History of the Base

Rear Admiral Dahlgren

John Adolphus Bernard Dahlgren was born November 13, 1809, and joined the U.S. Navy in 1826 where he received training in advanced mathematics, scientific theory, and the use of precision instruments while serving on the U.S. Coast Survey (1834-1837). Ordered to ordnance duty at Washington Navy Yard in 1847, Dahlgren’s first task was to develop rockets for use on board warships. He did the job so well that the Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography assigned him ever increasing responsibilities, empowered him to expand the Yard’s facilities at his discretion, and arranged for him to remain on ordnance duty indefinitely. Dahlgren served in Washington for the next fifteen years.

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Naming of Dahlgren, Virginia

Late in 1918, as the infant “Lower Station” (as the new base at Dahlgren was called) grew, it became obvious to Commander Logan Cresap, Bureau of Ordnance (BUORD), that it needed a separate identify from Indian Head. A long established post office designated as “Dido” existed on the reservation, but BUORD planned to remove it in the near future and establish a new post office, tentatively called “Machodoc Creek.” However, postal officials quickly told BUORD that a post office with that designation already existed in Virginia and that another name would be necessary.

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First Shot

The 7-inch/45 caliber Caterpillar tractor mounted gun exhibited at Naval Support Facility Dahlgren today began its life at Dahlgren to be proof tested before the Marine Corps planed to take it to France in WWI. On October 16, 1918, it was the first gun fired on the new proving ground at what was not yet called Dahlgren. This firing announced that the proving ground was open for business. For many decades now, the base has taken this date to celebrate its birthday and has used this as the symbol of its beginning. Thus, the return of this gun to Dahlgren, on a ten-year loan from the National Museum of the Marine Corps, and its unveiling at Dahlgren on November 13, 2009, mark another significant even in the history of this Naval Base.

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A Glimpse into History


6 November 1970. Lois O. Duckwall. The Laboratory Log.

Three new arrivals have reported to the Naval Space and Surveillance System, and each has created quite a stir. First is NAVSPASUR’s new, and for the foreseeable future, “permanent” boot Ensign, John “Doug” Carlson, USNR. Doug, and his wife Karen, are both natives of Greeley, Colorado, and attended Colorado State University where they first met. Doug earned his Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering there last March, and entered Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island, immediately thereafter. NAVSPASUR is his first tour. He has assumed duties as Assistant Department Head in Engineering, with additional “unspecified” tasks as the Command’s “most junior” officer. The Carsons reside at 606 Gilmore.

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