Four months previous, government civil engineers were surveying the selected lands without explaining the reason to owners. Rumors were rampant, but none of them was correct. Finally, when Pacific Gas & Electric Company signed a contract to provide service by the end of the year, it became known that a Navy airfield, to be known as Naval Auxilary Air Station, Paso Robles, was in the works, to be built on properties owned by A M Boyer, Otto Kuehl, George Matthew, John Moore, the Padian Estate, William Radloff, Tillie Schlecker, and Lillie Tuley.
A contract was awarded to Doudell Construction Company of San Jose, and within four hours of its signing, men and machinery were on their way to the site. On 3 September, 2,000 construction workers moved in to work two shifts to complete the first stage of the project by 8 April 1943. The new airfield then had two 4,700' runways laid out in a "V," with fuel facilities, but no hangars or maintenance buildings. A housing, administration, and storage facility was also completed across the road south of the runways, with 43 buildings and underground utilities.
The Navy Changes Its Mind
That same day the Navy, favoring tstations in the San Joaquin Valley, handed everything over to the Army Air Forces, who named it Estrella Army Air Field and placed it under the jurisdiction of the Santa Maria Army Air Field, to be used to train pilots in night flying. Initial staff consisted of two officers, Lieutenants Raymond J Goetting and Edgar J McCullough, and 28 enlisted men. By Christmas 1943, some 1,550 military personnel were stationed at Estrella and the Navy auxiliary airfield southeast of Paso Robles, Sherwood Field. These troops participated in large regional military maneuvers early in 1944.
An interesting occasion was later related by Lieutenant McCullogh, who told of the time when two Bell P-59s landed at Estrella AAF. Those were America's first military jets, and at the time were cloaked in secrecy, but everybody wanted to see the new airplanes that flew without propellers. McCullogh walked towards one of them, but was ordered by one of the pilots to keep away. He then identified himself as the base's provost marshal (which he wasn't), and not only got to see the planes up close, but was also told that they were being used in experimental training to combat the German V-2 rockets that were creating havoc in England. The next day, a local farmer mentioned to him that a couple of planes had come over his field so low and fast that they blew his hay off the stacks.
The Airfield Changes Into Civvies
The airfield was inactivated on 15 October 1944, and on 27 November base commander Capt Roger F Powell announced that the facility might be turned over to the county. County officials considered the proposal and, in mid-December, the board of supervisors endorsed a feasibility study, finally agreeing to accept the property. However, it wasn't until 29 August 1947, that the War Assets Administration transferred the specific 966.8 acres and its attendant structures and improvements with a quitclaim deed to the County of San Luis Obispo, with the stipulation that it be used as a public airport.
A second quitclaim deed to the State on 5 August 1948 added another 90.04 acres, where the buildings would be used for a boys' school. Then in 1973, the county, in an effort to rid its rolls of excess property, sold the air base to the City of Paso Robles for $1.00, and the Estrella Army Air Force Base officially became the town's municipal airport.
Corps of Engineers History
The War Department acquired 966.88 acres of property from various owners by both purchase and condemnation in fee and began construction at the site in August 1942.
The Army Corps of Engineers constructed Estrella Airfield to train Army pilots. Army improvements to the site included two runways and associated landing facilities, buildings, utilities, and five refueling stations with accompanying underground storage tanks for high octane gasoline (Tanks A, B, C, D and E). The Army Air Forces used the airfield throughout World War II.
In 1946, the Army gave notice
of public availability of Estrella Army Air Field to the County
of San Luis Obispo. On 29 August 1947, the United States Government
conveyed through Quitclaim Deed "all its right, title, and
interest" in 966.88 acres of airport property to the County.
On 5 August 1948, San Luis Obispo County acquired an additional
90.04 acres of airport property from
the Government through quitclaim deed, which included the remaining three underground gasoline storage tanks (Tanks C, D, and E). San Luis Obispo County leased the Airport to Southwest Airways in March, 1950. Although the length of this lease is not known, it is known that San Luis Obispo County sold the site to the City of Paso Robles in 1973.
Source: Los Angeles District, US Army Corps of Engineers
Extract, January 1945 Army Air Forces Airfield Directory
Extract, War Department Inventory of Owned, Sponsored and Leased Facilities, December 1945
|Army of the United States Station List||1 June 1943||
|Army of the United States Station List||7 April 1945||