When Commodore Perry arrived in Japan in 1853 and an "Open Door" policy of trade with other countries was instituted, Yokosuka was a quaint, native fishing village. In 1860, Lord Oguri, Minister of Finance to the Tokugawa Shogunate Government, decided that "If Japan is to assume an active role in world trade, she must have proper facilities to build and maintain large seagoing vessels." He called upon the French Consul General, Leon Roches, and asked for the assistance of the French government to build a shipyard capable of handling large ships. After the inspection of several sites it was discovered that Yokosuka topographically, if on a smaller scale, resembled the port of Toulon, France. It was decided to establish the shipyard here. It would be called the "Yokosuka Iron Works." In 1871, the name was changed to the "Yokosuka Navy Yard."
During World War II, activities at the Yokosuka Navy Yard reached their peak. By 1944, the Yard covered 280 acres and employed over 40,000 workers. In addition to the shipbuilding plant, the yard also had a gun factory, ordnance and supply depots, a fuel storage facility, a seaplane base and a naval air station.
On August 30, 1945, Vice Admiral Totsuka, Commander of the Yokosuka Naval Base, surrendered his command to the Allies and the Base was peacefully occupied by U.S. Marines of the 6th Marine Division, British Marines and U.S. Naval personnel. War equipment was disposed of and the buildings once housing this equipment were converted into schools and churches for the Japanese people. Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka (COMFLEACT) was created shortly after the occupation in 1945. As the Base became organized, the shipyard was deactivated and much of the equipment was sent to other countries as part of reparations. The repair ship USS PIEDMONT took charge of ship repair and maintenance, the hospital became a Naval Dispensary, and the Supply Department was organized with the mission to provide full support to the U.S. Fleet and shore-based activities. The Public Works Department was also established.
The best known Commander of Fleet Activities was the one who served here the longest, Captain Benton W. "Benny" Decker, who was in command from April, 1946 until June, 1950. When he assumed command, the base was fairly well-organized, and Captain Decker and his staff were able to devote their time to helping the townspeople economically, politically and socially. Buildings which had once housed war equipment were converted into schools, churches and hospitals for the people of Japan.
In May, 1946, the Marines at Yokosuka were re-designated Marine Barracks, U.S. Fleet Activities, Yokosuka. In April, 1947, the Ship Repair Department was organized, and the shops and dry docks were reactivated to maintain the ships of the U.S. Fleet in the Pacific. With the onset of hostilities in Korea on June 25, 1950, Yokosuka Navy Base suddenly became very important and extremely busy.
The U.S., although still an occupying power in Japan, turned its full efforts to the support of South Korea. The Navy Dispensary was enlarged and expanded and was commissioned a U.S. Naval Hospital in 1950. The Naval Communications Facility, Yokosuka, was commissioned in January, 1951. In April 1951, the Ship Repair Department became a component command. It was re-designated the Ship Repair Facility. As the major naval ship repair facility in the Far East, the Yokosuka Facility assumed a vital role in maintenance and repair of the U.S. Seventh Fleet during the Korean and Vietnam conflicts.
In March, 1952, the geographical boundaries of the command of Commander Naval Forces Far East changed to exclude the Philippines, Marianas, Bonin and Volcano Islands. In December, 1952, the Headquarters were shifted from Tokyo to Yokosuka. The expanded Supply Department of Fleet Activities became the Naval Supply Depot, Yokosuka in August, 1952 and in 1960, the Naval Communications Facility was re-designated U.S. Naval Communications Station, Japan.
Since the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, Commander Fleet Activities, Yokosuka continues to be America's most important naval facility in the Western Pacific.