California State Military Department
The California State Military Museum
A United States Army Museum Activity
Preserving California's Military Heritage
Historic California Posts, Stations and Airfields
Cheli Air Force Station
(Los Angeles Army Air Forces Specialized Storage Depot, Maywood Army Air Forces Specialized Storage Depot)
 

The 91.48 acre site was acquired in 1943 for an Army Air Forces Specialized Storage Depot. It appears that this post as Los Angeles and Maywood Army Air Forces Specialized Storage Depot and garrison by the 822th Army Air Forces Specialized Depot which became the 4822th Army Air Forces Base Unit (Specialized Depot). The function of the depot was to store and distribute aircraft parts. The site site transferred to the United States Air Force when the Air Force became a separate service branch in 1947. At this time it was named Cheli Air Force Stateion in honor of San Francisco born Medal of Honor recipient Major Ralph Cheli

In 1961, the property was no longer needed by the U.S. Air Force and was closed in accordance with Air Force Special Orders G-132, dated 28 November 1961. In reality the station was transferred to the General Services Administration (GSA) on 3 November 1961. The property became known as the Federal Service Center and it was leased to the United States Post Office (later the United States Postal Service). In 1972, the property was transferred from GSA to the USPS.

The method of transfer required that the USPS would have to reimburse GSA either in funds or by exchange of other USPS-owned property at fair market value. It appears that USPS paid fair market value for the land. None of the transfers mention restoration. The final transfer of 64.68 acres of land to the USPS was by letter dated January 23, 1976. The remaining 27 acres of the former Cheli AFS were transferred to the U.S. Army in 1974 for the Patton United States Army Reserve Center. A portion is also used by the California Army National Guard.

Source: US Army Corps of Engineers

Major Ralph Cheli

Ralph Cheli enlisted in New York City as a flying cadet in February 1940, and trained at Tulsa, Oklahoma and Randolph and Kelly Fields, Texas. He was commissioned in November 1940, served as a pilot with the 21st Reconnaissance Squadron in Miami, Florida, and attended the Chemical Warfare School at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland. He served for a year or so with the 21st Squadron and the 43rd Bomb Squadron at, MacDill Field, Florida, then engaged in submarine patrol off the coast of Florida. He was promoted to first lieutenant in February 1942, and to captain that June. In July he was operations officer for the 405th Bomb Squadron at Barksdale Field, Louisiana, going to Hamilton Field, California, with it the next month and then proceeding to lead a flight of B-25 bombers to Brisbane, Australia--first such group to reach combat in an overwater flight.

Major Cheli flew his first combat mission on September 15, 1942, in a strike against enemy installations at Buna, New Guinea. By February 1943, he was promoted to major, being well on his way to 40 combat missions. During the highly successful Battle of the Bismarck Sea on March 3, 1943, he led his squadron in the first masthead bombing attacks ever executed during daylight against enemy shipping in the Southwest Pacific.

On August 18, while leading a bombing and strafing attack on the heavily defended enemy airdrome of Dagua near Wewak, New Guinea, his plane was damaged by intercepting enemy aircraft. Only after the run was completed did Major Cheli relinquish the lead of the formation and successfully crash-land his plane He was captured by the Japanese and transported to the POW camp at Rabaul. He died March 6, 1944, when the enemy ship on which he was being transferred to Japan was bombed and sunk.

His Medal of Honor citation for the Aug. 18 mission reads, in part: "...Intercepting aircraft centered their fire on his plane, causing it to burst into flames while still two miles from the objective. His speed would have enabled him to gain necessary altitude to parachute to safety, but this action would have resulted in his formation becoming disorganized and exposed to the enemy. Although a crash was inevitable, he courageously elected to continue leading the attack in his blazing plane. From a minimum altitude, the squadron made a devastating bombing and strafing attack on the target. The mission completed, Major Cheli instructed his wingman to lead the formation, and crashed into the sea."
Source: US Air Force Historical Research Agency

Known Units at Cheli AFS and Los Angeles/Maywood AAF Specialized Storage Depot
 
822th Army Air Forces Specialized Depot
4822th Army Air Forces Base Unit (Specialized Depot)
Office of Special Investigations, District 18
3903rd Radar Bomb Scoring Group, Detachment 8
 
 
Updated 20 February 2009


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