On this day in Connecticut history, Naval Submarine Base New London — the home of the United States submarine force — was first established as a navy yard and storage depot.
In 1868, several towns in Southeastern Connecticut jumped at the chance to host a naval installation in their area, pooling their resources to offer the U. S. Navy a 112-acre tract of land along the Thames River. For nearly fifty years, the New London Navy Yard (technically located in Groton, across the river from its namesake) functioned as a storage area for inactive Navy ships and, around the turn of the century, as a coal depository and refueling station for Navy ships in the area.
As the Navy increasingly turned to oil instead of coal as a fuel source for its ships, the base narrowly escaped closure in 1912, only to find a renewed sense of purpose a few years later with the onset of World War I. As the United States increased the size and scope of its submarine force in response to aggressive German U-Boat attacks, Groton quickly emerged as an excellent strategic location for a dedicated submarine base: Its original purpose as a storage depot had just become obsolete, and the Connecticut coast offered an ideal launching point for excursions into hotly-contested North Atlantic waters. One June 21, 1916, the navy yard was recommissioned as a the United States Navy’s first submarine base, complete with its own submarine flotilla and training school.
Today, Naval Submarine Base New London remains a bustling hub of activity, home to over a dozen active-duty attack submarines and neighbor to General Dynamics, the foremost builder of submarines for the U. S. Navy. The base also features a free submarine museum open to the public, is the permanent home of the world’s first nuclear submarine, the U.S.S Nautilus. “The Submarine Capital of the World” has come a long way from its humble origins as a navy storage depot, established on this day in 1868.
“Naval Submarine Base New London: History,” U.S. Navy Commander, Navy Installations Command website
Korky Vann, “Connecticut Celebrates a Century of Submarine History,” Hartford Courant.