Fleet Combat Training Center, Atlantic

Dan Neck, Virginia Beach, VA


Dam Neck crew in early days - 1942

Dam Neck crew in early days - 1942

Dam Neck is located in an area rich in history. In 1607, the Jamestown colonists landed just south of the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay at what is now Fort Story. By 1617, the settlers expanded east of the Elizabeth River, and built homes near present-day Dam Neck by the 1630's.

The name Dam Neck became firmly established in 1881 when it was given to a life-saving station built where the Bachelor Officer Quarters are now located. The Coast Guard purchased the life-saving station in 1930, and used it as a signal station until the Navy bought the land during World War II.

On November 6, 1941, Lieutenant Phillip D. Gallery received orders to report to the "Anti-Aircraft Range, Norfolk." No one could tell him anything about his new duty station, so Gallery did some checking. He discovered that District Public Works was in the process of constructing two small frame buildings near a Coast Guard station about five miles south of Virginia Beach on the Atlantic coast. This was the beginning of Anti-Aircraft Range, Norfolk.

The base originally housed a firing line, one control tower, one magazine, one office and one shop. There were no quarters or messing facilities.

On April 4, 1942, the activity was commissioned as the Anti-Aircraft Training and Test center with Lieutenant Gallery as Commanding Officer. The first barracks building, a mess hall and early classrooms were completed, and the staff consisted of two officers and approximately 40 enlisted men.

Lieutenant Gallery solicited trainees from ships at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and the Naval Base Piers. Enormous interest in the center developed immediately after the assault on Pearl Harbor, and plans were made to establish many other similar activities throughout the nation.

By 1944, Lieutenant Gallery was promoted to the rank of commander, and was awarded the Legion of Merit for his initiative and service to the Anti-Aircraft Range. He went on to become Commanding Officer of USS Pittsburgh during the Korean conflict, and retired as Rear Admiral.

Before and during World War II, several shipwrecks occurred off the Virginia Beach Coast. One is marked by a quick, flashing red buoy located nine miles east of the drone launching pad and labeled "Dam Neck Wreck Lighted Bell Buoy." The 5,700-ton U.S. tanker TIGER was torpedoed and sunk there by a submarine on April 3, 1942 with 64,000 barrels of Navy fuel oil aboard.

After World War II, the fate of Dam Neck was in question for several years. All of the anti-aircraft training centers in the United States were closing, but somehow Dam Neck survived. Between the years 1945-1949, the center rested uneasily in a stagnant period expecting each year to be its last. Then a Fire Department was established at the center in March 1947, giving hope to the staff that the base would remain commissioned.

Operational training continues today on all major weapons systems. As newer systems have been introduced to the fleet, they have been added to an ever-expanding curriculum, keeping the training tradition alive at Dam Neck.