Fifty Years of Naval District Development


From its beginning in 1903, the Naval District has had the primary function of local defense along a particular section of the coast.1 World War I broadened district responsibility to administration and logistics, a change which affected the geographical district limits. Originally confined to a strip of coast, the District expanded until the system included the entire United States, our outlying possessions, and even foreign countries, in a general administrative jurisdiction over naval shore activities.

It would seem desirable, to help one understand the Naval District of today or tomorrow, to have a story which would draw together the historical threads diffused over the District's first fifty years. To be such a story is the aim of this study. Secondly, a great effort has been made to have the study well documented. Should the reader not find the answer to his "district history question" in the text, it is hoped that references found in the footnotes will be helpful. A few of those documentary milestones have been copied in full and included here as appendices.


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Before proceeding to the particular topical discussion of naval district limits, commandant, staff, liaison with the Department, operations, logistics, and command relationships, it has been decided, for the sake of clarity, to sketch the high points of the entire story. Such is the intent of this section.

The Navy's experience in regional and local defense force administration lies mostly in the present century. Nevertheless, it is based on ample historical precedent. For example, during the Revolutionary War the naval boards at Boston and Philadelphia acted as regional administrators for the Marine Committee of the Continental Congress. Civil War navy yard commandants organized defense forces to pursue Confederate raiders which made hit-and-run attacks on shipping within sight of Sandy Hook or Cape Cod. A flotilla of small craft, under the Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard, operated against the Confederates on the Potomac and upper Chesapeake Bay.2 These experiences were not forgotten, and with the building of the "New Navy" in the 1880's came thoughts in the direction of a regional defense organization. Captain (later Admiral) W. T. Sampson made some tangible proposals before the United States Naval Institute in April 1889 on the naval defense of the coast.3 Students at the Naval War College gave thought to the subject.

A Spanish admiral, Cervera, indirectly played a significant part in the origin of the Naval District. The fear that Cervera's squadron might swoop down on some northern seaport spread panic along the coast. Underwriters at New York sold bombardment insurance policies with premiums of one-fourth of one percent above 42nd Street, double that amount in lower Manhattan, and double again along the New Jersey coast. Chambers of Commerce at the various seaports clamored for naval protection. To allay public fears, auxiliary naval units were placed off the major ports, and the "Flying Squadron" was organized and stationed at Hampton Roads to proceed and intercept any strong Spanish force attacking either in the North or the Caribbean. "The country, however, should not fail to note that the division of the armored fleet into two sections," wrote Mahan, "nearly a thousand miles apart, [Norfolk and Key West], though probably the best that could be done under all the circumstances of the moment, was contrary to sound practice; and that the conditions which made it necessary should not have existed. Thus, deficient coast protection reacts unfavorably upon the war fleet, which in all its movements should be free from any responsibility for the mere safety of the ports it quits."4

In 1898, auxiliary naval units or the "mosquito fleet" stationed off our major ports took over many local defense functions. To decentralize the control of this force, nine districts were established -- six on the Atlantic, two on the Gulf, and one on the Pacific coast. These may be regarded as direct precursors of the early naval districts. At the same time, with the cooperation of other governmental agencies, a system of communications for the rapid transmission of intelligence was evolved. Cervera, of course, never approached the northern seaports. He was having his own troubles far to the southward; but the scare of those spring weeks of 1898 left a lasting mark.

When the General Board was established in 1900, its mission was "to insure efficient preparation of the fleet in case of war and for the naval defense of the coast."5 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 ... 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 ... " The three sections included almost our 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.6

Based upon the experiment conducted with the three naval defense districts and reenforced by further study, the General Board devised a more comprehensive plan, which was recommended to the Secretary in January 1903. This recommendation led to the formal establishment of the naval district system on 7 May 1903.7 Limits of the thirteen naval districts so designated were modeled directly after the existing lighthouse district system. The naval district commandants were, where possible, the existing commandants of navy yards. Early in 1907, the General Board prepared a detailed set of confidential Regulations for the Government of the Naval District's of the United States.8 These were issued after approval by the Joint Board (Army and Navy) in March 1907 and formed the first of a series of district manuals.9 The regulations comprised "detailed instructions for carrying into effect in time of war the Naval District work, including the Naval Partol, established ... 7 May 1903, and which embody the General Regulations approved by the Joint Board regarding Defensive Sea Areas, channels through minefields, and cooperation of Army and Navy."10 A definition of naval district duties in time of war was given:

    "(a) To assist in defending the coasts of the United States, and generally, in promoting its military interests;

    "(b) To obtain and forward information relative to the movement of vessels off the coasts of the United States;

    "(c) To promote intercommunication of orders and information between the coast and vessels at sea;

    "(d) To control vessels within the limits of such Defensive Sea Areas as may be duly established."

It would seem that during the embryonic years, 1903-1915, it was generally understood that naval districts would be called upon to perform their assigned duties only during actual hostilities. The duties then, as set forth in the 1907 regulations, may be regarded as detailed standby instructions to be carried into effect in time of war.

From 1915 to 1920 a series of developments, prompted in large measure by World War I, transformed the Naval District into the complex organization which existed virtually unchanged until the outbreak of World War II. The District acquired a full-time staff of its own; it was given new operational functions; very significantly it moved into the administrative and logistical fields with new and complicated command relationships; and finally, from being simply a strip of seacoast the District spread inland, so that the whole country was brought into the system.

In March 1915 the initial step toward what might be called the modern district system was made. In a letter dated 20 March 1915, the Office of Naval Districts, Bureau of Navigation, reported to the Secretary of the Navy that the Regulations for the Government of the Naval Districts of the United States were obsolete "due to the issue of 'Navy Regulations and Navy Instructions, 1913'; to the improvement in radio service; to the consolidation of the Revenue Cutter Service with the Life Saving Service in the new Coast Guard; to more extensive use of submarines; to increased importance of mines and mining, and mine sweeping; and to the development of aeronautics."11 The Secretary directed the Chief, Bureau of Navigation, to convene a board to consider revision of the district regulations. By 18 April 1916 the Board's findings took the form of an approved and revised set of regulations.12 The Naval District was to have a full-time chief of staff; The Office of Naval Districts was transferred from the Bureau of Navigation to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations -- and further, this district liaison office was to have an officer with the rank of captain in charge of it. The district system was


extended to two of the outlying possessions (Puerto Rico and Hawaii). For the first time the naval districts had distinct staffs of their own; in a few cases, they began to move into quarters separated from other commands (navy yard, naval station, etc.).

The stress of World War I engendered several important steps, later to be crystallized into a new and wider scope of jurisdiction and activity. The original district organization, designed for a conflict like the Spanish-American War, made no provision for the novel demands imposed by World War I. The vast movement of men and supplies across the Atlantic demanded the acquisition and arming of merchantmen; the assembly and dispatching of convoys; plus solutions for numerous related problems. Inspection and procurement assumed proportions far transcending anything the Navy had yet undertaken. In World War I, (and it would again be true in World' War II), there was not time during the initial rush for an orderly analysis of the whole administrative machine; but the separate parts, patterned to meet immediate demands, indicated the overall district system design.

An order dated 1 February 1917 specified: "it is essential that the commandants of naval districts be kept informed at all times of the officer personnel on duty within their jurisdiction, as such personnel ... is under the military control of the commandants. Accordingly, all officers ... shall report by letter ... to the commandant of the naval district ... "13 On 7 May 1917 the Secretary of the Navy directed that, "For purposes of operation and administration of the U.S. Naval Communication Service the Naval Communication Districts on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts will hereafter conform to the Naval Districts."14

The Chief of Naval Operations in an order dated 9 January 1918 formally established the Naval Overseas Transportation Service. The order provided that the Bureau of Navigation designate an officer to perform the local duties of District Supervisor of Overseas Transportation Service for the First, Third, Fourth and Fifth Naval Districts, and that under the direction of the commandants of the districts he would be charged with the appropriate duties.15

One of the major landmarks in naval district history was an order dated 28 February 1918.16 The authority of the commandant over all naval activities in the field -- military, industrial, supply, and transportation -- was defined. The general wording of that basic directive, slightly modified by a revision on 3 January 1919, appeared in Navy Regulations, 1920.17

By 1919 the duties of the commandant indicated a far wider scope than those quoted from the Regulations of twelve years earlier.18 The broadened mission was:

    "To direct the local naval defense of the district in accordance with the approved war plan, and provide for proper coordination with land defenses;

    "To relieve the Navy Department of the administrative details of the district;

    "To promote the interests of the United States generally within the limits of his authority;

    "To administer the Naval Reserve Force within the district in time of peace; to mobilize the Naval Reserve Force, transferring to the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Navigation all reservists destined for duty outside the naval district; to assist in the demobilization of the Naval Reserve Force in general service; all in accordance with such instructions as may be issued from time to time by the Bureau of Navigation."19

The final major step of the 1915-1920 period radically changed the district limits. No longer were the districts to be confined to strips of seacoast; their boundaries were enlarged to include whole groups of states, with the entire United States and most of the outlying possessions divided among them. The new district boundaries corresponded fairly closely, but not completely to the new Army Corps Areas established at about the same time.

A new district manual was published in 1921, and revised in 1927, the last of its kind.20 Once the country entered World War II, the districts prepared their own mahuals and regulations, with a copy being sent to Washington for approval. This practice was still being followed in 1953, but with more guidance, such as a standard organization plan for district staffs, being given by the Navy Department.


The revised 1927 district manual showed district activities divided into five general cate· gories: (a) Combatant, comprising the local defense forces, entitled the Operating Forces; (b) Operations, comprising the Naval Transportation Service; (c) Logistic, including the building and repairing of vessels and the supplying of material and personnel to the forces afloat; (d) General Service, comprising communications and intelligence; (e) Local Service, comprising medical, accounting, purchasing, disbursing, public works, harbor services, and civilian personnel procurement and welfare.21 The years of peace between 1920 and 1941 passed with virtually no change in naval district organization.

World War II quickly required many changes; the districts suffered intense "growing pains" during 1942 as their staffs, and the naval activities within district borders, suddenly mushroomed to unheard of magnitude. An outstanding new look was the sea frontier implemented for the coordination of defense on a more extensive scale; the districts acted as subordinate units in the new command structure.

Unsolved World War I problems began to "crop up" in World War II. Whereas in the field of operations there was a fairly clear-cut naval command relationship, in the shore activities confusion existed between the regional authority of the district commandant and the functional authority of cognizant bureau or office in the Navy Department. At first, as in 1917, district administration was a matter of rapid and frantic improvisation -- urgency precluded orderly analysis during those desperate early days.

By 1943 the general naval situation had improved sufficiently to allow time to consider methods to untangle the confused situation. In a memorandum dated 9 February 1943, the Chief of Naval Operations directed the Vice Chief of Naval Operations to draw up a tentative draft for reorganizing the navy yards and their local command relationships, and for the establishment of naval bases.22 The first draft of the naval shipyard -- naval base relationship was a proposed general order dated 8 May 1943, which after many changes was made effective 28 months later.23

From 1943 to this writing, the organization of the shore establishment has been a matter of almost constant concern and review. A more detailed account can be found in the latter sections of this study. It is enough here to mention only a few high points -- the appointment of three groups to study the problem (Navy Manpower Survey Board, "Norris Committee", and "Farber Committee"); the issuance of a new statement of naval district command relationships in June 1945; the reorganization of navy yards and the establishment of naval bases in September 1945, (exactly a month after the cessation of hostilities with Japan); and the order issued in 1946, with subsequent minor changes, still in effect in 1953 covering naval district command relationships.24

The magnitude of the wartime naval activities in the districts can be appreciated in some measure from the following figures (Table I) compiled by the Navy Manpower Survey Board as of 1 January 1944, showing the total personnel within the boundaries of each district and river command:


District Officers Enlisted Civilians Total
1st 5,879 36,351 93,117 135,347
3rd 9,157 42,068 91,760 142,985
4th 3,957 14,096 75,639 93,692
5th 7,367 57,615 75,509 140,491
6th 4,906 28,363 34,131 67,400
7th 4,283 31,393 9,439 45,115
8th 10,864 69,267 29,094 109,225
9th 9,309 47,474 25,487 82,270
10th 1,898 19,232 21,636 42,766


District Officers Enlisted Civilians Total
11th 6,859 49,940 27,901 84,700
12th 7,224 37,758 71,582 116,564
13th 4,324 27,884 42,870 75,078
14th 3,346 27,681 34,588 65,615
15th 863 8,350 4,773 13,986
PRNC 3,317 20,265 37,258 60,840
SRNC      693     1,533     2,745        4,971
  84,246 519,270 677,529 1,281,045

(The 16th, of course, was in enemy hands and the 17th had not yet been carved out of the 13th.) The largest single element in that million and a quarter total consisted of the navy yards, 346,650. Training stations and air stations comprised a considerable part of the balance. The naval district headquarters proper, as Table V will show, came to 18,550, less than two per cent of the whole.


