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Fitting-out crane, Philadelphia Navy Yard (click to enlarge)

return to World War 1, 1914-1918


Naval-History.Net is going beyond the ships, men and battles of World War 1 to explore the technology and organisation of the era. As part of this, and our work on the centenary of US entry into the War, Dr Graham Watson, retired from the History Department of Cardiff University, Wales, has prepared this summary of the original and fairly voluminous account of the activities of the US Bureau of Yards and Docks, 1917-1918. It goes some way to conveying the huge war production efforts of the United States in the short period between spring 1917 and the end of 1918.

Only a few of the circa 300 photographs and drawings are included, and unfortunately they are not of the best quality, but they do give an idea of the range of responsibilities of just one of the seven* Bureau of the Navy Department. The full report can be found by searching the internet with - archive bureau of docks and yards 1917-1918 pdf

*Nine including the Judge Advocate General and the USMC

Again, my thanks to Graham.

Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

Links to United States Navy in World War 1

- Rise to Global Parity, 1900-1922
- Fleets and Stations, early 1917
- World War 1 and Major Ship Lists in outline

Those Who Served
- Navy, Coast Guard & Marine Corps Casualties
- Medal of Honor, 1915-1918
- Officer Ranks and Enlisted Man's Rates

- Flag Officers, 1914-1918

Organisation and Technology

- Bureau of Yards & Docks, 1917-1918 (here)

- Development of Warship Armour

Contemporary Accounts
- Victory at Sea by R. Adm William Sims,
- On the Coast of France: US Naval Forces in French Waters
- US Marine Corps in the World War
- Chronology of US Marine Corps in the World War

- Royal Navy Log Books of the World War 1-era, includes references to USN ships escorting North Atlantic convoys, river gunboat operations in China etc

Official Account of its Activities

Published Washington DC 1921


Introduction p17
I. The Bureau of Yards and Docks p21
II. The Corps of Civil Engineers, United States Navy p33
III. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md. p37
IV. Naval Training Camps p41
V. Marine Corps Projects p93
VI. Emergency Hospital Construction p97
VII. General Development of Yards and Stations p120
VIII. Shipbuilding and Repair Facilities p155
IX. Shipyard and Industrial Plant Extensions p215
X. Dry Docks p237
XI. Power Plants p255
XII. Public Works at Ordnance Stations p279
XIII. Armor and Projectile Plants, Charleston, W.Va. p301
XIV. Storage Facilities p317
XV. Storage for Fuel Oil p359
XVI. Radio Stations p365
XVII. Submarine Bases p381
XVIII. Shore Facilities for Aviation p395
XIX. United States Helium Production Plant p437
XX. Activities of the Corps of Civil Engineers in the West Indies p449
XXI. Construction Division of the Bureau p455
XXII. Maintenance and Operating Divisions of the Bureau p463
XXIII. Emergency Office Building, Potomac Park, Washington p479
XXIV. Housing for the Navy p495

The book contains approximately 300 photographs, diagrams and plans: some of the latter of the pull-out type.

Note: CEC - Civil Engineer Corps



1. From the passage of the Naval Appropriations Act of April 4, 1911, the Bureau was responsible for the design and construction of all public works and public utilities for the United States Navy, regardless of the areas of responsibility of the other bureaux.

2. Before 1917, this work was confined to the United States, but was extended overseas thereafter.

3. During the war years the Bureau experienced a 'phenomenal' growth in material and personnel.

4. The history of the Bureau from 1898 showed that it had recognised the inadequate nature of the number and type of shore establishments required for a major war. In particular, the dry-docks were too small to accommodate the new ships. The Bureau had begun a programme to build four large graving docks and one floating dock. This program was not completed until the opening of the dock at Pearl Harbor in 1919. Other projects diverted funds - especially during the war years.

5. The value of the docks and other shore facilities was given as:

In 1897- $53m
In 1913- $191m
In 1916-1918 the value rose from $211m to $469m

An additional $70m funding was provided for investment in private shipyards and machinery manufacturers.



Executive personnel of the Bureau. The Chief, Rear-Admiral Parks at centre

Bureau personnnel

This chapter outlines the changes in the organisation of the bureau, and then provides information on the personnel employed in the bureau.


Before July 1st, 1916, the entire staff of the bureau consisted of:

Chief of the Bureau
Chief Clerk
small number of officers of the Corps of Civil Engineers
63 civilians including 4 female.

To meet the expected demands of war, the bureau was organised into six divisions, each of which dealt with a specific area of responsibility. They were:

Office of Assistant Chief
Division of Mechanical, Electrical and Routine Design
Division of Special Designs and Projects
Construction Division
Maintenance and Operations Division
Clerical Division

On March 23rd, 1917, the divisions were reduced to three:


Under whom there would be seven project managers. Their areas of responsibility were:

New Naval Bases and Development of Existing Bases.
Radio, Marine Corps, Fuel Oil, Medical Requirements, Routine Design, Dry Docks, Power Plants, Washington Yard, and Sub-surface surveys.
Shipbuilding Projects and Improvements, and Gun Shop, Washington.
Armor Plant and Projectiles Plant, Charleston WV.
Facilities for Aviation and Submarines, Patrol Bases.
Ordnance Facilities and Store Houses.
Naval Academy, Research and Development Laboratory, Design Division.

A final re-organisation took place In October 1917. Ten project managers were appointed. They covered the following areas:

Dry Docks
Armor and Projectile Plants
Naval Academy
Magazines and General Ordnance Facilities
Aviation and Submarine Bases
Shipbuilding and Yard Development
Marine Corps, Fuel Oil, Routine Design
Power Plants
Training Camps

Personnel Strength

Recruiting was made easier by permission to recruit personnel from the United States Naval Reserve. This produced 197 male and 121 female members of staff. Some 24 distinguished, well-qualified engineers could be - and were - recruited from civilian life; and staff were forbidden from enlisting in the combat units of the armed forces.

