Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Crows Landing Dive Bomb and Rocket Range Number 7
(Vernalis Dive 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 Naval Aviation).

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.

1. Attack:
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"
2. Fighter:
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)
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