On July 16, 1942, a Navy truck drove off the scenic Ocean View-Virginia Beach highway and stopped in a waterlogged bean field of the Whitehurst farm. For days thereafter, trucks loaded with lumber and equipment rolled into the area in almost continuous succession.
The reason for this mass assault in a bean field 12 miles northeast of Norfolk was that early in World War II Navy planners saw a necessity for landing large numbers of American troops on foreign shores in the face of enemy gunfire. That such operations would be difficult was also evident. New methods and techniques in landing troops would have to be developed. Training would be needed before sufficient men were proficient in the complicated art of the amphibious assault, which would enable U.S. troops to drive to the heart of the enemy.
During the early phases of World War II the base was literally a combination of farmland and swamps. Four bases were constructed on this area-Camp Bradford, Camp Shelton, U.S. Naval Frontier Base, and Amphibious Training Base.
Camps Bradford and Shelton were named for the former owners of the land. At first Camp Bradford was a training base for Navy Seabees, but in 1943 it was changed into a training center for the crews of LSTs (landing ship tank).
Camp Shelton was an armed guard training center for Blue Jackets serving on board merchant ships as gun crews. At the end of World War II it served as a separation center.
The Frontier Base was the forwarding center for Amphibious Force personnel and equipment destined for the European Theater. The Amphibious Training Base (also known as "Little Creek") was the center for all types of amphibious training and the training of ship's crews for LSM (landing ship medium), LCI (landing craft infantry), and LCU (landing craft utility); LCM (landing craft mechanized), and LCVP (landing craft vehicle, personnel) boat crews were also trained at Little Creek.
The early days were hard ones. Techniques of training had to be developed from scratch. Facilities for the upkeep of equipment as well as living facilities for personnel were primitive. The newcomers found few buildings and practically no roads or utilities. Just bean vines. The men assigned found it difficult to get their white uniforms clean because there was so much foreign matter in the water; there was no such luxury as hot water so the men had to do their best with cold water and soap powder. After various improvisations along came temporary buildings that were later to give the site some resemblance to a naval base.
The men worked long hours in blistering heat in the summer and the penetrating wet cold of winter. They worked in mud and sand. After long hours of training many of them performed extra duties on their own initiative which slowly resulted in improved living conditions.
In a commendably few months the trained men who were to land fighting forces from Africa to Normandy were ready for sea. During World War II over 200,000 Naval personnel and 160,000 Army and Marine Corps personnel trained at Little Creek.
The four bases were partially inactivated at the end of hostilities of World War II. Shortly thereafter, however, the bases at Little Creek, because of their central location on the Atlantic coast, excellent and varied beach conditions, proximity to the naval facilities of Norfolk, berthing facilities for amphibious ships through the size of LSTs, and other advantages, were consolidated into the present installation and renamed the Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek with a commissioning date of August 10, 1945. It was designated a permanent base in 1946
The base has grown over the years developing into a strategic expeditionary oriented command. It continues to evolve to meet the needs of the Global War on Terrorism and is the fastest growing base in Hampton Roads. Its mission is to provide outstanding customer service support to the more than 14,400 personnel of the 132 resident commands located on base.