HISTORY OF GREAT LAKES
Great Lakes is the Midwest's largest Naval installation.
A veteran of two world wars and the Korean conflict, Vietnam, and much more, Great Lakes has served primarily as a recruit training establishment-bridging the gap from civilian to military life-by introducing recruits to Naval customs and discipline, and preparing them through intensive training for the requirements of Naval services.
During World War II, approximately 1,000,000 Bluejackets were trained at Great Lakes-about one out of every three in the wartime fleet, and twice the number trained at any other installation.
In addition to its primary function of training recruits, Great Lakes provides, at Service School's Command, advanced training in various technical schools for the numerous specialists required in today's modern and complex Navy. In these schools, men of the fleet learn to be electronic technicians, machinists, gunners, enginemen, electricians, dental technicians, boilermen and hospitalmen, to name a few of the specialties. The Dental Technicaian School is one of the few Armed Forces schools offering instruction to Army and Air Force personnel as well as the Navy. The Hospital Corps School, which can accommodate 1600 students is a part of the U.S. Naval Hospital at Great Lakes.
The Naval Hospital is one of the Navy's major hospitals for treatment and care of ill and injured personnel. At the height of the Korean fighting more than 700 battle casualties were under treatment here.
The establishment of two large Naval supply activities here in recent years has increased Great Lakes importance as a Naval supply center. Numerouse Naval activities throughout the Midwest, as well as ships of the fleet, obtain equipment through the enlarged Naval Supply Depot. In addition, a large Electronic Supply Office at Great Lakes controls the procurement and distribution of repair parts required for the maintenance of electronic equipment at shore stations and in Navy ships.
Great Lakes also is the headquarters of the Ninth Naval District-the largest Naval district in the nation, encompassing 13 midwestern states. The Commandant of the Ninth Naval District directs the hundreds of Naval activities in this land-locked area. Included among these activities is administration of the large Naval Reserve program in the Midwest, where civilians who are Naval Reservists receive practical instruction in weekly drills at 72 training centers. They also participate in annual cruises aboard ships of the Great Lakes training squadron.
Other activities at Great Lakes have all-Navy functions. These include: 1) the Naval Examining Center, which prepares and precesses rating examinations for the entire Navy; 2) Fleet Home Town News Center, which receives news stories and photographs of Naval personnel from all parts of the world and distributes them to hometown newspapers; and 3) Navy Medical Research Unit No. 4, which conducts research into the cause, cure, and control of respiratory diseases.
Waves have been stationed at Great Lakes since the Navy volunteer women's organization was established in 1942. A Wave recruit training school was located here from 1948 to 1951. In addition to filling essential jobs at Great Lakes, Waves also attended some of the specialty schools here.
On 1 July 1911- six years to the day after construction began-Great Lakes was commissioned. It consisted of 39 buildings, with a capacity of almost 1,500 men. During World War I, the training center was expanded to 775 buildings with a capacity of almost 50,000 trainees. More than 125,000 men received their first Navy training here during World War I.
Great Lakes population dropped sharply during the years between wars, but population and construction began a rapid increase after President Roosevelt proclaimed a national emergency on 9 September 1939. Pearl Harbor threw the expansion program into high gear, with 13,000 civilians working in shifts, seven days a week, to build additional barracks, mess halls, and training facilities. A total of 675 buildings had been erected by the end of 1942 and in 1944 the population reached a peak of more than 10,000.
At the end of World War II, Great Lakes consisted of approximately 1,000 buildings. Since then much new construction has been accomplished in a continuing modernization program. New barracks, a new mess hall and other modern buildings are replacing the World War II wooden construction.
In keeping geared to modern methods, the Recruit Training Command has installed a closed circuit television channel in the classrooms of its up-to-date classroom buildings. With sets in each room 2400 men can be taught at once using only one cameraman and one instructor-and it has been found that this method of instruction is far more efficient than the older methods.
From its earlies beginnings the base on the shore of Lake Michigan-the Great Lakes Naval Training Center-has been a major bastion in the Navy's ever-continuing progress forward in training. Today, as in the past, it maintains its position as both the largest center for the training of recruits and as a major center of advanced technical training.