Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Sherwood Field
(Naval Outlying Field, Paso Robles)
 
Sherwood Field History
by Master Sergeant (Retired) Al Davis

Sherwood Field was began in the late 1920s as a private airport owned by T A Osborne. It had two dirt strips with a few locally-owned aircraft. In those days it was quite an event to have "barnstormers" visit Paso Robles, and when they did, the whole city turned out to see them. Rides were offered for only a $1.00.

At some point, the field became known as Paso Robles Airport. The Standard Oil Company's 1929 "Airplane Landing Fields of the Pacific West" described Paso Robles as a commercial airport operated by Perry Tucker. The airfield configuration was said to consist of a 2,000' northeast/southwest runway, along with auxiliary runways on the north & east. A small hangar was said to be on the northeast corner of the field.

Sherwood was also used as a stopover for Goodyear blimps traveling up & down the coast in the 1930s. The Airport Directory Company's 1937 Airports Directory described Paso Robles Municipal Airport as having three dirt runways, with the longest being a 3,300' northeast/southwest strip.

In 1940, a flying club, in joint ownership with the Paso Robles airport, was planned. The committee anticipated a $10,000 improvement program tentatively promised by the Civil Aviation Authority. A field survey by the CAA was completed with the team recommending a beacon, radio signal tower, and weather station. The runways at Sherwood were then 3,400' & 1,600' long.

In late 1940, the City of Paso Robles & the War Department came to an agreement to have the City lease the Paso Robles Airport for $1.00 a year. One week later the private planes were moved to other cities, most went to San Luis Obispo. Ground was broken for the first buildings of an estimated $300,000 construction project. More than 5,000' of concrete drain tile & corrugated iron culverts lined both sides of the two main runways.

The first unit to move into the new government-run airport was the 115th Observation Squadron of the California National Guard. The unit was attached to the 40th Division, at the time stationed at Camp San Luis Obispo.

Early in 1941, the government appropriated an additional $254,346 for the construction of a new 4,200' east-west runway, for which the City of Paso Robles purchased 20 additional acres. The runway was of sufficient size to accommodate any type of landplane then in use. All runways were hard-surfaced with a concrete apron.

A motion picture, with actor Robert Taylor in the role of an Air Corps cadet, was made early in WW2, and part of it was filmed at Sherwood Field. Legendary stunt pilot Paul Mantz flew the air scenes in place of Taylor (who actually later was a Navy pilot in the Pacific theater). One morning all airplanes were moved out of the hangar, both doors slid open, then Mantz took off, circled the field once, dove, and flew through one door & out the other. Hundreds of townspeople had heard about the planned scene, and were there to watch the action being filmed - Paso Robles' first air show!

Later in 1941, the Air Corps turned the field over to the Navy, who used it only as an emergency field - a full complement was never stationed there. "Paso Robles" Airport was described by the 1944 US Army/Navy Directory of Airfields as having a 3,300' hard-surface runway. In 1945, the Navy returned the field to the City of Paso Robles.

The airport fell into general disrepair after the war, since most aviation activity had shifted to Estrella - by then the official Paso Robles airport - and housing was fast encroaching. It was soon closed to flying altogether. In the mid-1950s, a housing tract was constructed on the property, where some residents trying to plant trees in their yard hit the old runway & parking ramps.

Sherwood Field is still with us today in visible reminders. The old Officers Mess is in use by the Paso Robles Shriners, and the big hangar remains, now occupied by Ennis Co, as does the original apron where the planes were tied down. The hangar & ramp can be viewed from Santa Fe Avenue, off Creston Road, where the apron is bisected by a chain-like fence from Ennis Co property. The concrete was just too much trouble to break up & remove, so it remains as a reminder of bygone days when the sounds of aircraft engines chattered in the soft, clear air over what was then open pasture land. The site of Sherwood Field is bordered by Creston Road on the West, Sherwood Road on the North, Fontana Road on the East, and Scott Street on the South.

