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Naval Auxiliary Air Station, Monterey
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.

 

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