Naval Communication Station Harold E. Holt is located 6km north of Exmouth. The area had a past history of military activity even before the COMMSTA was established. The submarine tender "USS Pelias", was moored in Exmouth Gulf providing submarine support during World War II, however, because of bad weather, it was subsequently decided to relocate the facilities, further south. Other military equipment remained at Exmouth, including a direction finding station, a landing strip, an RAAF radar station and a squadron of RAAF fighters. After 1945, only a small base maintenance unit remained.
A small communications base was set up at about the same area as the COMMSTA now stands, to support a submarine replenishment base nearby.
During September 1960, a team of US Navy personnel visited Western Australia to select a site for the present COMMSTA. The area from North West Cape to Point Torment in King Sound was considered. On January 19th, 1961, a contract was awarded for a report on the area during which a joint venture personnel team visited the area and the "Cape" was chosen as the home for the Naval Communication Station. Construction was scheduled to start in mid 1963 with an operational date set for July 1st, 1966.
After much planning and simultaneous construction, many long and arduous days went by, culminating in the commissioning of the Station and the dedicating of the town on September 16th, 1967. On September 20th, 1968, the name of the station was officially changed to US Naval Communication Station Harold E. Holt in memory of the late Right Honourable Harold E. Holt, former Prime Minister of Australia. The US Navy also had a frigate named after the late Prime Minister, the only ship in the US Navy named after a foreign dignitary.
From 1st January, 1975, the Station has been jointly manned by Royal Australian Navy and US Navy Personnel and renamed "Naval Communication Station Harold E. Holt".
The above arrangement remained until 1992, the station was then jointly manned by the United States Navy, the Royal Australian Navy and Australian Civilian personnel. The total workforce then was approximately 600. When the United States Navy left the Station in 1992, a civilian contractor was appointed to operate the Station.
The Commanding Officer was a Royal Australian Naval Commander, responsible for the efficient operation of the station.
The Royal Australian Navy personnel filled approximately 40 positions with approximately 150 Australian civilians employed in various aspects of the station's operation.
The station itself is divided into two locations: Area "A" houses the Pier, VLF and Power Plant. Very Low Frequency (VLF) transmission, which, although of a shorter range than High Frequency (HF) produces a much greater reliability than HF. The power plant provides electricity needs throughout the base and is run and maintained by Australian civilian personnel. The power plant is one of the largest presently operated by the US Navy. It is made up of six diesel engines with each possessing the capability to produce 3,000,000 watts of power.
Area "B" incorporates both the station headquarters component and the high frequency transmitted site (HFT). All buildings are air-conditioned, or dehumidified, depending upon its function. Area "B" contains the administration building, the Fire Department and Security building, Public Works maintenance shops, Supply warehouses, Swimming Pool, Theatre, Chapel, various Fiscal and Disbursing facilities, Gymnasium, Tennis Courts, Basketball Courts and a Football/Softball field.
Also located in Area "B" is the main Communications Centre. This is the heart of the station's communications/operational activities and comprises the separate Royal Australian Navy national communications rooms, the Technical Control facility where all circuits in/out are engineered, and the Satellite Detachment.
Within Area "B" but separate from the main station complex, is the High Frequency Transmitter (HFT) site. The HFT building houses a number of transmitters, many of which are dedicated to point to point communications circuits with such places as Guam, the Philippines and Canberra. Circuits are also established with both USN and RAN surface ships operating within the station's area of communications responsibility.
As of July 2002 all naval personnel have departed the Base and the facility is now managed by a civil company Boeing Australia.