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The World War II Years

The U.S. Navy in Hawaii, 1826-1945: An Administrative History

The World War II Years

The outbreak of World War II placed a great strain on the expanding organization of both yard and district. With the legalized separation of these two, definitions of policy and authority were needed as never before. The more pressing problem from an administrative point of view was the inter-relation or separation of functions such as supply and public works that clearly fell into both spheres. Within the course of the next year, both the Supply and Public Works Officers were to be withdrawn from the yard and only token representatives of these as district activities were left behind. The District material Office became a part of the Industrial Manager's department, leaving enough residue functions in the district to allow the unique development of the District Budget, Small Craft and Ordnance Office. With the coming of the Hawaiian Sea Frontier, the District Operations office slowly disintegrated by absorption of the Frontier and delegation of minor functions to the District Budget, Small Craft and Ordnance Office. District Civilian Personnel preferred not to function, but delegated its job to the yard because of their security and processing machinery. The District Personnel office became a single unit of its own and, by a policy of decentralization, permitted the yard to maintain its own personnel records and files. This was similar to the later tendency toward decentralization on the part of the Communications Office that also allowed a Yard Communications Office to function as its own.

While the order for the separation of the yard and district did not contribute a revolutionary idea, as both had separate paper organizations and were conscious of their individual identities, it did create some confusion. Certain activities, such as the yard itself, the Fuel Depot, the Submarine Base and the Naval Supply Depot, were contiguous activities physically connected by roads, tracks, pipelines, communications, etc., but were administratively separate and independently operated. The latter three were considered to be "district" activities because they were beyond the boundaries of the yard proper. "It is not difficult to imagine situations," wrote one officer, "whereby reference to a map or other such considerations might be necessary to determine who is to act in case of casualties or abnormal happenings." The problems presented by the jurisdiction over the water supply system, the electric power system, the facilities in the harbor and channel as moorings, terminals, etc., transportation, dispersed storage, supply and public works demanded a jurisdictional decision. When housing in Housing Areas I, II, and III, Makalapa and Aiea Barracks were placed under the Navy Yard, this somewhat clarified the confusion. The suggestion from many sources, particularly the Commandant of the Navy Yard, was to create a Naval Operating Base with unified and coordinated administration. The Public Works Officer felt that such a change was necessary to avoid "duplication and red-tape." On the other hand, the Commandant of the Yard believed that it was "not necessary to use the term Commandant of the District and Naval Operating Base because the Commandant is that now. It might be useful, on account of the Fleet Supply Base being established in such close proximity to the Yard, to have it placed under the Commandant of the Navy Yard in order to prevent duplication in transportation facilities such as railroad and truck equipment and obviate duplication and overhead of two maintenance crews for repair of buildings, roads, electricity and water. The Navy Yard Supply Officer and Officer in Charge of the Fleet Supply Depot could be under the Commandant of the Navy Yard. There could be a separate District Supply Depot, if desired, but the Fleet Supply Officer with so many of its storerooms in or near the Yard should be under the Commandant of the Yard." The District Supply Officer, however, perceived the need for a Naval Operating Base, Pearl Harbor, to coordinate the many rapidly expanding and far-flung organizations. The flag officer in charge of this base with the Commandant of the Navy Yard would assist the Senior Flag Officer ashore as his principle executives. The die, however, had been cast and the organization of the naval establishment was molding itself under the force of circumstances. The Navy Yard's military units was defined as extending to Pearl Harbor and the housing areas beyond Hickam Field, at Aiea, Makalapa and the Crater. Activities at the Submarine Base, NAS, Pearl Harbor, Fuel Depot, Naval Supply Depot, Ammunition Depot West Loch, Section Base, Bishop's Point, Sub-Section Base, Iroquois Point, the Sub-Section Base at Pearl City, Net Depot, Bishop's Point, Camp Catlin – all were separate activities under Com14 for administration and internal security, but were placed under the military control of the Pearl Harbor Group as far as their operational activities affected the defense of the Pearl Harbor area, and navigation, berthing and mooring in Pearl Harbor.