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The 1903 naval district limits followed the existing lighthouse district system, which comprised the sea and lake coast of the United States. Neither the country's interior nor possessions beyond the continental limits were included in the naval districts. Original district boundaries were as follows:


District   Headquarters Limits
1st   Portsmouth, N.H. Eastport, Me. to Chatham, Mass.

2nd   Newport, R.I. Chatham, Mass. to New London, Conn.

3rd   New York, N.Y. New London, Conn. to Barnegat, N.J.

4th   Philadelphia, Pa. Barnegat, N.J. to Assateague, Va.

5th   Norfolk, Va. Assateague, Va. to New River Inlet, N.C.

6th   Charleston, S.C. New River Inlet, N.C. to Jupiter Inlet, Fla.

7th   Key West, Fla. Jupiter Inlet, Fla. to Tampa, Fla.

8th   Pensacola, Fla. Tampa, Fla. to Rio Grande.

9th   (Great Lakes, Ill.) Lake Michigan

10th   (Great Lakes, Ill.) Lake Erie and Ontario

11th   (Great Lakes, Ill.) Lake Huron and Superior

12th   San Francisco, Calif. Southern boundary to lat. 42° N.

13th   Bremerton, Wash. Lat. 42° N. to northern boundary

It was not until the opening of the Great Lakes Training Station in 1911 that the Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Naval Districts were activated. The three were administered as a single unit under the compound designation of "Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Naval Districts."26

The initial alteration in district limits came in 1912 when the border berween the Sixth and Seventh Districts was placed at the St. John's River instead of Jupiter Inlet.27 "Since the original limits were set," records the Bureau of Navigation memo explaining the change, "the completion of rail communication with Key West has made that place, instead of Charleston the natural headquarters for the main part of the Florida East Coast."28

On 13 February 1915 the headquarters of the First Naval District was moved from Portsmouth, N.H. to Boston.29 The same year a board for revision of naval district regulations recommended the inclusion of Puerto Rico, Alaska, and Hawaii in the district system; a step which was accomplished on 18 April 1916.30

Puerto Rico was placed in the Third District because New York afforded better communications with the island than Charleston, the location favored by the Board.31 Alaska went to the Thirteenth District. A new district, the Fourteenth, with headquarters at Pearl Harbor, was established to include the Hawaiian and other islands of the Pacific Station. The Board's recommendation to end the awkward "tri-district" in the Great Lakes area by forming a single Ninth District did not have the approval of the Chief of Naval Operations. CNO's opinion prevailed with the Secretary; the change was not made.32

The Commanding Officer of the recently (January 1915) reactivated Naval Station, New Orleans, became Commandant of the Eighth Naval District on 6 April 1917.33

The Fifteenth District was established 28 November 1917 to encompass "the waters adjacent to the Canal Zone exclusive of the area between the inner limits of the defensive sea areas established at the Atlantic Entrance and at the Pacific Entrance of the Panama Canal by the Executive Order dated August 27, 1917."34


Naval activities located on the Severn and Potomac Rivers were left without a responsible coordinating officer for administration when they were removed from Fifth District jurisdiction (1918).35 This condition prevailed until 8 December 1941 when the Severn River and Potomac River Naval Commands were established.36

The ill-fated Sixteenth Naval District, with headquarters at Manila, Philippine Islands, was organized in 1919.37 At this time also, Puerto Rico was removed from Third District jurisdiction and, like Guantanamo, Cuba, placed directly under the military control of the Chief of Naval Operations.38

The Secretary of the Navy disbanded the Second Naval District in a letter dated 28 February 1919.39 Most of the Second District coast line was absorbed into the First with the remainder going to the Third District; the Rhode Island-Connecticut boundary became the line between the two districts. Since district numbering was now familiar and fairly fixed, the designator "Second District" was dropped rather than undertake a system-wide renumbering.

Naval district extension throughout the interior of the country was placed in effect 15 April 1920. The opening words of the enabling order tells us why: "In order to facilitate the organization and administration of the Naval Reserve Force, the areas comprised within the various naval districts are herein defined by political subdivisions i. e., states, counties, etc."40 Generally, the new district limits followed the Army Corps Areas which were established at about the same time. Because there was no Second Naval District, the Army and Navy numbering system was out of step.

Conspicuously absent from the Navy Regulations, 1920 was the abnormal combination "Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Naval Districts." The Ninth and Eleventh became separate districts, (see Table III) while "Tenth" temporarily joined "Second" in the limbo of district numbers.41


District   Headquarters Limits
1st   Boston Me., N.H., Mass., R.I., incl. Block Island and Nantucket Lightship
3rd   New York Vt., Conn., N.Y., northern N.J.
4th   Philadelphia Pa., southern N.J., Del., incl., Winter Quarter Shoal Lightship
5th   NOB, Hampton Roads Md., W. Va., Va.
6th   Charleston Ga., S.C. incl., Frying Pan Shoals Lightship
7th   Key West Fla., except counties west of Apalachicola
8th   New Orleans Western Fla., Ala., Tenn., La., Miss., Ark., Okla., Texas
9th   Great Lakes Ohio; Mich.; Ky., Ind., Ill., Wis., Minn., Iowa, Mo., N. Dak., S. Dak., Nebr., Kansas
11th   San Diego N. Mex., Ariz., southern part of Calif., incl. counties of Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino and all counties south thereof
12th   San Francisco Nev., Utah, Colo., northern part of Calif., including counties of San Luis Obispo, Kern, Inyo, and all counties north thereof
13th   Bremerton Wash., Ore., Idaho, Mont., Wyo., Alaska
14th   Pearl Harbor Hawaiian Islands, and islands to westward, including Midway
15th   Balboa Panama Canal Zone
16th   Cavite Philippine Islands


After 1920, with the exception of the movement of two district headquarters (Eighth District from New Orleans to Pensacola in 1924, then back to New Orleans in 1930; Thirteenth District from Bremerton to Seattle in1926), no change in district alignment occurred until 1 March 1931 when a change in the Fifth and Sixth Districts boundary was made.43 North Carolina, with the exception of seven northern coastal counties and Diamond Shoal Lightship, was shifted from the Fifth to the Sixth District.44 Thus control of coastwise shipping as far south as Cape Hatteras was centered in the Fifth District, and, incidentally, the change aligned these districts a little more closely with the Army Area Commands. On 1 December of the same year, Vermont was taken from the Third and added to the First District, and just the reverse move was made by Nantucket Lightship.45

When the Naval Operating Base at Key West was placed in caretaker status in 1932 the Seventh Naval District headquarters was transferred to Charleston, S.C. and combined with the Sixth District headquarters.46 A year later the Naval Operating Base at New Orleans was closed with the result that the Commandant Sixth and Seventh Districts at Charleston assumed another additional duty as Commandant, Eighth Naval District.47

The Tenth Naval District including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands was established the first day of the year 1940, and on 6 January, Wake, Kure, Johnston, and Sand Islands, as well as Kingman Reef were enclosed within the Fourteenth Naval District.48


District   Headquarters Limits
1   Boston Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island (including Block Island).
3   New York Connecticut, New York, northern part of New Jersey, including counties of Mercer, Monmouth, and all counties north thereof, also the Nantucket Shoals Lightship.
4   Philadelphia Pennsylvania, southern part of New Jersey, including counties of Burlington, Ocean, and all counties south thereof; Delaware, including Winter Quarter Shoal Light Vessel.
5   Naval Operating Base,
Hampton Roads
Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and the counties of Currituck, Camden, Pasquotank, Gates, Perquimans, Chowan, and Dare in North Carolina, also the Diamond Shoal Lightship.
6   Charleston South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina, except the counties of Currituck, Camden, Pasquotank, Gates, Perquimans, Chowan, and Dare.
7   Key West Florida, except counties west of Appalachicola River.
8   New Orleans Florida counties west of Appalachicola River, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas.
9   Great Lakes, Ill. Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas .
10   San Juan All of the island possessions of the United States pertaining to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
11   San Diego New Mexico, Arizona, southern part of California, including counties of Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino and all counties south thereof.


District   Headquarters Limits
12   San Francisco Colorado, Utah, Nevada, northern part of California, including counties of San Luis Obispo, Kern, Inyo, and all counties north thereof.
13   Seattle Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Alaska.
14   Pearl Harbor Hawaiian Islands, and islands to westward, including Midway, Wake, Kure, Johnston and Sands Islands, and Kingman Reef. See art. 1480(2).
15   Canal Zone Panama Canal Zone
16   Cavite Philippine Islands

Looking forward to combined local defense, staff conversations were held with military representatives of the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, and Venezuela during the summer of 1940. During September the "destroyer-naval base deal" with England put the United States in the Bahamas, Jamaica, Antigua, St. Lucia, Trinidad, and British Guiana.50 Another adjustment in district limits was necessary.

"United States naval reservations and naval activities on shore" at Newfoundland were placed in the First District and those on Bermuda in the Fifth; the Tenth acquired "all United States territories, possessions, naval reservations and naval activities on shore" in a specified expanse covering most of the Caribbean Sea outside the Canal Zone area (8 January 1941).51

Meanwhile, the Eighth Naval District headquarters had been reestablished at New Orleans on 15 December 1940.52

The year 1941 saw three district changes in addition to those already outlined. On 2 May, Clark County, Nevada and Kern County, California were changed from Twelfth to Eleventh District; the Fifth District was the recipient of nine additional eastern North Carolina counties from the Sixth District (1 September); and the day after Pearl Harbor two "Quasi-districts" were formed--the Potomac River and Severn River Naval Commands.53

It will be recalled that "excepting their coordination with the general plan of military defense of the district", the shore activities on the Severn and Potomac Rivers had been excluded from the Fifth Naval District and the district system since 1918.54 On 8 December 1941 these activities were grouped together for the purpose of military control to constitute the Severn River Naval Command and the Potomac River Naval Command under the Superintendent of the Naval Academy and the Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard respectively.

Four counties in Maryland, six in Virginia, together with the District of Columbia were assigned to the Potomac River Naval Command while the Severn command was given Anne Arundel County, Maryland: all formerly part of the Fifth District.55

The shore activities, brought under the military control of the commandants of the River Commands, were named. All five of the Severn Command activities were at Annapolis. Potomac Command responsibilities were more numerous; they were modified by an order dated 3 January 1944, and by one of 21 May 1946 which made the city of Alexandria, Virginia, a part of the Command.56 Thus the Potomac River Naval Command tended to develop a district-like staff organization, whereas nothing quite so elaborate was required for the Severn.

The headquarters of the Seventh Naval District returned to Key West, 1 February 1942, after being in Charleston for 10 years.57 On the fourth of the same month, Nassau and Duval counties in northeast Florida were removed from the Seventh and made part of the Sixth District.58

Mutual defense interests among the American republics, and want of anti-submarine protection for transport of Venezuelan oil led to an unusual district expansion early in the War. After an exchange of views among Venezuela, the United States, and other interested nations, plans for local defense were prepared during January and February 1942.59 Consequently the Tenth Naval District was declared to include Venezuela, British Guiana, Surinam and French


Guiana. Here indeed was a far cry from the original continental United States coast line districts of 1903.

