California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Redding Army Air
Redding-Shasta Army Air Field)
by Sgt Maj (CA) Dan Sebby, Military Historian,
California Military Department
In 1942, the site of Redding
AAF was acquired for the Air Corps by the Corps of Engineers
from the City of Redding by lease (1,120 acres) and by condemnation
proceedings against L.A. Butzbach (140 acres), Estate of Earl
and Mary Stevenson (160 acres) and Estate of A.L. Cross (20 acres).
On 9 December 1942, the Air Corps became the semi-independent
Army Air Forces. Initially, Redding AAF was a sub-installation
of Chico AAF and was under the operational
control of that fields 433rd Army Air Forces Base Unit
(AAFBU) and was garrisoned by Squadron N of that
unit. As with all of the operational and training airfields in
the southwestern United States, the overall operational control
of Redding AAF rested with the Fourth Air Force of the Army Air
The building areas at former
Redding AAF consisted of a Housing Area, Operations Area, Bomb
Storage Area, revetments, taxiways, and two runways. The Housing
Area contained barracks, bath houses, latrines, a dispensary (medical
clinic), officers quarters, and a motor pool.. Additionally,
three unnumbered structures were located in the housing area and
consisted of a house, garage, and swimming pool. The Operations
area contained the crash truck station, operations building, a
school, a link trainer building, a shop, a bomb sight storage
building, the maintenance nose hanger, and the control tower.
The bomb storage area had a fenced perimeter and contained bomb
storage revetments, fuse storage buildings, small arms storage
and office, and a guard shelter. There were also fifteen aircraft
revetments (also known as hardstands) located along the southwest,
south, southeast, and northeast taxiways and thirteen revetments
located around the exterior portion of the taxiways had associated
fuel tanks. The two runways, formerly designated Runways number
1 (16-34) and 2 (12-30), trend nearly north-south and northwest-southeast,
From November 1943 through
March 1944, the Army Air Forces 399th Fighter Squadron of
the 369th Fighter Group was assigned to the airfield as a replacement
training and air defense unit. The 399th Fighter Squadron at that
time operated the Bell Aircraft Companys P-39 Airacobra
which mounted one 37mm cannon firing through the propeller hub;
two .50-caliber machine guns in the nose; two .50-caliber machine
guns in packets under the wing as well as the capability of carrying
500 pounds of bombs externally. The aircraft was of a unique design
in which the engine was placed behind the pilot.
The Bell Aircraft
Corporation P-39 Aircobra
The Bell P-39 Airacobra was one of the
principal fighter aircraft in service with American forces at
the start of World War II.
The aircraft's unusual design featured
its Allison engine mounted in the middle of the fuselage, just
behind the pilot, driving the propeller through a driveshaft
passing between the pilot's feet. The purpose of this was to
free up space for the heavy main armament, a 37 mm T9 cannon
firing through the center of the propeller hub for optimum accuracy
and stability when firing. The weight distribution necessitated
a tricycle undercarriage, a first among American fighters. Entry
to the cockpit was through a side door rather than a moving canopy.
The weight distribution of the P-39 supposedly is the reason
for its tendency to enter a dangerous spin - a characteristic
Soviet tests proved to the then-skeptical manufacturer who had
been unable to reproduce them.
The P-39's Allison V-1710 engine had a
single-speed, single-stage supercharger, which brought about
a decrease of performance compared to the promising prototype
which had been fitted with an exhaust-driven turbo-supercharger.
Due to the high weight of the P-39 and the poor high-altitude
power of the mechanically supercharged Allison, the P-39's performance
was markedly inferior to the contemporary European fighters,
and as a result the first USAAF fighter units in the ETO were
equipped with the Spitfire V (which ironically featured a single-speed,
single-stage supercharger, too).
Above the V-1710's full throttle height
of about 17,000 ft (5,000 m), the P-39's performance dropped
off rapidly. This limited its usefulness in traditional fighter
missions, in Europe as well as in the Pacific where it was not
uncommon for Japanese bombers to attack at altitudes above the
P-39's operational ceiling (which in the tropical hot air inevitably
was lower than in moderate climates).
It is mistakenly believed that the Airacobra
was used as a ground-attack airplane by the Soviet Union; the
lack of a turbo-supercharger restricting it to low-altitude combat.
In fact, it appears that the Soviets did not use it for ground-attack,
but instead to provide top cover. The tactical environment of
the Eastern Front did not demand the high-altitude operations
that the Army Air Forces and British Royal Air Force used with
their big bombers. In the relatively low-altitude operations
in the East the lack of a supercharger was not as bad a handicap.
The second-highest scoring Allied ace, Pokryshkin, flew the P-39
until 1944 before finally converting to Lavochkin fighters.
9,584 were produced, with over half being
sent to the Soviet Union under the Lend-Lease program.
A number are still in existence of which
three are still flying.
The mid-engine, gun-through-hub concept
was developed further in the Bell P-63 Kingcobra
On 1 November 1944, operational
control of Redding AAF was transferred from the Fourth Air Force
to the Sacramento Area Command of the Army Air Forces Air
Technical Service Command headquartered at McClellan Field in Sacramento. At that time the stations
garrison became 4191st AAFBU (Air Base). Additionally, Redding
AAF was sporadically used by the Army Air Forces Air Transport
Command as a refueling and service stop throughout the war.
With the end of the war
in the Pacific, the Army Air Forces no longer needed many of its
airfields and on 19 December 1945 the Division Engineer, Pacific
Division, USACE reported Redding AAF as excess to the needs of
the U.S. Army to the WAA. On 18 November 1946, the War Department,
through the USACE, issued a license to the City of Redding of
operate a civil airport on the former Redding AAF pending final
disposition of the Site by the WAA.
On 4 October 1947, the U.S.
Army, through the WAA, vacated the original lease with the City
of Redding through an Instrument of Transfer and control of that
portion of the Site that was leased was officially transferred
to the city. On 6 June 1949, the WAA, quitclaimed the remainder
of the Site to the City of Redding. Today, the City of Redding
continues to operate the Site as Redding Municipal Airport and
has embarked on a major commercial development of the Site.