In 1942, the Navy traveled to Sonoma County, northwest of San
Francisco Bay, and purchased property to build a main station
and an OLF. Construction of the proposed NAAS began in November
1942, near the small town of Cotati, eight miles south of Santa
Rosa. The next month, work began on an OLF 2.5 miles southwest
of Santa Rosa. When drainage problems were encountered at Cotati,
the Navy reversed the plans developing Santa Rosa as the main
station and Cotati as the OLF. NAAS Santa Rosa commissioned on
June 29, 1943, an auxiliary of Alameda.
Beginning on August 6, the station's first
tenant, CASU 13, arrived for training prior to embarking for the
South Pacific. CASU 13, departed on September 20, and four days
later, CASU 18 arrived. CASU 18's stay lasted less than a month
when it also departed. On October 20, CASU 36 commissioned and
was permanently based at the station to support the carrier squadrons
present. For the next few months, several squadrons were aboard
including VT-2, VB-2, VB-11, VF-28, and VC-4.
Starting in January 1944, the first of three
shore based support squadrons arrived for several months of operational
training. These squadrons, VB-301, VB-302, and VB-303, operated
SBDs -- the last one departed May 3. CAG 6, reformed at Alameda
in April, transferred to Santa Rosa on May 10, and conducted operational
training for the next six months. About the same time, an expansion
program doubled the station's aircraft capacity. In September,
the first unit of CAG 5, VT-5, came aboard. After CAG 6 left in
November, CAG 5's remaining squadrons, VF-5 and VB-5, transferred
in. The next two months, Marine fighter squadrons VMF-452 and
VMF-214, assigned to CAG 5, joined the air group at Santa Rosa
for training. CAG 5, along with the Marine squadrons, embarked
on the Franklin.
February 8, 1945. CAG 19 replaced CAG 5
later in February with a new VBF bomber/fighter squadron of F6Fs.
VF-19 received the Navy's first F8F Bearcats in May. The war ended
before the Bearcats reached the combat area. Santa Rosa finished
out the war with CAG 11's and VBF-151 aboard.
Santa Rosa's 498 acres had two 7,000 x 200-ft.
con crete runways plus a catapult and arresting gear system. Total
Navy investment in the facility topped $4.5 million. In a rather
mundane matter, the Navy sold hay cut on the property in May 1945
for $51. The station had two OLFs -- Cotati and Little River OLF
in Mendocino County to the north. The Navy leased the airport
at Little River in January 1945, as an emergency field for the
numerous flights between Santa Rosa and the rocket training station
Santa Rosa's status changed from an NAAS
to an OLF of Alameda in 1947. The station saw renewed activity
during the Korean War by ADs, F4Us, and F9Fs. Following the Korean
War, the Navy deeded the facility to the City of Santa Rosa. The
airport was known as the Santa Rosa Air Center and remained open
until 1993. In 1996, the property was in the hands of developers.
The airfield at Cotati is also no longer in existence -- the property
is occupied by a K-Mart and industry. During the war, the Army
developed Santa Rosa's existing municipal airport, seven miles
northwest, as an Army Air Field. Today, that airfield, Sonoma
County, serves as Santa Rosa's municipal airport.
This base was built during World War II
as an outlying airfield for Alameda NAS. According to the 2003
issue of the Journal of the Sonoma County Historical Society,
the airfield opened in 1943, after being built on the old Leddy
The 1944 US Army/Navy Directory of Airfields
described "NAAS, Santa Rosa" as having a 7,000' hard-surface
runway. As constructed by the Navy, the airfield consisted of
two paved 7,000' runways, taxiways, ramps, hangars & other
During World War II, a total of 21 squadrons
received their final training in fighters, bombers, and torpedo
planes at NAAS Santa Rosa.
"Santa Rosa (Navy)" was still
depicted as a Navy airfield on the 1946 Sectional Chart.
Santa Rosa was evidently relinquished
by the Navy at some point between 1946-49. It was depicted as
a civil airfield, "Santa Rosa", on the 1949 Sacramento
Sectional Chart (according to Chris Kennedy), and
described as having a 7,000' hard-surface runway.
Santa Rosa was reactivated by the Navy
for Korean War duty in 1951. According to Gene Stone (who was
stationed at Santa Rosa in 1951), the Navy established a fleet
service squadron (FASRON 10) at Santa Rosa in 1951 for the sole
purpose of assisting Carrier Air Group 2 in their preparations
to go to Korea. The station was closed sometime after FASRON
10 departed in 1952.
The airfield apparently then went through
a period of abandonment, as it was not depicted at all on the
1957 Sacramento Sectional Chart, and was labeled "Abandoned
airport" on the 1961 Sectional Chart.
At some point between 1961-67, Santa Rosa
was reopened (once again) as a civilian airport, Santa Rosa Air
Center (O01). Santa Rosa Air Center was depicted on the 1967
Sacramento Sectional Chart (courtesy of John Voss) with a single
7,0000' concrete runway.
