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Pearl Harbor Shipyard

Pearl Harbor Shipyard

In the 1800's, Naval installations throughout the world established ports throughout the Pacific Ocean. Originally known as "Wai-Momi," literally, the "Water of the Pearl" or "Pearl Water," the US government became interested in the site as early as 1820. A coaling station was established at the location in 1842, but the project was nearly abandoned in 1870 due to a policy requiring the use of wind for powering Naval vessels. At the time of the station's construction, the US Navy was seeking sites to expand its production of steel warships, and in 1891 President Harrison pushed Congress to develop and improve Pearl Harbor as a naval station. The United States was granted exclusive rights to enter Pearl Harbor and to establish a coaling and repair station during the reign of Hawaiian King Kalakaua. Soon, congress would pass an Act officially designating Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, Territory of Hawaii in May of 1908.

Once seen as the "Gibraltar of the Pacific," Pearl Harbor was instrumental in the defense of the United State's West Coast during and after WWI. Still, the great depression (the years between the 1920's and the 1930's) slowed Pearl Harbor's growth. Development at the site continued despite roadblocks, and new channels were constructed during the 1920's. Still eleven ships between 1921 and 1928 ran aground, and the same was feared for the aircraft carriers Lexington and Saratoga.

In 1940, tension increased between the United States and Japan, and the US established training operations at the base. On December 7, 1941 the well-known and mourned Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor would bring the United States into WWII. This attack was the worst naval defeat in US history since the Penobscot Expedition of 1779.

Situated on the southern shore of the island of Oahu, Pearl Harbor Shipyard is the largest ship repair facility between the West Coast and the Far East. The station covers 308.3 acres and it contains 177 buildings, 32 berths, 4 dry docks, and a 3.5 M SF of covered work area. With a total civilian work force of over 4,255 and 700 military personnel, Pearl Harbor is the largest industrial employer in Hawaii. The facility is valued at $1.2B with a plant equipment value of $122M.

Author: Tara Strand

Senior Content Writer

Tara Strand

Reviewer: Jennifer R. Lucarelli

Lawyer for Mesothelioma Victims and Their Families

Jennifer R. Lucarelli


Coletta, Paolo E., Ed. United States Navy and Marine Corps Bases, Domestic. London: Greenwood Press, 1985. Ppgs. 431-463.

"Pearl Harbor Navy Yard"

"The History of Pearl Harbor"