Historic California Posts, Camps,
Stations and Airfields
Dive Bomb and Rocket Range Number 7
Bomb and Rocket Range Number 7)
History by Daniel M. Sebby, Military Historian,
California Military Department
On 1 July 1943, the Navy
Department established a bombing range in the vicinity of the
towns of Vernalis and Crows Landing to support naval aircraft
operating from Naval Auxiliary Air Stations (NAAS) Vernalis and Crows Landing. The range was established on grazing lands leased
to the U.S. Navy by Ms. Minnie Hansen under lease NOy(R)-35285.
In 1943, NAAS Vernalis was established primarily as a training
base for the Navy's land based heavy patrol bombers. Initially,
the Lockheed PV2 "Harpoon" (Army designation B-37 "Hudson")
was stationed at the field. Eventually the Harpoon was replaced
by the Consolidated PB4Y "Liberator/Privateer" (Army
designation B-24 "Liberator"). In both cases, the standard
bomb load would have been general purpose bombs weighing up to
and including 2,000 pounds. Defensive weapons would have been
standard .30- and .50-caliber machine guns.
Later in the war, it was decided to move the patrol bomber squadrons
to NAAS Crows Landing because that field had a runway more suitable
for the weight of the PB4Y's. With this move, Carrier Air Group
units began to train at NAAS Vernalis. These carrier based squadrons
would have flown the following types of aircraft: F4F "Wildcat"
Fighter; F6F "Hellcat" Fighter; TBF/TBM "Avenger"
Torpedo Bomber; SBD "Dauntless" Dive Bomber; F4U "Corsair"
Fighter; and SB2C "Helldiver" Bomber.
As with the patrol bombers, the largest bomb that could be carried
was the 2,000 pound general purpose bomb. The TBF/TBM "Avenger,"
although designated as a torpedo bomber, could carry a single
2,000 pound general purpose bomb in its weapons bay. Given this
fact, it is possible that the Avenger could have trained on this
range (Website, National Museum of Naval Aviation). Machine guns
on these aircraft were standard .30- and .50-caliber designs
with the exception of the "Helldiver," which also mounted
two forward firing 20mm cannons (Website, National Museum of
With the introduction of fleet units came the requirement for
training with the first generation rockets. These were often
conventional naval anti-aircraft shells (5-inch/38-caliber) attached
to a rocket motor.
On 15 May 1946, the lease with Minnie Hansen was terminated by
the Commandant of the 12th Naval District.
With the start of the Korean War, the training of Naval aviators
took an increased importance. The need for new bombing and rocket
ranges caused the U.S. Navy to revisit the status of all the
former ranges from World War II. In 1951 two targets, Baker 3
and Baker 4, were reestablish with two additional targets, Baker
5 and Baker 8, planned. All four targets were to be geographically
separated. Target Baker 3 was leased from the Estate of Ms. Minnie
Hansen and Baker 4 being leased from the Cox Estate. The property
for Targets Baker 5 and Baker 8 were never acquired.
When Baker 3 and Baker 4 were reestablished in 1951, the Navy
was well into its program of replacing propeller driven aircraft
with jets. However, some propeller driven aircraft, most notably
the A-1 "Skyraider," would continue in fleet service
for many more years. The following is a list of both land and
carrier based naval combat aircraft that were in fleet service
from the Korean War through the Vietnam War. Designations used
are DoD, not Bureau of Aviation.
a. A-1 "Skyraider"
b. A-2 "Savage"
c. A-3 "Skywarrior"
d. A-4 "Skyhawk"
e. A-5 "Vigilante"
f. A-6 "Intruder"
g. A-7 "Corsair II"
a. F-1 "Fury"
b. F-2 "Banshee"
c. F-3 "Demon"
d. F-4 "Phantom II"
e. F-6 "Skyray"
f. F-8 "Crusader"
g. F-9 "Cougar"
h. F-10 "Sky Knight"
i. F-11 "Tiger"
3. Patrol and Anti-Submarine:
a. P-2 "Neptune"
b. P-3 "Orion"
c. P-4 "Privateer"
d. S-2 "Tracker"
In 1968, the lease for
Target Baker 4 was terminated with the Target Baker 3's lease
being terminated at some unspecified time prior to 1976. Exact
dates of termination have yet to be determined. (USACE 2001)
US Army Corps of Engineers
Rock Island District Archival Search Reports