In this development of a district staff, it is important to trace the creation of the District Supply Office and its functions. When Captain John J. Gaffney reported for duty as Navy Yard Supply Officer in July 1941, he was assigned additional duties by Rear Admiral C.C. Bloch as District Supply Officer and Officer in Charge, Naval Fuel Depot. As District Supply Officer, he was the staff advisor and representative of the District Commandant on supply problems; as Officer in Charge of the Fuel Depot, he was head of an operating unit of the district; and, finally, as Yard Supply Officer, he was a subordinate of the Yard Commandant.

As long as the same person occupied the two positions as Commandant of the Distract and the Yard, this triple role did not create any difficulties. It was not long, however, before Admiral Bloch was relieved of his duties as Yard Commandant by Rear Admiral William R. Furlong. Although personal relationships were maintained on an amicable basis, the situation was one which violated good administrative practice, namely, having one man function in three capacities, one of which was subordinate to the Yard Commandant, whereas the other two were at least independent of his authority. There seems to be on evidence that the situation produced undesirable results, but it was at least capable of allowing the Supply Officer of the Yard to obtain a sought-for objective over the wishes of the Yard Commandant by his role as advisor to the District Commandant.

At the same time, it must be noted that the "unified control" thus achieved over strictly District Supply activities enabled the District Supply Officer to achieve a more efficient utilization of facilities and personnel, both of which were seriously lacking, during the early phase of the war. Through his concurrent roles as Supply Officer in Command of the Depot, the District Supply Officer was able to direct the interchange and joint use of storage facilities, equipment and military and civilian personnel.

Even after he had relinquished actual administrative control over the Supply Depot and the Yard Supply Department, the District Supply Officer continued to exercise a considerable influence in the formulation of policies to be executed by the operating units. By means of daily conferences in his office, he maintained a close supervision of actual operations, and thus ensured a uniformity in operations. In some minor instances, where the two major Supply activities made joint use of facilities and equipment, the District Supply Officer functioned somewhat in the role of arbiter or umpire to settle the inevitable disputes which seem to arise in such cases.

In spite of this seeming tendency on the part of the District Supply Officer to "run things" even though his office was nominally that of advisor to the District Commandant, the weight of evidence would indicate that he did not interfere with intra-departmental operations, but rather confined his action to coordinating inter-activity affairs and relationships. For example, in replying to a memorandum from the head of the newly created Navy Purchasing office in which the latter asked to what extent he was ". . . free to take independent, unreviewed action," the District Supply Officer stated:

From a purely theoretical standpoint, you head an independent District Activity and are therefore responsible directly to the Commandant, 14th Naval District. From the practical standpoint, since I represent the Commandant in matters pertaining to supply, you will look to me for interpretation of his policies and desires.

Within the confines of the Federal Statutes, decisions of the Comptroller General, and the various manuals and regulations of the Navy Department, I desire that you exercise complete independence of action in directing the activities of your office.

Please keep me informed on matters of broad policy, on matters involving or likely to involve major controversy, on specific transactions of extraordinary scope or unusual detail, and of circumstances involving commendations or criticism of your organization.

Similarly, it was indicated that the War Projects Board, fearful of the possibility that special influence might be brought to bear on a Navy-operated Rationing Program, retained the right of review over the Sub-Board's action, until:

Admiral Gaffney's steadfast refusal to interfere with the action of the Board or to countenance any coercion of its members soon made it apparent that the Board was an independent body acting sincerely to carry out the OPA regulations as written.

noting that several commands were responsible, in part and in varying degree, for supply functions in the Hawaiian or Central Pacific area, it would appear that the Staff Supply Officer of CinCPOA [Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Ocean Area], by virtue of his superior position in the hierarchy, should have exercised an over-all coordinative influence on the several other Supply Officers. Instead of this, however, CinCPOA's supply representative seems to have confined his role to that of long-range "planning" of supply needs in the over-all logistics program and gave little attention to the actual operations of supply activities on the district or type command levels. ComServPac's [Commander, Service Force, Pacific Fleet] supply section interpreted its role as that of operating or putting CinCPOA directives into effect. It could have exercised a unifying influence by coordinating the efforts of the district and other type command supply activities, but apparently did not choose to do so.