An order of 2 June 1942 placed Bermuda and Newfoundland under the command of the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, thus removing these activities from the Fifth and First Naval Districts respectively.60 The Bermuda change took place on 17 June 1942, but the Newfoundland change was not effective until almost a year later, 28 May 1943.61 Concurrent with Bermuda leaving the district organization, the Seventh District headquarters once more headed north from Key West. This move did not carry to Charleston as in 1932, but only to Miami where communication and transportation facilities were superior to those provided by Key West.62

The Potomac River Naval Command gained Calvert County, Maryland, at the expense of the Fifth Naval District on 3 January 1944.63 Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, formerly within the Thirteenth District, were established as a new district, the Seventeenth, 15 April 1944. Temporary headquarters at Adak were later moved to a permanent site, Kodiak.64

After reoccupation of the Philippine Islands by American forces the Sea Frontier was reactivated and kept in that status until Philippine independence, 4 July 1946. On the other hand, the Sixteenth Naval District was not reestablished when the Japanese were ousted.

Nassau and Duval counties, Florida, returned, 2 January 1946, to the Seventh District whence they came.65 The headquarters of the Seventh was again on the move, this time to Jacksonville, 20 June 1946.66

Static is a word which by no stretch of the imagination can be associated with naval district limits -- change continued. On 1 September 1948 the "migrant Seventh" was dissolved; Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi, plus certain North Carolina coastal counties (Fifth Naval District) were inherited by the Sixth. On the same date, Colorado and Wyoming were added to the Ninth.67 One year to the day later, New Mexico was shifted from the Eleventh to the Eighth District.68 Kentucky became part of the Fifth District and Ohio part of the Fourth, 1 April 1950.69 These myriad adjustments were designed to bring the districts into closer alignment with Army and Air Force area commands.

The Fourteenth Naval District extended across the Pacific to include Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, 19 June 1950.70

On 29 December 1952 sixteen northern coastal counties of North Carolina were transferred from the Sixth to the Fifth Naval District to bring Marine Corps activities in those counties under the same district command as their supporting activities in Norfolk.71

For a complete picture of naval district limits in 1953 see Appendix K.


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It took some time to settle upon the proper title for the principal officer of the naval district. Between 1903-1912 the title was "Commandant" which followed a 1903 General Board recommendation, instead of "Superintendent"which had been originally considered.72 In 1912 the officers in charge of naval districts became "Supervisors".73 Four years later the title was reverted permanently to "Commandant." At the same time (1916) it was further specified that the district commandant was to be a line officer, not below the grade of captain.74 In actual practice most commandants have been rear admirals, although during World War II a few (ordinarily those who also had sea frontier commands) wore three stars.

The first set of Naval District Regulations, issued in 1907, expressed the authority and responsibility of the Commandant in these words:

"The commandant of a Naval District shall, under the direction of the Bureau of Navigation, exercise entire control over every division of the force attached to the District, and shall be responsible for the good condition of all vessels and buildings, as well as for the efficiency of all officers, enlisted men, and other persons, assigned thereto."75

The increasing complexity of district command since that time is indicated, by contrast, in the order in effect at this writing covering the authority of Naval District Commandants. In it can be found in place of the 1907 "exercise entire control" the terms: coordination control, management control, technical control, and military command.76 The development and significance of these terms will be discussed in the final sections. As a preliminary to a study of the district staff in the next section, emphasis here will be placed on development of the affairs of the Naval District into a matter of primary concern to their commandant.

Until World War II the District Commandant billet was generally held concurrently with the command of navy yard, naval training station, or some similar shore activity, with the District billet a secondary and, often times, neglected duty (principally due to more pressing matters concerning the primary duty). However, as early as 1911 the General Board raised the question of a "full-time" district commandant.77 The Chief of the Bureau of Navigation concurred: "A supervisor of a naval district should be an officer who has no other duties, in order to get the best results; but officers are not now available for this purpose, unless demands in other directions are reduced .... " The Chief further raised the alternative possibility of having a single full-time officer administer several districts at once.78 Nothing happened, but the question came up for discussion again when the 1915 "Board for the Revision of the Regulations for the Government of Naval Districts of the Navy" made its thorough survey of district command. They wrote:

"The Board is of the opinion that the duties of the Commandant of the Naval District are of such importance that they would require the entire attention of that officer, and that he should therefore have no other duties.

"The Board believes that with a suitable staff, these duties might be efficiently performed in time of peace by the Commandant of a Navy Yard or Station; and in time of war in some Districts remote trom active operations; but it is of the opinion that this cannot be done in time of war in all Districts.

"It is recommended in case of war, should the Commandant of the Naval District be also the Commandant of a Navy Yard or Station, that a retired officer of suitable rank and experience be ordered to command the Navy Yard or Station, leaving the District Commandant free for his District duties."79


Between 1916 and World War II the problem was partly solved in the creation of the fulltime "Assistant Commandant (Chief of Staff)", who could allot all of his attention to District affairs.80 In addition, with the entrance of the United States into World War I, the District command was separated from the Yard and Station commands in several of the busier districts as recommended by the 1915 Board (last paragraph quoted above).

Post World War I demobilization again relegated District Commandant duties to a subordinate and secondary status. On 12 July 1921, in the appropriation act for the ensuing year, it was stipulated "that no part of this appropriation shall be available for the expense of any naval district unless the commandant thereof shall also be the commandant of a navy yard, naval training station, or naval operating base."81 With slight changes in wording this proviso continued in effect between the wars, and was renewed as late as 11 June 1940.82

This restriction on "full-time" commandants was annulled by Congress on 9 September 1940, for it had become apparent that the busier districts and yards would require the undivided attention of their commandants.83

Shortly thereafter a new element of "doubling-up" resulted from the creation of the Sea Frontier on 1 July 1941 by the Chief of Naval Operations.84 Some Sea Frontiers, like the Panama, Hawaiian, and Caribbean, included only one naval district and represented merely an extension of the Commandant's operational responsibilities. However, the Eastern Sea Frontier included several districts and was obviously a full-time job in itself.85 The Command of the Third Naval District was divorced from the Eastern Sea Frontier on 26 March 1942, but remained united with the Brooklyn Navy Yard until June 1943.86 When the Bremerton Navy Yard acquired a full-time commandant on 31 March 1942, ComThirteen continued to serve as Commandant of the Northwest Sea Frontier.87 Similar changes took place in a few other districts, while at others (First, Fourth, and Sixth) the command of district and yard remained united under the same officer.

In the reorganization of navy yards and the establishment of naval bases, promulgated on 14 September 1945, the required service background for the Naval Shipyard Commander became that of a specialist.88 Since the qualifications for a district commandant are those of a line officer eligible for command at sea, the naval district and shipyard commands are no longer held by the same officer. And in a directive to the Chief of Naval Operations on 14 September 1945 the Secretary of the Navy wrote: "When the entities of naval shipyards and naval bases have been established the question as to whether one officer shall command both a naval base and a naval district shall be determined in accordance with the circumstances existing in each case."89 Much the same provision existed at this writing -- "the district commandant may be ordered to additional duty as commander of a naval base located at the port where his headquarters are situated."90

Thus, since 1945, it can be said that the naval district business has been a matter of primary concern to the commandant. The naval districts inside the continental United States have been commanded by officers having the district as their primary duty and, when directed, the naval base as an additional duty. District commands outside the continental United States have been commanded either by an officer having the Naval District as his primary duty or by the same officer commanding the Sea Frontier. The apparent doubling-up represents an extension of the Commandant's operational responsibilities.



From 1903 until 1916 there were generally no district staffs. As previously stated, during the embryonic years before the 1916 Naval District Regulations were issued, it was widely understood that naval districts would be called upon to perform their assigned duties in wartime only.91 The first naval district regulations (1907) stipulated that such officers of line and staff might be appointed to assist the commandant "as conditions may require."92 The inspector of the lighthouse district, at that time a naval officer, was designated as second in command in case of war, but on 1 April 1913 the lighthouse inspector billet was made a Civil Service assignment.93

The revised district regulations of 1916 established a specific district staff. Above all, it authorized a full-time "Assistant Commandant (Chief of Staff)" who was to be a line officer not below the rank of commander. Normally, a captain has occupied this post. In actual practice, due mostly to the shortage of officers, all districts did not get full-time "Assistant Commandants" immediately after the 1916 District Regulations became effective. (For a good example of the problems of a Naval District Commandant in getting an assistant, see Appendix E). Later, when the title was abbreviated to Chief of Staff, confusion of sorts was created by the setting up of one or more Assistant Commandants in addition, subordinate to the Chief of Staff, yet holding a title which sounded more impressive.

Since the position was first authorized in 1916, the Chief of Staff has served as executive officer of the district. The Third District Manual of 1944 defined his duties as follows:

    "The Chief of Staff and Aide is ordered as such by the Navy Department. He is the deputy and principal assistant of the Commandant ... and his orders shall be considered as emanating from the Commandant. He:

    a. Executes details of command and administration is accordance with the policy of the Commandant;

    b. Acts directly on such matters as, in his judgement, do not require personal reference to the Commandant; and

    c. Supervises and coordinates the work of the Commandant's Staff, dealing particularly with questions of organization, policy and planning.

    In the temporary absence of the Commandant, he carries on the administration of the Naval District as may be directed by the Commandant."

The original staff, as stipulated in 1916, included several specialized billets. There was an aide for each of the following functions: Information (Intelligence), Communications, Censor, Secretary, Army Liaison, Accounts and Supplies, as well as a District Medical Officer; further -- "one or more of the duties may be combined under one officer when the conditions so warrant."94

During World War I, especially in the more active districts such as the First and Third, the staffs grew rapidly. An indication of the rapidity of this expansion can be seen by comparing the picture (Figure I) of the First Naval District Staff in 1919 and Appendix E. The problems of World War I added the Naval Transportation Service Officer, forerunner of the present Navy Post Control Officer.95 By 1921, as the accompanying diagram (Diagram I) of a typical District Staff of that day indicates, the recommended district staff included Operations, Personnel, Material, Public Works, Supply, Legal, Medical, Naval Transport, and Commandeering (and demobilization) Officers.96 With the later important addition of the District War Plans Officer, that organization was the nucleus of the district staffs at the outbreak of World War II.


Diagram 1 - District Staff - 1921 -- Commandant and Staff: Operating Forces: Inshore Patrol Force, Offshore Patrol Force, Escort Force, Attack Force, Mine Force, District Communication Service, District Intelligence Service, Salvage Force, Harbor Floating Equipment, and Captain of Port; Personnel Department: Off. Detail & Rec., Enlist. Det. & Rec., Recruiting Division, Receiving Ship, Train. Stat. and Tech. Schools, Morale Division, and Armed Guard Naval Reserve; Material Department: Navy Yard Repair Division, Outside Yard Ordnance Division; Supply Department: Supply Purchasing, Disbursing, Accounting, Salvage and Commissary; Legal Department: Civil Section, Maritime Section, and Military Section; Medical Department: Hospitals, Medical Suppy, and General Medical Activities; N.T.S.; Public Works Department: Construction, Repairs and Maintenance, and Transportation Ashore; Commandeering and (demobilization) Department: Joint Merchant Vessel Board, Real Property Division, and Personal Property Division; Navy Yards, Naval Stations and Naval Bases.



Figure 1 - First Naval District Staff March 1919 -- Front Row - Left to Right: (1) Capt. John M. Edgar, (MC)., USN; (2) Capt. Charles C. March, USN (ret.); (3) Rear Admiral Spencer S. Wood, USN;  (4) Capt. Patrick W. Hourigan, USN. -- Second  Row - Left to Right: (1) Commander George G. Mitchell, USN; (2) Capt. Yancey S. Williams, USN; (3) Lieut. Comdr. W.T. White, USNRF; (4) Lieut. Comdr. A.H. Baker, USNRF. -- Back Row - Left to Right: (1)  Capt. James P. Parker, USN; (2) Lieut. Comdr. David M. Little, USNRF; (3) Lieut. Comdr. Nathaniel F. Ayer, USNRF; (4) Capt. Homer R. Stanford, (CEC), USN; (5) Comdr. Webster A. Edgar (Ret.); (6) Ensign Mitchell MacDonald, USNRF.



