How Your Military Base Was Named

Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

Naval Station Pearl Harbor was named by the native Hawaiians. Since the early 1800s, this area was known to native Hawaiians as Wai Momi, meaning “water of pearl.” The native Hawaiians believed Pearl Harbor to be the home of the shark goddess Ka’ahupahau, and her brother, Kahi’uka. For over a century, naval ships stopped through the shallow harbor. It became evident to all that Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor was a position of strength. Ignoring objections from France and Britain, the U.S. Navy took over Pearl Harbor on November 9, 1887. A few years later the USS Petral became the first vessel to enter the harbor in 1903. The base grew rapidly with new facilities and channels to help the Navy’s largest vessels navigate through the shallow harbor. USS California became the first warship to pass through the dredged channel into Pearl Harbor. A couple years later the first submarines arrived in August 1914. Between 1914 and 1944, Pearl Harbor based submarines made 488 war patrols sinking a total of 2,009,744 tons of enemy steel.

The morning of Sunday December 7, 1941, the Japanese launched a surprise air attack on the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet at Naval Station Pearl Harbor. This is a historical moment Americans will never forget. The base is home to the USS Arizona Memorial as well as the museum ships USS Missouri and USS Bowfin. The Pacific Aviation Museum (Ford Island) is also a popular attraction providing historical information about military flights and events on the island. Although Hawaii did not become a part of the United States until 1959, the presence of the United States’ military bases were in full force, occupying the entire island of Oahu by land or air.

Today, Oahu is the home to five military bases, Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Base, USCG Air Station Barbers Point, Wheeler Army Airfield, and Joint base Pearl Harbor-Hickham Air Force Base.

Edwards Air Force Base

The Rogers and Rosamond lake bed territories of California occupies has an interesting timeline of military history. As early as the 1930s, the Army Air Corp’s military flights flew over the lake beds of Muroc Air Base for bombing and gunnery practice. During World War II, numerous facilities were quickly constructed adjoining Rogers Dry Lake to train bomber and fighter crews to be deployed overseas. The lake beds had perfect year-around weather suitable to test all phases of aircraft testing. As military flight testing advanced, more facilities began to emerge across the lakebeds.

In 1949, Muroc Air Force Base was renamed Edwards AFB in honor of Captain Glen Edwards, copilot of the Northrop YB-49 that crashed on June 5, 1948 killing all aboard. Captain Edwards was a 50-mission veteran of World War II and recently promoted to a coveted test pilot slot for the Air Force.

Throughout the 1940s a series of aviation milestones transpired, one of which was by Jack K. Northrop’s Flying Wing. Northrop’s YB-49 was scheduled to perform a series of acceptance tests at California’s Muroc Army Air Base. The YB-49 was far from easy to handle. The pilot had to constantly be on the controls, and even that wasn’t enough authority for safe flight. Case studies reveal the aircraft had a major problem holding steady course or a constant air speed and altitude.

Other major aviation milestones include testing of the Bell XP-59A Airacomet, America’s first jet aircraft, the first testing of the P-59s from October 1942 to February 1944, and Captain Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager’s historical flight to be the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound, in a Bell X-1 jet aircraft.

USAF Test Pilot School later moved to Edwards AFB from Wright Field. Edwards’ lakebed territory allowed flight testing curriculum to expand and with the dramatic increases in speed and technological advancements of turbojet engines.

Naval Station Norfolk

Naval Station Norfolk is the largest Navy base in the world. The base is located in the Southeastern corner of the Commonwealth of Virginia and was named after it’s location. Naval Station Norfolk was constructed in 1917, immediately after the United States entered World War I.

The base area was a total of 474 acres and included an airfield for seaplanes established at the Naval Operating Base. It was detached from NOB and became Naval Air Station (NAS) Hampton Roads in August of 1918. In July 1921, it was renamed NAS Norfolk. Overtime Naval Operating Base and NAS Norfolk rapidly expanded as it became the home of the Atlantic Fleet after World War II. In January, 1952, Naval Operating Base Norfolk was renamed Naval Station Norfolk. Naval Air Station Norfolk assumed a major role in space travel and putting a man on the moon, in 1968. NAS Air Station became the Recovery Control Center Atlantic providing command, control and communications with all ships and military flights associated with the retrieval of Apollo 7 and it’s return from space.

