Naval Submarine Base (NSB) Kings Bay currently occupies approximately 16,168 acres, in the southeast corner of Georgia. NSB Kings Bay is approximately 8 miles north of the Georgia-Florida border, approximately 4 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, and approximately 2 miles north of the city of St. Mary’s, Georgia.
Archaeological research indicates a pre-Columbian Indian presence, throughout the area, dating back thousands of years. Early in the 19th century, much of what is now NSB Kings Bay was occupied by plantations. The plantation system declined following the Civil War, and the land was broken up into smaller residential holdings used for small scale farming, hunting, fishing, and harvesting of shellfish. Aboriginal groups and Euro-American settlers favored the northeast portion of NSB Kings Bay for settlements because of its relatively abundant natural resources. A total of 54 aboriginal and historic period sites have been identified, with 35 sites determined eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. Historic areas located along the coast and adjacent to the North River are have been categorized as archaeologically sensitive zones requiring special management practices to preserve the cultural resources they retain. These areas are also sensitive natural areas as they are located along wetlands and the bays.
To address the need for an east coast port capable of transporting ammunition and other explosives in the event of a national emergency, the United States Army began acquiring the property presently occupied by NSB Kings Bay in the early 1950s. Construction of the military ocean terminal was initiated in 1955 and completed in 1958. The Army terminal was known as the Kings Bay Army Terminal, Military Ocean Terminal Kings Bay, and MOTKI. During construction efforts, a 200-foot wide channel, equipped with two turning basins, was dredged to the Cumberland Sound. The most prominent feature of the terminal was a 2,000-foot long, 87-foot wide concrete and steel dock. The dock was equipped with three railroad tracks, enabling simultaneous loading of several ammunition ships via both rail and truck. The Army laid 47 miles of railroad tracks, with spurs, off the main line running to temporary storage areas protected by earthen barricades/bunkers. Since there was no immediate operational need, the Army terminal was placed in an inactive/ready status from 1956 until 1978. During this time, the terminal was used for reserve training and contingency purposes in the event of a natural disaster.
The privately owned and operated Blue Star Shipping Company signed a lease to use a portion of the installation for commercial shipping and receiving from 1959 through 1979. The Army terminal was never activated to serve its’ intended purpose of munitions management/transportation.
In 1976, the United States Navy selected the former Army terminal as the east coast location for its fleet ballistic missile submarine support facility. On 1 July 1978, Naval Submarine Support Base Kings Bay was established under a developmental status. Following significant renovation, the USS Simon Lake and the USS James Monroe arrived at NSB Kings Bay in 1979. Later in 1979, the Navy selected NSB Kings Bay as the preferred east coast site for the Ohio-class submarine. In 1980, after a one-year environmental impact study was completed and with Congressional approval, the Secretary of the Navy announced NSB Kings Bay as the future home of the Trident submarine. Subsequently, infrastructure for three major commands was constructed: Trident Training Facility, Trident Refit Facility, and Strategic Weapons Facility, Atlantic. On 15 January 1989, the first Trident submarine, the USS Tennessee (SSBN 734), arrived at NSB Kings Bay; followed by the USS Pennsylvania later that year . NSB Kings Bay held a commissioning for USS West Virginia in October 1990, USS Kentucky in July 1991, USS Maryland in June 1992, USS Nebraska in July 1993, USS Rhode Island in July 1994, USS Maine in August 1995, and USS Wyoming in July 1996. The commissioning of USS Louisiana in September 1997 gave Kings Bay its full complement of ten Trident submarines.
The end of the Cold War and the reorganization of military forces in the 1990s affected Kings Bay. A nuclear policy review recommended the Navy reduce the Ohio-class fleet ballistic-missile submarines from 18 to 14 by 2005. In order to meet the review recommendation, the four oldest Ohio-class submarines were decommissioned and converted to guided missile platforms. In addition to normal refit activities, the conversion of submarines to platforms required a significant effort at NSB Kings Bay (Booz Allen, 2009). The USS Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Nebraska, Maine, and Louisiana, were moved to Naval Base Kitsap, Washington, as part of balancing the Trident fleet. The USS Florida (SSGN 728) arrived at NSB Kings Bay in May 2006 and the USS Georgia (SSGN 729) in 2007.
NSB Kings Bay, now occupying the former Army terminal and several thousand additional acres, has served as an east coast submarine base since 1979. The current mission is to provide support to the fleet ballistic missile system and to maintain and operate facilities for administration and personnel support for submarine force operations.