Historic California Posts, Camps,
Stations and Airfields
Air Station, Crows Landing
Landing Field, Crows Landing)
NAAS Crows Landing;
August 5, 1947 (NASA/Ames Research Center)
NAAS Crows Landing, located 2-1/2 miles
northwest of the town of the same name, began in late 1942 as
an auxiliary air station to Naval Air Station, Alameda. It was
used to train Navy fighter pilots. Pilots of F4F Wildcats, TBF
and TBM Avengers trained here first in Link and Panoramic trainers
then eventually in actual planes. Later, pilots in R4D Skytrains
and R5D Skymasters (Navy versions of the Army's C-47 and C-54)
trained here. After the war the station was placed in caretaker
A PB4Y-4, bureau
number 59361, belonging to Patrol Bombing Squadron (VPB) 122,
swerved off runway landing in crosswind at NAAS Crows Landing
and hit ditch, 1 April 1945
Source: World War II Sites
in the United States: A Tour Guide and Directory by Richard E.
by M.L. Shettle, Jr.
In late 1942, the Navy chose a site in
the San Joaquin Valley, 71 miles southeast of Alameda, for an
auxiliary air station. An 804-acre parcel of land was purchased
for $86,708 and ground broken on December 1, 1942. The site was
located near the agricultural community of Crows Landing, 1940
population of 363, that consisted of a gas station, country store,
and a freight train stop. During con struction, the project was
known as NAAF Patterson for the nearest post office, six miles
to the north. After the Navy decided to include a post office
on the station, the base commissioned on May 25, 1943, as NAAF
On June 18, 1943, VC-36 became the first
unit assigned. A detachment of Alameda's CASU 6 also arrived
in support. For the next nine months, Crows Landing hosted various
carrier units. These units included VC-65, and elements of CAG
28, CAG 18, and CAG 11. In the meantime, a detachment of CASU
37 replaced CASU 6 and Crows Landing was upgraded to an NAAS.
Up to the spring of 1944, multi-engine patrol aircraft were based
at NAAS Vernalis, 18 miles to the northwest. The Navy real ized
that Crows Landing's 7,000-ft. concrete run ways would be better
suited for the heavier weight multi-engine aircraft than Vernalis's
asphalt run ways; thereafter, Vernalis was designated for carrier
units and Crows Landing for multi-engine types.
In March 1944, the first multi-engine
squadron, VPB-137 arrived from Alameda with PVs. From June to
November, the station embarked on an expansion project that added
housing, a hangar, and other improvements. The runways were widened
from 150 to 200 ft. The station's ramp that initially was 200
x 400 ft. was enlarged by a 1200 x 200-ft. and a 1890 x 260-ft.
section. In August 1944, the first PB4Y-2 Privateer squadron,
VPB-118, arrived from Camp Kearny. In January 1945, Crows Landing
added six enlisted barracks, a warehouse, and a 100-man ground
training building. From February 2, to March 27, 1945, a VRE-1
Detach ment with 12 R4Ds was based at the station. VRE-1 was
one of the Navy's three evacuation squadrons that transported
wounded men from combat areas in the South Pacific to the various
Naval Hospitals in the U.S. In addition, Oakland's VR-4 and VR-11
used Crows Landing for training throughout the sta tion's existence.
Crows Landing's isolated location prompted the Navy to run 10
liberty buses a day to Modesto and Patterson. Navy men were allowed
to use the swim ming pool at Patterson High School. In June 1945,
the station's complement stood at 27 officers and 185 men --
squadron personnel added an additional 245 officers and 1220
enlisted men. Available billeting accommodated 268 officers and
2116 men. Patrol squadrons that passed thought the station dur
ing the war included VPB-115, 122, 101, 103, 107, 133, 140, 118,
and 108. The PV operational training squadron, VPB-198, also
spent time aboard. Patrol squadrons were supported by PATSUs
8-2, 8-4, 8-5, and 8-7. Other units that operated and trained
at Crows Landing were VJ-12 and ABATU 105. By war's end, the
station was valued at $4 million.
Crows Landing decommissioned on July 6, 1946, becoming an OLF
to Alameda and later Moffett Field. In recent years, the Navy
maintained a perma nent detachment at the field that supplied
crash equipment and refueling services for Naval aircraft from
the stations in the area. With the closing of Moffett, the Navy
turned Crows Landing over to NASA's Ames Research Center in 1993.
Crows Landing was typical of the airstrips
and auxiliary fields during World War II. Most of them were in
remote areas and many were reclaimed after the war.
A Bureau of Aeronautics letter dated July
27, 1942 indicated its desire to provide two outlying fields
with 7,000-foot runways for NAS Alameda. Eventually five were
built. They were at Crows Landing, Santa Rosa, Vernalis, Cotati
At the time Crows Landing had only a country store, gas station,
and freight train stop, so that men on liberty had to be sent
by bus to Patterson, Modesto, Newman or Gustine if they wished
to swim in a pool, visit a library or see a movie. But the area
around Crows Landing had a favorable combination of soil drainage,
clearance and weather, and the land was available. On three sides
of the chosen field there was unlimited flat country with foothills
about two to three miles distant to the west. Air distance to
Alameda was but sixty-three miles. Under condemnation procedures
permitted under the Second War Powers Act, 803 acres were obtained
Building on Crows Landing began on December
1, 1942. In addition to the normal storage, living, and mess
quarters and service facilities, there were a photographic laboratory,
Panoramic and Link trainers, and navigation and Loran training.
A 640-acre dive and glide bombing target range lay in the foothills
three and a half miles to the southwest; a Radar bombing range
lay on 510 acres nine miles to the southeast; a complete bombing
and air-to-ground gunnery range of 3,840 acres lay eight miles
southeast of Madera.
Operating personnel and the first plane
arrived at Crows Landing in February 1943. During the first nine
months, fighter and torpedo planes used for training included
the F4F Wildcat and TBF and TBM Avengers. By March 24, 1944 there
were added PV squadrons. R4D Skytrains and F5D Skymasters appeared
on February 2, 1945 when there were 1,500 men at the station.
At this point the station could house 2,116 men and 268 officers,
while its station complement was set at 270 officers and 185
men. 1,220 men and 245 officers were involved with the fleet
air squadrons and service units.
The value of the station and its facilities,
without equipment, was estimated to be $4 million, with construction
costs to April 20, 1945 at $3.3 million.
With the war's end, by letter from the
Chief of Naval Operations to the commanding officer at Crows
Landing via the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, the Station
was placed on caretaker status June 1, 1946.
Army Air Forces Directory of Airfields (January 1945)