History

Photo of Earle administrative building in 1943

Long before the opening hostilities of the Second World War, high-ranking officers of both the Army and the Navy realized it would eventually be necessary to establish a base for the loading of explosives somewhere in the Port of New York, focal point for all important rail lines of the Country.  By 1943 the need had become urgent.  The declaration of war had vastly increased shipments of explosives, the bulk of the loading falling upon Caven Point Army Depot in Jersey City NJ.  During both World Wars, Caven Point's proximity to key rail networks and the ports of New York and New Jersey made it invaluable for the marshalling of troops, munitions and materials heading for front lines in Europe.  However, because of its proximity to densely populated areas, and proximity to “military facilities,” Caven Point was considered an extreme hazard.  Studying the problem, the Army and the Navy reached the same conclusion:  the south side of Sandy Hook Bay was the ideal strategic location.  Though sights were initially set on Port Monmouth, due to costs, a coastal site in the Leonardo section of Middletown was selected, along with a large unimproved area of Monmouth County 12 miles to the south.   Connecting the two areas would be an almost direct rail and road corridor now called Normandy Road.  Collectively, the facility provided the desired proximity to commercial rail facilities, New York City, New York Harbor, and the open-ocean; yet was remote to dense populations, bridges, tunnels, and shipping channels.  Initially estimated to cost $25M, a reduced $14M plan was approved by the Secretary of the Navy and, on August 2, 1943, construction began on what was to be Naval Ammunition Depot Earle – named in honor of Rear Admiral Ralph Earle, the Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance during the First World War.  NAD Earle was commissioned on December 13, 1943, by which time the War and Navy Departments had collaborated to expand the project to include facilities for Army ammunition.   Substantially complete by June 1, 1944, the cost for NAD Earle ultimately totaled $51.8M.   Quickly the focal point for ordnance shipping, NAD Earle loaded the majority of ammunition used by the Allies for the invasion of Normandy, an achievement for which Normandy Road is so named.  Earle continued to develop after World War II, keeping pace with the changing needs of the Navy and DoD during the Cold War.  In 1974, Earle's name was officially changed to Naval Weapons Station Earle.  In subsequent years, Earle proved its strategic worth as the DoD transshipment site for ordnance used in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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