Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Naval Auxiliary Air Station, Monterey
(Naval Auxiliary Landing Field, Monterey)
NAAS Monterey circa 1945
History by M.L. Shettle, Jr.

The first flights on the beautiful Monterey Peninsula took place from the polo field of the Del Monte Hotel in 1910. For the next 30 years, the nearby area of Tarpey Flats was used for a flying field and eventually consisted of a 1500 x 2500-ft. oiled runway. Finally in March 1941, the local communities formed the Monterey Peninsula Airport District and acquired 455 acres from Del Monte Properties to develop a modern airport. After the start of the war, the Navy leased the airport for $1 per year and the CAA allocated $1.7 million for construction of hard surfaced runways. The Navy purchased an addition al 17 acres for $41,000 on which to build barracks and administrative buildings. Construction commenced in August 1942, and ended with the commissioning of the station on May 23, 1943, as an auxiliary of Alameda.

The primary mission of the base was training of torpedo squadrons and torpedo planes of composite squadrons. For that purpose, the Navy set up a torpedo range at Monterey Bay in cooperation with the local Naval Section Base. Along with Pyramid Lake, Nevada, Monterey was the only other torpedo range in the 12th Naval District and squadrons from other air stations also utilized the range. Torpedoes were loaded at Alameda, 80 miles to the north, and dropped on two target ships at Monterey Bay. The 160-man Field Torpedo Unit at Monterey recovered the torpedoes that were later trucked back to Alameda for overhaul. During the remainder of 1943, 12 squadrons dropped 693 torpedoes and in 1944, 21 squadrons launched 1511 torpedoes -- 71 of which were lost in the bay.

Monterey also served as the base for squadrons that spent several months training prior to shipping out to the South Pacific. During the course of the war, these squadrons included VC-33, 37, 7, 63, and 11, as well as VT-18, 27, 17, and 5. In the spring of 1944, STAG 1 and its units, VK-11 and VK-12, completed final training at the station with TDR drones before deploying to combat. In September and October, STAG 1 conducted a month long demonstration of the TDR assault drone in the South Pacific. Monterey also hosted the electronic advance base elements ARGUS 19, 13, and 54 during the war. In July 1944, a mobile radar intercept unit was set up nearby for the training of fighter pilots. In the last few months of the war, the station supported a detachment of Moffett's Antisubmarine Warfare Training Unit that operated one F6F, 10 OS2U Kingfishers, two SNJs, and one GH Howard. On November 1, 1945, the Navy placed Monterey on caretaker status.

Monterey had a 5,000-ft. and a 4,500 x 150-ft. macadam runway. On September 1, 1944, the station acquired an OLF at San Luis Obispo. In March 1944, complement consisted of 117 officers and 785 enlisted men with accommodations for 120 officers and 928 men. CASU 37 maintained a detachment at the base to support the various carrier squadrons present. NAAS Monterey usually operated two GH Howard ambulance aircraft and one GB.

Opened in 1880, the Del Monte Hotel was billed as the finest luxury resort in the world hosting captains and kings. In late 1942, after facing a dwindling business, Samuel F. B. Morse, the hotel's owner and grand-nephew of the inventor of the telegraph, offered the hotel to the Navy. After leasing the property, the Navy established the Del Monte Pre-Flight School in February 1943. Del Monte fielded an outstanding football team that defeated UCLA and UC-Berkeley, ranking eighth in the final 1943 AP national poll. After the pre-flight school closed in December 1944, Del Monte was used for engineering and general line schools. Following the war, the Navy purchased the property moving the Naval Postgraduate School here from Annapolis. The air station reactivated on December 20, 1947, to provide aircraft for flight proficiency by the Navy and Marine aviators at the postgraduate school. Initial aircraft present included 12 SNJs, 12 TBMs, 12 F6Fs, eight SNBs, and two JRBs. The Navy remained at the airport until 1972, when the facility closed. Today, the Naval Postgraduate School remains at Monterey -- one of the most picturesque places in the world. The airport is now known as Monterey Peninsula.

