October 27

was designated Navy Day in 1922 by the Navy League of the United States. It was

not a national holiday, it was a day set aside to honor the United States Navy’s

contributions to the nation’s history.

October 27

was suggested by the Navy League to recognize the birthday of President

Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt had served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy and

supported both the Navy and the idea of Navy Day. In addition October 27 was

the anniversary of a 1775 report by a special committee of the Continental

Congress favoring the purchase of merchant ships as the foundation of an

American Navy.

The last

official observance of Navy Day was on October 27, 1949.

Navy Day is

a day that once had great importance to Orange. The United States Navy first

came to Orange in an official capacity in 1940 and stayed for nearly six


Warships had

visited Orange and been built here since the 19th century. At the

end of World War I there were 16 wooden ships that had been contracted for war

service. When the war ended those ships were no longer needed and were towed

down the Sabine River near the mouth of Conway Bayou and burned to the

waterline. The remains of those ships are still there today. They are both a

hazard to navigation and a lure for fishermen.

With the

shipbuilding history in Orange and the probability of another war in the very

near future the Navy came to Orange and on August 24, 1940 established the

Office of the Supervisor of Shipbuilding under the command of Commander E.B.

Perry. The office was to oversee the construction of 24 landing craft and 12


The shipbuilding

efforts and contributions of Orange to the war effort are well documented in

the records of Consolidated, Levingston, and Weaver Shipyards. Orange had the

distinction of being the only Texas city to build warships for the navy.

By the end

of the war there would be a large surplus of ships that would no longer be

needed, but were too valuable to the Navy to be either sold or scrapped. The solution

was to establish reserve fleets to hold the ships in an inactive status, but ready

to be returned to service in short order if needed again.

In August

1945 the Navy Department announced that Orange would be one of eight sites

selected for a reserve fleet location.

Orange was

selected for its location on the Sabine River with the abundance of fresh water

and also because of the shipbuilding facilities in the city.

Bids were

requested for the construction of the facilities and the construction of 12

piers in the river began. The first buildings were the barracks and the

administration building, later called “The Baby Pentagon.”

In November,

1945 the facility was renamed the U.S. Naval Station, Orange, Texas. Captain

T.R. Cowie was assigned to be the base commander. The mission of the facility

was to provide berthing space and logistical support for the reserve fleet.

Later that

same month the Texas Group, Atlantic Reserve Fleet was established to

inactivate and provide maintenance for ships transferred to the Reserve Fleet.

The first vessel to report to Orange for inactictivation was the U.S.S.

Matagorda on November 5, 1945.

By 1946 the

end of the war had brought a reduction to the shipbuilding industry in Orange

and the Navy purchased part of the Consolidated Steel Shipyard and also cleared

a section of Riverside to expand the base, which by this time covered 168


In the years

after World War II all types of ships came to Orange, from the small LCI and

LST landing craft to the larger light cruisers, submarines to floating shops

and water barges.

In 1950 when

the Korean Conflict started, the base began to perform the work it had been

designed to do. Even though the naval activity in Korea was limited, the Orange

base sent over 30 ships to that conflict.

After the

cease fire in Korea the base returned to the preservation work, though on a

more limited scale.

In 1961 the

Defense Department announced that 52 naval based would either be closed or

scaled back. The Texas Group and the Florida Group would be in the affected

class. 140 ships were transferred from Florida to Orange.

At the

height of activity during the Korean era there were 850 Navy personnel assigned

to Orange. That number would decrease to 25 officers and enlisted men.

By August

1962, 175 civilian contractors would be hired and trained to do the work

previously done by the Navy technicians. The regular Navy personnel would

function as overseers.

Despite the

cutbacks and reorganization the Texas Group remained a vital part of the Navy.

It was a major facility for ships with a low mobilization priority and a long

term potential. By 1969 there were 250 ships berthed in Orange.


preservation of the ships required that all outside openings be sealed so that there

would be no outside-inside air exchange. Electrical dehumidifiers were

installed and all outside surfaces were covered with preservative compounds and

paint. Gun turrets were covered with special enclosures. To prevent hull

corrosion, cathodic protection was installed to prevent the electrolic

corrosion of the underwater hull.

On October

1, 1966 the Texas Group was eliminated and the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance

Facility, Orange Texas was commissioned with 197 ships remaining berthed. The Commanding

Officer was downgraded to the Officer in Charge.

All duties

remained the same, but by 1967 the number of ships had decreased to 172. In

November, 1970 the number had further decreased to 166.

On December

28, 1975 the Department of Defense announced that the facility would be closed.

For the next five years the remaining ships were either transferred back to the

Navy for alternate use of sold off to countries such as Mexico, Ecuador, Peru,

South Korea, and China. The few

remaining ships were transferred to the Beaumont Fleet.

By 1980 all

of the ships had been removed from the facility.

Some of the

property was sold to American Bridge, U.S… Steel to once again be used for construction.

Some of the property went to Lamar State College, Orange. Some of the adjacent

land was sold to the Orange County Navigation and Port District.

Eighteen and

one half acres remained with the Navy and was used as the U.S. Navy and Marine

Corps Reserve Training Center.

On July 23,

2006 the Department of the Navy announced that the property was surplus and was

for sale. The installation closed in September, 2008. In 2009 the Reserve

Center was sold for use by the community as a Port center.

The existing

administration building and one adjacent building is now used for the offices of

Signal International. The remaining warehouse structures are used by various

local businesses, the exception being the buildings used by Lamar State

College, Orange as their welding training facility.

There is one

of the 12 original piers on the river that remains in use. The pilings of one

pier upstream are still visible. The other 10 piers have been removed with only

the ramps still remaining along Pier Road.