts, modeled as to boundaries after the existing lighthouse districts. Changes were made from time to time in the number of districts and in their boundaries, for one thing to keep them in step with the industrial development of the country. Overseas districts were added to fit into the pattern of national defense. As of May 1944 the Naval Districts and their boundaries were as shown on chart, Figure 29.
Coast defense was originally the only duty assigned to Naval Districts. The duties, as set forth in the 1907 Navy Regulations may be regarded as standby instructions to be carried into effect in time of war. This remained the concept of Naval District functions as distinguished from Navy Yard functions until about 1915.
From 1915 to 1920, the Navy Department was confronted with many new administrative tasks and problems brought into being by World War I, which transformed the Naval Districts into the complex organizations, that remained virtually unchanged until World War II. Most of the new responsibilities placed on the district organizations by World War I and continued thereafter are not germane to the matters dealt with in this chapter. The Naval District organizations began, however, to play an important role in logistics as World War II approached, and need therefore a brief description at this point, with respect to that segment of their activities.
Each Naval District was under the command of a Commandant, an officer of the Line, qualified for command at sea, who until World War II approached was required also to be the Commandant of a navy yard. In his Naval District he was the representative of the Secretary of the Navy, the Chief of Naval Operations, the Sea Frontier Commander, and the various bureaus and offices of the Navy Department. He exercised direct and full authority over the military matters in his District, and had similar authority over civilian personnel and industrial matters. But, a wise Commandant, whether in his capacity as the Commandant of the District or of a navy yard, delegated most of such powers to the heads of departments in the navy yard and other activities in his District. The Bureaus and Offices of the Navy Department were required to keep him advised of any new activities set up in his District. A roster of all officers on duty in the District and of all retired officers living in the District was maintained in the District Commandant's Office.
Although a Commandant could delegate his authority in most matters, he could not delegate his responsibility for meeting the completion dates of ships under construction or repair in his yard nor for meeting other logistic commitments. This responsibility, especially during the period when navy yard reorganization was a live subject led many Commandants to take an active interest in the management of the industrial activities of the yards.
As of 2010 the only remaining naval district is Naval District Washington, centered on our nation's capital.
Adapted from: Furer, Julius Augustus. Administration of the Navy Department in World War II. (Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 1959): 520-523.
Figure 29 - Map of United States Naval Districts (May 1944)
Source: Furer, Julius Augustus. Administration of the Navy Department in World War II.
(Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 1959): 521.
Geographic Description of Naval Districts (1945)
|No. 1. Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island (including Block Island).||Boston, Mass.|
|No. 3. Connecticut, New York, northern part of New Jersey (including Counties of Mercer, Monmouth, and all counties north thereof), also the Nantucket Shoals Lightship.||New York, N.Y.|
|No. 4. Pennsylvania, southern part of New Jersey (including Counties of Burlington, Ocean, and all counties south thereof), Delaware (including Winter Quarter Shoal Light Vessel).||Philadelphia, Pa.|
|No. 5. Maryland less Anne Arundel, Prince Georges, Montgomery, St. Mary's, Calvert, and Charles Counties; West Virginia; Virginia less Arlington, Fairfax, Stafford, King George, Prince William, and Westmoreland Counties; and the Counties of Currituck, Camden, Pasquotank, Gates, Perquimans, Chowan, Tyrrell, Washington, Hyde, Beaufort, Pamlico, Craven, Jones, Carteret, Onslow, and Dare in North Carolina; also the Diamond Shoal Lightship.||Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, Va.|
|No. 6. South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina, except Counties of Currituck, Camden, Pasquotank, Gates, Perquimans, Chowan, Tyrrell, Washington, Hyde, Beaufort, Pamlico, Craven, Jones, Carteret, Onslow, and Dare; and the Counties of Nassau and Duval in Florida.||Charleston, S.C.|
|No. 7. Florida, except the Counties of Nassau, Duval, and those west of Apalachicola River.||Miami, Fla.|
|No. 8. Florida counties west of Apalachicola River, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas.||New Orleans, La.|
|No. 9. Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas.||Great Lakes, Ill.|
|No. 10. Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra, Virgin Islands and the Naval Reservation, Guantanamo, and US Naval shore activities at Jamaica, Trinidad, Bahamas, Antigua, St. Lucia, British Guiana.||San Juan, P.R.|
|No. 11. New Mexico; Arizona; Clark County, Nevada; southern part of California, including Counties of Santa Barbara, Kern, and San Bernardino, and all counties south thereof.||San DIego, Calif.|
|No. 12. Colorado; Utah; Nevada except Clark County); northern part of California, including Counties of San Luis Obispo, Kings, Tulare, Inyo, and all counties north thereof.||San Francisco, Calif.|
|No. 13. Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming||Seattle, Wash.|
|No. 14. Hawaiian Islands, and islands to westward, including Midway, Wake, Kure, Johnston, and Sand Islands, and Kingman Reef.||Pearl Harbor, T.H.|
|No. 15. Panama Canal Zone||Balboa, C.Z.|
|No. 16. Philippine Islands (when reoccupied).||Cavite, P.I.|
|No. 17. Alaska.||Kodiak (Temp. Adak), Alaska.|
|Areas Established for General Military Control|
|Potomac River Naval Command. The Potomac River up to the Great Falls, the District of Columbia, and the Counties of Prince Georges, Montgomery, St. Mary's, Calvert, and Charles in Maryland; Arlington, Fairfax, Stafford, King George, Prince William, and Westmoreland Counties in Virginia, less the Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia and the Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.||Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.|
|Severn River Naval Command. Anne Arundel County, Maryland.||United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md.|
Source: United States Government Manual, 1945. (Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 1945): 322.