Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Naval Auxilary Air Station, Crows Landing
(Naval Auxiliary 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 status.
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. Osbourne
NAAS Crows Landing
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 Crows Landing.
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.

Copied with the permission of the author from United States Naval Air Stations of World War II.

Mirror landing aid at Crows Landing (NASA)
NAAF Crows Landing
by Justin Ruhge
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 and Hollister.

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 for $86,708.
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.

Extract, US Army Air Forces Directory of Airfields (January 1945)


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Updated 8 February 2016