It was the water that brought them. Since the first forays of Europeans, San Diego’s natural harbor offered a strategic naval location. Silts carried by runoff and outflow from the inland mountains could not fill the deep-rutted channel built by centuries of tidal flux, and those souls that sailed past Point Loma in the 16th century saw the potential.
It is surprising that no major San Diego naval installation was pitched until American president Theodore Roosevelt sent 16 battleships – nicknamed the Great White Fleet for their whitewashed hulls – to pay a visit in 1908.
By the time of the Panama–California Exposition that opened in 1915, plans for a San Diego naval base started taking form. Both Roosevelts, Theodore and cousin Franklin Delano, were promoters of the bay as a base, and the latter began the buildup during the Great Depression. In 1935, Major Reuben H. Fleet moved Consolidated Aircraft Corporation and its 800 employees from Buffalo to San Diego, citing perfect conditions for flying and testing, an established airport, a publicly-owned waterfront, and an excellent harbor.
By 1940, The Navy represented over $2.5 million in monthly payrolls and expenditures and just a month before America entered World War II, ground was broken on military housing, which is now Linda Vista. The Marines and the Navy are the largest employer in San Diego County; 100,000 active duty service members plus civilian employees.
One of the favorite events of Fleet Week is the free ship tours on Broadway Pier. Also on the pier Notre Dame Alumni and US Naval Academy Alumni can enjoy a pre-game party and live concert featuring comedian Heather Marie and singer-songwriter Tim Hurley.