 

Sherwood Field
by Justin Ruhge
 
Initially developed in the late 1920s and early 1930s by T. A. Osborne, the original airfield had two dirt strips for a few local owners of aircraft. Its first military use was in 1937 when it was part of the Fourth Army war games. The airfield also was used by "barnstormers," itinerant pilots who would offer airplane rides for as little as one dollar, and it was a stopover for blimps traveling along the coast.
By February of 1940, the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce was exploring ways to improve the airfield. A $10,000 improvement program funded through the Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA) was anticipated. But to be eligible for such a grant, the facility had to be owned or leased by a city, county or other political body. The City of Paso Robles held a special election to appropriate $9,000 to acquire Sherwood Field on April 9, 1940. It passed and as a result, the CAA completed a field survey and recommended a light beam, radio signal tower and weather station and grading and weed removal. On July 18, 1940 the CAA called for re-oiling the runways, which were 150 feet wide and 3,400 and 6,600 feet long, and the construction of a hangar plus the removal of 35 trees. These improvements were designed to prepare the facility for a proposed Civilian Pilots' Training School. The deadline was August 1, 1940. Plans were drawn for a 30-foot by 50-foot hangar that would cost $1,400 and woodchoppers cleared the trees.
By July 25, 1940 36 student-pilots were enrolled, including several women. The training course began with 72 hours of ground school conducted by H.R. Martinson, a professor of aeronautics at the California Polytechnic School in San Luis Obispo, and George Annis, an instructor at Hancock College of Aeronautics in Santa Maria.
On October 9, 1940 the City leased the Airfield to the War Department for one dollar a year. A week later, private planes were removed. On October 30, 1940, construction began on a $300,000 project for the Army. Much of the project consisted of water, sewage and drainage and underground electric and telephone lines. A large sewage plant was built at the southwest corner. A 50,000-gallon water reservoir was also built. Over 5,000 feet of concrete drain tile and corrugated iron culverts lined both runways. Provisions were made to double the facility capacity if necessary.
The 115th Observation and Reconnaissance Squadron of the California National Guard was the first unit to use the new Airport. Dedicated in November of 1941, the facility was named in honor of Captain George C. Sherwood, the first commanding officer of the 115th's Photographic Section. He died in a civilian airplane crash in 1935.
The 115th's 38 pilots and 159 enlisted men arrived on March 31, 1941. They were reservists primarily from the Los Angeles area. The unit was attached to the 40th Division at Camp San Luis Obispo. The 115th was formed during the 1920s and based at an airstrip near Griffith Park's Traveltown. Many of the members were employed at the Hollywood studios. The photographers gained experience taking aerial photographs of the Los Angeles basin. Many of the photographic techniques, which increased the accuracy of bombing during the war, were developed by the 115th.
The 115th's flight surgeon was Major Reynolds D. Smith, who in private life was the house physician at Los Angeles' famed Biltmore Hotel. He convinced the chef of the Biltmore to join the unit so that meals would be up to his expectations. Major Smith became the Chief Flight Surgeon for the Fifth Air Force during World War II.
At Sherwood Field, the personnel of the 115th lived in eight-men tent shelters but the two mess halls were finished in redwood paneling with white pine and buff-colored wallboard, different than the usual Army design. The shower buildings and toilets were permanent structures as well as the new steel hangar.
Early in February 1941, an additional $254,000 was appropriated for a new east-west runway 4,200 feet long. The City of Paso Robles purchased 20 acres for this new runway. The new runway could accommodate any type of land plane in use in 1941. All the runways were hard-surfaced and had concrete aprons.
The 115th assisted the war games at Camp Roberts. Their pilots would fill brown lunch bags with two pounds of flour and dive bomb the opposing Red or Blue Armies. The recruits on the ground taking part in the maneuvers hated to be hit by the flour. If any got on a soldier, he was counted as a casualty in the war games.
The trainees at Camp Roberts disliked the 115th because the flyboys got much more off-duty leave to go into Paso Robles. Inter-service rivalries aside, life at Sherwood Field was good. The airmen employed at Warner Brothers in Hollywood would arrange for movie starlets to come up for the weekends. The airmen had their own baseball team in Paso Robles and they also took an active part in the civic side of the town.
After Pearl Harbor, the 115th was reassigned to an anti-submarine detail based at Morrow Field, later named Norton Air Force Base, in San Bernardino County
The unit was later integrated into the Army Air Corps and the men sent to New Guinea, England, West Africa and the Mediterranean. Sherwood Field was used for the duration of World War II by other units.
In 1991, some of the airfield's structures remained. The building at 298 Sherwood Road was the steel hangar, while the officers' mess was the building at 320 Sherwood Road. The hangar is used by the city as a fire station and utility building. These buildings are now among homes and a shopping center.
References: War Comes to the Middle Kingdom, Vol. 1, 1938-1942, Edited by Stan Harth, Liz Krieger and Dan Krieger, 1991, San Luis Obispo County Historical Society.

US Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District History (28 September 1999)

On 9 October 1940 the City of Paso Robles leased the 161-acre city airport to the War Department. The original lease extended until 30 June 1941, with options reserved for renewal on a yearly basis for 25 years. The lease was extended on 30 June 1941, presumably for a period of one year. On 21 July 1941, the City purchased an additional 20 acres for extension of the main runway. It is assumed the War Department amended the lease to cover the additional acreage, bringing the total acquisition to 181 acres. The records were neither specific nor complete.

The site was used as an airport by the Army prior to and during World War II. The airport may have also been used by the Navy during World War II, subsequent to Army use. The airport was initially used by the 115th Observation Squadron of the California National Guard, which was attached to the 40th Division at Camp San Luis Obispo. Army improvements included construction of utilities (water, sewage, electrical, telephone), drainage systems, a sewage plant, a 50,000-gallon water reservoir, a personnel mess hall, shower and toilet buildings, tent shelters, and a fueling station, and extension of the main east-west runway. It is unclear whether the Navy made improvements to the site.

The 181-acre lease from the City of Paso Robles to the War Department was terminated on an unknown date, but presumably prior to or coinciding with the end of World War II in 1945. Disposal records were neither specific nor complete. The site is currently occupied by an industrial park, a residential area, and a city park. Beneficial use of Army improvements include:
 

 

US Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District History (30 August 1999)

Location: Sherwood Field is located in the southeast portion of the city of Paso Robles, approximately two miles southeast of downtown Paso Robles. The former airfield site is located in an area bound by Sherwood Road and Linne Road to the north, Creston Road to the west, Fontaha Road, Linne Road, and Westfield Drive to the east, and Scott Street to the south.

Site History: On 9 October, 1940, the City of Paso Robles leased Sherwood Field to the Army, with options being reserved for lease renewal every year for the next 25 years. The Army used the site as an air training field, making additional improvements to existing city improvements, including construction of utilities (water, sewage, electrical, telephone), drainage systems, a sewage plant, a reservoir, a personnel mess hall, shower and toilet buildings, tent shelters, and a fueling station, as well as extension-of the main eastwest runway. The lease with the city terminated on an unknown date, but presumably prior to or coinciding with the end of World War II in 1945. The site is currently occupied by an industrial park, a residential area, and a city park. Beneficial use of Army or Navy improvements include: current utilization of the former mess hall as part of a Shriners meeting hall; current utilization of the original steel hangar as a business form production warehouse; current utilization of some of the former tarmac areas, runways, and taxiways for vehicle parking and city streets; and prior use of two aviation fuel underground storage tanks. A possible additional fuel pump island is present at the site, however, no available evidence suggests that the DOD constructed and/or used this possible fueling area. It is assumed that this was constructed prior to or after DOD occupation of the site.

 
Other Online Histories
 

 

Extract, US Army Air Forces Directory of Airfield (January 1945)

 

 

 
 
 
Search our Site!
Google
Search the Web Search California Military History Online
 
Questions and comments concerning this site should be directed to the Webmaster
 
Updated 8 February 2016