The City of Jacksonville has a long history of being a strategic location for military bases due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and major transportation routes. Over the years, Jacksonville has been home to a variety of military bases, each with its unique history and impact on the city.
First Military Installation
Built by the French in 1564, the first military installation in Jacksonville was Fort Caroline. The fort was situated on the banks of the St. Johns River and served as a base for French exploration and colonization efforts. However, the fort was later destroyed by the Spanish in 1565.
History of Military Bases in Jacksonville
During the Civil War, Jacksonville was an important Confederate stronghold due to its location at the mouth of the St. Johns River. The city was home to a handful of military camps, including, but not limited to, Camp Finegan and Camp Milton. These camps were used to train Confederate soldiers and protect the city from Union attacks. After the war, Jacksonville remained an important military location due to its access to the river and the Atlantic Ocean.
In the early 20th century, the Navy began to establish a presence in Jacksonville with the construction of a naval air station in 1917. The base was originally used for seaplanes and served as a training center during World War I. Over the years, the base grew in size and became a major hub for naval aviation.
During World War II, Jacksonville played a significant role in the war effort. The city was home to several military bases, including Camp Blanding, which was used for training Army troops. The Navy also expanded its presence in the area, building additional air stations and establishing a submarine base.
After the war, the military continued to play a significant role in Jacksonville’s economy and culture. The naval air station continued to expand, and in 1948, it was renamed Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax). The base became a major center for anti-submarine warfare and was home to several squadrons of P-3 Orion aircraft.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the Navy began to transition from propeller-driven aircraft to jet aircraft. As a result, NAS Jax underwent significant upgrades, including the construction of a new runway and the installation of new equipment and facilities.
With the end of the Cold War, military presence in Jacksonville began to shift in the 1990s, as the Navy began to downsize its forces, and several bases were closed or consolidated. In 1993, Naval Station Mayport was established as a homeport for Navy cruisers, destroyers, and frigates. The base is located on the St. Johns River and is strategically positioned for rapid deployment to the Atlantic and Mediterranean.
Jacksonville’s Military Bases Today
Jacksonville remains a major military hub continuing to be home to several military bases. The military presence in Jacksonville has had a significant impact on the city’s economy and culture, and have contributed a significant amount of jobs and financial stability for the area.