Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
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.
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
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.
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
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
couldnt 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 Klusmans 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 airports
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 worlds largest commercial helicopter manufacturing
firm, Robinson Helicopters, whose headquarters and manufacturing
operations have been based at the Torrance Municipal Airport
Lomita Flight Strip,
now Torance Municipal Airport/Zamperini Field today (South Bay
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
War Department Inventory of Owned, Sponsored and Leased Facilities,
Theater of Operations: 280
Cost to Government Since 1 July 1940:
Annual lease payments:
Total (less annual leases): $1,123,088.00
figures taken from other documentation.
US Army Air Forces Director of Airfields, January 1945
Questions and comments concerning
this site should be directed to the Webmaster