By Dan Sebby, Post
Historian, Camp San Luis Obispo
With the expansion of the U.S. Navy's presence
in California during the first half of World War II, the 12th
Naval District commissioned Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS)
Hollister to provide a base for the training of carrier based
fighter, torpedo and bombing squadrons. The location was ideal
since torpedo bombers could train in the airspace over the Monterey
Bay, only 20 miles to the west. But, for fighters and bombers
to train on dive bombing techniques, a new range had to be established.
With this requirement in mind, the U.S. Navy looked to the east
of NAAS Hollister for an appropriate site.
In June of 1943 the U.S. Department of Justice,
acting on behalf of the U.S. Navy, began condemnation proceedings
against Paul J. and Mary D. Hudner for the acquisition of 440
acres of grazing land to serve as a bombing target. However, this
action was cancelled when the U.S. Navy and the Hudners reached
a negotiated agreement for leasing the land. The U.S. Navy took
possession of the Site effective 1 August 1943 with the signing
of Lease NOy(R)-35804.
The target area had three specific dive
A 100-foot circle with a 10-foot wide
A 500 by 20-foot target simulating a cruiser
A 180 by 20-foot target simulating a submarine
The carrier based squadrons operating
from NAAS Hollister would have operated the following aircraft:
F4F "Wildcat" Fighter,
F6F "Hellcat" Fighter;
TBF/TBM "Avenger" Torpedo Bomber;
SBD "Dauntless" Dive Bomber;
F4U "Corsair" Fighter; and
SB2C "Helldiver" Bomber
Although designated as a torpedo bomber,
the TBF/TBM "Avenger" could carry a general purpose
bombs in its weapons bay. So it is possible that the Avenger
may have trained on this target. The ordnance dropped on the
site would have been three-pound, cast iron practice bombs and
100-pound practice bombs. The practice bombs would have been
armed with spotting charges in order to facilitate the scoring
of bombing runs.
On 1 February 1945, the lease was modified
so as to allow for the Hudners to resume grazing cattle on the
Site. Available documentation does not specify when the Site
ceased to be an active target. However, on 23 January 1945, the
Commander, Naval Air Bases, 12th Naval District requested that
the U.S. Navy's Bureau of Yards and Docks terminate the lease.
This request was favorably endorsed by the Commandant of the
12th Naval District on 28 February 1946.
On 30 June 1946, the Hudners and a representative
of the Bureau of Yards and Docks signed a supplemental agreement
to Lease NOy(R)-35804 that ended the U.S. Navy's leasehold interest
in the Site.