The growth of the bureau's personnel is illustrated thus:

Staff July 1st 1916 February 3rd 1917 November 11th 1918
Clerical 10 male/4 female 14 male/4 female 132 male/167 female
Technical* 43 male 95 male 334 male/3 female
Miscellaneous 6 male 7 male 31 male/27 female
Total 63 120 714
* Technical staff - mainly draughtsmen

The distribution of technical staff between the various areas of work on January 1st, 1919 was:

Armor & Projectiles 16
Shipbuilding 60
Magazines, Store Houses, General Ordnance, Aviation, Submarine Bases 73
Training camps 16
Marine Corps, Fuel, Radio & Routine 22
Hospitals 23
Dry Docks 5
Power Plants 27



A small number of civilian engineers were employed by the Navy Department before 1867. In that year, an establishment of 10 uniformed civil engineers was approved by Congress.

This total was increased to 18 in 1898, and then to 40 in 1903.

With war imminent, an act of August 23rd 1916, permitted to recruitment of civilians and reservists into the Corps. By November 11th, 1918, the total strength was:

74 regular officers
20 temporary officers [ex civilians]
100 reserve officers
for a total of 204.

Civil engineer officers were employed either at the Bureau in Washington, or at the various navy yards around the country.

Note: CEC - Civil Engineer Corps



Naval Academy, Annapolis Md

Bancroft Hall extension

The inadequate accommodation provided by Bancroft Hall [designed for 500 midshipmen but having to provide places for 1,200 was remedied. The construction of two new accommodation blocks was authorised on March 4th 1917 with contracts signed on July 13th.

The new blocks were completed in May and September 1918. They provided an extra 1,200 places, doubling the capacity to 2,400 at a cost of $3,925,000. A new classroom block for seamanship and navigation was completed at the same time for $1,000,000; as was a new power plant and distribution system.



Newport RI

Pelham Bay NY

Emergency barracks for recruits, Philadelphia, Pa

Interior, Wissahickon Barracks, Cape May, NJ

In the spring of 1917, the US Navy possessed 4 naval training stations with a total capacity of 6,000 trainees. This was recognised as insufficient for war-time expansion, and a major part of the Bureau's work to rectify this deficiency.

The four training stations were:

Great Lakes opened 1911 capacity=3,000 [received 28,000 in July 1918]
Newport, RI opened 1881 capacity=2,000
Yerba Buena, San Francisco opened 1889 capacity=500
St, Helena, Norfolk Navy Yard opened 1908 capacity=500

They had been established because of the greater need for technical training: a function which could not be performed by the existing training hulks.

The Bureau's wartime target was to provide an extra 40 training establishments with a winter capacity of 191,000 and a summer capacity of 205,000 [some camps were tented]. The original estimated cost was $1.5m but the actual expenditure was $75m. Up to 50,000 men were employed in the construction work.

Design work began immediately after the declaration of war, and contracts began to be signed in May 1917. Three existing sites were developed at great speed:

Hampton Roads 10,000 places 3 1/2 weeks.
Philadelphia Navy Yard 5,000 places 3 weeks.
Brooklyn Navy Yard 3,000 places 30 days.

Largely built of wood, most of the new camps were built with standard-designed buildings, and organised into pre-determined groups - administration; isolation [for new recruits]; main regimental; services; hospital; education and recreation.

The bulk of the chapter lists the major projects by Naval District, beginning with the 1st in New England, and ending with the 13th in Washington State.

1st Naval District, Boston
Receiving Ship Boston, Commonwealth Park, Boston - opened 4.17.
Training Camp Bumpkin Island - opened 5.17.
Training Camp, Hingham - opened 10.17.
Harvard Radio School - opened 4.17.
Fuel Oil School, Quincy - opened 6.18.
Prison Camp, Portsmouth NH - opened 4.18, enlarged by 12.18.

2nd Naval District, Newport, RI
Training Station, Newport RI [Coasters Harbor Island] - enlarged.
Coddington Point, Newport RI - not completed until 1920.
Cloyne Field, Newport RI opened 5.17.
also Submarine Base, New London, CT [see later chapter].

3rd Naval District, New York
Initially, trainees were dispersed amongst old ships in New York, and in temporary accommodation in New York City. This included tented accommodation at Tarrytown and Summerville, and the Bensonhouse hotel.
Pelham Bay Park capacity=5,000, opened 11.17, extended to 8,000 by 11.18.
4th Naval District, Philadelphia
Philadelphia Navy Yard - new camp began 5.17, places for 6,400 by 10.18.
Wissahickon, Cape May, NJ - places for 2,000 by 8.17, further extension planned but not completed.
Cooking School, Naval Home, Philadelphia - expanded during 1918.

5th Naval District, Norfolk, Va
Training Station Norfolk - increased to 7,679 placed but less important once next entry was completed.
Naval Operating Base, Hampton Roads - opened October 12, 1917 and expanded to 12,693 places by 11.18.
Ensigns' School, Annapolis - added to Naval Academy with places for 450 Naval Reserve officers.

6th Naval District, Charleston
Charleston Navy Yard - buildings added to Receiving Ship to provide 1,000 places by 6.17 and 4,000 by the end of hostilities.

7th Naval District, Miami
Key West, FL - lightly-built barracks for 1,000 opened by 6.17.

8th Naval District, New Orleans
New Orleans, LA - tented accommodation for 1,000 and more permanent spaces for 250 added later.

9th Naval District, Great Lakes
Great Lake Training Station [33 miles north of Chicago] - expanded by 10.18 to 1.200 acres with 775 buildings in 22 sub-groups. Accommodated 50,000 at a cost of $17,127.00.
Training Camp Detroit - opened 6.18 with crews of 'Eagle Boats', 200 officers and 1,000 enlisted men.

Note: from 1911, 9th/10th/11th Naval Districts covered the Great Lakes. San Diego was later designated the 11th and the 10th was discontinued.

