On February 10, 1976, the Naval Security Group Detachment (NSG Det) Monterey was established on the Monterey Peninsula; 23 years later on September 30, 1999, the detachment was disestablished. The base is also home to the Monterey Naval Postgraduate School, the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center, and the Naval Support Activity, Monterey Bay. Naval Security Group Detachment (NSG Det) Monterey was the home for all Navy personnel assigned to the Defense Language Institute, Foreign Language Center, commonly called DLI. NSG Det Monterey, a tenant activity at DLI, was subordinate to the Commander, Naval Security Group Command, Washington, DC.
Department of Defense consolidated the DLI headquarters and moved DLI the HQ to the Presidio of Monterey. In 1976 the Defense Language Institute, West Coast Branch became the Defense Language Institute, Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) and became the Defense Department’s primary center for foreign language instruction, where all resident foreign language training for the Armed Services was conducted. DLIFLC gained academic accreditation in 1979 and soon after the Institute expanded in the 1980s. As the Institute increased instructor-to-student ratios, implemented team teaching and acquired information technology, the average student proficiency steadily increased. For much of its history, DLIFLC was a tenant activity on the Presidio of Monterey. The Presidio itself was a sub-installation of nearby Fort Ord. On October 1, 1994, Fort Ord closed and the Presidio of Monterey became a separate installation again.
Monterey is one of the oldest sites of Spanish civilization in California. The area was sighted by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese explorer in the service of Spain, in 1542. In 1602 Monterey was explored by Sebastian Vizcaino, who named it in honor of the Count of Monte Rey, the Governor of New Spain.
The military has played a role in the history of the Monterey Peninsula since 1770 when a small expedition led by Captain Gaspar de Portola, Governor of Alta California, officially took possession for Spain of what is now central California. He was accompanied by Father Junipero Serra, a Franciscan monk, who established a chapel and later the Carmel mission. In compliance with his orders “to erect a fort to occupy and defend the port of Monterey from the atrocities of the Russians, who were about to invade”, his men immediately began construction of the Presidio. Portola’s actions were spurred by the Spanish fear that other nations – particularly Russia – had designs on her New World Empire. Spain moved to occupy that portion of the western American coast which she had previously neglected. The port of Monterey was ripe for colonization and military fortification. Spain maintained control of Alta California until 1822.
Under Mexico, Monterey remained the capital of the Pacific empire, an area which included what is now California, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, parts of Colorado and parts of Wyoming. The extensive domain was coveted by the U.S. With the defeat of Mexico in 1846, the American flag was raised at the customhouse in Monterey. Four years later, the state of California was admitted to the Union.
Monterey became one of five presidios, or forts, built by Spain in what is now the western U.S. Others were founded in San Diego, in 1769; San Francisco, in 1776; Santa Barbara, in 1782; and Tubae, Arizona in 1784. The fortunes of the Presidio at Monterey rose and fell with the times – it has been moved, abandoned and reactivated time and time again. At least three times it has been submerged by the tide of history, only to appear years later with a new face, a new master, and a new mission – first under the Spanish, than the Mexicans and ultimately the Americans.
American control of the area began in 1846 during the war with Mexico when Commodore John D. Sloat, commander of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Squadron, who landed unopposed and claimed the territory and the Presidio for the U.S. He left a small garrison of Marines who moved the location of the fort and began improving defenses to better protect the town and the harbor. The presidio was renamed Fort Mervine in honor of Captain William Mervine, who commanded one of the ships in Sloat’s squadron. The original Presidio consisted of a square of adobe buildings located in the vicinity of what is now downtown Monterey. The fort’s original mission, the Royal Presidio Chapel, has remained in constant use since it was founded in 1770 by Father Junipero Serra who arrived with Portola’s party. The only direct relationship between the original site and the present Presidio was an earthwork at the latter location which was armed with cannons on a hill overlooking Monterey’s harbor.
