NAB Little Creek, VA HistoryNaval Amphibious Base Little Creek began in World War Two as a training and practice center for developing the then radical concept of massive shore landings, known then and now as amphibious assaults. An early example of joint operations training, four facilities were developed on the site, Camp Bradford and Camp Shelton (named for the former landowners) and Frontier Base and Amphibious Training Base.
Prior to World War Two there was little concept of an amphibious assault; troops could land, but they either docked or were carried ashore by boat. The British had developed combined force operations as far back as the Napoleon Wars, and the Union had launched a massive landing against the Confederacy during the Civil War, but nothing quite like what the US of World War Two had in mind. The amphibious concept involved a much more closely coordinated operation of Navy launched amphibious tracked landing vehicles, with close shore bombardment support and Marine or Army troops storming beaches. Nothing quite like this had ever been done; the Imperial Japanese landed in motorized boats; Nazi Germany had conducted an air and sea assault on Crete, but the new US concept was to use water-to-land tracked vehicles.
Thanks to practice and training at Navy bases, especially what would later be called Little Creek, the US made this a specialty, successfully conducted at Morocco and Algeria, Sicily, Salerno, and Anzio, and the largest amphibious assault ever, the Normandy Landings. In the Pacific Theater, the Marine Corps honed amphibious assault to a fine edge, making dozens of island beach assaults during in the Pacific Theater.
Camp Bradford, at Little Creek, originally focused on training Seabees (Construction Battalions) and later trained LSTs (Landing Ship, Tanks) for the Normandy Landings. Camp Shelton, also at Little Creek, trained bluejackets for gunnery on merchant ships. The Frontier Base served as a training and housing center for troops destined for Europe.
The Amphibious Training Base was were the real development was happening; all kinds of landing craft were tested and adapted; tactics were developed from principles, tested, and revised. This went on in primitive conditions, as base housing and other facilities were at first non-existent, and then very basic. In time, the base developed, and trained over 200,000 Naval and over 160,000 Army and Marine personnel.
All of these bases were partially inactivated at the end of World War Two, after being used for service separation, but the need for superior amphibious assault training was recognized, and a permanent base, Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek was established in 1946. Here, thousands of military personnel, Navy, Marine, Army, and members of allied foreign militaries have trained in modern amphibious assault.