Posts, Camps Stations and Airfields
Coast Guard Air Station, San Francisco
(San Francisco Municipal Airport,
Naval Auxiliary Air Facility Mills Field)
Coast Guard Air Station,
San Francisco/Naval Auxiliary Air Facility, Mills Field during
World War II. (National Archives)
by Richard E. Osbourne
This is now San Francisco International
Airport. In 1927 the airport was built as San Francisco's municipal
airport and named Mills Field Municipal Airport of San Francisco.
It was built almost entirely on land reclaimed from the bay.
In 1931 it was renamed San Francisco Airport.
This was the name it had when, in December 1941, the U.S. military
took it over for the duration of the war. It operated as a military
airport throughout the war with limited use being given to the
needs of commercial airlines. The Air Transport Command operated
here and had an air freight terminal.
In 1944 the field was chosen to be an intransit
field for Army Air Forces aircraft and crews transferring from
Europe to the Pacific. The sudden end to the war in the Pacific,
though, cut this activity short. Soon after the war, the airport
was returned to civilian authority
Source: World War II Sites in
the United States: A Tour Guide and Directory by Richard E. Osbourne
The Coast Guard goes
on active duty with the Navy in wartime and this old Douglas
RD-4 was at CGAS San Francisco in December 1941. This photo shows
it repainted for Navy duty in 1942. (Bill Larkins)
Air Station, San Francisco
Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco
is based in San Francisco, California at the San Francisco International.
Airport (SFO). CGAS San Francisco operates four HH-65A "Dolphin"
helicopters off the Coast Guard ramp.
The Coast Guard Air Station, San Francisco,
located on property adjacent to San Francisco International Airport
then known as Mills Field was established in the
winter of 1940/41, and uses the airports runways. The station
was formally dedicated on February 15, 1941. The first official
patrol flight was over San Francisco Bay. Lt. George H. Bowerman
was the first commanding officer of the Air Station. In April
of 1942, the station was assigned to the operational command
of Commander, Western Sea Frontier, U.S. Navy. The planes attached
to Air Station were then considered and treated as a Squadron
Command, under the Commander of the Air Task Group of the Frontier
for all operations. At the end of the Second World War, the station
was released from the Navy and continued as a Coast Guard Search
and Rescue unit.
Buildings on the station include: one
hanger, one nose hanger, one barracks, one administration building
with an enclosed infirmary, BOQ, supply building, boathouse,
and a few small support structures.
As of April 1974 aircraft assigned to
the station included: four HH-52A amphibious turbine helicopters,
two HUl6E amphibious fixed wing aircraft, and three HC-130B long-range
turbo prop fixed wing aircraft. However, the station was, at
that time, scheduled to receive one AOSS aircraft during the
year and all HC130B aircraft were to be replaced by "H"
models June 1, 1974. The station also maintained a 30-foot utility
In 1926, the citizens of San Francisco turned
a jealous eye towards Oakland, across the bay. Oakland had recently
received service on a newly awarded air mail route. Municipal
pride drove the City to establish an airport. Hilly San Francisco
is severely geographically restricted so the City traveled south
to find an adequate site. Property was leased for $2,500 per
year from the estate of Darius Ogden Mills, a merchant millionaire
from the 1860's Gold Rush days. Mills had established a rancho
at the site with the nearby township named Millbrae. Once completed,
the airport was named Mills Field.
On November 15, 1940, the Coast Guard
commissioned an air station at Mills Field. After the beginning
of the war, additional land was created by hydraulic fill and
three hard-surfaced runways built -- the longest 8,000 ft. The
Army established a sub base of Hamilton Field, primarily used
by the Air Transport Command. Army facilities included an air
freight terminal and barracks for 110 officers and 700 enlisted
men. The Coast Guard remained at Mills throughout the war conducting
patrol and sea/air rescue operations. In 1944 the field was chosen
to be an intransit field for Army Air Forces aircraft and crews
transferring from Europe to the Pacific.
