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Post-WWII Naval Base

1946 – 1997


Post-WWII Naval Station Treasure Island

As WWII ended, the United States Navy continued to occupy Treasure Island, using it actively for operations, training centers, distribution, and receiving.

For the next 48 years, NSTI continued to operate various training schools including U.S. Naval Schools Command, U.S. Naval School of Electronics, and schools for Hull Maintenance, Radar and NBRC (Nuclear, Biological, Radiological and Chemical) Warfare. It became a hub for administrative activity for the Regional Command and the Reserve Readiness Command Region 20.

The Electronics and Radar School on NSTI is an example of the ongoing interdependence between the military and the Bay Area, facilitating the rise of Silicon Valley as the center of the electronics and information technology industry in the mid-late twentieth century.

Map of Naval Station Treasure Island circa the 1980s-90s. (Treasure Island Museum Collection)

Armored amphibious vehicles in Clipper Cove in 1955, formerly the site of Pan Am Clipper landings 1938-1945. (San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library)


Korean War

Treasure Island continued to support military efforts throughout the Korean, Vietnam, and Gulf Wars. Because of its role as a processing center, NSTI experienced cycles of expansion in population and activity during wartime, and then a subsequent contraction. 

During the Korean War, the island continued to provide critical support as a Navy training and education center. It was also a major point of embarkation and debarkation for sailors and marines heading across the Pacific.

A marine rejoins his family after months of separation at Treasure Island in 1951. Note the miniature Marine uniform worn by the son!
A marine rejoins his family after months of separation at Treasure Island in 1951. Note the miniature Marine uniform worn by the son! (U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives)

Marines returning home from the Korean War to Treasure Island in 1954. (San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library)


Disaster Training & Damage Control

In 1946, the Navy set up a training program on Treasure Island for radiological safety as part of the Damage Control School. In the decades that followed WWII, a greater understanding of the risks of radiation exposure from nuclear bombs required new tactics for decontamination and damage control.

Around 1959, one Damage Control School training program would culminate explosively with a “Mock A-Bomb”– a staged event to train for medical response in the event of a nuclear bomb. Following the non-radioactive explosion (formed by thirty pounds of TNT, smoke grenades, and hundreds of gallons of napalm), 150 marines pretended to suffer from radiation injuries while medical personnel demonstrated proper treatment and safety procedures.

Students practiced decontamination procedures on a full-scale mock ship constructed from salvaged parts, called the USS Pandemonium. It was moored at TI from 1968-1970. Unfortunately, the training from this ship and other NSTI activities has led to serious concerns about contamination which are still being addressed today. (Urban Reinventions: San Francisco's Treasure Island, 2017)

The USS Pandemonium docked on the Northeast corner of Treasure Island circa 1970. (Treasure Island Naval Station Historical Radiological Assessment 2006. (Prepared for BRAC by Weston Solutions Inc.)

The “Mock Atomic Bomb” over TI. (San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library)


Vietnam War

During the Vietnam War, the Twelfth Naval District relocated to Naval Station Treasure Island from San Francisco and remained on Treasure Island until it was disestablished in 1977. NSTI supported American efforts by educating sailors in communication electronics, firefighting, and the operation of coastal/river patrols called the “Brown Water Navy.” 

NSTI also played a role in the training of hundreds of South Vietnamese sailors at the Small Boat School on the Island. In 1971, these South Vietnamese sailors, who had recently graduated from the Newport, Rhode Island Officer Candidate School, spent a month training in River Operations, then returned to South Vietnam to serve in the Swift Boat Fleet on small coastal and river patrol gunboats provided by the U.S. Navy, where they patrolled the rivers and waterways of the Mekong Delta region. (U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, 2016)

Group of South Vietnamese sailors who trained on Treasure Island in 1971. (Wikipedia)

Photos of life on Treasure Island in 1966. (Courtesy of Danny L. Farrow, ETA school student)


Treasure Island Museum Association established

The Navy/Marine Corps Museum was founded by the Navy in 1975, and grew to occupy most of the lobby of this building. It opened to the public on October 3, 1975, with exhibits representing the Navy and Marine Corps from the early 1800s to the present. 

The colorful mural in the lobby was designed by photo-realist Lowell Nesbitt as an American Bicentennial project. The mural measures 251 feet long and 26 feet high and was commissioned for the opening of the museum. It depicts the history of the Navy and Marine Corps in the Pacific from 1813 to an imagined future. 

Over time, the museum’s collections and exhibitions extended beyond the island’s military history and included the GGIE and the Pan American World Airways Clippers (PanAm). In the 1990s, it was renamed the Treasure Island Museum.

The Navy museum was shuttered in 1997 as part of the closure of NSTI, but a “friend of the museum" nonprofit,  dating from the founding of the original museum, continued to operate as the Treasure Island Museum Association (TIM). Since 1997, TIM has kept Treasure Island’s legacy alive through programs, exhibitions, and public outreach, and in 2008, resumed operating the Treasure Island Museum in the Administration Building in space provided by the Treasure Island Development Authority (TIDA).

A pick-up truck tows an A-4 Skyhawk aircraft past Building One in 1984. The jet, formerly on exhibit at the Navy Museum, was later donated to Encinal High School in Alameda, California. (National Archives) 

Interior of Treasure Island Museum, circa 1991. (Treasure Island Museum Collection)

Zoe Dell Lantis Nutter, the GGIE’s pirate theme girl at the 40th Anniversary of the GGIE. Anniversaries of the GGIE continued on the island until 1997. (Treasure Island Museum Collection)

1980s - 1990s

Many sailors continued to pass through Treasure Island as it remained a crucial site for naval training and education. Notably, the USS Buttercup, a mock-up of a ship used to provide realistic emergency training, was located at the naval base during the 1980s and 1990s. This land-based trainer placed sailors in a flooding compartment where they had to resolve the problem. In the trainer, water sprayed everywhere as sailors scrambled to repair, patch, and shore bulkheads just as they would have to at sea.

NSTI was home to Navy Technical schools including the Class "A” Schools for Electronics, Hull Maintenance, Radar and NBRC (Nuclear, Biological, Radiological and Chemical) Warfare, as well as Class “B” and “C” Schools for Electronics and NBRC.

Marines undergoing damage control on the USS Buttercup. (NARA, 1992)

Firefighting on the simulated flight deck at the Naval Technical Training Center on NSTI. (National Archives 1993)

Images depicting everyday life on NSTI including naval base housing and shopping at the commissary. (Courtesy of Todd Lappin, Flickr)

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