In July 1995, Naval Security Group activity (NSGA) Adak was slated for closure under the Base Realignment and Closure Act and deactivated on January 31, 1996. At the time of deactivation approximately 500 military and 50 civilian personnel were on the island. Officially, the military mission ended on March 31, 1997, and the station closed.
Naval Security Group activity (NSGA) Adak’s history dates back to the early days of World War II in the Pacific. Shortly after Japan bombed Dutch Harbor, located on Unalaska Island east of Adak near the mainland, and occupied the Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska, located to the west of Adak, the Navy established two major naval installation on Adak to counter the Japanese threat, Naval Air Station in May 1943 and Naval Operating Base in July 1943. In September 1943, the Naval Communication Supplementary Activity, Adak, NSGA Adak’s progenitor organization, was established to provide communications support to the location forces. The original activity, consisting of eight men, operated out of Quonset huts through the war’s conclusion until June 1948 when a new communication facility was constructed to replace the temporary wartime structures.
The Naval Communications Supplementary Activity was decommissioned in October 1951 and immediately replaced by Naval Communications Station (NAVCOMMST) Adak as a separate commend on the island. Construction of the Circularly Disposed Antenna Array (CDAA) Operations Facility started probably between 1962 and 1963. During the next decade, the command’s telecommunications and cryptologic mission continued to grow. On April 1, 1977, after nearly twenty-six years as an active telecommunications site, NAVCOMMSTA Adak was decommissioned and Naval Security Group Activity, Adak was commissioned, growing to a major command of over 700 military personnel assigned. The end of the Cold War, coupled with the high cost of sustaining operations, placed NSGA Adak under consideration for Navy downsizing.
NSGA Adak began downsizing by terminating Manual Morse Collection operations in November 1993. A full scale drawdown effort occurred throughout 1994 with the closing of the Naval Telecommunications Center in January 994, the transfer of Company I Marine Support Battalion in May 1994, and the termination of Special Communications and High Frequency Direction Finding Operations in December 1994. The command closure effort peaked in 1995, and the Telecommunications Department becoming a detachment of Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station, Puget Sound on September 30, 1995. NSGA Adak achieved final facilities closure, detached all remaining personnel, and formally decommissioned on January 31, 1996. Coming full circle, all that remains is a small 15 man detachment supporting telecommunications operations on Mount Moffett until January 1998.
Since the early 1940s, the northern half of Adak Island has been used for military operations. In the early days of World War II, the Japanese bombed Dutch Harbor, located on Unalaska Island, east of Adak, near the mainland, and occupied the Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska, located to the west of Adak. Naval activities began on Adak with the establishment of Albert Mitchell Field in March, 1943. The Navy established two major Naval installations on Adak Island to counter the Japanese threat, Naval Air Station was established on May 15, 1943; and the Naval Operating Base was established on July 14, 1943. The U.S. Army Air Corps established a base on Adak Island at the same time. In the spring of 1944, Adak’s population included at least 32,000 military personnel. In preparation for a major offensive on the Japanese occupied islands of Kiska and Attu, as many of 90,000 troops on ship or shore were mobilized to the Aleutian arena. During World War II, Adak Army and Navy installations allowed U.S. forces to mount a successful offensive, and the islands of Kiska and Attu were returned to U.S. control.
In September, 1943, the Naval Communications Supplementary Activity (COMSUPACT), Adak, predecessor of NSGA Adak, was established to provide communications support to the local forces. The original activity consisted of eight (8) men, and operated out of quonset huts through the War’s conclusion. In June, 1948, a new communications facility was constructed to replace the temporary wartime structures.
After WWII, Adak was developed as a Naval Air Station, playing an important role during the Cold War as a submarine surveillance center. Large earthquakes rocked the island in 1957, 1964 and 1977.
After WWII, the base on Adak Island was transferred to the U.S. Air Force and renamed Davis Air Force Base. After the Air Force withdrew, the Navy assumed all facilities on Adak Island. Three Naval commands operated on the island, including the Naval Air Facility (NAF), Naval Facility (NAVFAC), and Naval Security Group Activity (NSGA).
In 1953, 15 officers and fewer than 200 enlisted men were assigned to the base.
COMSUPACT Adak was decommissioned in October, 1951, and immediately replaced by the Naval Communications Station (NAVCOMMSTA) Adak, as a separate command on the island. The Communications Technicians (CT) complement became the Naval Security Group Dept of NCS Adak.