Santa Rosa Air Center closed in 1991,
having been replaced by the Sonoma County Airport, located further
out of town to the northwest.
USGS aerial photo 1997, after the field
had been closed & partially redeveloped.
Jonathan Westerling toured the site of
the former airfield in 2003. His observations: "The Santa
Rosa Air Center is quickly on its way into history. The entire
area is fenced off & marked 'private'. Only two buildings
of note still stand, one is the old maintenance hangar (falling
down) and the other is the old Air Service Reserve Center which
is a much newer building, but has been abandoned."
"Over the eastern half of the East/West
runway, several business parks have been constructed using the
old runway as parking lots. At the intersection of the runways,
many, many houses have been built.
As a reminder of the many takeoffs &
landings that happened here, the streets of the subdivision have
names like Orville, Doolittle, Yeager, Quimby and Earhart."
"Runway 16 is intact & in good
condition for several thousand feet, and the threshold markings
are still quite evident. Also intact is the western end of the
field, though only a thousand or so feet of concrete remain there."
"Runway 34 has been broken up, and the concrete piled up
into a large mound of rubble near the apron. Overlooking the
site from the top of this mound, it is easy to envision the aviation
glory of the past, and the buildings of the future."
John Hess recalled, "As a fledgling
flight instructor in 1969, how well I remember the old fields.
It really sickens me to see the construction at the Santa Rosa
Air Center. I made a thousand landings there at least
The Navy acquired a 217 acre parcel in
Cotati in 1943-44, for the purpose of establishing a satellite
airfield for the use of Alameda NAS. It
was labeled "Cotati (Navy)" on the 1943 Sacramento
According to a 1944 General Layout Map
of the Cotati Air Facility, the field contained runways, a control
tower, fire & crash truck garage, gasoline & oil storage,
a small arms magazine, and a machine gun range.
The 1944 US Army/Navy Directory of Airfields
described "Cotati OLF, Navy" as having a 3,900' runway.
The types of aircraft or operations conducted
at Cotati during WW2 are unknown.
On the 1948 Sacramento Sectional Chart
(courtesy of John Voss), Cotati was still depicted as an active
Navy Field, with the largest runway being listed as a 4,000'
paved strip. It was still labeled "Cotati (Navy)" on
the 1949 Sacramento Sectional Chart.
A 1949 Memorandum from the Commander,
Naval Air Bases, 11th & 12th Naval District states that Cotati
was in inactive status. The arable lands were under a lease for
agricultural purposes, and the Sonoma County Peace Officers
Association used the rifle range under a permit.
The 1950 USGS topo map depicted "Cotati
Naval Auxiliary Air Station (Inactive)" as having two 4,000'
paved runways, one oriented east/west, and the other northwest/southeast,
each with parallel taxiways. A small paved ramp area was on the
southeast side of the airfield. There did not appear to be any
hangars depicted on the map, just one very small building along
the side of the ramp.
In 1953, the Cotati airfield property
was suggested as a location for Sonoma State College, but this
was not persued.
Cotati NOLF was reported excess in 1956.
It was not depicted at all on the 1957 Sacramento Sectional Chart.
In 1957, the California Research Corporation requested a license
covering the use of the Cotati runways for road testing purposes.
The lease was approved for a period of one year from 1957-58.
Another lease permitted the City of Santa
Rosa to use the former Navy runways for drag racing.
According to Chad Murray, a longtime resident
remembered that "When the strip was closed down, the neighbor
at the end of [Airport Road] turned the old facility into a drag
strip & would collect $ for entrance."
Drag racing historian Bret Kepner confirmed
that Cotati was one of the true "originals" in drag
racing. He also said that drag racing occurred on the former
Cotati runways as early as 1952, and that the runways were "bumpy
Apparently, the Cotati airfield saw at
least some unofficial reuse as a civil airfield. Hugh Codding,
current owner of the Cotati property (as of 1999), recalled that
he used to fly his small plane into the former landing field
in the 1950s while it was being utilized for drag racing &
The property was conveyed by the federal
government to a private party in 1958.
On the 1961 Sectional Chart (courtesy
of Dann Shively) and the 1967 Sacramento Sectional Chart (courtesy
of John Voss), the airfield at Cotati was no longer depicted
In the spring of 1968, developer Hugh
Codding offered to sell the 80 acre site to the County for development
as the South County Airport, but the County Board of Supervisors
would not even consider the proposal.
John Voss visited the site of NOLF Cotati
in 1985, and at least some portion of the runway pavement still
existed at that point.
As of 1999, the property is still owned
by Codding Enterprises, a property management company. The property
consists of Ranch Verde Mobile Home Park to the north, theater,
bank, restaurants, office buildings
& retail stores to the south & an apartment complex to
The site of Cotati NOLF is located at
the present-day intersection of Rohnert Park Expressway &
Labath Avenue. The former airport access road is still there,
appropriately named "Airport Road".