San Diego and the United States Navy have been intertwined since the beginning of the 20th century, and one place where you can get a unique sense of that relationship is at the USS Recruit in Liberty Station.
In an effort to bring the Navy to San Diego, Rep. William Kettner, pushed for the creation of a naval training center along with several other navy facilities here in San Diego. In 1919, Congress approved the bill authorizing the creation of the Naval Training Center (NTC); construction began in 1921; and it was commissioned in 1923.
NTC’s mission was to take young men who just enlisted and prepare them for their role in the navy by putting them through recruit training—”boot camp.” To give the recruits a sense of what shipboard jobs and life were like, the USS Recruit was built and its use was incorporated into their training beginning in 1949. It was an actual commissioned ship that earned the nickname, USS Neversail, because of it being permanently attached to the ground beneath it.
The USS Recruit is 225-feet long and 24-feet wide, and was built to two-thirds scale of a typical destroyer escort of the era. It was decommissioned in 1967, but it continued to be used for training. In 1982, it was modified to more closely resemble the newer Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates and was kept in service until Naval Training Center was closed in 1997 as part of the post-cold war Base Realignment and Closure plan.
A team of volunteers did a major “sprucing up” of the Recruit in 2014 after several years of neglect had turned the historical landmark into somewhat of an eyesore.
You cannot actually board the USS Recruit when you visit—you can only walk alongside it—but you will get a good feel for what it might have been like being aboard ship for sea duty. Of course, the Recruit is dwarfed by today’s 509-feet long Arleigh Burke class destroyers.
If you’re not up on the meaning of the signal flags flying from the yardarms, the flags on the port yardarm spelled out “USS” and those on the starboard spelled out “Recruit.” (Although on the day of my visit, recent storms had apparently blown the second “S” on the port yardarm into the “ocean” and was lost for now.)
If you want to get a sense of San Diego’s naval history and what it’s like to be near a ship, then explore the USS Recruit at Liberty Station.
What You Need To Know
Location: 4325 N. Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101
Hours: Open 24 hours
Tips: There is plenty of parking as well as restaurants in the immediate vicinity of the USS Recruit. You’re also not far from the Spanish Landing park on the south side of Harbor Drive, so you can enjoy a little stroll along the harbor if you’re so inclined.
Click to see full-sized photos.
Visited: 26 February 2017