Naval Station Norfolk (IATA: NGU, ICAO: KNGU, FAA LID: NGU), in Norfolk, Virginia, is a base of the United States Navy, supporting naval forces in the United States Fleet Forces Command, those operating in the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, and Indian Ocean. NS Norfolk, also known as the Norfolk Naval Base, occupies about four miles (6 km) of waterfront space and seven miles (11 km) of pier and wharf space of the Hampton Roads peninsula known as Sewell's Point. It is the World's largest naval station, supporting 75 ships and 134 aircraft alongside 14 piers and 11 aircraft hangars, and houses the largest concentration of U.S. Navy forces. Port Services controls more than 3,100 ships' movements annually as they arrive and depart their berths.
The land on which the naval station is located was originally the site of the 1907 Jamestown Exposition. During this exposition, high-ranking naval officers agreed that this site was ideal for a naval activity. A bill was passed in 1908 proposing that the U.S. Congress allow $1 million for the purchase of the property and buildings, but it died when the Assistant Secretary of the Navy was given a choice between this property and a new coal ship. He replied that a new ship was an absolute necessity. However, immediately after the United States entered World War I in April 1917, the Secretary of the Navy was persuaded to buy the property.
A bill was passed for the purchase of 474 acres (1.9 km²); it set aside the sum of $1.2 million as payment for the property and an additional $1.6 million for the development of the base, including piers, aviation facilities, storehouses, facilities for fuel and oil storage, a recruit training station, a submarine base and recreation grounds for fleet personnel. Rear Admiral Dillingham was assigned the task of coordinating the area's development.
Important historical events were taking place on the air side of the station as well. November 14, 1910 marked the birth of naval aviation when Eugene Ely, a pilot employed by the Curtiss Exhibition Company, slowly accelerated toward the end of a 57-foot (17 m) wooden ramp constructed on the bow of the cruiser USS Birmingham. The heavy cruiser was anchored in the James River, not too far from the site of the Civil War's famous ironclad Battle of Hampton Roads between the USS Monitor and CSS Virginia.
As World War I came to an end, the former NAS Hampton Roads saw erratic growth, growing to nearly 167 officers, 1,227 enlisted men and 65 planes. However, demobilization threatened the future of naval aviation. Within seven months of the war's end, Navy manpower fell to less than half its wartime highs.
The Republican party rose to power in 1920, promising fiscal austerity. Congress cut naval appropriations by 20% and manpower Navy-wide was reduced. The carriers which Congress had authorized were impossible to man. After the 1929 stock market crash and the onset of the Great Depression, President Herbert Hoover favored more naval limitation through international conferences, but the air operations in Norfolk continued.