The journey to Diego Garcia was to take nearly a week, first leg was a VC10 flight from RAF Brize Norton to Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong. After 4 days enjoying the hospitality of HMS Tamar and the bright lights of Hong Kong, I was ready for the next leg of the journey. The rest of the trip was aboard a RAF Hercules and we arrived at Diego Garcia via Brunei and after a night stopover in Kaula Lumpur, Malaysia. (Staying in a 5 star hotel courtesey of the R.A.F., thank you very much!)
A SHORT HISTORY OF NAVAL PARTY 1002
DIEGO GARCIA, BRITISH INDIAN OCEAN TERRITORY
In December 1966, the United Kingdom and the United States signed a bilateral agreement
making the islands of the British Indian Ocean Territory available for defense purposes to
both governments. Both British and American flags fly over the island.
On 23 January 1971, a nine-man advance party from NMCB-40 landed on Diego Garcia to
confirm planning information and to initiate preliminary survey for beach landing areas.
Subsequently, about 50 Seabees landed on Diego Garcia. They marked underwater
obstructions, installed temporary navigational aids and cleared beach areas for landing
additional personnel. Then, on 20 March 1971, an additional party of 160 men arrived.
On 24 March 1971, construction began on a U.S. Naval Communication Facility on Diego
Garcia. Construction was accomplished by units of the U.S. Naval Construction force
During December 1972, personnel of the Naval Communication Station Precommissioning
Detachment arrived to prepare for commissioning. On 20 March 1973, U.S. Naval
Communication Station, Diego Garcia was commissioned. The Communications Facility
consisted of an austere communication station and necessary supporting facilities
including an airstrip.
A major change to the island organization occurred with the establishment of the Navy
Support Facility (NAVSUPPFAC) on October 1, 1977. Commanding Officer, NAVSUPPFAC assumed
all duties and responsibilities previously assigned the Island Commander. The nucleus for
the NAVSUPPFAC came from the original Communication Station's enlisted and officer
allowances. All billets, other than those dedicated to communications support, were
transferred to CO, NAVSUPPFAC who is responsible for maintaining and operating facilities
and providing services and materials in support of several tenant shore activities and
units of the operating forces.
Recent world developments have highlighted Diego Garcia's importance to the defense
posture of U.S. and Allied Forces. Commencing with the Yemen crisis in the spring of 1979,
the Iranian crisis of 1979-81, and continuing with Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990-91,
Diego Garcia has played a primary role in the support of Naval units operating in the
Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf areas.
Diego Garcia is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) formed in 1965 from
territory belonging formerly to Mauritius and the Seychelles. The island is one of 52 in
the Chagos Archipelago, which extends over an area of 10,000 square miles. The archipelago
is located in the heart of the Indian Ocean, south of India and between Africa and
The tropical island is a narrow coral atoll with a land area of about eleven square miles,
nearly enclosing a lagoon. Its configuration is that of a "V" drawn by a shaky
hand. The island stretches 37 miles from tip to tip, with an opening to the north-
northwest. Three small islands dot the mouth of the lagoon, which is approximately 13
miles long and up to 6 miles wide. The lagoon is from sixty to one hundred feet deep with
numerous coral heads in most areas. Shallow reefs surround the island on the ocean side,
as well as in the lagoon. The island's mean height above sea level is 4 feet.
The climate is typically tropical, with warm temperatures and high humidity throughout the
year. The average yearly precipitation is 102 inches. Island flora is lush, consisting in
large measure of coconut trees, which were the staple of the island for 200 years.
Additionally, there are a variety of other tropical plants and trees including large
hardwood trees such as takamaka, porcie, guyoid, and casa. Care is taken during
construction operations to preserve the ecology of Diego Garcia. Wildlife on the island is
sparse, but interesting and varied. No dangerous wildlife exists on the island. The worst
of the lot is a small scorpion with a sting comparable to that of a bee. Land crabs,
coconut crabs and hermit crabs abound and you may see a coconut rat scurry about. The
largest creatures are the approximately 300 donkeys whose ancestors worked the now-
abandoned plantation in the days before mechanization.