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


NAAS Monterey (2005) by Justin Ruhge

The Monterey Airfield and the Del Monte Hotel/Resort were the locations of the Del Monte Pre-flight School and fleet pilot training field in 1943. The cadets came there for three months of strenuous physical fitness training, plus some academic instruction, with the main emphasis on sports of which there were nine principal ones directed toward developing coordination and balance as well as team work, speed and precision. Hand-to-hand combat was part of the training. From the preflight training the cadets went on to primary training for their first instruction in flying, then to advanced training, operation base and finally to combat service. No flying was taught in the preflight courses at Del Monte. When finally ready for combat duty a pilot was worth $30,000 to his country. The first class of 350 men began their rigorous three-month course in early February of 1943. They moved on to flight schools in May of 1943 while two additional classes were underway.
The U. S. Naval Auxiliary Air Station at Monterey was the first auxiliary station to be commissioned in the 12th Naval District on May 24, 1943. It was an auxiliary to the Alameda Naval Air Station. During its two and a half years of operation the Air Station provided complete ground and air instruction to pilots and air crewmen of the Navy's carrier-type fighter, torpedo and bomber planes. The Station also had complete facilities for torpedo training and instructed squadrons from all of the 12th Naval District air bases in this phase of their operational training.
At the end of World War II the Station was placed on caretaker status on October 15, 1945.
On December 19, 1947 the Station was reactivated. This was brought about by the location of the Navy Postgraduate School at Monterey. The Station was used to give flight proficiency training to students and instructors at the school. The Station was one of the few Navy installations being activated in the country at that time. It was staffed with 16 officers, 250 enlisted men and 46 planes.
The Navy and the Monterey Peninsula Airport District Board were to operate the field jointly for a 35-year period. The Navy also acquired the command of the control tower for both military and commercial aircraft control. The Air Station occupied 17-acres which were owned by the Navy. It had exclusive use of four and one-half acres and leases on a 25-year basis.
Four hundred fifty acres from the Monterey Peninsula Airport District Board were for joint use. This station was one of a very few in the United States whose facilities were used concurrently by government and commercial organizations.
The first commanding officer was Captain J. C. Alderman, U. S. N.
The medical department under the direction of Captain E. McDonald U. S. N, senior flight surgeon, served both the Naval School and the Air Station and consisted of a well-equipped dispensary.
120 students flew daily. Most of the officer/students at the Postgraduate School were pilots. While stationed there, it was important that they kept up their flying proficiency.
The Naval Auxiliary Air Station marked its 7th anniversary in December 1954. Captain Charles W. Fielder was Commanding Officer. When he retired in July 1956, he was replaced by Captain C. M. Jett in August.
The Station continued to provide training support until 1971 when Congress terminated the proficiency-flying program. The Naval Auxiliary Landing Field (NALF) in Monterey closed on March 3, 1972 without ceremonies. The last commander was Captain Edward. E. Riley. The last of some 60 aircraft, an S2 anti-submarine bomber, left the field on February 29, 1972. The 27 officers, 279 enlisted men and 47 civilians at the field were transferred to other naval installations around the country. Leased land was transferred back to Monterey County. The NALF dispensary was transferred to the Postgraduate School in Monterey. The Dispensary saw about 21,000 patients a year. The staff included six physicians, 20 hospital corpsman and six civilians. At its transfer, the dispensary was headed by senior medical officer Captain Ronald A. Cummings.

References: Monterey Peninsula Herald Newspaper clippings provided by the Monterey City Library.


US Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District (1999)

The Navy Department (after 1947, Department of the Navy) leased approximately 455 acres from the Monterey Peninsula Airport District (MPAD) in 1942. The NAAS Monterey was commissioned from the mid-1940's until March, 1972. The air base was supervised by Commander, Naval Air Bases, Twelfth Naval District Headquarters, Naval Air Station, Alameda, California. An agreement between MPAD and the United States, in 1944, empowered the Civil Aeronautics Board of the Department of Commerce to construct, improve and repair the subject airport. In 1946, it was determined, that the subject airport was not required for full military purposes. Consequently, MPAD was granted joint and equal use of said landing facilities, without terminating the original agreements, dated in 1942. Other facilities, such as parking aprons, hangers, repair shops and storage tanks, were solely used by the DON. By agreement in 1949, the 455-acre lease was to be terminated by June, 1972. Between 1972 and 1982, the Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey continually renewed the lease from MPAD, which included two 50,000-gallon, one 300-gallon and two 500-gallon underground fuel storage tanks and supporting pipelines in the cantonment area at the north end of the property. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command used the tanks for the storage of fuel oil. Previously, the 50,000-gallon tanks were used by the Navy to store jet fuel. In 1981, the Navy indicated to MPAD that they would use the remaining oil and clean the storage tanks in accordance with an earlier agreement (flush and refill them with a chromate or other suitable preservative solution). The DON agreed to perform the restoration work and terminate the lease, effective 30 April 1982. MPAD released DON from it's lease of the 455-acre parcel on 22 November 1989, in exchange for payment of $8,850.


Extract, US Army Air Forces Airfield Directory (January 1945)

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Updated 8 February 2016