Hampton Roads: Nonstop pipeline to World War II
When the United States started preparing to send troops overseas in World War II, no other place in the nation could match Hampton Roads' record as a military port.
Beginning as early as the Mexican War a century before, soldiers had traveled here from all over America to be shipped to distant battle fronts and that association only grew when Old Point Comfort became the staging ground for every major Union amphibious expedition against the South during the Civil War.
Four decades later during the Spanish-American War a vast tent city rose on the shores of the James River in Newport News, underscoring the standout rail and shipping connections that in World War I enabled the nation's second busiest port of embarkation to ship 261,820 soldiers, 4,133,873 tons of military supplies and 47,263 horses and mules to Europe.
Nearly 450,000 troops returned through the same gateway, giving the port an indelible reputation among the Army officers charged with selecting the embarkation sites for WWII.
So it came as no surprise on June 15, 1942, when they tapped Newport News as the headquarters for the port that would rank third in military transport behind only New York and San Francisco and serve as the primary conduit for the invasions of Africa, Sicily and Italy and the Mediterranean war.
More than 1.6 million people and some 15 million tons of war material passed through the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation during WWII, making it the nation's busiest military port after New York an....