Along with other elements of the military service, the naval district staff witnessed a rapid growth during World War II. This growth, while not necessitating changes in staff organization, nevertheless resulted in changes as the war progressed and better methods in regional command unfolded. Most of these changes were directed from Washington, to be included in all district staffs. However, certain latitude was permitted so that, with the exception of major staff positions, most of the district staffs differed from one another.

In a general way, the organization of the district staff paralleled that of the Navy Department. The various divisions in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations found their counterparts in the District Operations, Base Service, Communications, Intelligence, Security and War Plans Office; occasionally they were coordinated under an Assistant Commandant for Operations. The District Medical, Ordnance, Personnel (with Training and Chaplain), Public Works and Supply Officers reflected the Department's bureau activities; while some of the major offices of the Navy Department found small scale replicas in the District Public Information, Legal and Civilian Personnel Offices. The District Aviation Office reflected the office of the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Air), and to a lesser degree the Bureau of Aeronautics. The Marine Corps and Coast Guard were also represented on each district staff. Additions to staffs came as the war progressed. A District Transportation Officer for Personnel was added on 12 May 1942. Historical Officers and numerous others came later until some of the larger district staffs numbered twenty or even thirty.

During the latter part of World War II, in order to remove many administrative details from direct supervision by the District Commandant, there was a trend toward the creation of an intermediate echelon of authority between the commandant and the various branch offices of the staff. The District Staff of 1953 (See Diagram II) is based on this principle. It resembles the "Aide" system established in the Navy Department in 1909. Numerous major and minor district offices have been grouped together under a single head to coordinate or control activities in the same general field. Some of the initiative in this development has come from Washington; some has come from individual districts. One of the first steps was made in November 1943 as the result of an order to create in each district the post of "Assistant Commandant (Logistics)" (present title "Assistant Chief of Staff Logistics"), with a rather general coordination function.97 In April 1944, the District Civilian Personnel, Labor Relations, Safety and Personnel Classification Officers were combined under a District Civilian Personnel Director.98 In November 1944, a similar step for naval personnel combined the District Personnel Officer, the District Director of Women's Reserve, Discipline, Distribution, Training, and Welfare, and the District Chaplain under the Assistant Chief of Staff for Personnel.99 Meanwhile, the Third Naval District had combined its operations functions under an Assistant Commandant (Operations); in June 1944, ComTwelve had reorganized the district staff under three Assistant Chiefs of Staff for Personnel, Operations, and Material. That trend, which had full blessing from Washington, gradually spread among the districts. The titles and functions frequently differed from district to district in accordance with local tastes, but the pattern is evident upon examination of district manuals and organization charts of that period.100

On 22 November 1946, after comments and recommendations had been received from the Naval District Commandants, the Chief of Naval Operations issued a standard organization plan for naval district staffs.101 It was clearly a result of the lessons learned during World War II. Four Assistant Chiefs of Staff (Personnel, Administration, Operations, Logistics) were designated as the immediate echelon of authority between the Commandant and specific branch offices. Of more importance, for many of the districts already had this new organization basically, district staff organizations came under closer supervision of the Chief of Naval Operations and were to use uniform staff nomenclature.

With minor changes for administrative adjustment the 1946 Standard Staff Organization has lasted and continues in effect at this writing.102 Early in 1947 "Religious Activities" was taken from "Welfare" and assigned as a function of the Assistant Chief of Staff Personnel, thus


Diagram II - District Commandant's Staff, Standard Organization Dec. 1953 -- Commandant - Assitant for Public Information - Aide - Chief of Staff - Staff Secreary - Assistant for Naval Reserve - Districat Planning Officer - District General  Inspector - *Assistant Chief of Staff for Naval Base, Principal Functions Naval Base Matters - Assistant Chief of Staff for Personnel , Principal Functions Planning, Naval Personnel,  Civilian Personnel, Training, Welfare, Discipline, Religious Activities, and Fiscal (BUPERS Approp.); Assistant Chief of Staff for Administration, Principal Functions Planning, Administration, Legal, Records & History, and Publication and Printing; Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, Principal Functions Planning, Operations, Intelligence, Security, Communications, Aerology, Marine Corps Matters, and Aviation Matters; Assistant Chief of Staff for Logistics, Principal Functions Planning, Material, Inspection and Survey Matters, Supply & Fiscal, Civil Engineering, Ordnance, Medical and Dental. * for amalgamated staffs only.



making the chaplain's office a coequal with other offices of the Personnel Branch.103 Later in the same year, "in order to reflect more accurately the intent in regard to the means of integrating Naval Reserve into the Navy and, in this instance, into the naval district organization ... " naval reserve matters were placed directly under the Chief of Staff instead of being under the Assistant Chiefs of Staff, Personnel, and Administration.104 At the same time "Fiscal (BuPers Appropriations)" was authorized as a branch under the Assistant Chief of Staff Personnel "in order to provide for the administration of allotments granted district commandants by the Bureau of Naval Personnel."105 In 1948, "Public Works" under Logistics was changed to "Civil Engineering."106 On 24 October 1950 the Public Information Branch, previously administered by the Assistant Chief of Staff Administration, was relocated directly under the Commandant for more positive administrative control.107 Later the same year "Harbor Defense" was added to the functions under "Operations"; and for amalgamated staffs (having the Naval Base Commander and the Commandant the same officer), an Assistant Chief of Staff for Naval Base Matters was added to the Standard Organization.108

As in all command histories the district staff proper is only part of the headquarters story. Most of the offices include a number of junior officers; some, particularly Communications, have a large number of enlisted personnel; and throughout the headquarters a civilian clerical force is employed. During World War II the officers, enlisted and civilian personnel in the average district headquarters numbered more than a thousand with some running to double that number. Statistics compiled by the Navy Manpower Survey Board as of 1 January 1944, showed the following totals for the various district headquarters:


District Officer Enlisted Civilian Total
1st 375 210 220 805
3rd 510 760 962 2,232
4th 302 206 404 912
5th 606 478 396 1,480
6th 227 260 239 726
7th 135 127 642 904
8th 433 586 454 1,473
9th 186 437 276 899
10th 50 129 1,673 1,852
11th 222 373 1,161 1,756
12th 265 316 1,475 2,056
13th 144 54 469 667
14th 249 242 1,293 1,784
15th      72    256      676   1,004
  3,776 4,434 10,340 18,550

It is possible, in view of occasional uncertainty as to exactly what constituted "headquarters," that some of the figures of Table V may not be entirely comparable. For example, in the Third District, the personnel of the Port Director's Office (958) were reported separately to the Manpower Survey Board, while other districts reported these people as a part of "headquarters." Since they were so treated by other districts, the Third District's Port Director personnel were added to Table V to make the table more comparable.

One final aspect of the District Staff is significant. Whereas the Commandants and most of the Chiefs of Staff were active regular officers during World War II, the Fleet and Navy Department demands for regular officers were so great as the United States entered war, that it was imperative for the District Headquarters to be staffed by reserve and recalled retired officers. They did an excellent job bearing the heavy share of district responsibilities.



The increasingly complex functions of the Naval District involved frequent contact with various branches of the Navy Department in Washington, thus it became desirable that an office be created in the Department for the purpose of handling District liaison affairs.

At the outset in 1903, the Naval Districts were placed under the general cognizance of the Bureau of Navigation.109 Closer supervision was not provided until 1912, when an "office of Naval Militia Affairs and Naval Districts" was established in the Bureau of Navigation.110 This arrangement was altered somewhat in 1914 by the establishment of a "Division of Naval Militia Affairs." This new Bureau of Navigation Division included a Naval District Section.111

The next step was the transfer of district cognizance from the Bureau of Navigation to the newly established Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. The 1915 Board for the Revision of the Naval District Regulations recommended "(1) that there be establised a {sic} 'Office of Naval District;' (2) that this office be placed under the Chief of Naval Operations; (3) that this office be in charge of a commissioned officer of the line not below the grade of captain; (4) that the officer in charge be designated the 'Director of Naval Districts'."112 In April 1916 the Office of Naval Districts was accordingly set up in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.113

That was the origin of "OP-30" which, as the Naval District Division, continued relatively unchanged down to World War II. Its functions on the eve of American entrance into the War included the military administration of the Naval Districts as a whole; the organization and preparation of the defense of naval districts and outlying naval stations; matters affecting shore establishments or shore facilities and public works of naval districts where military considerations were involved; and the preparation of naval district manuals. In September 1939 the Division consisted of three officers and two clerks; by Pearl Harbor, it had increased to 118 officers, 2 enlisted men and 15 clerks.

In October 1941 "OP-30" was given a new function which altered its entire concept. It was made coordinating agency within the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations for all matters pertaining to the administration and defense of advance naval bases. This new function soon became "the tail that wagged the dog". The novel and multitudinous problems involved in setting up new advanced bases around the world became so pressing that the original naval district occupation of "OP-30" was crowded into the background. This was formally recognized in February 1942, when its name was changed from "Naval Districts Division" to "Base Maintenance Division". Although the total personnel of "OP-30" increased steadily from 35 in December 1941 to 127 in February 1942, and 230 in February 1943, naval district problems were quite completely overshadowed by the more urgent demands of the advanced bases.

The Naval Districts came back partly into their own with the creation of a special section "OP-30-14" in the Base Maintenance Division. The Secretary of the Navy on September 4, 1943 announced that "There has been established in the Base Maintenance Division of Naval Operations an organization to handle the following matters:

(a) Cognizance of naval district organization, including the determination of command relationships of activities of shore establishments; (b) Maintain a complete record of all naval shore activities; (c) Establishment and discontinuance of shore activities in accordance with approved directives; (d) Preparation of Naval District Manual; (e) Preparation of Shore Establishments Section of the Navy Directory (when published); (f) Other matters concerning the shore establishments not coming within the purview of any other bureau or office."114 That list indicated a new emphasis on the administrative problems of the districts, in contrast to the


previous distinctly military emphasis. However, the new section, which consisted of a single officer with clerical assistance, was too small to maintain close contact with the complex naval district system, which had grown into bewildering magnitude during the period of wartime expansion.115

A new section took over part of those functions on 12 July 1945, with the establishing of the Naval Activities Control Section "OP-02J". It was an outgrowth of the Committee on Standardization of Terminology, of which more will be said later. Its duties, which replaced "b" and "c" above from OP-30-14's duties, were "(a) Establish nomenclature of shore activities; (b) The establishment and use of code designations for naval shore activities; (c) Issue lists of naval shore activities; (d) Maintain liaison with Bureaus and Offices and the shore establishment to develop and centralize control procedures and insure accuracy of records; (e) Maintain a complete record of all naval shore activities; (f) Preparation of Shore Establishments Section of the Navy Directory (when published)."116 This arrangement provided for a much more thorough analysis of the hitherto tangled situation. Five weeks earlier, in his "AlNav" (See App. J) on command relationships, the Secretary again called attention to the fact that "Cognizance of naval-district matters, including command-relationship problems, has been assigned by the Secretary of the Navy to the Chief of Naval Operations."

On 13 October 1945 "OP-02J" was redesignated "OP-24," and a few days later renamed as the "Naval District Affairs Division."117 All functions previously assigned to "OP-30-14" and "OP-02J" were now assigned to the newly created "OP-24."118 Five years later on 15 May 1950 "OP-24" was designated "OP-213," thus becoming a branch of the Administration and Plans Division instead of being a separate division directly under the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Administration).119

Between 1945 and 1953, with the exception of the addition "to represent the Navy in connection with civil defense," only minor changes in wording were made in the mission and functions of the district liaison office. However, the number of personnel assigned has varied considerably. In 1948, twelve persons were assigned to "OP-24"; in December 1953, three officers and three clerks were assigned to "OP-213".

The mission and objectives of "OP-213" in December 1953 were: "Under the direction of the Director, Administration and Plans, to direct the carrying out of the policies of the Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations with respect to the administration and organization of the shore establishment, and to represent the Navy in connection with civil defense, catastrophe and disaster planning. Responsible for special planning projects as assigned."