Although all of the air stations and facilities within the district were under the Commandant of the District in respect to physical plant, the actual task of supplying the squadrons based thereon with the aviation material was under the cognizance of ComAirPac [Commander, Air Force, Pacific Fleet]. Within the district itself, aviation supply was divided: Commander Naval Air Bases exercised Com14's authority over the physical plant and carried out directives from ComAirPac on the supplying of aviation materials which latterly are procured via the Aviation Supply Depot; the "regular" district supply activities, such as the Naval Supply Depot, working under direction of the District Supply Officer as the representative of Com14, furnished the non-aviation materials.

Another minor but illuminating example of the way in which supply services were frequently complicated by the existing command structure, occurred at Midway. In a letter to Com14, the Commanding Officer of NAS Midway declared that:

The present organization at this station is functioning fairly well, but it is not conducive to smooth running because of confusion which exists as to the relationship and responsibility of the various activities assigned to these Islands. As an example there are operating at Midway eight separate supply systems:

Naval Air Station
Submarine Base
Marine Aviation
Marine Defense Battalion
Public Works as Resident Officer-in-Charge
P.T. Boats
Construction Battalion

This borders on the ridiculous and makes it almost impossible to coordinate procurement and so anticipate future requirements.

Continuing, the letter declared:

The spirit of cooperation prevailing is excellent and a 'modus vivendi' organization is in effect. All activities are pooling their efforts and working most harmoniously, but it does appear reasonable that the actual organization should be adequate and independent of the personalities involved.

The District Supply Officer occupied an inferior position in the command structure. When he desired to relate the efforts of the supply activities on the Submarine Bases at Pearl and Midway, the Air Stations and the Aviation Supply Depot, it was necessary to channel his efforts via the District Commandant and the type commanders. This, at best, was a cumbersome and time-consuming requirement which was not always conducive to speedy decision and uniform action. As a consequence, about the only coordination of supply activities in the Hawaiian area which occurred throughout the war was that achieved among purely district activities. On some matters of minor importance, the District Supply Officer was able, through personal persuasion and prestige, to achieve intermittent successes.

A costly example of the absence of an over-all coordination of supply policy and operations was the long delay in construction and eventual relocation of the Aviation Supply Depot. Similarly, as already noted, there was a distinct failure to define the supply mission of the district, and, in addition, to provide advance information on unusually heavy Fleet demands on district supply resources. In respect to the latter, it is recognized that such information is not always available, but certainly there could have been a more determined and cooperative effort in that direction. What could have been avoided for a certainty was the insistent efforts to reduce stock levels in district supply activities while unplanned-for demands jumped sporadically without previous notice and information

The Public Works Officer underwent a similar transition during the period between the two wars. According to the Public Works reorganization in 1930, a senior C.E.C. officer was ordered by the Navy Department as Public Works Officer of the district and the yard. In his capacity as Public Works Officer of the Navy Yard, he was to be assistant to the Industrial Manager of the yard and would have complete control over all activities, including personnel, assigned to his division. Consequently, the Public Works Officer fulfilled two separate and distinct jobs. The Commandant directed that he organize his subordinates, both officer and civilian, into a closely-knit organization that could be used on either yard or district work, as the changing volume and character of the work demanded. From 1939 on, the Public Works Officer assumed his triplicate function of officer in charge of all construction, and, as a result, became directly responsible to the Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Dock in this capacity.

