Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Vernalis Bombing Range No. 6
Target No. 6 circa 1943
US Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento
District History (21 September 1999)
On July 14, 1943, the Navy Department began
condemnation proceedings, pursuant to the request of the Acting
Secretary of the Navy, to acquire 160 acres from John and Rose
Gallagher. The complaint filed in Civil No. 4719 states that the
Navy selected the property to be used as a site for a dive bombing
target. The Navy initially sought the exclusive use and occupancy
of the property for the period ending June 30, 1944 .
This action was later dismissed as the leasehold
interest of the property described in the Complaint had been acquired
by the DoD in direct negotiation and title to the leasehold interest
was then vested in the United States. The property was acquired
under Lease Number NOy(R)-339656.
A July 21, 1945 Organization Chart for Naval
Air Bases in the Twelfth Naval District lists Bombing Range No.
6 under NAAS, Vernalis, which in turn is under NAS, Alameda. While
none of the other documents collected regarding NAAS, Vernalis
(the Base) refer specifically to the Base's use of the target,
the documents do state that the Base was originally intended to
support the operations of two bombing squadrons, and was used
by PB4Y's and PV's. The Base's function was later changed to support
the operations of carrier-based squadrons, which were completing
advanced training, and to base such squadrons pending their assignment
and arrival of transportation. In this later capacity, the Base
was used by Air Groups, Torpedo, Fighter, Bomber, and Composite
Squadrons. NAAS, Crows Landing is nearby and may also have used
the range for practice.
On February 2, 1945, the Commander of Fleet
Air Alameda requested that Target No. 6, Vernalis be retained
until June 1946. The target was also included on a list of targets
for temporary retention as of January 1946.
According to a report on the Status of Facilities
as of February 15, 1947, the lease for Facility No. 6, Vernalis,
was in the process of being terminated to the Lessor as in accordance
with a December 5, 1946 letter.
History (17 May 2006) by Daniel M. Sebby, Military Historian, California
Vernalis Bombing Target Number 6 was one
of dozens of ranges under the control of the Commander, Naval
Air Bases, 12th Naval District headquartered at Naval Air Station
Alameda and under the day-to-day control of Naval Auxiliary Air
Station (NAAS), Vernalis. It was established in 1943 when 160
acres of grazing land were leased (lease NOy(R)-339656) from
John and Rose Gallagher.
During the Second World War, NAAS Vernalis was established as
a training base for the Navy's land based heavy patrol bombers.
Initially, the Lockheed PV2 "Harpoon" (Army designation
B-37 "Hudson") was stationed at the field. Eventually
the Harpoon was replaced by the Consolidated PB4Y "Liberator/Privateer"
(Army designation B-24 Liberator; Shettle 1997). In both cases,
the standard bomb load would have consisted of general purpose
bombs up to, and including, a 2,000-pound general purpose bomb.
Later in the war, it was decided to move the patrol bomber squadrons
to NAAS Crows Landing because that runway more suitable for the
weight of the PB4Y's. With this move, Carrier Air Group units
began to train at NAAS Vernalis (Shettle 1997). These carrier
based squadrons would have operated the following aircraft:
F4F "Wildcat" Fighter
F6F "Hellcat" Fighter
TBF/TBM "Avenger" Torpedo Bomber
SBD "Dauntless" Dive Bomber
F4U "Corsair" Fighter
SB2C "Helldiver" Bomber.
As with the patrol bombers, the largest
bomb that could be carried was the 2,000-pound general purpose
bomb. Although designated as a torpedo bomber, the TBF/TBM "Avenger"
could carry a single 2,000-pound general purpose bomb in its
weapons bay. It is possible that the Avenger may have trained
on this range. Machine guns on these aircraft were the standard
.30 and .50-caliber designs with the exception of the "Helldiver,"
which also mounted two forward firing 20 millimeter cannons
With the introduction of fleet units came the requirement for
training with the first generation rockets. These were often
conventional naval anti-aircraft shells (5 inch/.38-caliber)
attached to a rocket motor (Mondey 1982).
The U.S. Navy continued to use the range until 5 December 1946
when the lease was terminated and control of the property returned
to the Gallaghers.