Naval Base Kitsap was created in 2004 when the Navy consolidated Naval Station Bremerton and Naval Submarine Base Bangor into one base as part of its resource-optimizing Sea Enterprise Initiative, along with all their associated entities in Bremerton, Bangor, Keyport, Manchester, Jackson Park, Indian Island, the Nanoose Range off Canada’s Vancouver Island, and Behm Canal near Ketchikan, Alaska. Though separated geographically, their common purpose is to support U.S. operations and the fleet.
Naval Base Kitsap – Bremerton
In 1891, the Navy bought its first land for a Pacific Northwest shipyard on the Bremerton waterfront from German immigrant and entrepreneur William Bremer along waters sheltered by the Sinclair and Dyes inlets. The area became the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility. Originally a repair operation, World War I brought it to the fore as a shipbuilder for vessels from submarines to small boats, and in 1933 it added one of the nation’s tallest cranes, the 250-foot Hammerhead Crane No. 28, able to hoist 250 tons, which is still a skyline landmark.
World War II refocused the yard on repairs and upgrades, and in the war’s wake, many ships that had seen fierce fighting were mothballed at Bremerton, including the USS Missouri, site of the formal Japanese surrender Sept. 2, 1945. Now a museum ship in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, that battleship was Bremerton’s main tourist attraction from 1955 to its recommission in 1985. Its place has been taken by the retired destroyer USS Turner Joy, opened to the public in 1992.
Shipbuilding at the facility was discontinued in 1979, and these days the installation, one of four naval shipyards, handles dry dock, overhaul, maintenance and recycling services for nuclear-powered vessels as well as providing surface ship support. It is the Pacific Northwest’s largest naval shore facility and one of Washington state’s largest industrial installations. In 1998, the Navy made Bremerton a homeport, and today it homeports two aircraft carriers, the USS John C. Stennis and the USS Nimitz.
In 2002, the Navy launched Sea Enterprise (an initiative to establish principles that reward greater effectiveness while eliminating institutional hurdles to innovation), which ultimately led to Naval Base Kitsap’s organizational structure as we know it.
Naval Base Kitsap – Bangor
North of Bremerton on the Kitsap Peninsula’s west side, fronting the Hood Canal, Naval Base Kitsap – Bangor began as an ammunition depot for munitions headed for World War II’s Pacific theater. The Navy bought 7,676 acres there near the town of Bangor for the U.S. Naval Magazine, and the depot shipped conventional weaponry overseas in response to national needs from January 1945 to January 1973, the year naval officials decided to make Bangor the homeport for the first squadron of Trident nuclear-powered submarines. This included plans for a submarine base; a missile processing facility (the Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific) to on-load, off-load, repair and care for submarines’ missile systems; and Trident refit and personnel training facilities. Bangor’s new naval submarine base activated Feb. 1, 1977. The Naval Intermediate Maintenance Facility, Pacific Northwest, was established four years later, in 1981, as the primary maintenance facility for the West Coast Trident submarine fleet, a year before the arrival of the USS Ohio, the first Trident based in the Pacific. Since then progressive consolidations with similar Navy operations in Everett and Bremerton, then the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (2003), have confirmed its command status as the Intermediate Maintenance Facility portion of the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility. The IMF concentrates on hull, mechanical, electrical, electronics and weapons systems repairs for submarines.
Manchester Fuel Depot
In 1889, the U.S. War Department bought waterfront land in Manchester to bolster Puget Sound defenses, acreage that was turned to use during World War I to test torpedoes and to stockpile fuel, such as coal and oil. The property was transferred to the Navy in 1919, and 20 years down the road, with World War II looming, the Navy developed it as a West Coast fuel depot, building a long pier for refueling ships (1940). Today, the Manchester Fuel Depot is the largest depot for military fuel in the continental U.S. It meets military and federal needs throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia and the western Pacific, though much of its capacity is devoted to fuel for Navy and aircraft carrier jets.
