Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Salinas Army Air Base
Located three miles southeast of Salinas, this was a subpost to Fort Ord during the war. It was a processing center and a training field for Army pilots in reconnaissance and observation duties in small planes. The Air Transport Command also used the field and had an air freight terminal here.

Source: World War II Sites in the United States: A Tour Guide and Directory by Richard E. Osbourne
A Martin B-10M used by the 82d Observation Squadron at Salinas Army Air Base (Bill Larkins)
History of Salinas Army Air Base By Justin M. Ruhge, Goleta Valley Historical Society
Efforts to build a new airfield at Salinas to replace the first field dedicated in 1929 began in January 1940. Interest on the part of the Chamber of Commerce started the process of planning the lead to engineering drawings and a bond election for funding of $185,000 by June. The Army agreed to lease the land and to authorize the use of WPA funds for construction. Work began on October 1940. $310,000 was appropriated for the main runways. All buildings except for the hangar had been completed by the end of December 1940. Four two-story barracks and two one-story barracks plus a control tower, administration building, mess hall and classrooms were some of the buildings ready to occupy in 1941.
The base was to be the home to two observation squadrons, one existing at Hamilton Field north of San Francisco and the other to be formed at the Salinas Base.
The Salinas Municipal Airport became a 4th Air Force base January 20,1941. The first commander was Captain W. C. Sams who flew to the Salinas base from Hamilton Field. The airmen arrived a week later and began to organize and settle into the facilities that had just been completed. The first flying cadets arrived in May of 1941. The first training aircraft arrived at the end of May. In August 1941 a medical detachment was activated at the Base. The first P-38s arrived in August to be used by a coastal patrol group stationed there.
The first edition of The Observer, the base newspaper, was published on November 21, 1941. Much of the final construction on the base was not completed until April 1942.
The Salinas Army Air Base was also used to train bomber pilots flying out of Hammer Field on the TP-70Bs.
The Base was used at the end of the war as a processing-out station. Fremont Peak Radar training site was near by, as was a radio range station, and small arms range. The Salinas Rodeo Grounds were used to gather Japanese-Americans prior to relocation to permanent camps further inland.
In 1946, the Base was closed and 900 acres was transferred to the City of Salinas. Many of the buildings were demolished or sold and moved. The original old American Legion Airport became part of the Santa Lucia Elementary School and the Sherwood Gardens Shopping Center. The main runway became West Laurel Drive.
US Army Corps of Engineers St. Louis District History (2002)
The former Salinas Army Air Base is located in Salinas, Monterey County, California. Its early history dates back to 1938 when the City of Salinas purchased approximately 600 acres to develop a Municipal Airport. Due to the war, the federal government took over and completed the project for use as a P-38 pilot training facility. Later, the airfield became a base of operations for B-24 combat crew overseas replacements.
Between 1942 and 1945 the Army Air Forces acquired additional property, increasing the airbase proper to encompass 895.09 acres. Between January and April 1941, construction included housing for 272 officers and men, administration buildings, a firehouse, boiler house, a hanger, and other miscellaneous building. Construction continued through 1944, increasing the housing to 2737, and included a 92 bed hospital.

The base was assigned to the Fourth Air Force, Air Transport Command as a final overseas dispatching point after processing and briefings had been acomplished at other stations. It was estimated that the maximum capacity would be 40 airplanes per day, after the airplanes and crews had been properly prepared at another base. Four types of aircraft were processed at Salinas for overseas movement which included B-24's, B-2S7s, A-26's and C-46's. Combat crews training included both fighter and night fighter P-38's, P-47, P-51 and P-61.

On 19 March 1943, Salinas was assigned to the Fourth Air Force, and placed under the direction of the 321st Wing, whose headquarters was at Sacramento, California. Then
on 19 July 1945, Salinas was transferred from command jurisdiction of the Fourth Air Force to that of the 21st Bombardment Wing. The primary function remained the processing of aircraft and combat crews prior to overseas movement.

Salinas Army Airfield was turned over the War Assets Administration on 21 October 1946. The site was deeded to the City of Salinas for use as a municipal airport. Since then most of the original buildings and roads have been demolished and replaced with a municipal golf course, a commercial airport, a residential housing area, and a highway extension.
Additional Online Histories
US Army Corps of Enginers St. Louis District Archives Search Report
Extract, US Army Air Forces Directory of Air Fields (January 1945)
Units Stationed at Salinas AAB During World War II
451st Army Air Force Base Unit (Processing Out)
69th Observation Group, 3 October-December 1941
115th Observation Squadron, O-38
70th Observation Group (After April 1943, 70th Reconnaissance Group) March-15 August 1943
26th Observation (After April 1943, Reconnaissance) Squadron
112th Observation (After April 1943, Reconnaissance) Squadron
116th Observation (After April 1943, Reconnaissance) Squadron
123rd Observation (After April 1943, Reconnaissance) Squadron
71st Observation Group, 21 December 1941-18 August 1942, 19 October 1942-24 January 1943
17th Observation Squadron
25th Observation Squadron
82nd Observation Squadron
102nd Observation Squadron
110th Observation Squadron
128th Observation Squadron
77th Observation Group, 2-17 March 1942
5th Observation Squadron
27th Observation Squadron
113th Observation Squadron
120th Observation Squadron
125th Observation Squadron
128th Observation Squadron
312th Bombardment Group (Dive) 15 August-24 October 1943
386th Bombardment Squadron
387th Bombardment Squadron
388th Bombardment Squadron
389th Bombardment Squadron
360th Fighter Group, P38 Lightning, 22 September 1943-11 January 1944
371st Fighter Squadron
372nd Fighter Squadron
373rd Fighter Squadron
446th Fighter Squadron

Updated 20 February 2009