The U.S. Naval Security Group Dept (and later NSGA) Adak maintained and operated a high frequency direction finding (HFDF) facility and provided communication support to Navy and other Department of Defense elements. The communications facility located on the island included an operations building located in the center of an AN/FRD-10A Circularly Disposed Antenna Array (CDAA), also known as a Wullenweber antenna array. The initial phase of construction on the AN/FRD-10A CDAA began in 1962, and the HFDF equipment was installed in 1963. The CDAA was operational in December, 1964. The CDAA ceased operations in December, 1994, and the CDAA was removed. The property remains under Navy control.
By 1966, military and civilian personnel totaled almost 1,000, a number that stayed fairly steady through the 1970s. By 1981, the population had doubled by 2,000. In 1984, the Adak Naval Station was renamed Naval Air Station (NAS) Adak. By 1990, over 5,000 people were at the base, almost 3,000 of whom were military, the remainder composed of military dependents and civilian employees. In 1994, NAS Adak was designated as Naval Air Facility (NAF) Adak.
Since World War II, the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard developed outstanding facilities and recreation opportunities at Adak. Adak had in its heyday a college, movie theater, roller skating rink, swimming pool, ski lodge, bowling alleys, skeet range, auto hobby shop, photo lab, and racquetball and tennis courts. A new $18-million hospital was built in 1990 just seven years prior to the closure of the station.
On April 1, 1977, after nearly twenty six years as an active telecommunications, and cryptologic site, NAVCOMMSTA Adak was decommissioned, and the Naval Security Group Activity Adak was commissioned. During the next ten years, NSGA Adak’s mission and scope were significantly increased. NSGA Adak grew into a major command of over 700 military personnel. The end of the Cold War, coupled with the high cost of sustaining operations, placed NSGA Adak under consideration for downsizing. NSGA Adak began downsizing by terminating the Manual Morse Collection operations in November, 1993. Full scale drawdown efforts took place throughout 1994, including the closing of the Naval Telecommunications Center in January, 1994, and the termination of Special Communications and High Frequency Direction Finding (HFDF) operations in December, 1994. The command closure effort peaked in 1995, with the U.S. Army’s 743rd Military Intelligence Brigade detachment departing in June, 1995, and Classic Wizard operations ceased in three months later in September, 1995. The Telecommunications Department became a detachment of Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station, Puget Sound, on September 30, 1995. NSGA Adak achieved final facilities closure, detached all remaining personnel, and formally decommissioned on January 31, 1996.
31 January 2022 at 14:19
I really enjoy your coverage of NSG matters, past and present. As I have asked in the past, when you do the history of an NSGA, would it be possible to list the Commanding Officers with dates?
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31 January 2022 at 14:26
My Dad CTRC Donald J. Wagner, his brother CTRC Howard Wagner. And younger brother CTR3 Carvel Wagner had brother duty in the 1960’s at COMSTA. My Dad passed away 13JAN17. Uncle Howard passed away 21AUG21. My Uncle Carvel passed away whole stationed in Scotland about 1973 or 1974 in a car accident. Dad retired from the Navy in 1980 with twenty-four years of service. Uncle Howard I believe retired about the same time but I am not sure where he was stationed after Karamusel, Turkey.
I was on active duty from 7JUL89 to 13MAY94 and had orders to NOPF Adak. Dad was going to have the commanding officer meet me when I arrived but my orders were cancelled because I didn’t pass OSS. I was stationed at NAFAC Whidbey Island. When NOPF was decommed, all operations were removed to Whidbey.
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31 January 2022 at 21:30
Kathy – I knew your dad and Carvel. Carvel was a CTT1 when he was killed in the accident at Edzell.
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31 January 2022 at 17:12
I was transferred from Wahiawa to NSGD Adak in Dec 1958 arriving in Adak in January 1959 after spending Christmas/New Years at home (1st time in nearly 3 years). Construction was just being completed on the end of the barracks bldg. that had been severely damaged by the 1957 earthquake. The comms building was across the street from the barracks (which also housed mess decks; small exchange facility; enlisted and cpo clubrooms; theater and bowling alley) and during winter months a ‘lifeline’ rope was extended between the two buildings. RMs and ETs occupied the basement and ground floors of the comms building while the NSG offices (including CO/XO/Ops and our comms spaces including our mat shop were top deck. There was also a small ‘outbuilding’ attached to one end of the comms building that housed the burn-bag incinerator which was used nightly for destruction. Thank you, Mario, for the expanded history.
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6 February 2022 at 19:03
I landed there on my way to Shemya in 1969. Was a thriving place then. Sad to see the wasteland it is now.