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Duluth's 109-year Navy presence will end on Sept. 9

A 109-year history of a U.S. naval base in Duluth will end on Sept. 9 when the Navy Operations Support Center will close for good.

The center's six full-time staff, including commanding officers, are being transferred to naval bases across the United States and the 78 reservists, who drill at the base now, will be headquartered at the Minneapolis Naval Reserve Center.

The Duluth base was targeted in 2005 by the federal base closure committee, but no formal closure date had been made public until now.

The closure will be marked at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept 9 with a private ceremony at the base and a free "disestablishment'' ceremony open to the public outside the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Lake Superior Maritime Visitors Center in Canal Park.

The Navy base's anchor and plaque -- commemorating 109 years of U.S. Navy presence in Duluth -- will be dedicated outside the visitors center by Rear Adm. Marshall Cusic.

"It's kind of a sad day for Navy people in Duluth. It's been a tradition here since 1898,'' said Lt. Ron Flesvig of Duluth, a Navy spokesman in Minnesota. "And it's going to be a hassle for the folks who have to drive down to the Cities now to drill, from Duluth and the Iron Range and northwestern Wisconsin.''

Cmdr. Erik Isaacson, commanding officer of the Duluth base for more than two years, will be heading to a new assignment at Whidbey Island Naval Air Center near Seattle.

"This has been a fantastic tour for me. My wife and I just love this area and we hate to leave,'' Isaacson said. "But this is a great career move for me and it's a nice area to go to.''

Only last year, the Duluth Naval Center moved from its old home along U.S. Highway 53 at Duluth International Airport to the base of the 148th Fighter Wing of the Minnesota Air National Guard at the other end of the airport.

The new Naval Center already was being built when the base was targeted for closure. The new building is now expected to be transferred to the Air National Guard, Flesvig said.

The Duluth Navy base includes members from six different units, including a medical unit, Construction Battalion members, members of an underwater warfare port security unit, ship repair unit and others.

The closure also will be marked with the opening of a new Navy exhibit in the Veteran's Hall at the Depot on Sept. 7 and the last Navy Ball in the city, set for later that day.

Duluth's naval heritage includes the U.S.S. Paducah, which was stationed here on Lake Superior and whose crewmembers were the first to fire shots in World War II, at a Japanese submarine just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.