11th Naval District, San Diego
Training Camp San Diego - mainly tented accommodation for 4.000 from 4.17.
Training Camp San Pedro - originally for 1,000 who were transferred to the submarine base, became tented accommodation for 2.400.

Note: San Diego was developed during WW1 and from 1917 was designated 12th Naval District [South].  In 1919 it became 11ND as San Diego was developed as main base for Pacific Fleet.

12th Naval District, San Francisco
Naval Training Station, San Francisco - expanded to 5,000 places.
Receiving Ship Mare Island - expanded from 600 to 5,600 places by 9.17.

13th Naval District, Seattle
Training Camp Puget Sound Navy Yard - expanded by 12.17 for 5,000.
Training Camp Seattle - planned 6.17, held 3,000 by 11.18.

The last nine pages of this chapter is made up of an account by Lt.Cmdr Bolles regarding the construction of the training camp at Coddington Point, Newport, RI.




Marine base, San Diego Ca

The provision of new facilities for the USMC began with three projects in Philadelphia:

Extension to the Quartermaster Storehouse - completed 9.17.
New barracks at Philadelphia Navy Yard for 400 marines - completed 11.17.
Advanced base storehouse - completed 12.17.

New barracks were built:

American Legation, Peking, China
Naval Station, Key West
Pearl Harbor [including quartermaster storehouse]

Major projects were:

Expeditionary Base, San Diego with full range of facilities for 1,700 marines at cost of $5m.
Marine Guard Barracks at Portsmouth NH  - for 545 marines, completed 11.118
Training Base at Quantico, Va - for 6.900 marines, completed 11.18
Training Base at Parris Island, SC - completed 3.18 for 3,000 marines, extended to 4,100 by 12.18



click here for an introduction to the influenza epidemic, the men who died, and hospitals which treated them

Ward buildings, Hampton Roads Hospital, Va

Ward interior, Hampton Roads, Va

Emergency buildings, Naval Hospital, Norfolk, Va

Prewar plans for a two 5,000 bed hospitals - one on the east coast, and the other on the west coast, were abandoned on the outbreak of war. A range of smaller emergency hospitals would be built instead.

By extending existing hospitals, and constructing temporary ones, 27 hospitals were operational by the end of the conflict. This program involved the construction of 500 new buildings [mostly of standard wood construction] to provide places for 17,000 patients. The cost was $21m with an additional $550,000 spent on medical supply depots. Dispensary facilities were created at all shore stations.

The hospitals were:

Portsmouth, NH 225 beds
Chelsea, Mass. 1,000
Newport, RI 312
New London, Conn. 150
Brooklyn, NY 750
Ward's Island, NY 800
Pelham Bay, NY 750
Grays' Ferry, Philadelphia 300
League Island, Philadlephia 775
Cape May, NJ 200
Washington DC 300
Quantico, Va 300
Annapolis, Md 100
Norfolk, Va 1,275
Hampton Roads, Va 750
Charleston, SC 715
Parris Island, SC 185
Pensacola, Fl 200
Key West, Fl 150
Gulfport, Miss 150
New Orleans, La 200
Great Lakes, Ill 1,500
Fort Lyon, Colo figures not provided
Mare Island, Cal 550
San Diego, Cal 500
Puget Sound, Wa 100
Pearl Harbor figures not given

The construction of 3 other hospitals was cancelled:

Halifax, NS, Canada
Hingham, Mass
Yorktown, Va

With the despatch of 200 portable buildings and local construction, the following hospitals were provided overseas.

United States Naval Base Hospitals

No.1, Brest, France
No.2, Strathpeffer, Scotland
No.3, Leith, Scotland
No.4, Queenstown, Ireland [completed Nov.15, 1918 for 500 patients]
No.5, Brest, France

United States Naval Hospitals:

L'Orient, France
Pauillac, France
London, England
Cardiff, Wales
Plymouth, England
Genoa, Italy
Corfu, Greece

All of these hospitals were closed 1919/20.

This chapter provides many plans and photographs of the above hospitals.



Philadelphia Navy Yard, general view from radio tower

Structural shop and shipbuilding slips, Philadelphia Navy Yard

Merchandise pier, Hampton Roads, Va

On May 2, 1916, the Navy Secretary set up the Board for the Development of Navy Yard Plans. This was in response to the very large 1916 new construction plans. The board developed a Type Plan to be applied to each navy yard. Plans were approved for:

Norfolk Navy Yard [February 5th, 1917]
Philadelphia Navy Yard [May 1st, 1917]
Puget Sound Navy Yard [May 25th, 1917]
new Naval Operating Base, Hampton Roads [July 1917].

The main proposals for each navy yard were:

Naval Operating Base, Hampton Roads
Construction of a complete new base which would include aviation, submarine, and fleet supply facilities.
Purchase of 474 acres at Sewell's Point.
Construction of barracks for 7,500.
After dredging and coffer dams - the construction of a waterfront which included six piers, each 1,400 feet long - to accommodate battleships; and a submarine base
This major work continued after the end of hostilities to create the main base for the postwar Atlantic Fleet.

Norfolk Navy Yard
New 1,000 foot dock.
New shipbuilding slips and industrial plant.

Philadelphia Navy Yard
Many general improvements.

New York Navy Yard
Extra shipbuilding facilities on a restricted site.

Puget Sound Navy Yard
Purchase of land for future development under plans drawn up in 1916

Mare Island Navy Yard
More shipbuilding facilities.
A causeway linking the yard with Vallejo.

Portsmouth Navy Yard
Minor improvements.

Naval Air Station, Pensacola
Improvements to berthing and quays.

Great Lakes Naval Training Station
A breakwater and improved quays.

Planning for a proposed naval base at San Francisco,

General improvements to moorings-especially on the west coast for the Pacific Fleet.



