Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields:
Major Army Air Forces Installations During World War II
by Warren A. Beck and Ynez D. Hasse

California was a preferred area for Army Air Force installations for two reasons: first, bases had to be located for purposes of continental defense, and there was fear of a Japanese attack on the West Coast during the first two years of war; second, the state was a desirable area for training because weather conditions seldom curtailed flying. Most airfields in California were multi-purpose; they had to be suitable for employment by bombardment, fighter, and air support aviation. After the emergency created by Pearl Harbor, the Air Force utilized municipal air fields extensively. In addition, the Army Air Forces maintained commands at several naval installations at various periods during the war. In some instances, the services even exchanged or loaned their facilities. For example, Moffett Field (Sunnyvale) was originally built as a naval dirigible base in 1930 but was transferred to the Army in 1935. However, it was returned to navy control in 1941, but the Army Air Force continued a command at the base. After 1943, several Army Air Fields were used by the Navy. The Army Air Forces trained pilots at private flying schools (under military supervision), mechanics at civil or factory training schools, and meteorological instruction was given at colleges and universities. Thus, Army Air Forces
installations in California were so numerous that only the most important have been designated.

Some airfields, like March, dated back to World War I, but most were built just before or during the first two years of World War II. Hamilton Field was constructed early in the 1930'S to protect the San Francisco area and became headquarters for the 4th Air Support Command. The Sacramento Air Depot (McClellan Field) was activated in 1939. San Bernardino was the site of a second air depot. The dry lake bed at Muroc was first used as a bombing and gunnery range in 1933, but was used to train B-29 pilots in 1945 (later Edwards AFB). Stockton airport was taken over by the military in 1940. Gardner, Hammer, Mather, and Minter Fields were authorized in the fall of 1940 and were active by the following spring. Lemoore, Chico, Merced (Castle), and Victorville (George) were planned but not finished before the outbreak of war. Salinas became the base for the observation squadrons when Moffett Field was regained by the Navy. Fairfield-Suisun (later Travis) was an important part of the Air Transport Command. The facility at Santa Maria was the first authorized in California after Pearl Harbor. In early 1942 Air Force tactical units moved to airports at San Bernardino, Long Beach, Bakersfield, Oakland, Sacramento and Mines Field (Inglewood). The Santa Ana Army Air Field opened in February, 1942, as the aviation cadet classification center for the West Coast.

All of the Army Air Forces installations had sub-bases and auxiliary fields to handle the increased personnel assigned to them. Some, such as Rice, were small, with quarters for only 20 officers and 100 enlisted men and a single airstrip. Others utilized tents, field kitchens, and similar temporary facilities. This was especially true of the bases used to support desert training. Small fields were also necessary adjuncts to army ground forces training installations.

To learn more about California History, we suggest reading
Historical Atlas of California
by Warren A. Beck and Ynez D. Hasse
Paperback, Published by the University Of Oklahoma Press 1975
A good basic book in California history. An outstanding collection of maps of maps tracing the routes of early Spanish and Mexican explorers, early Indian wars, the Bear Flag revolt, and other items of interest to California historians.
This page was reprinted with permission from Historical Atlas of California, published in 1975 by the University Of Oklahoma Press

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