05B4 History



Naval Submarine Base New London is the Navy's first Submarine Base and the "Home of the Submarine Force."

Naval Submarine Base New London had its beginning as a naval yard and storage depot on April 11, 1868.

Envisioning the economic potential of a local military installation, the state of Connecticut and its southeastern cities and towns had donated land along the Thames River to the Navy for the establishment of a base. The citizens of New London were especially generous, as their City Council appropriated $10,000 to purchase the land that would be donated.

The first Commander of the Yard was retired Commodore Timothy A. Hunt, who was called back to service. Living in New Haven, Commodore Hunt used the Central Hotel on State Street, New London when in town to attend to Yard duties on an “as needed” basis. Despite being physically located in the Town of Groton, the name New London became associated with the Navy Yard.

The Navy Yard was first used for laying up inactive ships. The Congressional appropriations were small and the Navy had little need for the Yard, which was actually closed from 1898 to 1900 and the personnel reassigned.

In 1898, Congress approved a coaling station be built at the Yard for refueling small naval ships traveling through the waters of New England.

By 1912, oil replaced coal in warships and again the Yard was scheduled for closure and the land relinquished by the Navy.

The Navy Yard was spared permanent closure in 1912 by an impassioned plea from local Congressman Edwin W. Higgins of Norwich, who was worried about the loss of Federal spending in the region. Strangely, Higgins thought it was cheaper for the Navy to keep the Yard open than pay for its closure. Within in six years, the Federal government would spend over a million dollars at the Yard.


October 18, 1915, marked the arrival of the submarines G-1, G-2, and G-4 under the care of the tender USS Ozark. Submarines E-1, D-1 and D-3 with the tender USS Tonopah bolstered this small force. The first ship built as a submarine tender, the USS Fulton (AS-1), arrived on Nov 1, 1915.

On June 21, 1916, the Navy Yard changed forever as Commander Yeates Stirling assumed the command of the newly designated Submarine Base, the New London Submarine Flotilla, and the Submarine School.

Today, Naval Submarine Base New London, our Navy’s first submarine base, still proudly proclaims its motto: “The First and Finest.”

The Base property expanded during the latter part of World War I. Congress approved over a million dollars for Base real estate and facilities expansion. By the end of the war, 81 buildings had been built to support 1400 men and 20 submarines. With victory in hand, the land expansion of the Base was slowed through much of the 1920s. However, the Great Depression of the 1930s saw an expansion and enhancement of the physical plant of the Base.

President Franklin Roosevelt created a series of Federal Government employment programs that contributed significantly to the Submarine Base. Over 26 high quality warehouses, barracks and workshops were built at the base under these Federal job-spending programs.

The Submarine Escape Training Tank, long known as the “Dive Tower,” was a constructed during this period and became a prominent feature to the local landscape from 1930 to 1992. Generations of submariners practiced escaping from sunken submarines through the Dive Tower by ascending in a 100-foot column of water.

The second largest expansion of Submarine Base New London occurred during World War II when it grew from 112 acres to 497 acres. The Submarine Force leaped in size, and the Base accommodated thousands of men to service the growing combat fleet.

Immediately after WWII the Submarine Force was significantly reduced and many famous submarines were sent into storage. Most of the WWII fleet was sold for scrap metal during the early 1960s. The remainder were modified for better underwater capabilities and served until the early 1970s.

The arrival of nuclear power with the USS Nautilus (SSN-571), the world’s first nuclear powered vessel, and the USS George Washington (SSBN-598), the Navy’s first nuclear ballistic submarine, created changes at the Base.

Commissioned in 1954, and home ported at the Base, Nautilus became the first vessel to transit the North Pole during an historic trip across the Arctic in 1958. Retired from service in 1980, Nautilus became an historic exhibit at the Submarine Force Museum, adjacent to the Base, in 1985.

Technological changes contributed to a cycle of renewal and reconstruction of the various physical facilities that supported both submarine operations as well as the Submarine School. The Fleet Ballistic Missile program further expanded the Base.

The Base was the headquarters for Squadron 14 for many years, which represented the “two crew per boat” philosophy of the Fleet Ballistic Missile Program. Two crews would rotate on one submarine. In the early days, the limited range of missiles required long term forward positioning of the ballistic missile submarine and a supporting dry dock and tender. The Squadron 14 forward site  as Holy Loch, Scotland.

By the 1990s, advances in missile capability eliminated the need for these forward bases and Submarine Base New London became home to only “attack” submarines. 

Today, Naval Submarine Base New London stretches along the east side of the Thames River, straddling the communities of Groton and Ledyard. While Groton is often referred to as the “Submarine Capital of the World,” the Base proudly bears the title - “Home of the Submarine Force.” Almost every submariner in today’s Navy will be stationed here for training. A tour of duty in one of the fast-attack submarines home ported here or with a pre-commissioning crew for a new submarine under construction at General Dynamics Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton may follow.

Occupying more than 680 acres, with more than 160 major facilities and 15 nuclear submarines, Naval Submarine Base New London supports fleet readiness by providing quality service and facilities to our Fleet, Fighters, and Families. The Base mission is twofold: to homeport and put Submarines to sea; and to support the Submarine Center of Excellence that trains Sailors to take Submarines to sea.

Naval Submarine Base New London is also home to more than 70 tenant commands and activities including Commander Submarine Group Two; the Submarine Learning Center; Naval Submarine School; the Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory; and, the Naval Undersea Medical Institute

Naval Submarine Base New London is the Navy's first Submarine Base and the "Home of the Submarine Force."


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