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Naval Auxiliary Air Station, King City
(King City Airport, Mesa del Rey Fight School)
by M.L. Shettle, Jr.
 

The Army and the Navy rarely saw eye to eye on the same subject -- this included primary training. While the Navy performed the training in-house, the Army contracted the training to civilian operators that formed Contract Pilot Schools (CPS). In 1940, Palo Alto Airport Inc. won a contract and located a school at King City. An agricultural community, 125 miles south of San Francisco, in the San Antonio Valley, King City had a population of 1,800 in 1940. The airfield was built on a 249-acre tract owned by the Spreckels Sugar Company and leased to the City that in turn subleased the property to the school. Construction took place during the winter of 1940-1941, the wettest in 25 years. The school, named Mesa del Rey, welcomed the first cadets in March 1941.

By May 1941, five barracks, a hospital, administra tion building, mess hall, and two hangars were completed. In the fall, a hangar was added -- the investment totaled over $500,000 with an initial annual payroll over $100,000. In October 1941, the City passed a $16,000 bond issue, bought the property, and renewed the flying school's lease. Mesa del Rey accommodated 280 cadets with a staff of 555 civilians and 35 Army personnel. Ryan Recruits and Boeing Stearmans flew 700 hours a day at the peak. In October 1944, the school closed after putting 10,000 cadets through the primary training course. The Army had 59 other CPSs across the U.S. and paid the contractors approximately $1000 for each cadet that completed training.

The airfield had an unusual layout with a dispersal area and revetments. Perhaps the airfield was intended as an alternate fighter base. At any rate, the cadets played war games and every night the trainers were moved into the revetments in case of a possible Japanese air attack!

In the spring of 1945, the Navy was attracted to the area by the good flying weather and its nearness to Alameda. The Navy took over the field and commissioned the station on April 6, 1945, as an auxiliary of Alameda. The new Navy C.O., impressed by the facility's well-appointed greenery and rose gardens, proclaimed the station "the prettiest NAAS in the Twelfth Naval District." Four days later, VC-10 arrived from Ventura. By the end of the month VC 20 replaced VC-10 that moved on to Holtville. VC 20's 31 aircraft consisted of Avengers, FM-2 Wildcats, and one SB2C. A detachment of Watsonville's CASU 64 supported VC-20 and operated three FM-2s, two Avengers, and one J2F Duck. The station's aircraft was one GH Howard hospital plane. During the summer of 1945, Navy planes encountered problems with the facility's 4500-ft. runway, taxiways, and ramps when the asphalt sur face became soft when hot.

On September 15, 1945, the Navy placed the station on caretaker status and on December 15, 1945, returned the airfield to the City. In 1997, Mesa del Rey, remains as King City's municipal airport. A few of the former base's buildings are in use by a commercial onion and garlic dehydrator.

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

Auxiliary Fields

Benard Auxiliary Field (36°08'39"N 121°05'35"W)
Hanson Auxiliary Field (36°20'14"N 121°14'58"W)
Sorenson Auxiliary Field (36°09'21"N 121°07'27"W)
Trescony Auxiliary Field (36°03'40"N 120°59?'3"W)

 
Army Units Assigned to King City Airport

 Data Source

Date(s)

 Unit(s)
   7 December 1941  Air Corps Training Detachment (AC)
 Army of the United States Station List  1 June 1943
 3nd Army Air Forces Flying Detachment (AAF)
Medical Detachment (AAF)
Contract Flying School (Primary) (AAF)
 Air Service Command Station List 1 September 1943  Air Depot Detachment (AAF)
 Air Service Command Station List
 1 December 1943
Detachment, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron Sacramento Air Service Command (AAF)
AAF - Army Air Forces, AC - Air Corps

Extract, January1945 Airfield Directory

 

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