This tripartite division of authority created difficulties during expansion before the war, and, to a great extent, confused the separation of district and yard later. With the physical separation of the two, a Public Works Officer was assigned to the yard, and he reported to the Commandant of the Yard. The yard now had its own Public Works staff, and the district had its organization, with officers assigned to many district activities and air bases

The District Public Works Officer is not a superior to the Yard Public Works Officer, nor to any other officer of the Navy Yard. Conversely, the District Public Works Officer (Commandant, Fourteenth naval District) may call upon those naval establishments of the district which have the necessary personnel and equipment such as the Navy Yard and Submarine Base. This method is applicable whether or not the particular work be located at these establishments. Or he may arrange for the performance by means of an NOy [Bureau of Yards and Docks] contract of either the fixed-fee, competitive bid or negotiated lump sum types. If by the former, jurisdiction becomes vested in the Officer in Charge as soon as the fixed-fee contract formalities have been consummated. For the other types of contracts, jurisdiction is retained by the District Public Works Officer acting for the Commandant, Fourteenth Naval District

The District Public Works Officer [DPWO], as officer in charge of fixed-fee contracts, operated independently under the Commandant, 14th Naval District, in much the same manner as did the Commandant of the Navy Yard, although the office was only temporary for the duration of the contracts.

The facilities available to the Officer in Charge are entirely for accomplishing public works construction projects, and are confined to those of the Contractors. They are usable only on those projects or items which are included in the particular contracts. Development planning is not a part of the contracts. These projects or items are wide spread in their locations, being in progress at practically all the establishments within the district with some even beyond. . . . By agreement, the Navy Yard officials have no responsibilities in connection with the administration of this contract work. It is exclusive with the Officer in Charge.

In this capacity, before the war, the District Public Works Officer was responsible for NOy contracts in Samoa and the Philippines.

Under the general direction of the DPWO was consolidated all the design and drafting work which was to serve for all activities, including the Yard. The Yard Public Works Officer was to have free and independent access to this agency for any and all yard work.

The failure to have a clearer and more fundamental division of authority was perceived under the increase of wire or telephone facilities. These facilities necessarily were in the province of the District Communications Officer, but construction was both in the yard and at other district activities. The transfer of workers from one project to another resulted in a tug-of-war between the yard and district on the respective priorities of their projects and resulted to some extent in what was defined by the Chief of Staff as the "Telephone Mess." The Public Works Officer's task was beset by many difficulties with the completion of many construction jobs delayed by the withdrawal of the Construction Battalions. When these units were first assigned, many private contracts were abrogated before the work was given over to them. Unfortunately, the battalions were dependent on ComServPac for administration and were withdrawn at times and sent to forward area without any advanced warning. This brought a complete stop to the construction work and caused delays in renegotiating with private contractors. It was not unusual to find that the original plans and pieces of equipment disappeared with the withdrawing battalion. A unique change in the Public Works organization was the assigning to the design section the authority to draw up project plans without the approval of the Bureau of Yards and Docks.

When the yard and the district were physically separated, surveys were made of various sites in Honolulu for the geographical removal of the district headquarters. It was the theory that such a move would make the district more aloof from the yard and allow it the opportunity to solve its own problems without undue pressure. The scarcity of building materials and the unavailability of a satisfactory location in or about the confines of Honolulu defeated this proposition. However, the talk of separation and the division of authority did result in the yard, because of its unique position within the district, receiving the responsibility of looking after housing and civilian personnel.

The housing areas that were placed under the jurisdiction of the yard included Areas I, II and III for civilians, and Aiea Barracks, the Makalapa buildings, and the BOQ's within the yard proper and in the vicinity of Moanalua Ridge. Housing in such outlying areas as Lualualei or at the Naval Air Stations was under their respective commanding officers. The housing facilities were to be operated and managed by the yard for the benefit of both the yard and the district. With the great influx of workers in 1942 and 1943, the Commandant of the Yard felt that the only way to conserve housing for his civilian workers in the face of an increase in the number of district civilian workers was to arbitrarily limit the number of accommodations for the latter group. The yard had now become covetous of its housing and tended to forget the growing needs of the district. It became necessary, as a result, for the Commandant of the District to change this restrictive policy and establish a perc! ! entage rule for the yard to follow. It was one of the major post-war plans of the district to reclaim its control over the housing, but its designs were defeated by the Farber Board reforms for the Naval Operating Base, Pearl Harbor.

