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Naval Weapons Station Earle
Monmouth County, New Jersey

When a pressing need developed during World War II for an ammunition depot in the greater New York area, a site in Monmouth County, New Jersey was chosen. The location provided two distinct areas. A waterfront location provided ships with a safe and operationally advantageous port to take on ammunition, while an inland storage area, safe from possible submarine bombardment, provided access to commercial rail facilities with lines coming from the west, where the majority of ammunition shipments originated. On August 2, 1943, construction began and in a short time, storage bunkers, a road and rail network, numerous buildings, and a pier complex were built. Named after Rear Admiral Ralph Earle, Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance during World War I, the Station was commissioned on December 13, 1943 as the Naval Ammunition Depot Earle. Earle continued to develop after World War II, keeping pace with the changing needs of the Navy, and in 1974 was redesignated the Naval Weapons Station (NWS) Earle, which remains the Station’s name today.

The Mainside area, which is located mainly in Colts Neck, is more than 10,000 acres which contains ordnance storage areas and the majority of Earle’s departments and facilities. Mainside is in many ways like a small town with its own police and fire departments, homes, office buildings, restaurants, and recreational facilities. Mainside and the Waterfront area are connected by Normandy Road, a 15-mile military road and rail line.

The Waterfront area is located on Sandy Hook Bay in Leonardo. The trident-shaped pier complex extends 2.2 miles into Sandy Hook Bay and comprises 2.9 miles of pier/trestle area. Four Fast Combat Support ships, USS Seattle (AOE 3), USS Detroit (AOE 4), USS Supply (AOE 6), and USS Arctic (AOE 8), are homeported at the pier complex. The pier is fully capable of providing ammunition to nearly every class of ship operated by the United States Navy and Coast Guard.

Naval Weapons Station Earle is also home to many tenant organizations. These tenants include Combat Logistics Group Two, Shore Intermediate Maintenance Activity, Mobile Mine Assembly Unit Three, Superintendent of Shipbuilding Portsmouth Detachment Earle, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Two Detachment Earle, Atlantic Ordnance Command Detachment Earle, Public Works Center Site Earle, and the Packaging, Handling, Storage, and Transportation Center. So, in actuality, there is no such place as Earle, New Jersey. But there is a key Naval installation located in Monmouth County named after Rear Admiral Earle.

The station is divided into two sections: Mainside, located here in Colts Neck, and the Waterfront Area, on Sandy Hook Bay, adjacent to the town of Leonardo. Both areas are connected by Normandy Road, a 15 mile military road and rail line.

The 10,000 acres which comprise Mainside, house the majority of Earle's departments and facilities. The Ordnance Detachment performs the station's primary mission - providing ammunition to the fleet. An integrated work force of military and civilian personnel operate the inland storage, renovation, transshipment and demilitarization facilities.

The Public Works Detachment runs the railroad, consisting of 130 miles of track, nine locomotives and 520 pieces of rolling stock. The station also manages handling equipment and containers for the fleet and shore stations, including design, testing, acquisition, in-service engineering and logistical support. Earle is in many ways like a small town, with homes, office buildings, factories, restaurants, cars and trucks.

At the Waterfront, the Ordnance Department provides ammunition for nearly every class of ship operated by the United States Navy and Coast Guard as well as commercial vessels from other countries. The Port Services Division, located on the Pier Complex, provides a full range of services for visiting and homeported ships.

Although most of the station's departments and divisions are located in the administrative area Mainside, the majority of military personnel are located at the Waterfront. Combat Logistics Group Two Detachment Earle and the two homeported Fast Combat Support Ships, USS Seattle and Detroit homeported there in 1990 - are located there. In preparing for the arrival of the Seattle and Detroit, a multi-million dollar expansion began. A fourth pier was completed in 1990. It is the permanent home of the Seattle and Detroit.

Many other projects are well underway or already completed. 500 new housing units have been constructed to meet the needs of the Sailors stationed there. At the Waterfront, the Medical and Dental Clinics as well as the Navy Retail Exchange Store have moved to larger quarters and a Ships Intermediate Maintenance Facility has been added. A 20,000 square foot transit shed and a new Bowling Center were also opened.

The station's Pier Complex is one of the longest "finger piers" in the world. It is presently comprised of a two mile long trestle which connects to three finger piers - which are Piers 2, 3, and 4. These piers stretch nearly three miles into the Sandy Hook Bay. One mile from the shore the trestle branches off to Pier 1. At the junction of Piers 2, 3, and 4, a concrete platform exits which supports a forklift/battery recharging shop and the port operations building. This area is known as the "wye". All of the existing structures, with the exception of Pier 4 and the "wye", were constructed in the early 1940s. The "wye" was constructed in 1981 and Pier 4 was completed in 1990.

The original pier and trestle were constructed of reinforced concrete slabs approximately two inches to 24 inches thick, and overlaid with an asphalt wearing surface. The docks are supported by more than 41,000 timber piles. Elevated loading platforms line both sides of each pier. Pier and Trestle 4 are constructed of pre-stressed concrete box girders topped by a cast-in-place reinforced concrete deck, supported on precast concrete pile caps and steel pipe piles. A unique feature on Pier 4 is the double deck utility galley/loading platform.

Currently Pier 1 serves as a temporary holding yard for trailers; Pier 2 is vacant; Pier 3 is the ordnance handling pier, and Pier 4 is a homeport pier for the USS Seattle (AOE 3) and the USS Detroit (AOE 4). In support of the larger Seattle and Detroit, the water depth at the pier complex was dredged to 47 feet.

Since World War II the pier complex has provided ammunition services to almost every class of vessel operated by the Navy and Coast Guard as well as commercially owned vessels from a multitude of nations.

Over the years, the station has taken on many important functions. It has become the engineering agent for the Naval Sea Systems and Naval Air Systems Command in the field of packaging, handling, stowage and transportability of weapons systems. A new facility mainside houses the departments involved in weapons handling and container design, test and acquisition. The Naval Packaging, Handling, Storage, and Transportation (PHST) Center is responsible for the design, development, prototype fabrication, testing, production acquisition, and documentation of ordnance containers and handling equipment for the US Navy. The Center is recognized as the largest organization for such work in the United States, and has the facilities, equipment, and professional staff necessary to accomplish the required work.

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Maintained by Robert Sherman
Originally created by John Pike
Updated Sunday, December 06, 1998 5:59:17 AM