Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Lomita Flight Strip
At the time of World War II, Lomita Field was an ideal location to train P-38 Fighter Pilots. From June 1942 until April 1944 five squadrons of Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighters were based here, each with 40 officers, 200 enlisted men and 25 aircraft. As they fine tuned their combat skills prior to deployment to bases in England. By mid 1944 Sixth Ferry Command at Long Beach took charge and field activity quickly grew to 2500-3500 movements per month as pilots checked out new war birds prior to delivery to points throughout the world.
Brigadier General Robin Olds, famed ace of World War II, Korea and Vietnam and later Air Force Academy Commandant of Cadet's began his career here as a fledgling P-38 pilot. Colonel Art Jeffrey, 8th Air Force ace with 14 aerial kills led "C" flight of the 434th Fighter Squadron from Lomita. Record setting Olympian Captain Louis Zamperini, a bombardier and Torrance native, returned from WW II to have the field named in his honor.
By late 1946, upon recommendation of the Civil Aviation Authority (now Federal Aviation Administration), the field was deeded to the City Of Torrance despite heavy private demand for its 490 prime acres. A Master Plan in 1948 envisioned a second parallel runway and bevy of commercial shops and aeronautical services. A new Control tower sprang up in 1961, the second runway, taxi ways, lights, and other improvements were completed by 1963.
Source: World War II Sites in the United States: A Tour Guide and Directory by Richard E. Osbourne
Additional Information: The 7 May 1945 edition of the Army of the United States Station List indicates that the buildings were in an inactive status and that the airfield was leased to the Royal Air Force. The same document lists a section of the 68th Army Air Forces Base Unit (1st Weather Region) was posted to this installation.
Lomita Flight Strip
by Sam Gnerre, South Bay Daily Breeze, 2 December 2009
Lomita Flight Strip, circa March 1943. Note the defensive aircraft dispersal revetment to the left of the runway (US Air Force Historical Research Agency)
In 1941, the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads purchased 480 acres of the Weston Ranch property in what was then Lomita for $380,000 and began developing it as an airstrip as part of a government program to encourage civil air transportation projects, building a 150-foot by 5000-foot runway on the site.
Following the U.S. entry into World War II after Pearl Harbor, all civil aviation within 200 miles of the Pacific Coast was shut down, and many existing facilities were adapted to military uses.
In 1942, the U.S. Corps of Engineers acquired the air strip from the Bureau of Public Roads, adding barracks and other military buildings, and the Lomita Flight Strip was born. It would became an important training facility for P-38 Lightning and, later, P-51 Mustang fighter pilots preparing for duty in the South Pacific.
The barracks that housed approximately 280 enlisted men can be seen in the background of this photo showing an outdoor class in decontamination being held at the Lomita Flight Strip. (US Air Force Historical Research Agency).

From June 1942 until April 1944, Army Air Corps squadrons would practice for warfare by flying around the South Bay coast and strafing the Pacific Ocean in training runs. The outfits that trained at the Lomita Flight Strip included the 479th Fighter Group of the 8th Air Force, the 429th and 434th Fighter Squadrons, the 55th Pursuit Squadron and a detcahment of the 101st Army Airways Communications Service Squadron.
On January 17, 1944, Army Air Corps pilot Merl Ogden of the 429th Flighter Squadron discovered that he couldn’t lower his landing gear as he returned from a test flight of his Lockheed P-38 Lightning to the Lomita Flight Strip. He subsequently ran out of fuel and crashed into Lomita resident William Klusman’s victory garden. Ogden died instantly.
After the war ended in September 1945, the Lomita Flight Strip began to be used as a holding area for Japanese-Americans who had been imprisoned in internment camps, and some of them ended up settling in the area.
The Army vacated the facility in 1945, and the Bureau of Public Roads deeded the property to the city of Torrance but retained control over the airstrip.
Torrance named the airstrip Zamperini Field after Torrance High athletic legend and World War II hero Louis Zamperini on December 7, 1946.
Discussions were held from the late 1940s through the early 1950s about transforming the site into a commercial hub with passenger service.The U.S. government ceded all rights to the property in 1956 to Torrance, and the Lomita Flight Strip began being called by its current name, Torrance Municipal Airport.
An Airport Master Plan was developed which still included the possibility of commercial air service, but resistance to that idea would stiffen as residential areas around the airport began to be developed more fully.
On January 4, 1962, the airport’s new control tower was dedicated. It was followed by construction of a new runway and many additional improvements in 1963.
In June 1973, Frank Robinson began what would become the world’s largest commercial helicopter manufacturing firm, Robinson Helicopters, whose headquarters and manufacturing operations have been based at the Torrance Municipal Airport ever since.

Lomita Flight Strip, now Torance Municipal Airport/Zamperini Field today (South Bay Daily Breeze)
Images of Aviation: Torrance Airport, by Charles Lobb, Arcadia Publishing Co., 2006.
Lomita … A Century Remembered: From Barley to Barnyards to Boulevards, by Jim Cole, Advanced Printing/Graphics, 2007.

Extract, War Department Inventory of Owned, Sponsored and Leased Facilities, 1945
Extract, US Army Air Forces Director of Airfields, January 1945
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Updated 28 March 2016