A traveler heading across the Chesapeake
Bay Bridge toward Annapolis, Md., can
hardly miss them — three large radio tow-
ers. Located on Greenbury Point, the towers
are a historic remnant of a piece of U.S.
naval communications history that traces
back to the first World War.
A parcel there, acquired in 1910 by the Navy,
proved too small for its intended purpose — a dairy
farm for the Naval Academy. Instead, food waste was
hauled there from Bancroft Hall to be consumed by
some 350 hogs.
In addition, the property hosted an early naval air
station — the predecessor to Pensacola, Fla.
Meanwhile, the Navy had begun establishing wireless communications stations along the East Coast to
support fleet operations in the Atlantic. With the advent
of the American entry into World War I, the Navy took
on a greater responsibility for cross-Atlantic communications and took an immediate interest in adding a new
mission to the parcel that lay across the Severn River
opposite the academy.
Thanks to Greenbury Point’s remoteness, yet proximity to Washington, it proved to be an ideal site for
a high-power, very-low-frequency (VLF) station that
would have a Navy-operated sister station in France.
Placed into service in September 1918, the Naval
Radio Transmitting Station used two 500-kilowatt
Poulsen arc converter VLF transmitters built by Federal
Telegraph Co. of San Francisco.
Four 600-foot radio towers, a power house and
transmitter house, housing quarters, Marine barracks,
a wharf and a water supply system station kept the
Navy’s hogs in good company.
The facility experienced modest growth in the 1920s
with two towers added in 1922. During the Depression, a
new antenna system and supporting infrastructure were
added to support high-, medium- and low-frequency
During World War II, the Bureau of Ships funded
improvements to increase the station’s capacity to
support command and control communications during
the crucial Battle of the Atlantic. The Navy footprint
at Greenbury Point expanded with the acquisition of
adjoining property to construct five more towers and
In August 1953, the facility became a component of
the U.S. Naval Communications Station, Washington,
which maintained two other radio stations in the region.
To meet the increasing needs of the fleet, more antennas
and transmission facilities were added to the complex.
In some cases, the proven technology worked fine.
A VLF system installed in 1938 for submarine communications only needed upgrading in 1969.
Renamed Naval Radio Transmitter Facility in 1974,
the Greenbury Point complex continued to serve the
fleet as a component of the Defense Communications
Agency. However, its years were numbered. Advances
in satellite communications during the bicentennial
year eliminated the requirement of medium- and
Maintaining its VLF capabilities, the facility continued to support the communication needs of the
submarine force. With the improvement of satellite
capabilities, the need to maintain Greenbury Point
proved less critical. The facility was closed in 1994
following recommendations made in the 1991 Base
Realignment and Closure report.
At the time of closure, Greenbury Point boasted 19
towers. Thanks to demolition charges, 16 of them came
crashing down on Dec. 9, 1999.
Ownership of the three remaining towers was
transferred to civilian government authorities for use
as training facilities. n
Source: The Greenbury Point Towers is featured as object 39
in a video series compiled by the U.S. Naval Academy titled
100 Objects. See: https://www.usna.edu/100Objects/Objects/
Dr. David F. Winkler is a historian with the Naval Historical
Remote Towers Provided Critical
Naval Communications Capabilities
BY DAVID F. WINKLER
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 62 SEAPOWER APRIL 2017