Throughout the 1930s, NRAB Squantum was greatly improved and expanded. This was due in large part to the ingenuity of Executive Officer John J. Shea, a man who knew how to leverage and make the most out of volunteer labor, salvaged materials, and Depression-era public works programs. The greatest expansion efforts on the base took place between 1939 and 1941 when, among other things, the three paved runways were built and the old Victory Plant Shipyard buildings (many of which had been gutted during a previous fire) were razed. On March 5, 1941 the base at Squantum was redesignated a Naval Air Station.
During the Second World War NAS Squantum served as a maritime patrol and training base. Regular Navy squadrons VJ-4 and VS-1D1/VS-31 flew anti-submarine patrols over Massachusetts Bay and the Gulf of Maine using Grumman Ducks, Consolidated PBY Catalinas, Vought-Sikorsky Kingfishers, Douglas Dauntlesses, and Curtiss Helldivers. In addition, the base provided elimination and primary flight instruction for Naval Aviation Cadets as well as advanced training to Royal Navy torpedo and dive-bomber squadrons, and U.S. Navy fighter, torpedo, and dive-bomber squadrons. (The two NAAFs and the three OLFs below operated under the command staff at NAS Squantum)
After the war ended, NAS Squantum became an important component of the new Naval Air Reserve Training Command. The base served as the focus of Navy and Marine Corps reserve aviation training activity in New England until December 1953 when the reserve program was moved to nearby NAS South Weymouth and Squantum was closed.
NAS Squantum had the command responsibility for all of the following NAAFs and OLFs:
Formerly the Army airfield for Fort Devens, Ayer, MA- This field was used for training U.S. Army liaison and observation pilots in support of the Army ground forces at Fort Devens. In 1944 it became available and the Navy requested that it be assigned as an auxiliary field to NAS Squantum to support USN and Fleet Air Arm advanced training. In 1944 NAAF Ayer had three runways available the longest with 5,200’.
Commissioned on May 15, 1943-The base was located at the Beverly Municipal airport the field was upgraded and the two existing asphalt paved runways were extended and a new asphalt runway built: 09/27 4,600’, 02/20 3,500’ and 16/32 with 4,000’. The Navy used the exsisting hangar and built an administration building, a control tower, two operational hangars and a barracks, mess hall, garage and supply warehouse. The Navy complement consisted of four officers and sixty enlisted men. The field provided touch and go and field carrier practice for NAS Squantum and Fleet Air Arm student pilots. Coast Guard amphibian aircraft from Salem Air Station also used NAAF Beverly for operational maritime patrol flights during WWII as did a Detachment of VS-31, that flew anti submarine patrols in 1945 equipped with Douglas SBD-5 aircraft. NAAF Beverly was decommissioned August 1, 1945
25 miles southwest of Squantum-This field was used by Squantum student pilots to gain flight experience complementing the classroom training at the air station. Cross country navigation, takeoffs and landings, field carrier landing practice all needed alternate fields to relieve congestion at the air station. Each OLF field had assigned Navy personnel, a regulation hangar, classroom operations building and temporary barracks. During WWII this OLF had two turf runways of 2,500’ Mansfield is an active airport in 2011.
12 miles southwest of Squantum. The field had two 4,000’ paved runways 17/35 and 10/28. Norwood the closest OLF field to Squantum and with hard surface runways was a preferred destination in wet and wintery weather conditions. This field is Norwood Airport today in 2011
OLF Plymouth: 1942- 1945
Lat/Long 41 54 35 N, 70 43 44 W
28 miles southeast of Squantum - during December 1944 OLF Plymouth was for a short time assigned to NAS Quonset Point but was returned to operate under NAS Squantum in early 1945. This OLF WWII field had two turf runways of 4,300’ Plymouth Airport is an active airport today in 2011.
NAS South Weymouth: 1942-1997
Lat/Long 42 09 16 N, 70 56 30 W
In 1938, South Weymouth was surveyed as a possible location for a municipal airport, which was never built. The Navy after surveying sites north and west of Boston for an Air Station for basing lighter than air (LTA) squadrons selected this South Shore site as the ideal location for blimp operations and training. Construction work on the base began in September 1941 and the base was commissioned as the United States Naval Air Station South Weymouth on March 1, 1942. During WWII the base's primary mission was to provide support for anti-submarine blimp operations. In its original as-built format South Weymouth's main facilities consisted of two gigantic blimp hangars, the earlier (LTA Hangar One or "The Big Hangar") of steel construction and the second (LTA Hangar Two) of the more common World War II wood frame construction. The base also had a 2,000-foot-diameter Macadamized blimp landing mat, six mooring circles, and a 4,500-foot-long turf runway.
