On February 5, 1927, the Oakland City Council
purchased the 692-acre Bay Farm Island, five miles south of town,
to develop an airport. On June 3, the Army informed the City
that it wished to use the island as the takeoff point for an
attempt to fly to Hawaii. Since a runway did not yet exist, the
Army requested that one be graded by the end of the month. Working
around the clock for 23 days, crews completed a 7,020-ft. runway
-- at that time, the longest in the world. On June 28, 1Lts.
Lester Maitland and Albert Hegenberger departed in a Fokker C-2.
Twenty five hours and 49 minutes later, they landed on Oahu at
the Army's Wheeler Field, completing the first non-stop flight
between the Mainland and Hawaii.
Oakland became the departure point for
many pioneering flights to Hawaii. In July, Ernie Smith and Emory
Bronte, also completed a non-stop flight to Hawaii. On August
16, a group of aviators gathered at Oakland to vie for $35,000
in prizes offered by pineapple magnate James Dole for a race
to Hawaii. Six entrants crashed preparing for the race or at
the race's start and two disappeared over the Pacific. On August
17, two aircraft completed the flight, with the first prize of
$25,000 being claimed by Hollywood stunt pilot Art Goebel and
his navigator, Navy Lt. William Davis. Charles Lindbergh was
the guest of honor for the dedication of the airport that took
place on September 27. On May 31 of the next year, Australians
Charles Kingsford-Smith and Charles Ulm departed for Hawaii on
the first leg of their epic flight to Australia.
On August 1, 1928, the Navy formed an NRAB at the airport with
two aircraft and 1200 sq. ft. of leased hangar space. By 1935,
the station began the Elimination Training Course with ten aircraft.
Eleven days after Pearl Harbor, the C.O.s of all the NRABs held
a conference in Pensacola -- the subject being the increase of
primary training at their bases. Among the C.O.s with a problem,
was Cdr. R.L. Johnson of Oakland. With the addition of Army interceptors
at the airport, the expansion of primary training would be impossible
without a new base. After returning to Oakland, Cdr. Johnson
and his men selected a site 25 miles away, 3.5 miles east of
Livermore. Nevertheless, full primary training began in January
1942. With the imminent departure of primary training, Oakland
was chosen to be a Naval Air Transport Service Terminal. In September,
VR-3 began scheduled service to the station. By November 1942,
all primary flight activities transferred to Livermore; however,
administrative control remained at Oakland.
On January 1, 1943, Oakland became an NAS along with most of
the other NRABs in the Navy. On March 4, VR-4 commissioned with
a complement of 13 R4Ds received from Alameda's
VR-2 which then became an exclusive seaplane operation. When
Livermore commissioned as an
NAS on June 1, Oakland was, in turn, reduced to an NAAS under
Alameda. VR-11 commissioned here on September 1. Although the
headquarters of VR-11 moved to Honolulu three and a half months
later, the squadron maintained a detachment and conducted training
at Oakland. Meanwhile, United Airlines had an aircraft mechanics
school for the Army at the airport. In 1943, United began training
Navy mechanics and completed 1,281 during the war.
In April 1944, the station began an expansion
program. On June 16, VR-13 commissioned and in the spring of
1945, transferred to Los Negros in the Admiralty Islands. A new
NATS passenger terminal reached completion on July 19.
Oakland was situated on 1,016 acres of
which the Navy owned 65 and leased the remainder. The air field
had four asphalt runways, the longest 6,500 ft. Barracks existed
for 253 officers and 4,658 men. The station operated an R5D,
a GH Howard, and an SNV. Oakland was a joint-use facility with
the Army's Air Technical Service Command that serviced transient
Following the war, the Navy began reserve
activities at Oakland in 1946, upgrading the station to an NAS.
In 1961, Oakland closed and the Reserve mission moved to Alameda.
Today, the airport is known as Oakland International Airport.
US Army Corps
of Engineers Sacramento District History (1999)
The Oakland Municipal Airport, located
7 miles southeast of the City of Oakland and 15 miles east of
the City of San Francisco in the County of Alameda, consisted
of 1167.71 acres, leased from the Board of Port Commissioners
of the City of Oakland, State of California on 1 February 1944,
with 5 permits and encroachments (no area) dated from October
1942 to March 1943.
Oakland Municipal Airport (formerly used
as a municipal airport) is now officially designated as the Oakland
International Airport. The airport facilities were used by the
Army Air Forces, the Air Service Command, and jointly used by
the Navy. The site contained a landing area, a hangar area, and
a wharf area. Improvements at the time of the lease included
runways, 8 hangars, hotel and restaurant, administration buildings,
a garage, other small buildings, and a wharf. Many improvements
and additions were added to the property including fencing, storm
sewers, water and electrical distribution, gas storage tanks,
fueling pits, repair and repavement of runways and taxiways,
new and resurfaced roads, additions to the wharf area, extensions
of railroad to wharf, and earth fill for levee and crew shelters.
Effective date of disposal was 8 October
1946, for 1167.71 acres. By agreement dated 16 November 1949,
the United States surrendered its leasehold interest to the City
of Oakland, stipulating "any interest shall be used for
public airport purposes for the use and benefit for the public"
and all structures, improvements, facilities and equipment shall
be maintained in good and serviceable condition during the remainder
of their estimated life as determined by the Civil Aeronautics
Administrator. This agreement also states that the United States
would have the right to use the entire airport in the event of
a national emergency (recapture clause). According to the Supplemental
Agreement No. 3 dated 30 January 1946, "the City of Oakland
is willing in lieu of restoration by the Government of said lease,
to accept the sum of $18,000.00, the government thereafter is
released of any further responsibility therefore". The two
remaining leases 2.75 acres (terminated 4 Feb 46) and 5.16 acres
(terminated 31 Mar 47) were also with the Board of Port Commissioners
of the City of Oakland.
