Built in 1872, the Navy acquired the 112 acres on which this base sits four years earlier from the state of Connecticut. During those early years the base was a Navy Yard, and it was not converted into a submarine base until 1916. The Navy's first Submarine Base, this facility was mainly used as a coaling station by Atlantic Fleet small craft. Eventually, this modest base would grow to be nicknamed "Home of the Submarine Force," and "The Submarine Capital of the World." While actually located in Groton, Conn., the base was named the Naval Submarine Base New London after the location of its main offices. The facility covers 687 acres with the Navy's nuclear research deep submersible NR-1, 21 attack submarines, and 530 acres of family housing.
By 1959, the base had 8,210 active personnel and it was the largest submarine base in the world. Today, the New London Base has 30 wharves and piers of various sizes, two large berthing piers, two US Navy YTB class (2,000 hp) tugboats, one 2,600 hp tug, and one 1,600 hp tug to assist vessels.
All naval officers and most enlisted submariners are trained at this location, on the east side of the Thames River in Groton, where schools and training camps were established after WWI. These schools became especially important during WWII when the introduction of nuclear power required better training facilities and capabilities. Besides the base's more than 70 tenant commands, the location also possesses housing and support facilities for more than 21,000 civilian workers, active-duty service members and their families.
There are more than 30 wharves and piers in New London Harbor and are mostly used as repair berths and for mooring recreational and government vessels. Commercial docks including the Hess Dock owned by the Hess Oil and Chemical Division, Amerada Hess Corporation are also located in New London Harbor.