Pearl Harbor 1913 -- 1919
War Years -- And The Great Split Decisionby Frank Pierce Young
 When Armistice was declared on 11 November 1918, the closest that America's Pacific navymen had come to the enemy was two Imperial German naval vessels, the
gunboat SMS Geier and her tender, the Locksun. Unable to promptly leave Honolulu when war broke out, ships and men were interned at moorings as belligerents. By the turn of 1917, America was clearly on the brink of war, and on 4 February the crews of the two ships tried to burn them. Both were swiftly seized by watchful bluejackets and moved to Pearl Harbor, where by June they had been repaired, cleaned up, repainted, and recommissioned as Schurz and Gulfport.

Meantime, work had proceeded on turning Pearl Harbor into a very real naval base. By war's end it could boast administrative and office buildings, officers' quarters and sailors' and Marines' barracks, warehouses, workshops, paved streets and smooth lawns, utilities and telephone system, underground fuel tanks, a coaling wharf, a new long wharf, ammunition magazines, power plant, radio station, water reservoir, and its own railway system. 

And in 1914 the first of what would become a familiar characteristic of the base had arrived; a handful of  F-class submarines -- then new, but soon to seem virtually archaic.

Nor had the Army been idle. Early on in the overall planning, it was seen that the base area around Oahu in particular, and indeed the islands generally, needed strong military defences. In 1913 came a massive, 1,341-acre main base for the Army's new Hawaiian Department.  On high ground between the base and Honolulu, it was aptly named Fort Shafter, after Major General Shafter, commander of the U.S. forces that took Cuba during the 1898 Spanish-American War -- a man of some 350 pounds' weight, so heavy he had to be man-carried to battle in a sort of sedan chair, because he was far too fat for any horse. Below on the plain, named after the officer who conducted the original secret survey, the infantry got its famed Schofield Barracks -- which was to a barracks as a medieval serf's mud hut might be to a great castle; it sprawled over more than 14,000 acres and was then the largest Army base under the U.S. flag. Nor were they the only installations. Gradually, a concrete and steel ring of coast artillery appeared --  Forts Armstrong, DeRussy, Kamehameha, Ruger, and Weaver. 

Plus aviation. A week after the Navy seized the two German ships, Captain John F. Curry of the U.S. Army Air Service arrived in Honolulu; one month later appeared the Sixth Aero Squadron, his command, and all went to Ft. Kamehameha pending establishment of their own base on Ford Island. In 1918 they had it, named Luke Field after the flying cowboy who'd become famous as the "Arizona balloon-buster" -- Lieutenant Frank Luke, recently lost in action in France. 

Even so, as a practical matter the rapidly growing base was still mainly only a mid-Pacific supply dump. Opening the great drydock radically changed that status overnight.

It also changed the entire functional nature of the U.S. Navy. Since its post-Revolutionary inception, though it gradually developed certain overseas squadrons, the USN had always been organised as a single overall fleet. In May of 1919, with the vitally important drydock opening at Pearl Harbor only three months away, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels decreed that the U.S. Fleet be divided in two -- an Atlantic Fleet and a Pacific Fleet, picked out the ships, and sent the latter on its permanent way west that summer. A seminal order, it marked  the beginning of what would become known as the Two- Ocean Navy, and all that would eventually go with it -- new building programmes, variant ship designs for Pacific duty, and a long string of supportive Pacific Coast naval bases. And an entire new outlook for the United States. 

The first signal was a huge new 5-year building plan for Pearl Harbor -- priced at $27,184,000. The coming years would be busy ones indeed.