New York Naval Yard

Structural ship, Navy Yard

Interior, structural shop, Navy Yard

Double shipbuilding slips

Philadelphia Navy Yard

Power plant and coal handling plant

Power plant generating room

Shipbuilding slips 2 and 3

Fitting out crane
The detailed account of how the shipbuilding and repair facilities were modernised are detailed in this chapter.

As a result of the 1916 ship building program, the previous capacity for the construction of battleships which was limited to two navy yards and a few private firms needed to be increased.

The Naval Appropriations Act of August 29, 1916 authorised the expenditure of $6m for the improvement of the yards designated as suitable for the construction of large warships. They were Norfolk, Philadelphia, Boston and Puget Sound. Further funds were authorised as the work developed - $12m on March 4th, 1917; $1,75m on March 28th 1918; $10m in July 1918. The total expenditure by 1920 was $43,549.000.

The main proposals were:

Portsmouth Navy Yard: four additional submarine slips.
Boston Navy Yard; continued construction of auxiliaries.
New York Navy Yard; one additional slip for battleship construction.
Philadelphia Navy Yard: slips for construction of two battleships.
Norfolk Navy Yard: slip for construction of one battleship.
Charleston Navy Yard: three additional destroyer slips.
Puget Sound Navy Yard: one battleship construction dock.
Mare Island Navy Yard: expansion of existing slip to construct one battleship

Most of these projects were not finished until after 11.18.

Puget Sound Navy Yard, Wash

Shipbuilding dock, caisson

USS Pyro building in dock

A diagram on pages 160-161 illustrates the resulting increase in building capacity.

Navy Yard  Capacity 1914 Capacity 1920 New facilities
2 submarines [250ft] 6 submarines 2 double slips [340ft]
1 auxiliary
1 slip [450 ft]
New York
1 battleship [700ft]
2 battleships
1 new slip [700 ft]
1 rebuilt slip [700 ft]
2 battlecruisers
1 auxiliary
2 minesweepers
2 slips [900 ft]
1 slip [500 ft]
2 slips [200 ft]
1 battleship
1 destroyer
1 slip [700 ft]
1 slip [430 ft]
1 destroyer [300 ft]
4 destroyers
3 slips [300 & 385 ft]
Puget Sound
1 battleship or 2 auxiliaries
1 submarine
2 minesweepers
1 building dock [915ft]
1 slip [280ft]
1 double slip [200ft]
Mare Island
1 auxiliary [550ft]
1 battleship
3 destroyers
1 extended slip [700 ft]
1 slip & 1 double slip
[325/336 ft]

  Charleston Navy Yard, SC

Marine railway, cradle ashore

Cradle submerged

The principal areas of work were:

Structural shops
Pattern shops and storage areas
Machine shops
Galvanising plants
Oxygen-hydrogen-acetylene generating plants
Boat shop

and improvements to the gun shop at Washington Navy Yard

Launching ways improvements
Crane runways and overhead cranes
New ways at Philadelphia
New ways at Norfolk
New ways at New York
Shipbuilding dock at Puget Sound
New ways at Mare Island
Submarine ways at Portsmouth
Destroyer ways at Charleston and Mare Island
Minesweeper ways at Phildalphia and Puget Sound

Fitting out piers and cranes:
1,000ft x 100ft with water depth of 40 ft
at Phildelphia
at Norfolk
350 ton crane at Philadelphia
Auxiliary fitting out cranes at Puget Sound

Waterfront facilities:
Tracks, streets, sewers
Extensive dredging and rebuilt quays
Floating cranes
Special locomotive cranes at New York [1], Philadelphia [2], Norfolk [1], Pearl Harbor [1]
Marine railways to winch small vessels [up to destroyers] ashore for maintenance at Pearl Harbor, San Diego, Boston. Key West, Cape May, Guantanamo, Washington, Newport, Great Lakes, and Cavite.

This chapter has many photos, charts and pull-out plans

Norfolk Navy Yard, Va


50 ton locomotive crane, dry dock No.4

150 ton floating crane

Launching of two destroyers* from battleship slip
*Nos 342, Hulbert and 343, Noa 28 June 1919



Squantum destroyer slips, Quincy, Mass

interior view of wet slip
Navy extension, Camden shipyard, NJ

In addition to modernisation of the navy yards, the Bureau provided funding for the extension and modernisation of the shipbuilding facilities of commercial enterprises, most of whom had built warships for the US Navy prior to 1917. This effort was encouraged by the need to produce large numbers of destroyers, submarines and small craft.

A total of 45 projects were authorised at a cost of $71m. These projects came in one of three different financial and legal categories:

Special Projects 'A' improvements became property of the private company.
Plant extensions - government built which returned to the government at the end of contract.
Special Projects 'B' improvements which reverted to government control after the end of the war.

On page 217, there is a table which lists all 45 projects in terms of timing of funds, total funds, and main area of expenditure. Of these:

34 were for the construction of destroyers, scout cruisers, submarines and small craft.
2 were for the creation of storage for coal at naval bases
1 was for aircraft propellers
8 were for shafts and ordnance material

The largest contracts were:

$14m for the creation of a new shipyard for Bethlehem Steel at Squantum, Quincy, Mass. which became operational in January 1918. 35 destroyers were built by 1921.
$9m for an extension at Newport News, Va, with 3 slipways for battleships, 2 for battlecruisers, and 8 for destroyers. To this was added three new dry docks of 600/800/525 ft lengths This allowed contracts to be signed for 31 destroyers, 2 battlecruisers, 2 battleships, 8 tankers and 4 troopships
$8m for the Erie Forge plant, Erie, Pa, which made shafts and gun fittings

Another well-known contract was to the Ford Motor Company in Detroit, for $5.5m, to build a plant to deliver 100 'Eagle Boats' - patrol boats - of which 60 had been completed by 11.18.