At first (1903), the "mosquito fleet," as they used to call the motor boats, yachts, obsolete monitors, etc., of the inshore and offshore patrols, was the principal feature of the Naval District defense organization. As warfare become more complex, air patrols, minelaying and minesweeping, nets and booms, anti-submarine listening devices, and other new weapons became part of the District's defense. Altogether, these local defense responsibilities have formed the core of the District operational activities. Even after the Sea Frontier was created to organize defense on a wider basis and to provide systematic cooperation with the Army; the District remained essentially a local defense unit.

The "mosquito fleet" was established to serve primarily as lookouts or pickets for early warning of enemy attack, and advanced communication stations "to promote intercommunication of orders and information between the coast and vessels at sea. . . ."120 And although this "fleet" was never intended to be "the first line of defense", the General Board, in its early deliberations, seemed to have wanted to give the coastal population that impression with this statement. "To plan a thorough naval defense for the coast by using all auxiliaries in order that the confidence of the coast population in this defense being secured, the active mobile fleet may not in whole or in part be diverted to this purpose, and thus lose its war value." In establishing the "mosquito fleet", one could almost say that these psychological considerations were weighed fully as much as the more practical ones. The Navy had not forgotten the public demanding and receiving a "Flying Squadron" during those panicky spring weeks of 1898.121

The early plans reflect the experience and lessons learned from the Spanish-American War. Primarily these plans were geared to guard against raids by enemy surface vessels. This is evident in the first set of Naval District Regulations issued in 1907. These Regulations enumerated four divisions of the force assigned to each district:

  1. Harbor Entrance Patrol
  2. District Scouts or Offshore Patrol
  3. Naval Patrol Stations
  4. Coast Defense Division

The "Harbor Entrance Patrol" was to be composed of "vessels adapted to inshore navigation, such as the smaller Revenue Cutters and Lighthouse Tenders, purchased or chartered pilot boats, tugs, power boats, and like craft." This inshore patrol was to operate in the vicinity of designated "Defensive Sea Areas". It was to have "the object of establishing an efficient system of lookout and communications, and of enforcing such regulations for the government of the Defensive Sea Areas as may be issued by proper authority." Next came the "District Scouts" or offshore patrol, consisting of "Vessels of good speed and of sufficient size for offshore cruising, such as lighthouse tenders and other public vessels, together with purchased or chartered seagoing tugs and coasting vessels." These were to cruise 50 to 75 miles at sea, to overhaul suspicious vessels and to report the presence of friendly or enemy warships, using the new-fangled wireless for such purposes. The third "division" was to consist of a string of "Naval Patrol Stations" along the coast, organized for communications. Some of these would be established by the Navy itself; the rest would be Lighthouse, Lifesaving, Weather Bureau and Army Signal Stations, connected with District headquarters, wherever possible, by telegraph or telephone. Finally, there was to be the "Coast Defense Division", consisting of "such battleships, monitors, and torpedo, submarine and other weapons especially adapted to coast defense." All these units were to be under the direct command of the District Commandant.122 There were none


of the hazy border lines of authority which, as will be told later, complicated his authority over shore activities. Cooperation with the Army was enjoined, particularly in the field of communications.

Although these original "in time of war" coastal defense plans had undergone some modification before World War I came ten years later, it will be seen that the foundations of the local defense forces had been laid on a fairly permanent basis. In 1916, on the eve of our entry into war, minelaying and minesweeping were added to the defense duties; the lessons of submarine warfare had already led to the addition of nets and booms for harbor defense; and the role of aviation was receiving consideration. Also operational "sub-districts" known as sections had been created, with local operations conducted from each section base.123

American entrance into the war in 1917 brought a host of new operational problems scarcely considered in earlier planning. In particular, the necessity of waging a major war beyond the seas involved shipping requirements on an unprecedented scale. On 9 January 1918 the Naval Overseas Transportation Service (later Naval Transportation Service) was formally established by order of the Chief of Naval Operations. Forerunners of the present Navy Port Control Officers were established in the major East Coast districts.124

An analysis of the Naval District Manual, 1927, the last to be issued, reveals some of the effects of World War I on District operations. The operating forces were to "comprise any or all of the following task forces:

  1. The inshore patrol.
  2. The offshore patrol.
  3. The escort force.
  4. The attack force.
  5. Additional task forces to meet special situations."

The inshore patrol could "be composed of any or all of the following forces:

  1. Section bases.
  2. Submarine bases, destroyer bases, and air stations whose principal function is in support of active war operations of the local defense forces.
  3. Coastal lookout system, including lightships, lighthouses, coast guard stations, and special lookout stations.
  4. Patrol sections (YP), (PC), (PY), (VP).
  5. Mine sections (AM).
  6. Guard Ships (obsolete man-of-war types, or PY).
  7. Additional task forces in special cases as required."

The offshore patrol included destroyers, submarines, minesweepers, gunboats, eagle boats, yachts, scouting and patrol planes, and additional types. Except for the Escort Force, which was "to escort convoys within the district waters and to attack such enemy forces as may be encountered" the duties of these task forces were basically the same as those duties laid down for the original four "divisions" in 1907.125

After 1927 Naval District Operations are inseparably related to the development of the Naval Sea Frontier. For this reason it is essential that a brief outline of the evolution of the command relationship between the District and the Sea Frontier be given at this point in the story of District Operations.

Although World War II saw the actual creation of the Sea Frontier, the idea was not a new one. Back in 1889, Captain W. T. Sampson, USN, in a paper on defense of the coast read before the United States Naval Institute, anticipated some of the distinctive features of the Sea Frontier as it finally evolved.126 Since 1923, when the concept of coastal frontiers was first formulated by the newly-created Joint Army-Navy Staff Planning Committee, the question of command


relationship between the two naval commands (District and Sea Frontier), as well as that between the Army and Navy commands on each level, had been a subject of paramount importance. Elaborate plans were produced in 1927 and revised in 1935. In short the Sea Frontier, since 1923, has gone through much the same cycle of development as the Naval District did during the first quarter of the century.

The main purposes of the 1927 and 1935 planning were to protect shipping in coastal areas, to protect military communications and industrial installations or facilities, and to prevent invasion. The planning called for an overall regional authority in the Army and Navy which should operate on a broader scale than could the separate Naval District and Army Corps Commanders.

After 1927 the development of the "mosquito fleet" from a unit under the District Commandant deriving his authority directly from the Navy Department, to its present status as a sea frontier task force organization in which the District Commandant is only a Task Group Commander, was a gradual one, slowly changing the relationship between the District Commandant and the Sea Frontier Commander.

By 1935 it was stipulated that the Commandant's Local Defense Forces were to comprise any or all of the following task forces:127

  1. The Inshore Patrol
  2. The Offshore Patrol
  3. The Escort Force
  4. A Coastal Force

The first three of these task forces had duties assigned which were to be carried out solely within district waters; but the Commandant's Coastal Force was to operate either in or beyond district waters to meet those situations in coastal defense which the purely local task forces were inadequate to handle.128 Herein lay the genesis of the future forces of the Sea Frontier, which were to play an important role in the antisubmarine campaign of later years.

Following the declaration of a limited national emergency on 8 September 1939, another district-frontier change was made. The Naval Coast Frontier Forces were organized into two distinct groups as follows:

  1. The Naval Coastal Forces
  2. The Naval Local Defense ForcesThe Offshore Patrols
  3. The Escort Forces

Thus, command of the Coastal Forces was taken from the District Commandant, and the Local Defense Forces became something of a task group under the Frontier Commander.

On 1 July 1941, the Chief of Naval Operations formally established the Naval Coastal Frontiers, but stated that the forces of these frontiers would not yet be formed. Some nine weeks later, on 9 September, an order was issued to form the frontier forces. The order stated that for the present these forces would be composed only of the Naval Local Defense Forces.129 Perhaps the most important result of this order was that the frontier commander was thus officially made a task force commander, whose orders would be carried out by the district commandants, serving as task group commanders.

An operations plan for the North Atlantic Naval Coastal Frontier, promulgated on 30 October 1941, took cognizance of the still undeveloped Naval Coastal Force with directives fop the theoretical structure and command relation of a Naval Coastal France. It was further declared that this force would eventually include air and surface units assigned directly to the Commander, North Atlantic Coastal Frontier. 130 Thus, as the United States entered World War II, there were no Naval Coastal Forces, and, as will be seen later in this section,


the Naval Local Defense Forces also were for a great part "on paper" defenses.

On 6 February 1942, the title "Naval Coastal Frontier" was changed to "Sea Frontier". The relationship of Sea Frontiers to Naval Districts was as follows:

Frontier Headquarters Districts
Eastern New York 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th
Gulf Miami 7th, 8th
Western San Francisco 11th, 12th, (1944 13th added)
Northwest Seattle 13th (to 1944)
Caribbean San Juan 10th
Panama Balboa 15th
Hawaiian Pearl Harbor 14th
Philippine Cavite 16th

The picture to be drawn of District operations during the early days of World War II shows, more than in any other aspect of the naval district story, the folly of the "in time of war" philosophy that has plagued the District since 1903. On 7 December 1941, the district commandant found himself lacking in all constituents of naval coastal defense: craft, bases, and personnel. For the great shortages in each the country paid dearly, especially to the German submarine.

Prior to December 7th, mobilization of craft for the Commandant's Local Defense Force was contemplated, and sources were named from which such units were to be drawn when war came. After two decades of peace, the Naval Local Defense Force had become virtually nonexistent. When war came, many and varied were the reasons for the failure of the mobilization plans. Probably their greatest general fault was over-all under-estimation of the scope of the conflict. In one of the districts, the Fifth, which received a large dosage of German submarine warfare, the following report was made:

"Thus it was that a large part of the composition of the Naval Local Defense Forces for this district . . . either were not mobilized, or as in the case of naval craft, were transferred to other duties. In view of the aggressive submarine campaign waged during the first year of the war, it is now evident that the Local Defense Forces . . . were woefully inadequate even if the acquisition had proceeded according to plan. This failure of the mobilization plans contributed directly to our heavy losses of merchant ships in this district."131

A typical picture of the District's readiness for war is given in a story of Fourth Naval District operations during the first part of the war.

"The Atlantic Coast line was thinly defended by vessels of a type suitable to carry on an aggressive defense against submarine attack. In the air, we were equally weak. At Cape May, the only aircraft were the planes of squadron VJ-5, some of these were armed with light machine guns, but could load concrete filled practice bombs which do not detonate! Strictly speaking, VJ-5 was a utility squadron of ComAirLant, but in an emergency, they pitched in to help out as best they could. The Lakehurst blimps carried depth charges. For a suspected contact on December 22, we had no ships available for search and were only able to send four planes to assist K3 who had reported sighting a suspicious slick--two planes with no bombs and two with the famous concrete 'duds'.

"The coastwise traffic was extremely heavy. There were no vessels available for convoy escort. Ships were routed close inshore, but they were 'sitting duck' shots for an aggressive enemy, particularly since they were outlined by the sky glow of the coastal resort cities on the New Jersey coast."132


Section bases, a vital element for the support of the Commandant's Local Defense Forces, had not been used since World War I. In the fall of 1940, the Navy Department again inaugurated a program to establish such bases. The site for one of these bases was Morehead City, North Carolina, where work was begun 14 November 1941. It was expected that the base would be ready for commissioning about 1 January 1942, but delays in procurement of needed equipment and material forced several postponements in the commissioning date. On 12 February 1942, the prospective Commanding Officer wrote as follows:

"2. The Buildings are completed with the exception of some essential equipment. For example, the boiler house is completed with the boilers installed, but boilers do not have safety valves or try cocks. The feed pumps and condensate pumps are not yet in operation. The galley is completed with the most essential equipment installed, but ranges have not been tested. Some of the equipment is still missing, such as, a deep fat frier and pressure cooker. Lighting fixtures throughout the building are about 90% completed. Bath and toilets, are practically completed except fixtures, mirrors, shelves, etc. Mattresses for the crew have been received, but no standee bunks or lockers have arrived. The date of delivery of bunks has been stated as sometime in the near future, but lockers cannot be expected for at least six more weeks or probably longer. Furniture for the Officers rooms is fairly complete, such as it is, and it is composed of salvage material from the USS West Point. No material has been received for Officers Mess or Wardroom. No equipment for the crews recreation room. The cold storage plant is about completed, except that two compressors have not been run or tested. The Storage and Machine Shop Building is about completed, except for bulkheads, shelving and a few minor items. No machine tools are on hand. The dock is being held up for lack of material and date of completion is indetermined. Medical Supplies and equipment have been ordered, but not as yet received. Radio Towers are not completed, and radio equipment is not all here, which makes installation impossible. Telephones have not been installed and there is no flag pole."133

Finally, on 17 March 1942, the base was placed in commission. However, the Commanding Officer, due to the shortages in craft and personnel, then found himself in the anomalous position of commanding an Inshore Patrol Base with no Inshore Patrol craft based there. During the remainder of March, the base was used mainly to house survivors of merchant ships sunk off the coast by enemy submarines.

