One aspect of San Diego’s history that is often overlooked and yet has had a large impact on both the city and the United States, in general, is the role it’s played in the operations of the American military. From its use as a naval city to its role in WWII, there is much to be said about the exciting and action-packed nature of San Diego’s long and proud military tradition.

Here is a brief look at some of the important milestones in the military history of San Diego!

san diego military history
San Diego is famous for being the location of the movie Top Gun

Early Stages

The development of San Diego as a base for the United States Navy began in earnest in the early 1900s. In this early period, US politicians and state leaders stressed the importance of the Navy to develop San Diego’s developing economy and this went a long way toward convincing the populace that the military presence there would be a positive influence.

Theodore Roosevelt himself sent the Great White Fleet on a visit to San Diego in 1908, which proved to be a pivotal moment in the city’s military history.

The 1910’s and WWI

Starting in the 1910s and ramping up during the USA’s entry into WWI, San Diego quickly became an important strategic location for American military strategy and defense plans. This new environment directly led to the creation of the Navy Training Station and the Naval Hospital in Balboa Park.

Other significant changes during this time revolved around the opening of the Panama-California Exposition as well as the 1910 Mexican Revolution. Both events proved crucial toward proving the potential of San Diego as a base for the US Navy and steered the military on its course of using the city for further historical events (especially in the WW2 era).

Changes in WWII

When WWII began, San Diego’s population immediately began to rapidly and explosively grow in a very short period. One of the reasons for this shift in population included the development of aircraft plants, which attracted unemployed workers in large numbers.

Because of these changes, the US Navy quickly became one of the top employers for the city and ended up being responsible for a great portion of the economic investments in San Diego. Housing construction also increased substantially during this period on account of the increased labor force, resulting in additional economic stimulus.

Modern Era and Present Day

Moving on to the 21st century, the US military continues to play a vital role in the economy and culture of San Diego. Recent developments on this front include the present vacuum the American Navy fills by being the main employer in the area.  There is also a large Marine base at Camp Pendleton in San Diego’s North County.

Another major source of the American military’s modern-day presence in the city revolves around the strategic defense position that San Diego can play in the military’s plans (especially as they relate to the US Navy.) This has led to a relationship of mutual benefit between the city and the military that is unlikely to dissipate any time in the foreseeable future.