Naval Air Station Norfolk conducts an average of 275 military flights per day, which is about one every six minutes. It’s home to 75 ships and 134 aircraft alongside 14 piers and 11 aircraft hangars. Naval Station Norfolk supports the readiness of the US Atlantic Fleet and also hosts personnel from the Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Coast Guard, and is also involved with numerous Joint missions.

Norfolk is home to more than 80,000 active duty personnel. NAS Norfolk has officer and enlisted family units, unaccompanied officer units and unaccompanied enlisted units for fleet forces. Temporary travel lodging facilities are also offered for Marines. NAS Norfolk has child care centers, a family service center, clinics, commissary, exchange, and several malls.

Army Base Fort Hood

The origins of Army Base Fort Hood when the Garrison Command created Camp Hood in 1942. The Garrison Command’s mission was to control the infrastructure that trains and enables the combat units on post. Eight years later, Camp Hood was renamed Fort Hood and established as a permanent military installation. Fort Hood is named after Confederate General John Bell Hood, Commander of the Texas Brigade. Fort Hood is located in Killeen, Texas.

The actual construction of Killeen’s Fort Hood Army base began in 1947. Numerous tunnels were dug through the interior hills of what is now West Fort Hood. Throughout the construction of tunnels around the 7,000 acre base, the true purpose of the tunnels were not revealed until years later. Each tunnel was 20 ft wide with a 30 ft ceilings. During this time, the Air Force began building facilities adjacent to Killeen’s Fort Hood Army base. Robert Gray Air Force Base was equipped with a 10,000 ft x 200 ft airfield was built to handle all classes of military flights, including the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress.

In December 1960, defense cutbacks led to less than 75 active duty military to run the entire airfield. A few years later, the airfield was turned over to the Army and renamed Gray Army Airfield. The 181st Assault Helicopter Company, the only assault helicopter company in the U.S. at the time, was also based out of Gray Army Airfield. The next time you’re searching for military flights to Killeen, you’ll notice that Robert Gray Army Field (GRK) is now Killeen-Fort Hood’s regional airport.

History would later reveal that Fort Hood was one of seven atomic weapons storage facilities during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Fort Hood Army base is one of today’s largest active duty armored post. Fort Hood’s Central Texas location provides the needed space for tanks and armored units. Fort Hood is home to two full divisions, 1st Cavalry Division and the 4th Infantry Division.

Fort Campbell

Fort Campbell is home to the only Air Assault Division in the world, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). The 106,700 acre army installation is shared between Kentucky and Tennessee. The base is located in southwestern Kentucky and north central Tennessee. It’s location is part of a unique strategy, empowering the large Army base to deploy mission-ready contingency forces by air, rail, highway and inland waterways. It’s quite possible this is the only occurrence Kentucky and Tennessee have ever shared anything.

The base was named in honor of the last Whig Governor of Tennessee, BG William Bowen Campbell. BG William Bowen Campbell was elected Colonel of the First Tennessee Volunteers, known as the “Bloody First.” Colonel Campbell bravely led his regiment in the storming of Monterey in 1846 with the cry, “Boys, Follow Me!”

Fort Campbell is the proud home to six major tent units: 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (ABN), Installation Management Command (IMCOM), 52nd Ordnance Group, U.S. Army Medical Command (MECOM) and Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM). Campbell Army Airfield is also the home of two U.S. Air Force tenant units, Detachment 4-18 Weather Squadron, and 19th Air Support Operation Squadron (ASOS). Fort Campbell’s parachute demonstration team “Screaming Eagles” was established in 1958 and performs more than 60 parachute demonstrations each year. The team has one Light Wheeled Mechanic, two Combat Medics, three Infantrymen, and one Parachute Rigger.

Along with Fort Campbell’s brave ground troops, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Night Stalkers) has also played a major role in numerous military operations around the world. In 1993, the Night Stalkers was involved the Battle of Mogadishu, which became a book and movie Black Hawk Down. Two Black Hawks were shot down in Somalia piloted by Cliff Wolcott and Mike Durant.