Naval Undersea Warfare Center Keyport
The Navy’s only depot for maintaining and repairing torpedoes and undersea mobile targets, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Keyport has other areas of involvement that include undersea warfare systems, mobile mines and unmanned underwater vehicles. In addition to its local ranges, it has several remote test and evaluation sites in Hawaii, Southern California, Nevada, British Columbia and Guam. The center is about 7 miles east of Naval Base Kitsap – Bangor on Liberty Bay, north of Port Orchard. The U.S. Naval Undersea Museum is next to the warfare center.
The torpedo center has been in Keyport since 1914, when the Navy determined it needed closer maintenance for its Pacific fleet torpedoes than Newport, Rhode Island, the Navy’s only depot for torpedo testing and repairing at that time.
By 1919, the station had grown to include a contingent of U.S. Marines for security, U.S. Navy divers for torpedo recovery work, and a small civilian workforce learning the emerging art and science of testing and maintaining torpedoes. In 1930, the base was renamed the United States Naval Torpedo Station but, then as now, was often simply referred to as Keyport.
World War II shifted Keyport’s testing and repairs into high speed, and during the war years, as many as 100 torpedoes were tested each day. The Cold War followed that war’s end, and Keyport expanded its operations and technology to include the world’s first 3D undersea tracking range. By 1966, Keyport was testing nearly every torpedo that the Navy used and extended its operations beyond the Pacific Northwest, even to the Arctic Ocean, where it helped carry out naval undersea tests.
Today, Naval Undersea Warfare Center Keyport’s areas of operation embrace land and air as well as water for its array of services and products for the U.S. Navy, other military branches and allied militaries.
Nanoose Range (Canada)
The Naval Undersea Warfare Center Keyport under Naval Base Kitsap and the Canadian military jointly operate Canada’s Nanoose Range off the east side of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The area has been used to test torpedoes, sonar and other equipment for undersea warfare.
Southeast Alaska Acoustic Measurement Facility (Ketchikan, Alaska)
Naval Base Kitsap has used its Southeast Alaska Acoustic Measurement Facility in the Behm Canal near Ketchikan since 1992 to determine how noisy its submarines are when they’re submerged, both traveling and at rest. Tests determine the sources of any noise and try to reduce or eliminate it to reduce vulnerability and increase stealth. Though submarines are the principal subjects, any vessel can be evaluated. Alaska’s Behm Canal was chosen for the operation because the remote fjord has little ambient noise or noise interference.
Naval Magazine Indian Island
As one of the main U.S. Navy munitions handlers, Naval Magazine Indian Island, south of Port Townsend on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, occupies the whole 4.4-square-mile island. The depot supplies armaments to submarines, Military Sealift Command and naval combat ships, and joint and allied forces. The location’s name, formerly Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, Detachment Port Hadlock, was changed to Ammunition Depot Indian Island in April 2000 (later to Naval Magazine Indian Island), and its command was transferred to the Pacific Northwest from a series of commands in the Southwest. It began in 1941 as the Navy’s Naval Magazine and Net Depot to store munitions and assemble mines and submarine nets. Today, it provides technical support of ordnance and ordnance-related equipment and processes and logistics management as the only active break-bulk and containerized ordnance transshipment port in support of the joint services of the Pacific Command.
Naval Hospital Bremerton
Bremerton has had a naval hospital almost from the beginning; the first on land began operating out of a small wood-frame building shortly after the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard opened in the 1890s. It soon moved into a brick hospital building on a hillside overlooking the shipyard, with multiple expansions over the years, until its transfer to a new facility in Jackson Park, about 5 miles north of Naval Base Kitsap Bremerton, in 1980. This accredited, community-based acute care and obstetrical hospital has 25 inpatient beds and several ambulatory, acute and specialty clinics, including branch clinics at Bangor, Everett and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. The hospital provides care to more than 60,000 eligible military families in the region.