Other major contracts which are described in detail are:

$4m to the New York Shipbuilding Company, Camden, NJ for 10 single and 11 double slipways to fulfill contracts for 30 destroyers, 2 battleships and 1 battlecruiser.
To Bethlehem Steel, San Francisco, for the extension of yards at Risdon and Potrero, and the construction of a new yard at Alameda. This was for contracts to build 66 destroyers, 12 'S' class submarines, 6 'R' class submarines, and 2 scout cruisers.
Allied to this wasthe development of two dry docks at Hunters Point at San Francisco for naval use.
To Bethlehem Steel, Fore River, Mass. with 20 new slips, including 4 for destroyers, 10 for submarines, 1 for a battleship, and 5 others. This allowed contracts to be signed for 32 destroyers and 20 submarines.

Non-shipyard contracts discussed in detail are:

To Wellman, Seaver, Morgan of Akron, Ohio for components of destroyers.
To railroad companies for coal storage at Sewell's Point, Va. and Newport News,Va.

As with the previous chapter, there are extensive illustrations, and plans to accompany the narrative.



No.4 Norfolk, Va. USS Wisconsin first to dock

Norfolk Docks*,

No 1 Dry Dock, Pearl Harbor
*L to R - No.3 USS Jupiter, No.6 SS Dio, No.7 SS Eastern Victor, No.4 USS Mount Vernon

These were the most expensive single item in the range of facilities needed to support the fleet. In 1916, the United States Navy had an inventory of 21 dry docks. Only three were of a size suitable for battleships - one of 800 ft, and two of 740 ft. The rest were small and old with the smallest only 324 ft. long.

The construction of the Balboa Dock for the Panama Canal increased confidence in tackling the engineering problems associated with the construction of large docks.

Through a combination of new construction, purchase, and rental, the Navy Department acquired five large dry docks by 1921. Two smaller docks were acquired in the same time period.

The new dry docks were:

Dry Dock No. 4, Norfolk Navy Yard:
Contracted signed November 6, 1916
Completed April 1, 1919.
Dimensions 1,011 ft. long; 144 ft. wide, depth of water 40 ft.
Steel caisson built at Philadelphia Navy Yard
Cost $5m

Dry Docks Nos, 6 & 7, Norfolk Navy Yard
Two docks built by the Emergency Fleet Corporation which were made available for naval use
Both 471 ft. long

Dry Dock No 3, Philadelphia Navy Yard
Duplicate of No. 4 Dock at Norfolk
Encountered many obstacles because of soil and tides whilst under construction
Not completed before 1921
Cost $6.3m

Dry Dock No1, Pearl Harbor
Because of problems with the site, the dock was built in 15 steel sections, which were launched and towed into place between June 1915 and January 1918.
The caisson was fitted March 25, 1919 and the dock opened August 25, 1919
1000 ft. length
Cost $5,064,000

South Boston Dry Dock
Construction began by Commonwealth of Massachusetts government. Purchase authorised October 7th, 1918
1,176 ft long; 149 ft wide, and water depth of 43 ft

Dry Dock, Hunters Point, San Francisco
Built for commercial shipping. Navy Department entered into rental contract February 24, 1916, construction began soon thereafter, and first naval use was October 14, 1918
1,005 ft long; 153 ft wide.

This chapter contains much detailed information on the technical issues of dry dock construction.



Boiler plant, Hampton Roads, Va

Power plant, Naval Torpedo Station, Newport RI

Boiler installation, Navy Yard, Mare Is, Calif

750kw turbo-generator, Naval Academy

The three areas of Bureau activity were the design and erection of new power plants, extensions to existing plants, and installation of the distribution systems.

Contracts for 140 power plant projects were signed between April 6th, 1917 and November 11th 1918. The shortage of technical staff at the Bureau meant that most projects were partnerships between government and private firm.

The two largest projects were the construction of new power plants for Norfolk Navy Yard and Philadelphia Navy Yard. The two coal-fired plants were identical in design but the Philadelphia plant was completed ahead of that at Norfolk. The work involved the construction and installation of boilers, turbines, and generators, as well as the supporting distribution systems.

Other Navy yards received modifications and extensions to their existing plant. The most extensive worked was required at Charleston Navy Yard. Other yards were substantive work took place were:

New York Navy Yard, Boston Navy Yard, Mare Island Navy Yard, Puget Sound Navy Yard, and at Pearl Harbor.

An urgent installation program was required to provide power plants for the new naval training camps. The most important were-Newport RI, Pelham Park NY, Hampstead Roads Va.

Other major extensions took place at Torpedo Station Newport RI, Submarine Base New London Ct, Naval Aircraft Factory Philadelphia, Naval Academy Annapolis, New Orleans, and at the Indianhead Proving Ground in Maryland.

As with earlier chapters, a considerable amount of technical detail can be found in this chapter.



Typical torpedo racks and crane

Torpedo assembly plant, Alexandria, Va

Blending tower, Naval Proving Ground and Smokeless Powder Factory, Indianhead, Md

Work was done at the request of the Bureau of Ordnance and involved not only the provision of manufacturing facilities but housing and other domestic needs as many stations were in remote areas.

Ammunition Depots

The following major ammunition depots required and were provided with new facilities:

Hingham, Mass
Iona Island, NY
Fort Mifflin, PA
St. Juliens Creek, VA
Puget Sound, WA
Mare Island, CA
Kuahua, Hawaii

with more work at minor depots at New London CT, Fort Lafayette NY, Lake Denmark NJ, Charleston SC, Olongapo, PI and Cavite PI.

The success and speed of this work was assisted by the use of standardised designs for buildings.

Torpedo Stations

The principal torpedo station at Newport RI received extra facilities, especially on the Goat Island site.

The Pacific torpedo station at Keyport, WA, received some extra facilities and improvements.

In 1918, approval was given for the construction of a torpedo assembly plant on the Potomac river at Alexandria VA. It was completed later in 1918 at a cost of $1.3m.

Standard torpedo storehouses were installed at the major naval yards and stations.

