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23 April 2003
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Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek


On July 16, 1942, a Navy truck drove off the scenic Ocean View-Virginia Beach highway and stopped in a waterlogged beanfield 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 beanfield 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 bluejackets 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

Growing over the years to meet the needs of the Amphibious Force, the base has developed into one of the most modern in the Navy. Thousands of men and women from all branches of the Armed Forces, as well as military students from foreign nations, now pass through the gates of the Naval Amphibious Base yearly for training in amphibious warfare.

Amphibious warfare adds a crucial measure of leverage to conducting a maritime campaign successfully. National maritime strategy seeks to deter war if at all possible, but if deterrence fails, to destroy enemy maritime forces, protect allied sea lines of communication, support the land campaign, and secure favorable leverage for termination of hostilities. It is a truly global strategy, requiring the ability to dominate the world's oceans and the flexibility of force employment that only naval forces can provide. Naval forces are viewed as central elements of American military strategy. The Navy/Marine Corps team provides an effective amphibious striking arm in support of the national military strategy. Today nearly 13,000 Sailors, Marines, and civilian employees are assigned to the various stations or attend schools at the Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek in support of the Navy/Marine Corps team.


The Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek is the major operating base for the Amphibious Forces in the United States Atlantic Fleet. The base is comprised of four locations in three states, including almost 12,000 acres of real estate. Its Little Creek location adjacent to U.S. Highway 60 totals 2,120 acres of land. Outlying facilities include 350 acres at Camp Pendleton south of Virginia Beach and 21 acres known as Radio Island at Morehead City, N.C., used as an amphibious embarkation/debarkation area for U.S. Marine Corps units at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

The mission of the Naval Amphibious Base is to provide required support services to over 15,000 personnel of the 27 homeported ships and 78 resident and/or supported activities. The base's combination of operational, support, and training facilities are geared predominantly to amphibious operations, making the base unique among bases of the United States and Allied Navies.

The Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek is the largest base of its kind in the world.