- California State Military
- The California
State Military Museum
- Preserving California's
- Historic California
- Naval Air Station,
- (Naval Reserve
Air Base, Oakland; Naval Auxiliary Air Station, Oakland)
- by M.L. Shettle,
On February 5, 1927, the Oakland City Council
purchased the 692-acre Bay Farm Island, five miles south of town,
to develop an airport. On June 3, the Army informed the City
that it wished to use the island as the takeoff point for an
attempt to fly to Hawaii. Since a runway did not yet exist, the
Army requested that one be graded by the end of the month. Working
around the clock for 23 days, crews completed a 7,020-ft. runway
-- at that time, the longest in the world. On June 28, 1Lts.
Lester Maitland and Albert Hegenberger departed in a Fokker C-2.
Twenty five hours and 49 minutes later, they landed on Oahu
at the Army's Wheeler Field, completing the first non-stop flight
between the Mainland and Hawaii.
- Oakland became the departure point for
many pioneering flights to Hawaii. In July, Ernie Smith and Emory
Bronte, also completed a non-stop flight to Hawaii. On August
16, a group of aviators gathered at Oakland to vie for $35,000
in prizes offered by pineapple magnate James Dole for a race
to Hawaii. Six entrants crashed preparing for the race or at
the race's start and two disappeared over the Pacific. On August
17, two aircraft completed the flight, with the first prize
of $25,000 being claimed by Hollywood stunt pilot Art Goebel
and his navigator, Navy Lt. William Davis. Charles Lindbergh
was the guest of honor for the dedication of the airport that
took place on September 27. On May 31 of the next year, Australians
Charles Kingsford-Smith and Charles Ulm departed for Hawaii on
the first leg of their epic flight to Australia.
On August 1, 1928, the Navy formed an NRAB at the airport with
two aircraft and 1200 sq. ft. of leased hangar space. By 1935,
the station began the Elimination Training Course with ten aircraft.
Eleven days after Pearl Harbor, the C.O.s of all the NRABs
held a conference in Pensacola -- the subject being the increase
of primary training at their bases. Among the C.O.s with a problem,
was Cdr. R.L. Johnson of Oakland. With the addition of Army
interceptors at the airport, the expansion of primary training
would be impossible without a new base. After returning to Oakland,
Cdr. Johnson and his men selected a site 25 miles away, 3.5
miles east of Livermore. Nevertheless, full primary training
began in January 1942. With the imminent departure of primary
training, Oakland was chosen to be a Naval Air Transport Service
Terminal. In September, VR-3 began scheduled service to the
station. By November 1942, all primary flight activities transferred
to Livermore; however, administrative control remained at Oakland.
On January 1, 1943, Oakland became an NAS along with most of
the other NRABs in the Navy. On March 4, VR-4 commissioned with
a complement of 13 R4Ds received from Alameda's
VR-2 which then became an exclusive seaplane operation. When
Livermore commissioned as an
NAS on June 1, Oakland was, in turn, reduced to an NAAS under
Alameda. VR-11 commissioned here on September 1. Although the
headquarters of VR-11 moved to Honolulu three and a half months
later, the squadron maintained a detachment and conducted training
at Oakland. Meanwhile, United Airlines had an aircraft mechanics
school for the Army at the airport. In 1943, United began training
Navy mechanics and completed 1,281 during the war.
- In April 1944, the station began an expansion
program. On June 16, VR-13 commissioned and in the spring of
1945, transferred to Los Negros in the Admiralty Islands. A new
NATS passenger terminal reached completion on July 19.
- Oakland was situated on 1,016 acres of
which the Navy owned 65 and leased the remainder. The air field
had four asphalt runways, the longest 6,500 ft. Barracks existed
for 253 officers and 4,658 men. The station operated an R5D,
a GH Howard, and an SNV. Oakland was a joint-use facility with
the Army's Air Technical Service Command that serviced transient
- Following the war, the Navy began reserve
activities at Oakland in 1946, upgrading the station to an NAS.
In 1961, Oakland closed and the Reserve mission moved to Alameda.
Today, the airport is known as Oakland International Airport.
Copied with the permission of
the author from United
States Naval Air Stations of World War II.
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