Mine Depots

In January 1917 a contract was awarded for a mine-filling plant at St Juliens Creek, VA. It became operational in March 1918, and shipped 73,000 mines for the North Sea Mine Barrage without mishap.

Approval was given in 1918 for the construction of a large Mine Depot on an 11,000 acre site at Yorktown VA. Construction was underway by the end of hostilities. The depot was completed at a cost of $2.7m

Naval Proving Ground and Smokeless Powder Factory, Indianhead, MD

The capacity of the smokeless powder factory was doubled. Work including housing for the staff, a fresh water supply, and a railroad connection to the network.

Naval Gun Factory and Navy Yard, Washington DC

$7m was spent on updating and extending existing facilities in a geographically limited site.

The factory was able to continue its supply of guns to meet the fleet' s requirements throughout the conflict.



see Development of Warship Armour

Projectile plant, West Virginia

In August 1916, the decision was taken to build a plant for the manufacture of armor for the battleships being authorised. Existing private plants did not possess the capacity to produce armor in the quantities anticipated. The project was slowed down at the outbreak of war but resumed in mid 1918.

The first task was to find a location for the plant. After surveying 200 sites, that at Charleston WV was selected. As the existing plants at Pittsburgh, Midvale, and South Bethlehem were of different designs, none could be used as a model for the new plant. Design work had to begin from scratch.

After the outbreak of war, the government realised that the capacity to manufacture guns was insufficient to meet demands, and so, a new gun-making plant would be built alongside the armor plant. The basic gun would be manufactured at Charleston but finished off at the Washington Navy Yard.

There is much technical detail in this chapter about the design of furnaces, machine shops, and on the storage of materials. Also discussion of the financial arrangements for the construction of the plant.

Active construction of the armor plant began in July 1917 but the work was impeded by the geography of the site, by the lack of local labor, and by the lack of housing for imported labor.

The problem of building a power plant was solved after the armistice. The US Army had no further need for the power plant at Nitro and it was transferred to the US Navy. Extra transmission lines connected the power plant with the armor/projectile plants.

The gun manufacturing plant/projectile plant was constructed between August 1917 and May 1918, and was manufacturing 4 inch and 6 inch guns by the armistice.

The armor plant was ready at the time of the book's publication in 1921, to begin manufacture of armor for the new battleships.



General storehouse, Navy Yard, Boston, Mass

Hulette coal unloader, Constable Hook, NJ

Mead-Morrison unloader, also Constable Hook

Before April 917 the Navy Department had recognised that the demand for storage facilities had outrun supply. The Bureau responded by preparing type plans for each type of storage facility.

These covered a variety of different types for structures.

1. General Storehouses.

Large reinforced concrete buildings were needed at all the main navy yards and stations, and were provided at [in order of need] New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Mare Island, Puget Sound, New London, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Pearl Harbor, Washington from 1917.

2. Fleet Supply Bases.

Two fleet supply bases were to be built - at Hampton Roads and New York. Both required a wide variety of storage facilities. As space was limited at New York Navy Yard, the fleet supply base was built on a new site in South Brooklyn.

3. Temporary Stores

$5.7m was appropriated in 1917 for the provision of timber storage buildings at Norfolk, Philadelphia, New York and Hampton Roads.

A total of $30m was spent on 30 permanent and over 100 temporary facilities. A table on pp 327-328 lists the locations of 26 of the former [the other 4?]. They were at:

Boston 2
New London 1
New York 1
Brooklyn 5
Philadelphia 5
Washington 1
Hampton 5
Charleston 1
Mare Island 2
Puget Sound 1
Annapolis 1
Pearl Harbor 1

This chapter does not cover storage for ordnance, ammunition, fuel [except emergency stores], oil fuel, and medical supplies. It does provide many plans and photographs of the whole range of buildings.

It also provides information on more specialist storage facilities:

Boat stores, at Philadelphia and Mare Island
Airplane stores, at Philadelphia, Brooklyn and Hampton Roads
Metal store, at Boston
Lumber stores
Freight sheds and piers - including the $12m facility at South Brooklyn
Emergency coal stores, at Constable Hook NJ, Boston and Charleston
Bunkering plants, at Hampton Roads, Newport News and Hoboken.



Prior to the war, the General Board had expressed concern about an adequate strategic reserve of fuel oil. As a result a program to expand or development new facilities was begun. This program continued during the war years but was not given a high priority. Storage areas which contained large concrete storage tanks were built at:

1. Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, capacity 6 million gallons
2. Melville, RI, capacity 5 million gallons
3. Puget Sound, capacity 9.8 million gallons
4. San Diego, capacity 2.1 million gallons

The largest and newest project was at:

Yorktown, VA, capacity 30 million gallons
Some use was made of steel tanks as well as the main requirement for concrete.

The most immediate concern of the Bureau was to respond to a request from Admiral Sims in London to provide oil storage facilities in France. This was accomplished by the transfer of materials and equipment from the United States.

3 large 7,000 ton steel tanks were dismantled at Norfolk, taken in sections to Philadelphia, and from there, shipped to Brest. They were re-erected and formed the main fuel storage facility for US warships based in France.

9 new 3,000 ton steel tanks were built in sections and shipped to add capacity to French storage units at Furt, La Pallice and L'Orient.

In addition to the tanks, pumps and piping were shipped to France.

This chapter contains a lengthy personal memoir of the construction period at Brest by Lt. C. P. Conrad, Corps of Civil Engineers.



One of the eight 820ft radio masts erected near Bordeaux, France
(panel points indicated on right - no enlargement)

The design, testing and operation of radio stations was the responsibility of the Bureau of Engineering. The Bureau of Yards and Docks provided the supporting infrastructure - self-supporting towers, masts, operating buildings, power houses, quarters, barracks, water and sewerage, lighting and fencing.

Three new high-powered radio stations were commissioned in the spring of 1917:

San Diego, Cavite, and Pearl Harbor.
Each with three 600 foot towers.

