In September of 1854, construction of the navy yard facilities on Mare Island began under the direction of Comdr. David G. Farragut. Over the course of 140 plus years, the Mare Island Naval Shipyard built 512 ships and repaired many more. The paddle-wheeled gunboat Saginaw was Mare Island’s first ship and launched in 1859. The island’s last ship was the nuclear submarine U.S.S. Drum and launched in 1970 at the time of the Vietnam War.
The Mare Island Naval Shipyard’s history is very rich indeed and includes the service and maintenance of warships that fought in all the major wars beginning with the Civil War. During WWII, Mare Island kept up its pace building 17 submarines, four subtenders, 31 destroyer escorts, 33 small craft, and over 300 landing craft. In the 1960s the USS Sargo became the first of many nuclear Submarines that would be built at the shipyard. The U.S.S. Drum, launched in 1970, and proved to be the last ship that was built at Mare Island.
After over 140 years of operations, Mare Island’s operational closure was completed in 1996. Countless hazardous waste materials had been left behind by the shipyard’s repair and construction activities including contaminants from asbestos, which can cause mesothelioma, to polychlorinated biphenyl contaminated fluids.