Since its establishment, the Navy Yard has always been the employer of the greatest number of civilian workers within the 14th Naval District. When war broke out, it had a highly developed organization for recruiting, processing and assigning civilian workers coming from the mainland and from local sources. Although there was a District Civilian Personnel Officer [DCPC] in existence prior to the war, it was a collateral position. Rather than change or disrupt the yard's machinery, the DCPC went out of existence. The policy that the district followed was to make requests of the yard for civilian personnel. When the civilian shortages became more pronounced, there was a feeling on the part of many district activities that the yard was not allotting a fair shore of recruits to them. The District Supply Officer and some of the naval air activities were quite pointed in their criticisms, and the yard was just as adamant that it was doing an equitable job. To further aggravate the situation, many mainland recruits objected to working anywhere but the yard. Many terminated their contracts when they found that, although they were employed by the Navy yard, they were sent to outlying islands in the district or remote stations on Oahu. The high pressure stateside advertising of Hawaii that was utilized by civil service agencies tended to give a false impression of wartime working conditions.

When the coordinating office of District Civilian Personnel Director was founded in 1944, it created a dislocation of functions and responsibilities. The new directives were misleading and loosely interpreted. The yard resented the surrender of many of its prerogatives, and it took some time before this new difference of views was ironed out. The Director, in attempting to pursue his task, met with what he believed to be unwarranted opposition. The major interest of the Director was centered, however, in promoting an increase in recruits and handling the selective service status of civilians already employed. He found it necessary to send a representative to Mare Island, where a previous Pearl Harbor representative was already working. For some time the coordination and formulation of civilian policy was diffused. It required more than a usual share of salesmanship to circulate all functions.

Another problem that pertained to the district and was bequeathed to the yard because of its facilities was that of transportation. Arrangements were made with the Oahu Railway and Land Co. and the local bus company to aid in transporting workers between the district and the yard. The "Leaping Tuna" buses were built from salvaged Army equipment to alleviate some of the transportation strain. In 1942, the District Transportation Coordinator, with additional duty as assistant to the War Plans Officer and District Ordnance, Budget, and Small Craft, came into being as a routine form-filling agency. As the island and mainland transportation problem increased, SecNav established in 1943 the Domestic Transportation Office. This office for the first time granted authority to the district for the control of essential transportation. Unfortunately, for fourteen months after this office came into being, it was not held by an experienced administrator conversant with the transportation problem. When this did occur, the situation improved. Conscious attempts were made to obtain buses from the mainland with ODT support and the exact needs of the district were formulated. Two district activities, the District Personnel Office and the District Communications Office, decentralized their work under the pressure of war. The District Personnel Office allowed the Yard and the Hawaiian Sea Frontier to keep their own personnel sections. Within the Frontier, transfers between vessels were carried on without any notice being sent to the district. On certain occasions, both the Yard and the Frontier carried their personnel problems directly to ComServPac without the District Personnel Officer's permission. When such violation of the chain of command occurred, the erring party would be severely rebuked by the Commandant of the District. The DPO in 1944 also became the district arbiter over the allotment of athletes under the Tunney program to the various activities for the enhancement of their sporting teams. The District Communications Office, on the other hand, allowed independent communicating facilities to the Hawaiian Sea Frontier, MerCo, NAS, Pearl Harbor, and the Navy Yard. Over-crowded facilities and the absence of a centralized communications building were factors in this decision. Dispersion for protection against a possible enemy attack was only a secondary reason. This office also looked after the Issuing Office for official publications, the Post Office which cared for both the Fleet and the District, and the Wire Facilities Division that supervised the telephone services.

It was not until the war's outbreak that the Port Director assumed a more important role. One of the things that remained to be solved was whether the Port Director should remain a member of the District Staff or be transferred to the Hawaiian Sea Frontier [HawSeaFron]. The Assistant Chief of Staff, HawSeaFron, felt that because the convoy and routing functions of the Port Director were so intimately intertwined with those of the Frontier, ComHawSeaFron should control it. The Port Director, as a result, was on the Frontier staff for about a month (September-October, 1942). In an off-the-record letter to Washington, he secured the necessary authority to withdraw. By this withdrawal a compromise ensued which placed him again on the District Staff, but gave him additional duty as Convoy and Routing Officer in the Frontier organization.