Two more were constructed in the USA during the war:

Cayey, Porto Rico - again with three 600 foot towers.
Greenbury Point, Annapolis - which became the second most powerful transmitter in the USA after that at New Brunswick, NJ.

A major project was the construction of a radio station at Croix D'Hins, near Bordeaux in France to handle all transatlantic communications (image above).

A lengthy memoir with diagrams and photographs is found at the end of this chapter, written by Commander F C Cooke, CEC.

Smaller projects included:

Two 200 foot masts at Philadelphia Navy Yard
One 300 foot mast at Charleston Navy Yard
Two 200 foot masts at St. Thomas, Virgin Islands
Masts of unknown height at Port au Prince, Haiti, and Bar Harbor, Maine.
The conversion of a light house to radio station on Navassa Island in the West Indies

In addition, the bureau supplied twenty 200 foot and four 300 foot masts to the Cuban government.



Submarine base, New London, Conn - plan below

Before June 1915, very little consideration was given to the special berthing and support needs of submarines. In that month, a plan was drawn up for the creation of a number of self-supporting submarine bases. Working on the basis that the main tactical organisation of submarines would be a squadron of ten boats, the blueprint was for the construction of two piers about 250 ft apart with room for this number of submarines, and the squadron's tender. There would be a full range of supporting facilities for the maintenance and repair of the boats. In addition, proper accommodation would be provided for 80 officers and 600 enlisted men.

In practice, this standard plan was modified because of the particular characteristics of each site.

The first project was at Pearl Harbor. The plan was approved on May 18th, 1916. The site chosen, in March 1917, was at Quarry Point. More piers would be built but further apart from each other. The bureau's history does not indicate the extent to which this base was completed by the end of 1918.

The current submarine base at New London was to enlarged. The work was authorised in March 1917 and a budget of $1.25m was allocated. Eight finger piers [each 275ft x 20ft] were constructed. New barracks were built to accommodate 500 each. The former marine barracks was enlarged to provide for a further 750 personnel.

An entirely new submarine base was constructed at Coco Solo, in the Panama Canal Zone. Construction was authorised on May 25th 1917 with a budget of $741,025. With four piers, repair and maintenance facilities were provided for up to 20 submarines. An air station was constructed alongside the submarine base [see next chapter].

At Philadelphia Navy Yard, Pier D in the Back Basin was modified for submarine use.

A plan for new bases on the west coast was finalised in January 1917 with sites selected at Ediz Hook, WA, Tongue Point, OR; and San Pedro, CA. The only site where work began was at Tongue Point, and that was not until 1920.

In late 1917, an L-shaped pier was constructed at Mare Island for submarine support.

A submarine base was included in the plans for the new fleet base at Hampton Roads. Situated in the far north-eastern corner of the site, the base would consist of an enclosed basin [1,100 x 1,200 ft], a pier [1,200 x 120 ft], and ten finger piers [330 x 18 ft]. This base could support a maximum of 31 boats.

Consideration was given to the construction of a base at Key West, but no work was done by the time of the armistice.



Naval Air Station, Hampton Roads, Va

  US Naval Air Stations in Europe

Dirigible hangar, Cape May, NJ

Before 1917 little thought was paid to the use of land bases for naval aircraft. The first land base was established at Pensacola, Fl. in 1914. This followed the use of temporary camps at Annapolis and Guantanamo Bay in 1913. By 1917, Pensacola had three seaplane hangers, and dirigible shed.]

The first task of the bureau was to construct a series of patrol stations as bases for coastal patrol aircraft. As a result of investment in eight airship hangers, the following patrol stations were established during the course of 1917:

Montauk, Bay Shore, and Rockaway Beach on Long Island NY by the autumn of 1917.
Cape May NJ, was authorised August 16, 1917.
Key West, Fl., Chatham, Cape Cod, and Hampton Roads followed late that month.
Coco Solo, Panama Canal Zone, and San Diego by late 1917.

Nine flying training stations were created during the war years. They were:

Hampton Roads
Santa Rosa, Fl.
Charleston SC
Great Lakes, Ill.
Dunwoody Institute, Minneapolis
San Diego
Cambridge, Ma.

Ten 'Rest Stations' were established. These would provide basic refuelling facilities for patrol aircaft. They were at:

Waretown, NJ
Assateague, Va
Beaufort, NC
Charleston, SC
Roanoke Island, NC
St. Augustine, Fl.
Tampa, Fl.
Indian Pass, Fl.
Isla Morada, Fl.

Four permanent naval air stations were constructed:

Marine Flying Field, Quantico, Va
Marine Flying Field, Parris Island, SC
Naval Air Station, Yorktown, Va
Naval Air Station, Galveston, Tx

A fifth station was begun at Brunswick, Me. but construction was abandoned after the armistice.

Major developments took place at the Naval Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia.

Almost all the above were closed 1919-1920, and aviation facilities were reduced to two permanent stations:

Pensacola, Fl. with 11 large and 8 small hangers.
San Diego, Ca, hangers for 20 seaplanes, 1 airship, and 2 kite balloons.

A major part of the Bureau's work was the construction of air bases in Europe for use by the United States Navy. Up to March 1918, 6 were established in Ireland, 1 in England, and 18 in France. By the end of the war, a further 1 in England, 6 in France, 2 in Italy, and 1 in Tunisia were either completed or planned.

A table on pages 419-420 gives full details, and a map is provided on page 421.

