Lompoc is located 45 miles northwest of Santa Barbara, near Point Arguello and Point Conception. The town was founded in 1874 as a temperance community on the site of Rancho Lompoc and Rancho Mission Vieja. The area eventually became a flower and mustard seed producing region. One of the most infamous episodes in the history of the U.S. Navy occurred 12 miles from Lompoc on the night of September 8, 1923. A navigation error in the fog caused all seven destroyers of Destroyer Squadron 7 to run aground in column on the rocks of Pt. Honda. The Navy lost more combat ships that night than during all of World War I, along with 23 lives. As early as 1920, the development of a municipal airport was considered. Inspired by Charles Lindbergh's flight in 1927. City leaders finally established an airport the next year.
After the completion of the blimp base at Santa Ana in October 1942, the Navy realized that an additional base was needed to provide adequate patrol coverage north of Los Angeles. After conducting extensive weather observations, the Navy chose the Lompoc Airport and leased a total of 65 acres from the City and private individuals. Construction began in December 1942 and when completed, included a 500 x 1000-ft. asphalt mat, two mooring masts, and barracks for 25 officers and 72 enlisted men.
The station commissioned on August 8, 1943. Five days later, tragedy struck the base. In the damp, foggy early morning hours, ground crews were maneuvering ship K-29 for launch from Circle #2. As the blimp's tail pendants approached a high-volt age power line, 11,000 volts arced through the ship. Of the ground crewmen holding the metal handling bars on the bottom of the blimp's cab, four men were electrocuted and a fifth severely burned. Witnesses to the accident reported that the pendants never actually touched the wires. This hazard had been identifled and the line was supposed to have been moved by the local electric power company. For whatever reason, it had not and four men lost their lives. These were the only fatalities at Lompoc during the airport's civilian and Navy use.
After this inauspicious beginning, operations at Lompoc were routine for the remainder of the war. The station was practically identical to Santa Ana's other auxiliary at Del Mar in both physical makeup and operation. One to two ship detachments were maintained at Lompoc by Santa Ana's ZP-31 and Blimp Headquarters Squadron Three. The last Navy blimp departed Lompoc on September 25, 1945, and the station placed on caretaker status. The Navy had approximately $220,000 invested in the facility. Lompoc remained on the Navy's books for another year, then returned to civilian control.
Located only one half mile north of Lompoc, the airport was overtaken by urban growth during the next 15 years. The City purchased land for a new facility approximately 1.5 miles to the north, and relocated to that site on November 12, 1960. The old airport's property was sold and currently is the location of a high school and shopping center.
Copied with the permission of the author from United States Naval Air Stations of World War II.