The Port Director, with a large organization located in the Navy Yard and branches in Honolulu and the more important island ports, found his authority limited by the broader plans of CinCPac. He followed the rules and areas determined by CinCPac on the limitation of fishing rights. Any changes in details made by the Port Director had to receive the approval of the highest echelons. When the Joint Overseas Shipping Control Office (JOSCO) was established, this office, in effect, took over the determination of departure schedules leaving the Port Director the minor role of issuing the sailing instructions. During 1942, each island port had an assistant Port Director, which office was later assigned to the Captain of the Port. To the chagrin of the Coast Guard, however, an Assistant Port Director remained in the Port of Honolulu throughout the war, duplicating to some extent Coast Guard activities.

By directives from Washington, the District Intelligence Office added three different activities to the district's roster of independent activities: Censorship, Public Relations, and Security. Censorship became a joint enterprise with the Army and functioned smoothly in the downtown district of Honolulu. Public Relations carried on as before and fulfilled its role of advertising the Navy by giving routine news releases to local and mainland newspapers. District Security assumed the responsibilities for passive safety measures. Plant security was controlled by the Army, with the Navy devoting its attention to its own establishment. By December 1944, each activity had a security office, and the Commandant felt that the District Security Office could be abolished. CNO acceded to the request, but ordered the district to give the position as a collateral duty to some other office. Consequently, the District Fire Marshal became also the District Security Officer, as well.

The Hawaiian Sea Frontier (HawSeaFron) did not actually come into a settled form until September 1942. The Assistant Chief of Staff (HawSeaFron) attempted to mold the organization to a degree similar to the Western Sea Frontier. The difficulty of selecting a site for the joint Operating Center delayed his plans. Originally, it was planned to have a district headquarters in Honolulu, with a part of the building devoted to the Frontier headquarters. When the plan did not prove feasible, it was decided to take two and a half tunnels at the Aliamanu Crater. Because of the limitations of space and the distance from the Commandant's headquarters, the location did not become more than an operational center. Since the Crater was on Army property, the construction of a Joint Operating Center with a major plot was never accomplished because of the fluctuations of the war and difficulties over appropriations. One service did not desire to build and pay more than its share of expenses from its limited appropriations for the benefit of another service. The Frontier suffered because of its unique location to CinCPac and its sprawling auxiliary, ComServPac. These two echelons determined the number of vessels under its control as well as the complements of manpower. In cases of emergency, units of the Fleet took over convoy and anti-submarine patrols. Just as its surface units were controlled by higher echelons, so also were its air units by ComAirPac. The major functions of the Hawaiian Sea Frontier were the maintenance of picket ships outside Pearl Harbor and the Port of Honolulu, the escorting of inter-island shipping, and the establishment of air-sea rescue facilities.

From consideration of some of the above points, the influence of CinCPac as a reviewing and arbitrating agent can be seen. it was the endorsement of CinCPac that changed the selective service regulations, that secured additional buses to relive a serious congestion of transportation facilities, that passed decisions on the approved projects of the district logistical boards, that determined the routes and aspects of the shipping instructions of the Port Director. District communications were actually a Fleet auxiliary. ComServPac controlled the administration of personnel and ships allotted to the Hawaiian Sea Frontier more and more as time went on. It was only natural that this latter arrangement should be fraught with many confusing implications. ComServPac would, on occasion, in desiring transfers of personnel, contact the HawSeaFron and neglect the District Personnel Officer. Construction Battalions would be assigned high priority projects within the district, and certain activities, on their advent, would cancel civilian construction contracts – then, without warning to the district or the activity, ComServPac would withdraw its SeaBees and ship them to forward areas, leaving the construction work high and dry. Project delays, loss of contracting plans and designs, etc., were the natural results of such a lack of planning. Uniquely, the disjointed overall supply mission of ComServPac caused it to follow the lead of the District Supply Officer. Despite criticisms of stock levels on the part of ComServPac and the Wright Board, the long-view planning of the district created a reservoir of supplies that were thankfully received when forward area demands warranted rapid replenishment.


Published: Thu Apr 23 12:42:53 EDT 2015