The Coast Guard's complement numbered
55 officers and 263 men with barracks for 16 officers and 290
men. Aircraft assigned to the Coast Guard peaked in June 1945
with two PBMs, seven PBYs, two PB2Ys, four JRFs, two GHs, and
In September 1942, Pan American Airways
began operating under contract to the Navy from the Treasure
Island seaplane base. By 1944, growth of Naval activities on
and around Treasure Island prompted Pan Am to move its operation
to Mills Field. The Navy leased 85 acres at Mills Field and commissioned
an NAAF. Pan Am continued to use the facilities at Treasure Island
for aircraft overhaul. In the spring of 1945, Pan Am operated
four B-314s, 18 PB2Ys, one PBM-3R, and one JRB. Naval presence
at the facility was minimal with the C.O. of the Coast Guard
station also serving as the NAAF's C.O.
After the Navy placed Pan Am under contract to provide transport
services, the airline's Boeing 314s and Martin Clippers were
purchased. Pan Am continued to operate these seaplanes plus additional
Navy aircraft. Pan Am also had operations at Floyd Bennett Field,
New York; Dinner Key, Florida; and Seattle, Washington. In addition,
the airline conducted a celestial navigation school at Dinner
Key, Florida. Early on, a good and necessary service was provided;
however, with the arrival of the Douglas R5Ds (C-54) and the
development of modern airfields, transoceananic flying boats
had become inefficient, archaic, and redundant. Nevertheless,
the contract continued -- Pan Am's pork barrel and payback for
services previously rendered. A former NATS R5D pilot recalled
his experiences at Oakland to the Author: "We would watch
Pan Am takeoff across the Bay. Several hours later, after lunch
and flight planning, we also departed for Hawaii. After landing
at Honolulu, we would take a nap and get up in time to watch
the same Pan Am airplane land. Of course, we came back to the
States mostly empty - all military passengers had to take Pan
Am." The minimum flight time between San Francisco and Hawaii
for the B-314 was 15 numbing hours -- the R5D could do it in
almost half that time!
Following the war, Pan Am operated the last B-314 flight between
Hawaii and San Francisco on April 9, 1946, replacing it with
DC-4s. However, Alameda's VR-2 continued to operate JRM Mars
and R3Y Tradewind seaplane transports on a limited basis until
1958. Today, Mills Field is San Francisco International Airport.
The Coast Guard continues a presence with several helicopters.
US Army Corps
of Engineers Sacramento District History (1991)
Site Name: San
Francisco Municipal Airport.
San Francisco Municipal Airport site (formerly known as Mills
Field) is part of the San Francisco International Airport. The
site is located in San Mateo County, 12 miles south of San Francisco
and east of the Bayshore Freeway (see Figure 1). The site is
divided into two sections. The first section includes a northern
portion of the San Francisco International Airport and 23.11
acres located on the west side of Bayshore Freeway. The second
section, formerly known as the housing site, is located on bayfill
in a semi-industrial section of San Mateo County.
Site History: The
San Francisco Municipal Airport site totaled 2,111 acres of property
leased by the Army from the City and County of San Francisco
on February 5, 1942. During World War II, the military assumed
control of the airport but permitted restricted commercial flights.
Airport facilities were modified to meet military requirements,
including the enlargement and strengthening of runways, taxiways,
and apron areas.
On February 15, 1949, the lease for 2,111
acres was terminated by agreement and the property was conveyed
to the City and County of San Francisco for public airport purposes.
The agreement contained a recapture clause granting the government
unrestricted possession of the entire airport during a national
Since World War II, the airport has expanded
and is now known as the San Francisco International Airport.
The housing site is located on property that has since become
January 1945 Directory of Airfields
Department Inventory of Owned, Sponsored and Leased Facilities,
Mobilization (Quartermaster Corps 700-Series
or Corps of Engineers 800-Series):