Historic Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Border Field Naval Reservation
(Including Naval Outlying Field, Border Field, Mexican Border Fire Control Site No. 13, and Seacoast Searchlight Nos. 26 and 27)

Historical records from the Department of the Navy indicate that initial military involvement in the Border Field State Park area began in the 1930s, whereby 98 acres were used as an auxiliary aviation field. By approximately 1941, the Department of the Navy began to acquire additional property in the area. The Navy's use of the facility had expanded to an aircraft gunnery range, bombing target, air-to-air gunnery, machine gun training center, and emergency landing field.

By 1944, records indicate that between 31 to 35 buildings and/or structures had been constructed at the facility. These structures were primarily temporary buildings which ranged from offices, quarters, shops and ammunition storage facilities. The only storage tanks reported at the site included a single water storage tank. The majority of these buildings were located along the southern portion of the property. Additional improvements included five mobile gun ranges located along the dune area on the western portion of the site. An additional mobile firing line was located in the center of the site. These ranges contained rails (also known as "Rabbit Tracks"), which would guide steam-driven targets for the aircraft gunnery training (air-to-ground fire). The predominant ammunition used by the Navy was .50-caliber bullets.

The central part of the site was reportedly also used as a bombing target. Recorded accounts state that the primary bomb used at the site was a 1-pound practice bomb. The practice bombs contained spotting charges which consisted of a shot-gun shell and were designed to detonate upon impact.

The historical records indicate that the air-to-air gunnery activities ceased in the early 1950s. Apparently a plane crash caused these activities to stop. Afterwards, radio controlled domes were reportedly used as targets for fleet training.

By the 1950s, additional property to the east was acquired by the Department of the Navy, including 28.70 acres of property located on the plateau to the south of Goat Canyon. This property was acquired from the Department of the Army on 22 December 1953 and was known as Mexican Border Fire Control Station and was used for harbor defense of San Diego during World War II. Improvements on this portion of the property included three two-tiered bunkers. Remnants of these bunkers are still present at the site. See article below for the history of the fire control station

In 1961, the gunnery training activities ceased and the Border Field facility was transferred to the Navy Electronics Laboratory. Reportedly, the Navy Electronic Laboratory conducted experiments at the site. The types of experiments were not identified in the available records.

According to Olen Golden, State Park Ranger with the Tijuana River Natural Estuarine Sanctuary Natural wildlife Refuge, the southern portion of the site was formerly used by the Imperial Beach Police Department as a firing range, during the 1960s.

In 1971, 372 acres of Navy property, which constituted Border Field, were transferred to the State of California for use as a park. Real estate records from the Department of the Navy were not found during the research of this project. However, resources contacted indicated that the improvements made by the Navy were transferred with the property. Reportedly, the State of California removed all the temporary structures during the 1970s.

During the 19705, the former Navy site was used by the State of California as Border Field State Park, with access to the public. Currently, the 390 acres (372 acres from the Navy) that constituted the state park have been incorporated within a larger park (approximately 2,500 acres) known as the Tijuana River Natural Estuarine Sanctuary Natural Wildlife Refuge.

Naval Outlying Field (NOLF), Border Field

Border NOLF was built during World War II as one of at least 12 auxiliary airfields attached to NAS San Diego (North Island).

It consisted of 100 acres, located along the Pacific coast south of Ream Field (later to become NOLF Imperial Beach), and directly north of the Mexican border.

The original runway configuration at Border Field is unknown (it may have been an unpaved field). An undated World War II-era Navy Airfield planning document included "Recommended Development: One 'standard' runway into the prevailing wind." It also said, "Proposed Use: Dive bombing; gunnery training; and practice landings during dry weather."

Naval pilots received gunnery training at Border Field.

The airfield was evidently the rectangular area in the center of the above photo. Note the target ranges to the west, along the ocean.

Border Field was evidently closed an official airfield prior to 1945, as it was not depicted among active airfields on the San Diego Sectional Aeronautical Charts from 1945, 1948, 1949, and 1955.

According to the August 1969 issue of "Naval Aviation News" Border Field was redesignated a "target drone training area & emergency landing strip" in early 1950. It also stated that in 1961 Border Field was turned over to the GSA, then the Naval Electronics Labratory for research.

