Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Madera Bombing Range
(Fresno Army Air Base Bombing Range, Madera Bombing Target No. 23)
US Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District History (1999)

Site Name:
Currently, this site is a residential area known as Bonadelle Ranchos, Subdivision No. 6. The site was once known as Madera Bombing Range; Madera, Bombing Target Number 23 (B.T. No. 23), and Fresno Air Base Bombing Range.

Location: The site is located east of Highway 99, approximately ten miles north-northwest of Fresno and nine miles-east of Madera,
Site History: A real estate search determined the parcels were a portion of six sections (six square miles or 3,821.25 acres) of land leased August 11, 1941 from Mr. Robert K. Smith and Mrs. Mary Smith for use as the Madera Bombing Range (Fresno Air Base Bombing Range) for the U. S. Army Air Corps. The lease between R. K. Smith and The United States of America stated the bombing range used approximately 15,000 practice bomb shells. The last lease renewal found was dated September 15, 1954. On May 1 1, 1965, the property was sold to the Bonadelle Ranchos Corporation and was subdivided for residential housing into two and five acre lots. Sierra View Elementary School was also built within the former bombing range. Approximately fifteen
percent of the subdivision is developed.

A July 12, 1945 Organization Chart for Naval Air Bases, 1 2Naval District indicates that Naval Auxillary Air Station Crows Landing, under Naval Air Station Alameda, also utilized Madera as a Rocket Range. A 1945 Naval Air Bases, 1 2Naval District map titled, "Madera Bombing Targets, B.T. No. 23," outlines the various uses of this range, detailing the types of targets on the property. The targets include a mock city, a mock pier, an airplane fuselage, skip bomb target, and a mock cruiser for dive bombing practice. An undated Navy document states that Madera, B.T. No. 23, was used jointly with the Army from May 18, 1945 to September 27, 1945.
US Army Corps of Engineers Huntsville Engineering and Support Center History (2001)
Plans for the Madera Bombing Range (MBR) began during the summer of 1941, as the Fresno Air Base Bombing Range (FABBR). The Corps of Engineers executed a lease for the property on 11 August 1941, but prior oil and gas sub-leases and property liens delayed its use. The Fresno Air Base planned on operating the site on or after 20 January 1942. Within a year and a half both the ahfield and the range received name changes. The airfield became Hammer Field on 10 May 1942 and the FABBR became the MBR before the summer of 1943.

By April 1943, the Army had placed one high altitude target and one skip target (i.e. low altitude target) at MBR constructed out of lime and containing a wooden pyramid bull's eye. Hammer Field added a second low altitude target by that fall. Hammer Field's heavy training schedule constantly bombarded the targets with B-24s and B-25s during daylight hours and approximately 6 hours at night. Hammer Field also used three high altitude precision targets and one air-to-ground gunnely range (at Hunter Liggett Military Reservation), and off shore areas for air-to-ais gunnery. Later, Hammer Field acquired the Soda Lake Air to Ground Gunnely Range about 120 miles away.10 Dusing the summers of 1942 and 1943, over a dozen fues were caused by misplaced practice bombs striking the sunounding pastures and grain fields. These fues destroyed thousands of acres of vegetation and caused tens of thousand of dollars in damage claims. This appears to be the most significant reason behind the 4th Air Force's decision to not use the range during the summer months of 1944. As a result the Amy did not object to allowing grazing to occur at that time.

In October 1944, the Navy's interest in using MBR is clear with the Interdepartmental Air Traffic Control Board (IATCB) with a transferal of the Danger Area from the Army to the Navy. By January 1945, the 12th Naval District planned on repairing existing targets and adding more targets at MBR, including one for rockets and a radar target with an aircraft fuselage. However, it appears that it was not until 27 March 1945 that the 4th Air Force granted Hammer Field authority to coordinate directly with the Navy for use of the range. The 12th Naval District designated MBR as Target No. 23 and placed it under the control of the Naval Auxiliay Air Station (NAAS) at Crow's Landing about 65 miles away. MBR was also the designated rocket range for NAAS Velnalis and NAAS Hollister, about 80 and 75 miles away respectively. The Army retained some use of the MBR, as Hammer Field had use of the range from 1430 to 1800 hours every day for chemical spray missions at least during May 1945.
The Navy formally requested the transfer of MBR in May, but the 4th Air Force denied the request stating a continuing need for the site. Following the end of the war, the 12th Naval District donned the 4th Air Force that they no longer planned to use the site. The 4th Air Force reported that the MBR would go in temporay inactive status as of the December 3 lSt, but within a month, Continental Air Forces considered using it as a range for Castle Field in Merced, CA. Castle Field's inspection of MBR in April 1946 determined it was inadequate in size and the targets resented an extensive fire hazard.

MBR was placed on sulplus status effective 14 May 1946, though in June the Army Air Forces Training Command requested that it be assigned to Mather Field. It is unclear if this transfer ever occuned, but it appears unlikely as the Amy allowed the lease to expire effective 3 1 October 1946.
Site Map of Madera Bombing Target No. 23
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Updated 8 February 2016