Perhaps the greatest shortage as the war began was trained personnel. With Fleet demands coming first, the Bureau of Personnel had none to supply the Naval District. The District was informed, in effect, that it would have to procure and train its own personnel. The following reported by the Fourth District, is an example of this shortage:

"The applications for commissions were scoured diligently for men with previous Naval experience, amateur yachtsmen, deep water sailors or aviators too old to fly.

"Applicants were screened and interviewed by the Operations Officer to discover likely material. Personal contacts were followed up and at least three chance meetings resulted in the enrollment of officers who developed into top notch operations men. It was a mixed bag as far as backgrounds went and the occupations ran the gamut from automobile salesmen to opera singer . . .

"There was no time for indoctrination schools; the operations office became a classroom where problems were solved by action, using the real thing as the text . . .134

The results of such unpreparedness are well known. A few Gulf Sea Frontier statistics are given here to indicate the extent of the enemy's success. The German submarines, after sinking a total of nine merchant ships in the Gulf Sea Frontier during February, March and April, 1942, torpedoed 49 ships in May, 25 in June, and 20 in July. (Fifteen of these were salvaged.)135


By April 1942, the situation on the East Coast had grown so acute that the organization of coastal convoys became a necessity. Of course, it would have been done much sooner, but there simply was not a sufficient number of escort vessels available to do the job. The first Eastern Sea Frontier coastal convoy left New York on 29 April 1942 for the Delaware with air and surface escort. This convoy was the start of what was soon a tight interlocking coastal system.

As the foregoing Gulf Sea Frontier statistics show, the German submarines moved into those waters in May 1942, after the convoy system was begun on the Eastern Seaboard. Because the Chief of Naval Operations had already assigned virtually all available convoy escorts to the Eastern Sea Frontier, the German had a new happy hunting ground for the next three months. In August, with augmented air and surface protection, the Gulf shipping was under convoy. As a result, in the Gulf Sea Frontier that month only three ships were torpedoed,and in September, one; then for five months no ships were torpedoed.136 The tide had turned.

Paralleling other branches of the armed services, the Naval District's defense forces underwent tremendous growth during the war. The organization and composition of the Fifth Naval District's defense forces, as of December 1944, are given here to indicate this growth. At that time the Fifth Naval District's defense forces were referred to as the Chesapeake Group, or Task Group 02.5 of Task Force 02 (Eastern Sea Frontier). Task Group 02.5 was composed of six task units as follows:137

    Task Force 02 (Eastern Sea Frontier)
    Task Group 02.5 (Chesapeake Group) ComFifthNavalDistrict
      Task Unit 02.5.2 (Chesapeake Ship Lane Patrol)
        Vessels--5 Sub Chasers
                  1 Sub Chaser, (Coast Guard)
                  1 Sea Going Tug, (Coast Guard)
                  3 Rescue Tugs
      Task Unit 02.5.3 (Naval Local Defense Force)
        Frontier Base, Little Creek
                  7 Motor Mine Sweepers
                  5 Sub Chasers
        Harbor Entrance Control Post, Fort Story
                  13 Coast Guard 83' Patrol Boats
                  1 District Auxiliary, Miscellaneous (AOG)
        Net Depot, Hampton Roads
                  3 Net Tenders (Tug Class)
      Task Unit 02.5.4 (Chesapeake Air Group)
        Bases--Norfolk, Virginia
                  Elizabeth City, N.C.
                  Weeksville, N.C.
                  Cherry Point, N.C.
        Planes--14 Twin Engine Patrol Seaplanes (PBM)
                  12 Single Engine Land Planes (SBD)
                  12 Twin Engine Land Planes (PV)
                  1 Twin Engine Amphibian (J4F)
                  5 Blimps (ZNP)
      Task Unit 02.5.5 (Port Director--Convoy & Routing Officer)
        Vessels--As assigned
      Task Unit 02.5.6 (District Coast Guard)
        Coast Guard Vessels (less vessels assigned to other forces)
        Captains of the Port


        Coast Guard Stations
        Life Saving Facilities
        Coast Guard Lighthouse Service
      Task Unit 02.5.7 (Air/Sea Rescue Group)
        Primary Facilities--As Assigned
        Planes--2 Twin Engine Patrol Seaplanes (PBM)
                  5 Twin Engine Patrol Amphibian (PBY 5A)
                  2 Twin Engine Amphibian (JRF)
                  2 Twin Engine Amphibian (J4F)
        Secondary Facilities--Navy and Coast Guard Vessels and aircraft as available for assistance.
        Miscellaneous Facilities--Other appropriate facilities in area whose assistance may be required.

For a comparison of district operations as envisioned in the Naval District Manual, 1927, and to point out the extent of the changes made as a result of World War II, the functions of the six 1944 task units are given here in full:138

    Task Unit 02.5.2 (Chesapeake Ship Lane Patrol)

      Protect friendly shipping in the Ship Lanes by escorting group sailings and special independent sailings in coordination with adjacent Naval Districts.

      Search for and destroy enemy forces.

      Patrol coastal ship lanes.

      Coordinate operations of own forces with air patrol.

      Support the United States Atlantic Fleet.

      Conduct rescue operations offshore.

      Assist in salvage operations inshore and offshore.

    Task Unit 02.5.3 (Naval Local Defense Force)

      Insure the security of the entrance to Chesapeake Bay, by preventing, in coordination with U.S. Army Forces, any hostile action by submarines, mine layers, motor torpedo boats, midget submarines or torpedo planes. Reinforce escorts and assist escorts in covering sortie and entrance of convoys. Maintain swept channels.

      Install, maintain and operate obstructions and nets for protection of anchorages for Fleet use, and their approaches.

      Maintain a coastal lookout system along the district coast line by use of the Coast Guard Stations, and Lighthouse Service, preventing any communication between persons on shore and the enemy.

      Maintain, through the Coast Guard Lighthouse Service in the District, the system of buoyage, lights, and other aids to navigation regularly established, with such modification and changes as military necessity may require.

      Maintain appropriate units in a ready condition to support offshore units, or to meet unforeseen and changing conditions.

    Task Unit 02.5.4 (Chesapeake Air Group)

      Patrol District Frontier waters; destroy enemy forces; observe and report suspicious vessels.


      Aid and protect friendly shipping.

      Cooperate with surface forces.

      Furnish air escort for valuable surface units and convoys as directed.

      Maintain appropriate units in a ready condition, available to meet unforeseen and changing conditions.

    Task Unit 02.5.5(Port Director)

      Acquire merchant vessels of under 1,000 gross tons for the Navy.

      Supervise loading, operation and inspection of vessels of the Naval Transportation Service.

      Supervise procurement of armed guard personnel and equipment for merchant vessels.

      Organize, route and supervise sailing of convoys.

      Route merchant ships sailed independently.

      Route men of war of all Allied Nations except United States men of war.

      Maintain plot of merchant shipping.

      Maintain Navigational Information Office.

      Maintain Hydrographic Distributing Office.

      Report all movements of merchant and N.T.S. ships and convoys in and out of the Chesapeake.

    Task Unit 02.5.6 (District Coast Guard)

      Control shipping and protect it against all hazards within the harbor, bays, anchorages and inland waterways of this District. Protect waterfront facilities against sabotage, accident and negligence.

      Report enemy activity. Report suspicious circumstances as to shipping.

      Support other forces within the capabilities of units available.

      Maintain the aids to navigation.

      Maintain life saving service.

      Supervise and direct pilotage.

    Task Unit 02.5.6 (Air/Sea Rescue Group)

      Render emergency assistance to aircraft and all vessels in distress and rescue survivors thereof.

      Destroy enemy forces, cooperating with the forces of U.S. Army and of Associated Powers.

Another very important element of World War II district organization was the Joint Operations Office. Provisions for a chain of Joint Operations centers had been provided for in the war plans. During the early part of 1942 a Joint Operations Center for coordinating Joint Army-Navy action in Frontier Defense was established at the headquarters of the Eastern Sea Frontier in New York City. This nerve center was established to meet contingencies demanding joint action, and was the proving ground for the development of the system of control which later was established in the naval districts.

In simplest terms, responsibility for all action was vested in a group of officers known as controllers for air and surface craft, both Army and Navy. These officers were in effect the


"officers of the deck" in their respective fields, empowered to take prompt and vigorous action in any emergency or situation that arose.

On 12 May 1942, the Commander Eastern Sea Frontier directed the establishment in each of his districts, of a Joint Operations Office, under an Assistant Commandant for Operations. After its establishment the District's Joint Operations Office experienced many and radical changes, but fundamentally, the Office continued to function in accordance with the fundamental concept--the operational center of the District. Here all available information concerning the location and movements of friendly and enemy warships, aircraft and merchantmen, was kept up to the minute on large status boards with Army and Naval officers in constant attendance, ready to coordinate action in case an emergency should arise. On a small scale, the District Harbor Entrance Control Posts produced a similar liaison between the Army and Navy.

At this point in the District story, it should be noted that East Coast districts have been used to illustrate World War II district operations. While Atlantic coast convoys struggled against the German submarine, the West Coast districts were mainly concerned with logistics. They did not receive a severe coastal defense test. Had the Japanese submarine carried the war to the western hemisphere, the same defense measures taken on the East Coast would, no doubt, have been incorporated into the Pacific defense system.


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By far the thorniest of all Naval District problems has arisen from the relationship of the Commandant to the naval shore activities within the district's boundaries. Like every other government department which has had a large growth in its field organizations, the Navy, since World War I, has been constantly plagued by the conflict in authority and responsibility between the regional and the functional, represented respectively by the district on one hand and the bureau or office in Washington on the other. No one of the government departments has worked out a perfect solution to this problem.

For the Naval District, the trouble started during World War I, when, step by step, the Commandant's authority was extended to include all naval shore activities regardless of whether they were or were not immediately applicable to coastal defense. One of the first steps came with an order dated 1 February 1917, which sought to clarify the military control of commandants over "officer personnel on duty within their jurisdiction." The order specified: "It is essential that the commandants of naval districts be kept informed at all times of the officer personnel on duty within their jurisdiction, as such personnel, ... is under the military control of the commandants. Accordingly, all officers ... shall report by letter ... to the commandant of the naval district .... Officers on duty at the places named ... shall report to the commandants as shown." The "places named" were particular towns and cities, some of them well inland. For instance opposite the Fourth Naval District were listed Allentown, Pa., Bethlehem, Pa., Harrisburg, Pa., Wheeling, W. Va., Youngstown, Ohio. Thus the Naval District whose boundary was still specified as being a strip of seacoast, was well on its way to gaining jurisdiction over all naval activities in the inland as well as coastal area.139

A step toward close local control over shore activities came on 29 January 1918 with the order establishing the Naval Operating Base, Hampton Roads, Va. The most significant portion of the order, which would soon become a part of Naval District command, was the definition of the relationship of the "NOB" commander (who was also Commandant of the Fifth Naval District) to certain establishments under his command:

"The commandant of the naval operating base shall exercise full military authority over the various administrative establishments within his command, but he shall not direct or be responsible for the administration of the technical work of the training station, the air station, the submarine station, or the naval hospital. He shall, however, be kept informed of the work in progress at these establishments, and shall make such inspections from time to time as may be necessary to keep him acquainted with the condition of all parts of his command."140

Anyone familiar with the subsequent story of the Naval District will appreciate that in the above quoted division of authority and responsibility lay many of the potential sources of vagueness and misunderstanding which has troubled naval district administration.

