Naval Station Argentia is a former base of the United States Navy that operated from 1941-1994. It was established in the community of Argentia in what was then the Dominion of Newfoundland, which would later become the tenth Canadian province (see Newfoundland and Labrador.
Established under the British-U.S. lend-lease program, the base was first occupied on January 25, 1941 following the expropriation of the flat headland formed by a small natural bay called Little Placentia Sound and the western end facing Placentia Bay by the Newfoundland government; over 400 families were displaced.
On August 7, 1941 the heavy cruiser USS Augusta carrying U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt arrived in the anchorage at Little Placentia Bay off the base. Roosevelt inspected the base construction progress and did some fishing from Augusta over the next few days. Augusta was joined by the British warship HMS Prince of Wales carrying British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on August 10, 1941. While in the Argentia anchorage from August 10–12, the two leaders and their delegations managed to negotiate the Atlantic Charter which established the basis for UK-US military cooperation and objectives. This history-altering agreement was signed on August 12 whereby both vessels departed for their home territories at high speed. The "Atlantic Charter" was publicly announced in a declaration on August 14, presumably after Prince of Wales had returned to UK waters.
On August 28, 1941 Naval Air Station Argentia was commissioned. NAS Argentia was built on the plateau atop the triangular peninsula adjacent to Naval Station Argentia's anchorage and shore facilities. The air station was used to base convoy protection, coastal patrol and anti-submarine aircraft. While NAS Argentia was nominally an independent facility from Naval Station Argentia, both facilities are largely viewed as one.
Beginning that summer, USS Prairie was used to house Flag Headquarters at the base.
February, 1942 saw the Argentia base at the centre of one of the worst disasters in the US Navy's history when USS Pollux and USS Truxtun were wrecked 75 miles southwest of the base. Over 100 victims were buried in Argentia's military cemetery.
In March 1942 the United States Army established Fort McAndrew at Argentia to provide security to the navy base through an anti-aircraft battery. Later that spring the Royal Navy established a small maintenance base at Argentia to service its ships involved in convoy escort groups operating out of Halifax, Sydney, St. John's and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
In the spring of 1943 a 7,000 ton floating drydock was installed at Argentia, along with a ship repair facility. In August 1943, CTF-24 Flag Headquarters moved ashore to permanent facilities after having been housed aboard USS Prairie.
Following the war in August 1945, the first dependents of naval personnel were permitted to move to Argentia to live in permanent quarters on base.
In 1949, Newfoundland joined Canadian Confederation as the 10th province. During the Cold War, Argentia Naval Station became a key "node" in the Northwest Atlantic's SOSUS network, helping to detect Soviet nuclear submarines. The base was the target of several espionage attempts between the 1940s–1990s as a result.
In 1955 McAndrew AFB was decommissioned and the facility was turned over the US Navy with USAF personnel moving to other locations in Newfoundland such as Ernest Harmon AFB, Goose AFB or various radar installations being built in conjunction with the Royal Canadian Air Force such as the Pinetree Line, Mid-Canada Line and DEW Line. Radar picket ships such as the USS Hissem used the base.
In 1973, Naval Air Station Argentia was decommissioned and the land transferred in 1975 to the Government of Canada. It was subsequently transferred it to the provincial government for development.
Until 1994, the runways of the former airfield were utilized by the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. The Air Cadets operated weekend glider familiarization through the Air Cadet Gliding Program. The Schweizer SGS 2-33 was launched using an auto-tow launch method, utilizing the entire length of the runway surfaces. Personnel were housed at the Naval Station Argentia facilities. After the US Naval Station was decommissioned, the glider program was operated without facilities support for a few years until the airfield was occupied for the Hydromet Test Facility owned by INCO. With the announcement that the INCO development would not be using the airfield, the Air Cadet Gliding Program once again started using the airfield for gliding operations in May, 2008.
In 1994 the US Navy left Argentia completely when Naval Station Argentia was decommissioned and the last personnel moved out.