Shortly before the United States’ entry into World War II, a 2,600-acre tract of land was purchased in western Duval County and construction began on U.S. Naval Auxiliary Air Station, Cecil Field (NAAS Cecil Field). Operating at full capacity during the war, it became the principal war-at-sea and dive-bombing training center for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps. It was a pilot’s last stop before being assigned to combat in either the Atlantic or Pacific fronts.
At the end of World War II, NAAS Cecil Field was disestablished and then eventually redesignated as Naval Air Station Cecil Field (NAS Cecil Field) on June 20, 1952. The station was rejuvenated as an operating base for fleet aircraft squadrons and air groups, bringing about the “jet age” for Naval Aviation in the Jacksonville area. NAS Cecil Field’s growth was accelerated when it was designated a master jet base specifically used for the operation of carrier-based tactical jet squadrons.
It was around this time that the United States and Soviet Union were stockpiling nuclear armaments in preparation for a possible all-out nuclear world war. The Yellow Water Weapons Department was established at Cecil Field but its purpose was kept a secret from the general public.
Marines stationed at Yellow Water spoke about security details to an editor of Leatherneck, a magazine for United States Marines, which published four articles about the complex in the summer of 1983. According to the articles, “The Pound” as it was called by Marines, was patrolled on foot and utilized surveillance cameras, sensors and searchlights to keep watch along the fences. The security units in the locked area were armed with M-16 automatic rifles, M-10 shotguns, and M-60 machine guns.
There were 89 ammunition bunkers, ranging from small buildings for high explosives to earth-covered bunkers with reinforced concrete doors for the nuclear weapons. They reportedly had elaborate security systems that would sound high-frequency pitches capable of destroying the eardrum or release toxic gases into the air.