US Army Corps
of Engineers St. Louis District History (2002)
General Site History-Army
The military began using the Oakland Municipal Airport (OMA)
as early as 1927 (the year it was established) on an occasional
basis as a starting point for long distance Pacific flights.
The first stationing of Army aircraft at OMA on a regular basis
appears to have occurred with the organization of the 9th Corps
Area Air Corps Detachment on 19 June 1936. The main mission of
the detachment was flight training of Air Corps Reserve Officers
of the Northern California Military District along with servicing
transient aircraft. These activities continued through at least
1941, by which time the flight training included 2 hours of ground
target gunnery and 4 hours of aerial target gunnery, though the
location for this training was not noted.''
In August 1940, the Army Air Forces contracted with the civilian
Boeing School of Aeronautics already in operation at OMA to train
their airplane mechanics. The station was activated on 20 September
1940 as the Air Corps Training Detachment, Boeing School of Aeronautics,
Oakland California. Two years later, all commercial activities
at the school were discontinued. A little over a year after that,
in November 1943, the Army's contract for the training ended,
but not before the Navy established a detachment for their own
With the start of the war, the 4' Air Force, headquartered at
Hamilton Field about 30 miles to the northwest across San Pablo
Bay, began dispersing interceptor aircraft around northern California.
Dispersal bases included Oakland, which became the headquarters
of the 4th Air Force Fighter Command. Accordingly, with an expanded
presence at OMA, the Army made improvements to the airport runways
and increased the facilities.
In June 1942, the planned increase in facilities at the dispersed
airdrome included additional taxiways, housing and bomb storage
facilities. An indoor Rifle Range (Building Number 26) already
existed by that time. The housing plan included acquisition of
a detached 14.59-acre parcel for a housing/cantonment area.''
Also during 1942, the Army completed 5 buildings for Battery
"G" of the 217th Coast Artillery Regiment (Anti-Aircraft)
at OMA. The Anti-Aircraft weapons of the 217th are unknown, but
most likely consisted of 37mm and 50 caliber antiaircraft guns.
The location of the weapons assigned to Battery G are unknown,
but probably included emplacements in and around the airport.
By March 1944, the 4th Air Force planned on transferring jurisdiction
of OMA to the Air Service Command (ASC), retaining use of airfield
for emergency tactical operations only. On 1April, the Army portion
of OMA fell under the command of the Sacramento ASC to be followed
by a transfer to the Pacific Overseas ASC on 15 August 1944.
At this time, the pllnciple activity at OMA was the processing
of combat aircraft for overseas shipment to various theatres
Following the end of the war in the fall of 1945, the civilian
Port of Oakland that operated OMA officially requested the relinquishment
of the Amy's facilities, so that commercial operations might
resume as soon as possible. Although the Army Air Forces had
not determined their future requirements for OMA, they had no
objection to the use of the facility for civilian and commercial
activities. The War Department declared the separate cantonment
area surplus by that December, and the leases for several small
parcels were canceled in early 1946. However, the Army's declaration
of excess did not occur until September 1946 and the accountability
for the main airfield was not transferred to the War Assets Administration
until 19 December 1947. Subsequently, the Port of Oakland regained
control of the Army's portion of the property.
General Site History-Navy
The Navy's continued presence at Oakland both predates and continues
long after the Army Air Forces. On 1 August 1928, the Navy formed
a Naval Reserve Air Base (NRAB) at OMA. By 1935 the NRAB began
an elimination training course. At the beginning of the war,
in Januay 1942, the NRAB Oakland began full primary training
of Navy fliers in the Bay area. However, the dispersal of Army
interceptors at OMA crowded the airfield too much for use as
a primary flight instruction facility. The Navy selected Livermore as the new location for
primary training, and moved the activities there by that November.
Assembly and repair functions and administrative control remained
at OMA. Approximately a dozen auxiliary fields were associated
with this primary training mission that initially fell beneath
Oakland, which all later became associated with Livermore.
On 1 January 1943, the Navy's portion of OMA became Naval Air
Station (NAS) Oakland, in a general upgrade of all the NRABs
in the Navy at the time. Its status was reduced to a Naval Auxiliary
Air Station (NAAS) on 1 June with the commissioning of NAS Livermore.
Although the primary flight training moved, the Navy's presence
continued at OMA as a Naval Air Transport Service (NATS) terminal.
NATS established its West Coast headquarters at NAAS Oakland,
which continued as an operating, maintenance and overhaul base,
and a school site for mechanics. Following the establishment
of the overall NATS headquarters at OMA, the base was once again
upgraded to an NAS on 1 May 1945. Following the end of the war,
the Navy planned on placing NAS Oakland in reduced operational
or caretaker status. The date kept moving back from fall 1945
to fall 1946, as preparations to move the NATS mission across
the bay to Moffit Field were delayed by facility construction.
Effective 1 October 1946, NAS Oakland was placed on reduced status.
Subsequently, the Navy reestablished a reserve air station at
OMA, which continued operations there until 1961. At that time,
NAS Oakland closed and the reserve mission moved to NAS Alameda,
thus ending direct military use of the site.
Designated as an Organized Reserve airdrome
in 1922. Organized Reserve activities discontinued 21 October
316th Observation Squadron (193637)
367th Observation Squadron (192237)
381st Service Squadron (193637)
US Army Air Forces Directory of Air Fields (January 1945)