The locations of air stations in Europe, and the function of each is listed below (* second wave):

Lough Foyle seaplane
Lough Swilly kite balloon
Whiddy Island seaplane
Berehaven kite balloon
Queenstown repair base and seaplane
Wexford seaplane

Killingholme seaplane
Eastleigh * assembly and repair

Dunkerque seaplane
Treguiler seaplane
L'Abervrach seaplane
Brest seaplane
Brest kite balloon
Guipavre dirigible
Ile Tudy seaplane
La Trinite kite ballooon
La Croisie seaplane
Palmbouef dirigible
Fromentina seaplane
La Pallice kite balloon
Rochefort dirigible
Saint Trojan seaplane
Pauillac repairs
Gujon dirigible
Areachou seaplane
Moutchic seaplane school
Autingues * HQ northern bombing wing
Campagne * seaplane
Day Wing* HQ
Le Frene* seaplane
Oye* seaplane
St. Inglevert* seaplane

Lake Bolsena seaplane
Pescara seaplane
Porto Corsini seaplane

Bizerte proposed mine base

All of the above were relinquished/abandoned after the armistice.



Helium plant, Fort Worth

Interior, compressor building

The United States government responded to a request from Britain to develop a source of helium required for balloons. This could be accomplished by the construction of a plant which would extract helium from natural gas. A survey by the Bureau of Mines, led to the choice of a site in Texas known as the Petrolia [Texas] field.

Three experimental plants were established from which the process developed by Linde Air Productions was chosen. The Bureau of Engineering designed the plant, and the Bureau of Yards and Docks constructed the plant on the northern outskirts of Fort Worth. Various types of specialised buildings and structures were built for tasks such as compression, separation, as well as boilers
Much detail is given on the process of extraction at this point in the chapter.

The new plant required the construction of a pipeline to carry the gas from the wells to the plant. The pipeline was over 100 miles long. Details are provided on pressure and capacity at this point in the account.

The plant was connected to the electricity grid operated by Forth Worth Power and Lighting Co.

The construction cost was $3.5m and it was capable of producing 40,000 cubic feet of helium per day.



This chapter outlines activities which had no relation to the war effort. As a result of treaty obligations to Santo Domingo and Haiti, and to the new responsibility for the former Danish Virgin Islands, CEC officers were sent out to supervise a wide range of infrastructure projects in these three locations.

In Santo Domingo, 2 CEC officers supervised a wide range of work including two main highways, railroads, bridges, water and sewerage facilities, the telephone network, schools, and harbor improvements.

In Haiti. 8 CEC officers were employed on a similar wide range of tasks which included roads, public buildings, water supply, harbors and railroads.

When the United States took over the administration of the Virgin Islands in February 1917, one CEC officer was tasked with a range of minor infrastructure projects. Given the scale of the task, progress was slow.



The main function of this division was to assess bids for work, and award contracts for that work. Between April 6th 1917 and November 11th 1918, the division directly awarded 841 project contracts, and approved 439 others which had originated locally in navy yards and elsewhere.

A total of 1,016 contracts were awarded with a total expenditure of $120m. The award of a large number of other contracts were abandoned at the end of hostilities.

This chapter offers a detailed account of how the financial aspects of contracts were assessed and negotiated. The process was flexible and changed during the months of the war. The division indicated the priority to be given to each contract. It developed an Information and Plans Section to oversee the progress of contracts; and employed a large number of locally enrolled inspectors to report on the progress of work.



25 ton locomotive crane for twin minesweeper construction, Philadelphia, Pa

Typical yard locomotive and dump-cars

Yard truck and semi-trailer for boat haulage

This division was created on March 26th, 1917. It had a wide range of functions: some of which are described in detail. They were:

1. Financial accounts and records
2. Annual estimates
3. Navy Yard Personnel [Clerical & Technical]
4. Requisitions
5. Furniture records
6. Officers' Quarters
7. Navy Yard Transportation Facilities
8. Navy Yard Communications Systems
9. Public Works Date Book [Confidential]
10. Book of Yard Maps [Confidential]
11. List of Stations [Confidential]
12. Accounting systems at Navy Yards and job orders



Navy Building, Washington DC (no enlargement)

The inadequate size of the State, War and Navy Building was recognised before the war, but no action was taken until America's entry into the conflict. By July 1, 1917, the Navy Department occupied nine different buildings in various parts of the city. As the same problem affected the War Department, this department proposed the construction of a new building to house it, and some parts of the Navy Department. The Navy Department did not care for this arrangement, and proposed a separate building to house it on the one location. Ultimately, two separate buildings were built on the plot in Potomac Park - one to be named the Navy Building, and the other, the Munitions Building.

The building was authorised on March 25th , 1918 - a month after the Bureau signed the contract.

The cost would be $5,775,000. Contractors employed 3,400 men in the construction of reinforced concrete building which was completed on October 1st, 1918. The Navy Building had 940,000 square feet of office space, and the Munitions Building had 840,000 square feet.

Much of this chapter is devoted to details of the design, and of the construction process.



The outbreak of war, and the movement of workers to the many projects, created a severe shortage of housing in Washington DC and across the nation. On July 8th, 1918, President Wilson allocated $100m to provide a solution to the problem. The United States Housing Corporation was established. The Bureau worked closely with it to provide housing in and around naval bases and navy yards. Many of the housing projects were small scale.

This chapter illustrates the nature and extent of the work by lengthy accounts of the work undertaken at a number of locations:

Bridgeport, CT. Houses for 889 families at a cost of $6m.

Hampton Roads, VA - 20,000 workers were employed on the site of the new operating base by January 1918. The housing requirement was set at 26,000 men at a cost of $10m. Three sites were chosen - Greenwood [which was abandoned 11.18]; Truxton [for 'colored' workers]; and Cradock [for white workers]. This chapter devotes a considerable amount of time to the work at Cradock where 198 detached and 26 semi-detached properties were built. It does not say anything about Truxton.

Philadelphia PA - with 15,000 workers the bureau provided 650 houses

Quincy, MA - with 16,000 works, a total of 424 family houses, and 21 dormitories were built.

Vallejo, CA - 110 acres were developed for 95 houses, and 30 'flats' together with 10 dormitories.

Bremerton - a memoir by one of the project managers is provided.

Most of these properties were sold to private purchasers immediately after the war.

On that note the book comes to an end.

Graham Watson

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revised 20/1/16