Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Vernalis Bombing Range No. 6
Vernalis Bombing Target No. 6 circa 1943

US Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District History (21 September 1999)

On July 14, 1943, the Navy Department began condemnation proceedings, pursuant to the request of the Acting Secretary of the Navy, to acquire 160 acres from John and Rose Gallagher. The complaint filed in Civil No. 4719 states that the Navy selected the property to be used as a site for a dive bombing target. The Navy initially sought the exclusive use and occupancy of the property for the period ending June 30, 1944 .

This action was later dismissed as the leasehold interest of the property described in the Complaint had been acquired by the DoD in direct negotiation and title to the leasehold interest was then vested in the United States. The property was acquired under Lease Number NOy(R)-339656.

A July 21, 1945 Organization Chart for Naval Air Bases in the Twelfth Naval District lists Bombing Range No. 6 under NAAS, Vernalis, which in turn is under NAS, Alameda. While none of the other documents collected regarding NAAS, Vernalis (the Base) refer specifically to the Base's use of the target, the documents do state that the Base was originally intended to support the operations of two bombing squadrons, and was used by PB4Y's and PV's. The Base's function was later changed to support the operations of carrier-based squadrons, which were completing advanced training, and to base such squadrons pending their assignment and arrival of transportation. In this later capacity, the Base was used by Air Groups, Torpedo, Fighter, Bomber, and Composite Squadrons. NAAS, Crows Landing is nearby and may also have used the range for practice.

On February 2, 1945, the Commander of Fleet Air Alameda requested that Target No. 6, Vernalis be retained until June 1946. The target was also included on a list of targets for temporary retention as of January 1946.

According to a report on the Status of Facilities as of February 15, 1947, the lease for Facility No. 6, Vernalis, was in the process of being terminated to the Lessor as in accordance with a December 5, 1946 letter.

History (17 May 2006) by Daniel M. Sebby, Military Historian, California Military Department
Vernalis Bombing Target Number 6 was one of dozens of ranges under the control of the Commander, Naval Air Bases, 12th Naval District headquartered at Naval Air Station Alameda and under the day-to-day control of Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS), Vernalis. It was established in 1943 when 160 acres of grazing land were leased (lease NOy(R)-339656) from John and Rose Gallagher.

During the Second World War, NAAS Vernalis was established 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; Shettle 1997). In both cases, the standard bomb load would have consisted of general purpose bombs up to, and including, a 2,000-pound general purpose bomb.

Later in the war, it was decided to move the patrol bomber squadrons to NAAS Crows Landing because that runway more suitable for the weight of the PB4Y's. With this move, Carrier Air Group units began to train at NAAS Vernalis (Shettle 1997). These carrier based squadrons would have operated the following aircraft:
As with the patrol bombers, the largest bomb that could be carried was the 2,000-pound general purpose bomb. Although designated as a torpedo bomber, the TBF/TBM "Avenger" could carry a single 2,000-pound general purpose bomb in its weapons bay. It is possible that the Avenger may have trained on this range. Machine guns on these aircraft were the standard .30 and .50-caliber designs with the exception of the "Helldiver," which also mounted two forward firing 20 millimeter cannons
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 (Mondey 1982).

The U.S. Navy continued to use the range until 5 December 1946 when the lease was terminated and control of the property returned to the Gallaghers.
Other Online Histories:
US Army Corps of Engineers Rock Island District Archive Search Report
Search our Site!
Search the Web Search California Military History Online
Questions and comments concerning this site should be directed to the Webmaster
Updated 8 February 2016