The end of the Mexican War and the discovery of gold in California effectively put an end to any military presence in Monterey. In May 1848, the news of the gold discovery reached Monterey and many companies deserted for the gold fields. In 1865, at the closing months of the Civil War, the old fort on the hill was returned to temporary life by the arrival of six officers and 156 enlisted men, but was abandoned in 1866.
In 1902, an Infantry Regiment arrived at Monterey, whose mission was to construct a post to house an infantry regiment and a squadron of cavalry. Troops moved into the new wooden barracks, officially named Ord Barracks, in June 1903. However, in order to perpetuate the name of the old Spanish military installation that Portola had established 134 years earlier, the War Department redesignated the post as the Presidio of Monterey.
A school of musketry was located at the Presidio from 1904 to 1911 and a school for cooks and bakers from 1914 to 1917. In 1917, the Army purchased an additional 15,809 acres across the bay as a maneuver area. This new acquisition eventually was designated as Camp Ord in 1939 and became Fort Ord in 1940. Between 1919 and 1940, the Presidio housed principally cavalry and field artillery units. However, the outbreak of World War II ended the days of horse cavalry and troops left Monterey. In June 1946, the school was designated as the Army Language School and later renamed the Defense Language Institute (DLI) in 1963.
The first flights on the Monterey Peninsula took place from the polo field of the Del Monte Hotel in 1910. For the next 30 years, the nearby area of Tarpey Flats was used as a flying field. In March 1941, the local communities formed the Monterey Peninsula Airport District and acquired 455 acres from Del Monte Properties to develop a modern airport. After the start of the war, the Navy leased the airport for $1 per year and the CAA allocated $1.7 million for construction of hard surfaced runways. The Navy purchased an addition al 17 acres for $41,000 on which to build barracks and administrative buildings. Construction commenced in August, 1942, and ended with the commissioning of the Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS), Monterey on May 23, 1943, as an auxiliary of NAS Alameda, CA.
The primary mission of the base was training of torpedo squadrons and torpedo planes of composite squadrons. For that purpose, the Navy set up a torpedo range at Monterey Bay in cooperation with the local Naval Section Base. Along with Pyramid Lake, Nevada, Monterey was the only other torpedo range in the 12th Naval District and squadrons from other air stations also utilized the range. Torpedoes were loaded at Alameda, 80 miles to the north and dropped on two target ships at Monterey Bay. The 160-man Field Torpedo Unit at Monterey recovered the torpedoes that were later trucked back to Alameda for overhaul. During the remainder of 1943, 12 squadrons dropped 693 torpedoes and in 1944, 21 squadrons launched 1511 torpedoes — 71 of which were lost in the bay. Monterey also served as the base for squadrons training prior to shipping out to the South Pacific. In July 1944, a mobile radar intercept unit was set up nearby for the training of fighter pilots. In the last few months of the war, the station supported a detachment of Moffett’s Antisubmarine Warfare Training Unit. On September 1, 1944, the station acquired an out laying field at San Luis Obispo. In March 1944, complement consisted of 117 officers and 785 enlisted men. On November 1, 1945, the Navy placed NAAS Monterey on caretaker status.
Opened in 1880, the Del Monte Hotel was billed as the finest luxury resort in the world hosting captains and kings. In late 1942, after facing a dwindling business, Samuel F. B. Morse, the hotel’s owner and grand-nephew of the inventor of the telegraph, offered the hotel to the Navy. After leasing the property, the Navy established the Del Monte Pre-Flight School in February, 1943. After the pre-flight school closed in December 1944, Del Monte was used for engineering and general line schools. Following the war, the Navy purchased the property moving the Naval Postgraduate School to Monterey from Annapolis. The Naval Auxiliary Air Station reactivated on December 20, 1947, to provide aircraft for flight proficiency by Navy and Marine Corps aviators, stationed at the postgraduate school. The Navy remained at the airport until 1972, when the facility closed. The airport is now known as the Monterey Peninsula Airport.