The site was still labeled "Border Field Naval Reservation" on the 1976 US Geological Survey topographic map.

The only remaining clue to the original runway configuration is the "C"-shaped outline of the "Border Field Naval Reservation" on the 1976 USGS topo map.

This could indicate that there presumably was a 4,000' north/south landing area along the beach, along with a 3,000' east/west strip extending inland from the north end and a 2,000' strip extending inland from the south end.

A very rough conjecture, though.

The site of the former airfield was labeled "Border Field State Park" on the 1979 USGS topo map.

The park has been called "California's Ugliest State Park"!

Border Field is located at the western terminus of Monument Road, just north of Tijuana.

Source: Abandoned and Little Known Airfields, http://www.airfields-freeman.com/

Mexican Border Fire Control Station No. 13

The site originally consisted of 22.4 acres purchased by the Army by grant deed from Mr. Russell V. Grant on July 8, 1942. Twenty (20) easement permits, dated between March 1942 and May 1945 were acquired with the site by the Army from private owners, city, state, and Navy Departments and totaled 6.3 acres in area. The site was used by the Army for the Harbor Defense of San Diego during the 1940's and contained three (3) two-tiered bunkers, temporary huts, a railroad track, cement equipment mountings, adobe huts and barbed wire barricades.

This fire control station supported the following batteries:

The Anny transferred the site to the Navy by letter dated on December 22, 1953 and subsequently the U.S. Department of the Interior transferred the site by quit claim deed dated 21 February 1973 to the State of California, Department of Parks and Recreation. Today the site is open to the public during daylight hours, as part of Border Field State Park. It is patrolled by State Park Rangers and the US Border Patrol.


SCR-296 Radar Supporting Battery Strong, Fort Rosecrans

Description: Fixed Coast Artillery gun-laying medium wave radar, assigned to modern 6 inch or larger batteries.
Uses: Set is designed to track a surface target in range and azimuth. Data are sent to the plotting room and used in firing. An SCR-296-A normally is assigned to one battery, but may furnish data to more. Works with IFF RC-136-A.
Performance & Sitting: Range is shown on "A" scope. The target is tracked in azimuth with a pip matching oscilloscope or a zero-center meter. Range accuracy is about ± 30 yards while azimuth accuracy is about ± 0.20 degree under the best conditions. The set has a dependable range of 20,000 yards on a destroyer size target when employed at a height of 145 feet. Site should be not less than 100 feet above sea level; 150 to 500 feet is recommended.
Mobility: Shipment includes areas and separate generator. When crated the total weight is 91,763 lbs. Largest unit is 5,270 lbs.
Installation: SCR-296-A includes a tower, an operating building, and two power plant buildings. The tower is obtainable in heights of 25, 50, 75, and 100 feet. Concrete floors must be put in locally.
Personnel: Operating crew consists of 5 men in addition to a power plant operator and maintenance man who should be available at all times.
Power: Primary power of 2.3 KW is supplied by PE-84C -- commercial or auxiliary 110 V, AC single phase. Generator needs high octane gasoline.

Information from Naval History Library Online.

For additional information on the SCR-296 Radar Set,, CLICK HERE


Click image for a lager view


Seacoast Searchlights Nos. 26 and 27

A World War II temporary position consisting of two searchlights, controllers, power supply and barracks.
US Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District History (1992)
Location: The site is located in the southwest corner of section 7, Township 19 South, Range 21 West, San Bernardino Meridian, in Imperial Beach, California. Mobile searchlight installations were formerly positioned 100 feet north of the Mexican border, 50 feet east of the shoreline, and 50 feet apart. Currently, this site is located within Border Field State Park.
Site History: In the early 1940s, the US Army's Harbor Defenses of Sabn Diego operated searchlight positions 26 & 27 on property obtained by temporary permit from the US Navy's Border Field Naval Reservation. No further information was found concerning land acquisition.

Searchlight positions 26 & 27 were two of 27 searchlight positions operated by the Harbor Defenses of San Diego These mobile, temporary installations were mounted on rubber-tired carriages and consisted of two searchlights and their associated power generators and controllers.

Mobile searchlight positions 26 & 27 were reportedly relinquished in 1944 and stored at Fort Rosecrans. This site is currently within Border Field state Park; no evidence remains of the former searchlight installations.

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Updated 8 February 2016