Just a month later, on 28 February 1918, the new principle of shore management was extended to the naval districts. This is one of the most important steps in the whole story, because it definitely expanded the scope of district jurisdiction. Instead of being an exclusively military organization, the new order declared that the district activities would be segregated into four groups--military, industrial, supply, and transportation. The Commandant was to have full military control and authority over all naval activities within his district, but was to be more or less a coordinator of their other functions, and was "to keep himself adequately informed ... as to the condition and progress of affairs in the several groups."141 This basic


principle lasted down through Navy Regulations, 1920, and into the order issued in 1949 and still in effect in 1953 covering these command relationships.142 Many details, however, were subject to frequent change after this new principle was once established. Some of these changes were incorporated in an order issued on 3 January 1919. By that time, the groups of naval district activities had increased from four to seven: military, personnel, industrial, supply, transportation, information and communications.143

On 23 October 1919, after things had settled down fairly well to a peace-time basis, the Chief of Naval Operations announced to the district commandants, the chiefs of bureaus and the commanders-in-chief of the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets that his office was contemplating a revision of the naval district regulations (1916), "embodying the results of experience, with special reference to the lessons of the last war," and invited their suggestions.144 A few of the replies were particularly pertinent, and prophetic of the difficulties to be encountered later.

The Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet took particular exception to a section of the new order of 3 January 1919, which stated that the authority of the district commandant over establishments in his district was similar to that exercised by a commander-in-chief afloat to the units under his command.145 He wrote, in part, on 24 November 1919:

"Nor does the Commander-in-Chief believe that the relations between the Commandant of a District and the various organizations included within his command should be those existing between the Commander-in-Chief Afloat and the various units of his command. It appears on the contrary that the duties of the District Commandant have no relation whatever to any industrial or other segregated activities within the district nor that he has any responsibility for the execution of the duties of the Commandants of individual activities; whereas the Commander-in-Chief of a fleet is directly responsible for the efficiency of the units constituting his fleet .... It is therefore recommended that any regulations drawn up for the government of the districts should give the District Commandant neither control nor responsibility in the matter of activities of such units within the limits of his district; as Navy Yards, Submarine Bases, Air Stations or other industrial activities."146

One officer who had seen the wartime innovations in practice wrote with real feeling. He was the Commandant of the interior "Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Naval Districts," and had served on the naval district board of 1915. Without seacoast operational duties, he had had most of his problem with naval shore activities which were not directly concerned with "operational" defense. He wrote on 14 January 1920:

"The Commandant of the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Naval Districts should be supreme in authority in these districts, except in technical work. If the Commandant is to be held responsible for the military policy of camps and stations, and for matters affecting the operation of any other unit, such as the movements of personnel and the making of reports for these districts he should be vested with full and complete military authority over every Commanding Officer of stations or schools and every inspector representing the various Bureaus located in these districts ....

"The Districts for Inspectors of Recruiting, Cost Inspectors, Ordnance and Steam Engineering, etc., should be made to coincide with the limits of the ... Naval Districts to prevent division of authority, repetition of reports and to promote efficiency. To illustrate: During the past war there was located in those districts Cost Inspectors under the jurisdiction of the Supervising Cost Inspector at Quincy, Mass. These Cost Inspectors, by reason of the fact that they were placed in these districts by the supervising Cost Inspector thought that the Commandant had no jurisdiction over them and it was with some difficulty. that this office was able to have them recognize the authority of the Commandant and make the required reports of personnel, etc. ...


"Further, the Commandant was called upon from time to time to report on the number of men assigned to duty in these Districts, which report the Commandant was unable to make because of the fact that the Bureaus had established offices, stations and camps only by the merest accident."147

Some of these remarks might have been copied almost verbatim by other district commandants in 1942 or 1943.

Finally, the Washington bureau and office attitude was briefly stated by the Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance, who declared that "In the past the results obtained by the Bureau of Ordnance have justified its action in retaining cognizance over all ordnance matters."148

From these comments and further study a new naval district manual (1921) and Articles 1481 and 1482 of U.S. Navy Regulations, 1920, were created. Since Articles 1481 and 1482 governed district activities for over two decades, they are quoted here in full:

"Section 2 General Administration


"Each naval district shall be commanded by a designated commandant, who is the district representative of the Navy Department including its bureaus and offices, in all matters affecting district activity.


"(1) In the admmistration of affairs in the district the commandant shall not personally supervise the details of work or administration of the several groups or units, but will transact necessary business with the officer commanding the group or unit. These groups or units will be coordinated, and every effort will be made to develop complete intercommunication and cooperation among the several groups and units in regard to all matters requiring joint action.

"(2) The Commandant of a naval district has, in the general transactions of the service, authority and control over all naval establishments ashore within the limits of his command, but is not to interfere with the management of those establishments where there are commanding officers, unless a particular and sufficient cause should in his opinion render it necessary, in which case he is to report to the department the nature of the order given and his reasons for giving it.

"(3) If, however, the commanding officer of the establishment considers that any public inconvenience is likely to arise from compliance with the order of the district commandant, he is to represent it promptly to him, stating the objections, after which, if the order is adhered to, it is to be obeyed without further delay or discussion, the district commandant becoming wholly responsible to the department for the measure. The commanding officer concerned may, if he thinks proper, send to the department any observation which he may desire to submit for consideration.

"(4) (a) The responsibility for the organization and efficient operation of all administrative units within naval districts, such as navy yards, torpedo stations, training stations, recruiting stations, submarine bases, schools, etc., rests with the officer in direct command of such units.

    "(b) In the administration of affairs within his district the commandant shall not direct nor shall he be responsible for the technical work being carried on by any of the various organizations, but the head of each administrative unit will


    keep him informed and supply him with all information that will be of value in formulating plans (1) for the coordination of all naval activities within the district and (2) for the operation and defense of the district in the event of war.

    "(c) In the execution of these regulations it is assumed that an 'administrative unit' consists of all activities which are so grouped in one place as to come logically under the immediate military control of one head. As, for an example, where a receiving ship, marine barracks, or hospital is located within the natural limits of a navy yard, it will be under the immediate military control of the commandant of that yard.

    "(d) Communications relating entirely to the technical work of any of the establishments referred to in paragraph (4) (a) shall be carried on direct with the bureau or station concerned.

    "(e) Communications from any administrative unit which involve a question of military policy, or which affect the operations of any other unit, shall be forwarded through the commandant of the naval district for recommendation."

These district command relationships remained quiescent during most of the two decades between the wars, but the same old troubles were to emerge again as the nation approached active participation in World War II. The district commandants soon found themselves in a situation resembling that of the early kings of medieval Europe, who enjoyed the rather empty dignity of a shadowy overlordship over dukes and counts who in actuality did about as they pleased.

Naval operating bases sometimes cut heavily into the authority of the district commandant. The "NOB" was virtually a little sub-district in itself. Its commandant (later commander) exercised a relationship to the activities under his command similar to that of the district commandant in his wider sphere. At a place like Hampton Roads where the staffs of the "NOB" and ComFive were very closely intertwined under the same commandant, things were inclined to go smoothly, but naval operating bases which lay at a distance from district headquarters tended at times to whittle down the district authority, a movement which did not always go unchallenged. Naval stations occasionally achieved similar ends but were often more subject to district control.

Among the individual shore establishments, the navy yards were particularly consistent and persistent in claiming their autonomy. Psychologically, this is not difficult to understand. They had a long tradition; most of the East Coast yards had been established around 1800, a full century before the districts, and the yards had long run themselves under only very general supervision from the Secretary's office. It was not until 1943 that the Bureau of Ships was given cognizance of the industrial work of the navy yard.149 What was more, the district headquarters during peacetime had been often crowded into an office or two in a corner of some building at the navy yard, only occasionally visited by the commandant who was more inclined to concentrate upon his responsibilities as head of the yard. Having thus been regarded as a sort of minor sideshow in the years of peace, and again an "in time of war" organization, the district was not always taken too seriously by officials of the yards even after wartime expansion of the district's status. It was simply a case of naval administration requirements during peacetime being different than those during war, and the "thinking" processes behind those requirements being impossible to change overnight.

The bureaus at Washington created a problem of divided allegiance among many of the shore establishments. In theory, as the above quoted articles (1481, 1482) from U.S. Navy Regulations, 1920, indicated, the Commandant was "the direct representative of the Navy Department including its bureaus and offices, in all matters affecting district activity." His staff included representatives of most of the bureau and office activities. Accordingly, one might


have expected a fair amount of decentralization, with appropriate decisions relating to field activities within the area being handled by the District Medical Officer, District Supply Officer, District Aviation Officer and the like. Actually, the Commandant and his staff were likely to be by-passed wherever possible by the shore establishments. Naval hospitals, naval supply depots, naval air stations and the rest often preferred to deal directly with the bureau at Washington, at the most sending carbon copies to district headquarters instead of routing the original correspondence through those channels. They argued that, in view of the bureaus' unwillingness to decentralize authority, the district could only say "No" to a project. The final endorsement had to come from Washington anyway, so why delay the proposal and place it in double jeopardy by sending it through the Commandant's staff? In military administration such a "by-passing" practice is possible only when the practice is sanctioned by the governing authority, in this case the Washington bureau.

Whereas this situation existed in most of the bureau spheres of activity, it was less true of the "offices" in the Navy Department, whose district business was more likely to be carried on at district headquarters than in separate field establishments. Consequently, the District Public Relations (later Public Information) Officers, District Intelligence Officers, District Legal Officers and District Communications Officers actually enjoyed a greater authority than did their colleagues in the bureau functions.

The complaints made by the Commandant of the "Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Naval Districts" on 14 January 1920, quoted above, found their echoes during World War II. Particularly annoying was the practice of a bureau or office in Washington to set up a new field activity without notifying the district commandants, who were likely to remain unaware of its existence. Along with this went the action, by the bureau or office, of declaring that the new shore activity would be exempt from the jurisdiction of the district commandant. This was generally a unilateral action, taken without consulting the district authorities; or, for that matter, without counsulting any other authority.

Finally, there was the practice, sometimes not accidental, of "gerrymandering" field activities so that they did not coincide with district lines and thus would be less liable to fall under district cognizance. The naval material inspection districts, for instance, assumed such a pattern. The Pittsburgh Inspection District lay principally within the Fourth Naval District, but spilled over into the Third and Fifth. The area offices, set up by the Bureau of Yards and Docks to handle new construction, likewise happened to assume a different arrangement from the naval district limits.150

The only field in which the Commandant's authority was firmly maintained among all these shore establishments was the "military." In case of riot, disaster or similar emergency, he held authority over the various activities. In matters of policing and declaring regions "out of bounds" to military personnel he could exercise another phase of his military authority, and he appointed a general court martial for the whole district. In addition, the Commandant's military authority included intelligence and communications.

From the discussion of the Commandant's jurisdiction, certain conclusions can be drawn.

One conclusion is paramount: under the U.S. Navy Regulations, 1920, there was no clear balance of authority and responsibility beyond the "military" field. In such circumstances, the relative personalities and determination of commandants and heads of shore establishments left much room for widely varying results. As long as only routine matters occurred, there might develop nothing more serious than jurisdictional acrimony. If, however, something should suddenly go wrong, the Commandant's responsibility was not clear.

During the mad scramble of expansion at the beginning of the war, the conditions throughout the shore establishment were sometimes chaotic. There was no time to consider the fine points of jurisdiction nor to draw elaborate organization charts with proper differentiation of solid and dotted lines of authority. Things had to be done and done quickly; somehow they were.


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By the spring of 1943, the Navy finally had time to take serious notice of the snarled situation in the shore establishment in general and the naval districts in particular. From that time until this writing a constant series of studies produced a succession of reforms which have ameliorated, if not eradicated, the earlier troubles.

