On 30 September 1958, the Office of the Secretary of Defense approved construction of a Polaris Missile assembly facility near Charleston, South Carolina. Major components of the the Polaris missile were to be shipped there, assembled, tested, and outloaded on Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines or stored for future outloading. The facility was to be on a dormant government property located near Charleston, South Carolina, some 17 miles up the Cooper River from the Atlantic Ocean. This largely undeveloped pine forest and marsh site had been an Army Ordnance Depot during World War II. The Navy acquired the 5,185 acre property in 1954, adding it to the adjacent Naval Ammunition Depot. Construction crews broke ground in December 1954, only 4 months after the site was selected. Being on the Cooper River provided access to direct loading of Missiles on SSBNs. Some 36 magazines built by the Army during the 1940's were modified and updated, and a large handling crane was installed at Pier Bravo of the Naval Ammunition Depot. The facility was known as the Naval Weapons Annex, a tenant of the Naval Ammunitiion Depot, Charleston, South Carolina. It was commissioned on 29 March 1960.
Representative L. Mendel Rivers lead the dedication ceremonies at the Polaris Missile Facility located some 23 miles from Charleston. Instead of the traditional ribbon-cutting, a chunk of Polaris solid fuel ignited by a gas cutting torch officially opens the Polaris base. Charleston becomes the first port to handle the Polaris. (This tidbit was found by Al Meacher a retired SPC-20 Inspector).
In July of the same year, the USS George Washington (SSBN-598), the first Ballistic Missile Submarine, successfully launched two Polaris A1 Missiles while cruising submerged off Cape Canaveral. These were the first Missiles that had been assembled and tested at the Naval Weapons Annex and then shipped to Cape Canavarel for loading aboard the USS George Washington (SSBN-598).
On 03 November 1960, the USS George Washington (SSBN-598) steamed into Charleston, South Carolina, and tied up at Naval Ammunition Depot's Pier Bravo. At 1715 that afternoon, the first tactical Polaris A1 Missile was loaded aboard the USS George Washington (SSBN-598) without incident. By 07 November 1960, all 16 Missiles were in the Submarine's Launch Tubes, and the crew had begun initial checks of their newly-acquired assets.
As scheduled, the USS George Washington (SSBN-598) slipped from her berth about 1200 on 15 November 1960 and headed down the Cooper River toward the Atlantic Ocean. The Naval Weapons Annex had passed its first outload.
Soon thereafter, the USS Patrick Henry (SSBN-599) arrived at the Naval Ammunition Depot, Charleston, South Carolina, and received its outload of Polaris A1 Missiles during 17-30 December 1960. Admiral Raborn was sufficiently impressed with the USS Patrick Henry's (SSBN-599) outload to send a "Bravo Zulu" (Well Done) to all hands of the Naval Weapons Annex. This included its military, contractor, and civilian personnel. During the next year, 1961, three additional Submarines were outloaded.
In 1962, the Naval Weapons Annex acquired the capability to process the next generation of the Polaris Missile, the Polaris A2. The USS Ethan Allen (SSBN-608) deployed from Charleston, South Carolina, as the first Submarine outloaded with the new Polaris A2's on 26 June 1962. Three additional Submarines were outloaded with A2 Missiles during the year.
In 1964, assembly work on the Polaris A3 Missile commenced. The Naval Weapons Annex acquired the capability to assemble and test Polaris A3 Missiles and outloaded 10 Submarines, 8 with Polaris A2 Missiles and 2 with Polaris A3 Missiles. The USS Daniel Webster (SSBN-626) was the first Submarine to carry the new longer range Polaris A3, deploying from Charleston, South Carolina, on 28 September 1964. On 21 July 1964, the Secretary of the Navy changed the name of the facility from Naval Weapons Annex to the Polaris Missile Facility, Atlantic (POMFLANT).
During 1968, POMFLANT began to acquire the additional buildings and equipment to process the new Poseidon C3 Missile. POMFLANT began processing the Poseidon Production Evaluation Missile (PEM) in 1970. The PEMs were loaded aboard the backfitted USS James Madison (SSBN-627) and USS Daniel Boone (SSBN-629) for test firing off Cape Canaveral. Tactical Poseidon Missile production began shortly thereafter. The USS Madison deployed from Charleston, South Carolina, with the first Posedion C3 outload on 31 March 1971.
During 1974, the final Polaris A3 Missile buildup at POMFLANT was completed on 30 July, and the final Polaris A2 missiles were offloaded on 20 September. In April 1975, Lockheed Missile and Space Company (LMSC) personnel began Missile processing in Missile Assembly and Packaging Building Number 1. It was also in 1975 that conversion of the facility to process TRIDENT I Missiles got underway.
In August of 1977, the Increased Contractor Participation (ICP) contract was signed, and the LMSC assumed production work in various production buildings on 1 December 1977.
Missile assembly and checkout of TRIDENT I C4 Missiles began in December 1978 with the first TRIDENT I C4 PEM. The Missile was outloaded aboard the USS Francis Scott Key (SSBN-657) on 20 February 1979. After Demonstration and Shakedown Operations (DASO), the USS Francis Scott Key (SSBN-657) deployed on 20 October 1979 with the first outload of TRIDENT I C4 Tactical Missiles.
|POMFLANT established a pattern of sending out more than 150 TRIDENT I C4 or POSEIDON C3 Missiles each year, varying considerably with Fleet requirements. DASOs, outloads, and other Fleet operations had been supported. This included shipments to Holy Loch, King's Bay, and other Charleston area commands. Receipt of Missiles from the Fleet for disassembly, refurbishment and functional testing continued as required to support Fleet requirements. During its 34 years of service, POMFLANT had assembled or recertified 6324 Missiles. It remains the only facility at which all five generations of the FBM Missiles had been processed. It has had all the "Firsts", (Polaris A1 Missile through the Trident I C4 Missile) and had always met Fleet requirements.|
POMFLANT provided the Initial Outload of the FBM Submarine. After a Submarine completed its patrol, it returned to an assigned refit site for crew exchanges, supplies, and other required items. Each refit site had a Submarine Tender assigned to provide services. The original sites in the Atlantic were Site 1 at Holy Loch, Scotland (09 March 1961); Site 2 at Rota, Spain (24 February 1964); and Site 4 at Charleston, South Carolina (28 July 1965), a few miles down the Cooper River, at the Naval Weapons Station, Pier "Charlie.". Site 3 was established in December 1964 in the Pacific at Apra Harbor, Guam, to service the West Coast Polaris SSBNs. The original SSBNs in the Pacific were outloaded with Polaris A3 Missiles processed at POMFLANT. The USS Daniel Boone (SSBN-629) became the first of these SSBNs assigned to the Pacific Fleet on 21 August 1964. It began the first Pacific operational patrol on 25 December 1964. The USS Proteus (AS-19) was the original Tender assigned to Site 3 in Guam. It was also the first Tender assigned at Holy Loch and at Rota, Spain. It was not until April 1965 that a Pacific SSBN was outloaded at the new Polaris Missile Facilty, Pacific (POMFPAC), Bangor, Washington.