History of the United States Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, Illinois circa 1951
THE NAVAL TRAINING CENTER, Great Lakes, Illinois, had its start in 1904 when a board appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt selected two adjoining farms north of Lake Bluff, Illinois, as a site for a naval training station.
The Merchants’ Club of Chicago purchased the farms and presented them as a gift to the government from the people of Chicago. Six years of construction followed, and on July 1, 1911, the Station was commissioned. Four months later it was dedicated as a Station by President William Howard Taft. At that lime it covered 172 acres and had a capacitv of 1,500 men.
The Great War - World War I
The Station’s size remained constant until the beginning of the first World War, when a wartime expansion program took place. By Armistice Day, 1918, the Station had expanded to 1,200 acres and had 45,000 men undergoing training. A quarter of a million men were trained at Great Lakes during World War I.
During the period between wars the Station’s activity was greatly decreased. It was completely closed down as a training activity from June 30, 1933, to July 29, 1935. When President Roosevelt proclaimed a national emergency on September 9, 1939, the total population at Great Lakes was less than 1,000.
Expansion Program and World War II
July 26, 1940, marked the beginning of a construction program which was to become the most extensive in Station history. Great Lakes’ capacity was increased to 14,000 by the day Japan struck at Pearl Harbor.
With America’s entry into World War II, a tremendous increase in construction was authorized. More than 10,000 civilians were employed in the program, expanding the Station’s capacity to 82,000 men by September, 1942. In this expansion the Station’s area was increased by more than a thousand acres.
At its wartime peak, Great Lakes had a crowded capacity of 100,000 men. More than a million Bluejackets, almost a third of the men in the wartime fleet, were trained at Great Lakes during the war.
On March 28, 1944, the Secretary of the Navy established the Training Station as a group command and redesignated it the U. S. Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, Illinois. The Center has four subordinate commands: the Marine Barracks, and the Administrative, Service School, and Recruit Training commands.
Peacetime at Great Lakes
In peacetime Great Lakes remains the world’s largest naval training center and one of our Navy’s most important establishments.
Building 1 of the Center is the headquarters of the Commandant, Ninth Naval District, who has general supervision over Naval activities within the district’s 13 states. One of the most important functions of the Commandant is the administration of the district’s civilian Naval Reserve.
Two recent additions to the Center are the Naval Supply Depot, which is becoming one of the Navy’s large centers of supply distribution, and the Navy Medical Research Unit, located in Camp Green Bay, which is conducting research in respiratory diseases and rheumatic fever.
A Naval Hospital, also located at Great Lakes, lias complete facilities for maintaining the Navy’s high standards of physical efficiency. Here treatment is given to patients of all the armed forces. Servicemen’s dependents also are given medical treatment in the hospital’s Dependents’ Care Department.
Another activity of the Naval Hospital is the Hospital Corps School, where future corpsmen learn the skills needed in their work during an intensive 16-week course.
The Marine Barracks is charged with general disciplinary ami security controls. This command also carries out a Marine training program. There are usually about 700 Marines stationed at the Center, although their number varies with the training schedule.
The Administrative Command, which occupies most of the original training station, is the nerve-center of Great Lakes. It handles the physical maintenance and overall administration of the entire Center.
The Service School Command is made up of six Navy trade schools, where Bluejackets are trained for some of the highly technical jobs in the Navy. The schools’ courses range in length from 12 weeks at the Journalist School to 42 weeks at the Electronics Technicians School.
Other units in this command are the Electrician’s Mates, Interior Communications, Enginemen, and Machinist’s Mates schools. Equipped to provide practical experience as well as classroom instruction, the schools admit only especially selected men. Many students enter immediately after completing their recruit training.
There are two other schools at Great Lakes which train Dental Technicians and Hospital Corpsmen.
The largest of the four commands at Great Lakes is the Recruit Training Command. More than half the men entering the Navy receive their first training here. Great Lakes is also the home of the Navy’s only Wave Recruit Training School, which is under the direction of the Recruit Training Command but located in a different part of the Center.
Men going through recruit training are prepared both physically and mentally to take their place in the Navy. They receive instruction touching on almost every phase of Navy life, from the proper method of rolling a uniform to techniques used in fighting fires.
In the course of his training the recruit receives both a basic indoctrination in the many skills he will need as a Bluejacket and a broad picture of the entire Navy, its history, traditions, and customs.
Physical training, inoculation against diseases, and training in first aid, physical hygiene, and related subjects form another major part of the recruit training program. Coupled with wholesome food and the active and healthful environment of the training camps, this program results in an improvement in the physical condition of most recruits.
A sharp break between civilian and Navy life, recruit training is the basic element in any man’s time in the Naval service. It is the keel of a career in your Navy.