The Naval District reforms fall into several general groups: coordination of certain shore activities into a new form of "subdistrict" (Naval Base); the use of the originally operational Sea Frontier organization as a logistical "super-district"; the improvement of departmental coordination of district--shore activity--bureau--office relationships; an orderly analysis of shore activities; and finally, an effort further to systematize the nebulous command relationships. The five "reforms" will be considered in that order. First, however, it will be well to examine some of the special groups appointed to investigate the situation.

The Navy Manpower Survey Board was appointed on 12 November 1943, to determine the extent to which manpower was being effectively employed in the shore establishment. Survey committees of naval officers and civilians in each district examined the individual activities and made recommendations for personnel increase or decrease. Their quantitative suggestions were not as important as were the by-products of the investigation, which brought into the light the whole jumbled picture.

In addition to a special report to the Secretary concerning the organization of the naval districts, the Survey Board in its final general report on 28 June 1944 wrote:

"As stated in that special report, the Board's analysis of individual reports on naval district organizations leads to the conclusion that there is need for a detailed study of the functions, organization and procedures of all naval districts. The Board recognizes that any real and lasting solution of this problem involves decisions by higher authority and extends beyond the scope and cognizance of any single district commandant. The study contemplated by the Board should include not only all naval district headquarters organizations, but should embrace a study of the relationship of these organizations to other departmental agencies which share the responsibilities for the directives and conditions under which the naval district commands now operate.

"The Board believes that the proposed study would reveal the need for a simplified and standardized form of organization adaptable to all districts with resultant saving in manpower and improvements in operating efficiency. The Board also believes that the study might disclose a need for a centralized authority in the Navy Department to coordinate the relationship of naval district organizations with the several Bureaus and Offices in the Navy Department proper, and to exercise over-all supervision of the naval districts in matters of administration. The study might also disclose that the shore establishments could be administered more effectively and with a substantial saving in personnel if the number of districts were reduced."151

It is of interest here to compare the 1944 recommendations to the 1915 Board's recommendations: "(1) that there be established an 'Office of Naval Districts;' (2) that this office be placed under the Chief of Naval Operations; (3) that this office be in charge of a commissioned officer of the line not below the grade of captain; (4) that the officer in charge be designated the 'Director of Naval Districts'."152

Frequently, shore activities having the same functions were called by different names, with considerable resultant confusion. A letter of 19 April 1944 from the Chief of Naval Operations stated:


"The urgent need is recognized for standardization of the terminology describing naval activities, and an official authenticated list of such activities. A committee is hereby appointed whose duty it shall be to develop such a list of activities with appropriate activity designations, supported when necessary by definitions. When approved this will become the official list of activities for the use of all concerned."153

The resultant Committee for Standardization of Terminology for Activities of the Navy, the "Norris Committee," not only accomplished its original mission in thorough fashion; but also did some valuable work in analyzing naval district relationships as a whole in the course of its field studies.154

Finally, to get at the heart of the whole matter, the so-called "Farber Committee" was established by the Chief of Naval Operations who wrote on 28 September 1944:

"The committee will hear representatives of the interested bureaus and offices of the Navy Department and commandants of naval districts and other commanders, as necessary. The studies of the committee, and the recommendations based thereon, will include, but not be limited to, the relationships of naval activities within a naval district to the district commandant, including naval air activities and fleet activities based ashore, and the relationships of chiefs of bureaus and offices to commanding officers and officers in charge of shore establishments under respective bureau cognizance."155

These three special bodies were not the only ones at work on the problems. The Chief of Naval Operations had some strong ideas on the subject and made the first specific proposa1.156 The Vice Chief of Naval Operations, with immediate cognizance of the subject, likewise showed a strong and constant interest.157 The Bureau of Naval Personnel and the Division of Shore Establishments and Civilian Personnel (later Industrial Relations Division) initiated several important moves.158 The little known Organization Planning and Procedures Unit, composed of several important departmental officials, made a comprehensive study of one major aspect (Navy Yards and Dry Docks). 159 Finally, several district commandants made experiments in their own districts which were later copied on a wider scale.160

The first of the "reform projects" (navy yard -- navy base reorganization) to be suggested and the last to materialize was not directed at the districts themselves, but at the navy yards -- the most extensive establishments within the districts. In addition to their tendency to minimize district authority, already noted, the navy yards had a serious internal problem of command relationship. The intimate details do not belong in this naval district study; a very brief outline should suffice. The activities of a navy yard area, under its line commandant, fell into three general groups. First, and the real raison d'être of the yard, was the industrial department; responsible for the construction and repair of ships under the manager. Second, came certain functions, notably parts of the supply and public works activities, intimately associated with the industrial work. Third, the area often included other activities such as a naval hospital, ammunition depot, receiving station or marine barracks, which had almost nothing in common with the rest, except geographical propinquity.161

The "reform" consisted of combining the first and second categories under the manager, the whole to be an autonomous unit, like the elements of the third category, under an overall commander, who would have "military" and "coordinating" authority, but not the internal technical authority which the previous navy yard commandant might exercise if he saw fit. The actual reorganization came about in an explanatory letter, dated 14 September 1945, with five enacting "attachments". The nine navy yards were transformed into "U.S. Naval Bases". (The Washington Navy Yard, now U.S. Naval Gun Factory, is excluded from these general considerations.) The former industrial departments became "U.S. Naval Shipyards". These, with other local activities capable of furnishing "direct service to the Operating Forces," were integrated into the Naval Base under its commandant to represent the District Commandant in exercising military and coordination control.162


While this movement was affecting the district organization from below, another "reform" movement was imposing a new authority from above. The steadily increasing volume of shipments to the Pacific theatre of operations revealed the desirability of coordinating the logistical activities of the three west coast districts to insure maximum utilization of all facilities and to prevent congestion.

On 23 November 1943, three weeks after the post of "Assistant Commandant (Logistics)" had been ordered established in each naval district, the Chief of Naval Operations wrote to ComTwelve:

"The commandant of the Twelfth Naval District is hereby designated as the representative of the Vice Chief of Naval Operations on the Pacific Coast (Eleventh Naval District, Twelfth Naval District, and Thirteenth Naval District) for the purpose of coordinating the logistic activities in that area."163

That was the first of three steps in developing a powerful logistic organization in that region. The second step came on 12 February 1944, when the Secretary of the Navy established the Office of the Coordinator of Naval Logistics.164 The new Coordinator, in explaining the new arrangement in a letter of 29 March 1944, stated that this neither prescribed nor contemplated any change in command channels, but, as representative of the Secretary of the Navy and of the heads of bureaus, offices and activities of the Navy Department, he was to effect coordination "by liaison and conference with representatives of the Navy concerned with procurement, transportation, distribution, staging and overseas supply of material and of personnel; by collaboration, evaluation and dissemination of information ... and by recommendation."165

On 8 November 1944, just a year after the first step on the West Coast , a powerful "super-district" was established there for logistical purposes, with the framework of the Western Sea Frontier expanded to include the many logistical activities in addition to its original operational function. The development of these powers over the West Coast Districts (Eleventh, Twelfth, and Thirteenth) went on steadily during the remainder of the war. 166 A suggestion of the extension of the Sea Frontier as a "super-district" was contained in an order dated 28 December 1944:

"Commanders of sea frontiers may be ordered to duties involving the coordination, correlation, and control of logistic activities in the component naval districts, and to similar control of administrative activities in component naval districts, as may be directed by the Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, and Chief of Naval Operations."167

These Sea Frontier "logistical" powers have lasted, and are in effect at this writing as expressed in an order dated 25 April 1951:

"Sea frontier commanders shall have the military command and, under their responsibilities to the Chief of Naval Operations, coordination control of the commandants of component naval districts and river commands including the coordination, correlation and control of logistic activities in the component naval districts." 168

The third sphere of "reform" activity was the practice of bureaus and offices to by-pass district authority and deal directly with shore activities. The first tangible step in this direction was taken on 4 September 1943, when the Naval District Section (Op-30-14) was set up in the Base Maintenance Division of "CNO" as already described in the section "Liaison with the Navy Department." In addition to defining the duties of the new section, an effort was made to exercise some control over the practice of setting up field activities without notifying the naval district commandants:

"All bureaus and offices are directed to submit recommendations for the establishment or discontinuance of shore activities to the Vice Chief of Naval Operations for processing by the Base Maintenance Division. Attention is invited to the large number


of activities, including those minor in nature which have been established in the past by the several bureaus and offices without always informing the District Commandant concerned, without delineating the Commandant's relation to the activity, and without a proper record of such activities being centrally maintained."169

This was a step in the right direction, but adequate "teeth" were not in the control "mechanism" until 12 July 1945 when the Naval Activities Control Section (Op-02J) was established.

The fourth "reform" movement consisted of the work of the "Norris Committee" on standardization of terminology. Its series of manuals provided an orderly and comprehensive list of the various activities in each district, with a series of code designations to indicate their relationship to other functions.170 Officers were appointed in each district to keep the work current. The work of the Committee, originally a temporary body, was placed on a permanent basis by the creation of the Naval Activities Control Section (later Naval District Affairs Division, [Op-213] ) on 12 July 1945.

After more than eight months of study, the "Farber Committee" crystallized its findings on district command relationships in an "AlNav" issued on 4 June 1945. 171 Since the full text is reproduced in Appendix J as one of the basic documents in naval district history, it need be only briefly summarized here. The main feature was the statement of various types of authority over district activities. These resembled the categories determined in 1942 for the Army Service Commands. The Commandant's "military command" over all activities within the geographical limits of the district was confirmed. "Administrative Control," however, was broken down into three separate categories. The Commandant was to have "Coordination Control" over all activities, and the details of this were explained. "Management Control" and "Technical Control", which involved the "day-by-day administration" and professional guidance of the activity, were not given to the Commandant except where "specifically delegated . . . by a bureau or office of the Navy Department or other comparable naval authority." It was expected that local differences could be adjusted "through the application of common sense and a spirit of cooperation;" if that did not work, matters could be referred to the Chief of Naval Operations.

However, the ideal expressed in that "AlNav" has not been realized. Since that time the Chief of Naval Operations and the Secretary of the Navy have had to issue various orders and directives to spell out more clearly the authority and sphere of influence of the District Commandants. An order dated 27 November 1946, which superseded the 1945 "AlNav", came after much study and deliberation by all major components of the Navy Department.172 Here, to clarify further command relationships, the Naval Air Training Command, the Naval Airship Training and Experimental Command, and Marine Corps supporting establishments were excepted from the jurisdiction of the district commandant. These principles continued on in an order issued in 1949, which, with revisions made in 1950, exists at this writing.173

In reality the order in effect in 1953 is a compromise. It provides for the exercise by the District Commandant of either or both military or coordination control over his district, and it also provides for offices and bureaus to exercise management and technical control of activities under their cognizance in the district.



Naval defense of the coast has been the primary duty of the Naval District and its main reason for being since 1903. Advancements in warfare over the past half a century have brought about a major change in the basic concept of district defense -- the development of the "mosquito fleet" from its status as a unit under the District Commandant, deriving his authority directly from the Navy Department, to its present status as a sea frontier task force organization in which the District Commandant is a Task Group Commander.

Perhaps the most significant change in the Naval District has come about through the addition of a "secondary duty", here over-simplified into "Jurisdiction Over Naval Shore Activities" (Chapter VII). Reminiscent of the 1942 Naval District Division (Op-30), this "secondary duty" has almost become "the tail that wagged the dog." The overwhelming proportion of district administrative adjustment between 1943 and 1953 has been concentrated upon the administrative and logistical relationships with the shore activities. The defense or operational functions for which the District was first established have actually required but nominal attention.

Clearly the Naval District has become of necessity a large and very complicated administrative organization. The Commandant is now a task group commander to the Sea Frontier Commander in the field of operations, and from all indication the same relationship is developing in the field of logistics. In fields such as military personnel, intelligence, communications, public information, legal, and naval reserve, the Commandant now has very positive responsibility and control. As regards jurisdicition over shore activities in general, he has become a coordinator.

The 1953 Naval District cannot be considered the final answer to a most complicated administrative organization. It is believed and hoped that the present solution, combined with the advice of the "Farber Committee" calling for "common sense and a spirit of cooperation", will provide the control and high degree of flexibility demanded should mobilization once again become necessary.


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