Throughout the war with Germany NAS South Weymouth served as the home base of airship patrol squadron ZP-11, which operated up to twelve K class blimps employed on ASW patrols and convoy escort missions in and around Massachusetts Bay and the Gulf of Maine. In addition to ZP-11, NAS South Weymouth also hosted wartime detachments of airship patrol squadron ZP-12 based at NAS Lakehurst, New Jersey and airship utility squadron ZJ-1 based at Meacham Field in Key West, Florida. ZJ-1 was unique, being the only airship utility squadron in the Navy. ZJ-1's South Weymouth detachment flew Type K and G class airships in support of electronics research projects conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, performed aerial photography missions, and helped to recover test torpedoes for the Navy torpedo station in Newport, Rhode Island.
In 1944, NAS South Weymouth was the starting point for the first transatlantic crossings of non-rigid airships. United States Navy K-ships (blimps) K-123 and K-130 from Blimp Squadron 14 (also known as ZP-14, Blimpron 14, or "The Africa Squadron") left South Weymouth on May 28, 1944 and landed at Argentia, Newfoundland about 16 hours later. The two K-ships then flew approximately 22 hours to Lagens Field on Terceira Island in the Azores. The last leg of the flight was a ~20 hour flight to their destination, to join Fleet Air Wing (FAW) 15 at Port Lyautey, French Morocco (now Kenitra, Morocco). Blimps K-123 & K-130 were followed by K-109 & K-134 and K-112 & K-101 which left South Weymouth on June 11 and 27, respectively, in 1944. These six blimps initially conducted nighttime anti-submarine warfare operations to complement the daytime missions flown by FAW-15 aircraft (PBYs and B-24s) using magnetic anomaly detection to locate U-boats in the relatively shallow waters around the Straits of Gibraltar. Later, ZP-14 K-ships conducted mine spotting and minesweeping operations in key Mediterranean ports and various escort missions including that of the convoy carrying Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill to the Yalta Conference in early 1945.
NAS Quonset Point (RI)
Lat/Long 41 35 50 N, 071 24 44 W
Commissioned on 12 July 1941, and encompassing what was once Camp Dyer, NAS Quonset Point was a major naval facility throughout World War II. Quonset had been home to numerous aviation squadrons, primarily those land-based patrol squadrons operating the PB4Y and carrier-based antisubmarine units. In addition to flying squadrons, the air station was also home to a major aircraft overhaul and repair (O & R) facility and a Naval Aviation Depot (NADEP). With a deepwater port, NAS Quonset Point was also homeport to several ESSEX class aircraft carriers, to include the USS Essex (CV-9), USS Wasp (CV-18), USS Lake Champlain (CV-39) and USS Tarawa (CV-40), as well as their respective carrier air groups (CAGs or CVSGs).
NAS Quonset had the command responsibility for all of the following NAAFs and OLFs.
NAAF New Bedford: 1943-1945
Lat/Long 41 40 44.58 N, 70 57 29.772 W
New Bedford Regional Airport was constructed between 1940 and 1942 as a commercial airport, but was soon drafted into use for the U.S. Army Air Corps until the end of World War II. After the war ended, the airport was converted back into civilian use New Bedford Regional Airport covers an area of 847 acres which contains two asphalt runways: 5/23 measuring 4,997 x 150 ft and 14/32 measuring 5,000 x 150 ft. NAAF New Bedford had command responsibility for OLF Barnes and OLF Plymouth. New Bedford is an active airport in 2011.
OLF Barnes (Westfield): 1943-1945
Lat/Long 42 09 19 N, 72 42 42 W
1945- Barnes Municipal Airport, owned and operated by city of Westfield, 3 miles NNE of center. Altitude: 268’; Landing facilities: 3 bituminous concrete runways: NW/SE 5,000 by 150’; N/S 5,000by 150’ E/W 4,000’ by 150’ Useable acres: 534; Irregular field, Navigation facilities: Rotating beacon, boundary, range, contact, runway, flood and obstruction lights. Lighted wind cone and tee. Trees- N, S, E, SE, W, NW; Ridge- SE Barnes Municipal Airport is an active civil airport in 2011.
OLF Plymouth: 1942- 1945
Lat/Long 41 54 35 N, 70 43 44 W
28 miles south of Squantum - during December 1944 OLF Plymouth was for a short time assigned to NAS Quonset Point but was returned to operate under NAS Squantum in early 1945. This OLF WWII field had two turf runways of 4,300’ Plymouth Airport is an active airport today in 2011.
NAAF Hyannis: 1943-1945
Lat/Long 41 40 01.2 N, 70 16 49.656 W
The airport was founded in 1928. During World War II it was taken over by the U.S. Government for the duration of the war. It was designated as Naval Auxiliary Airfield Hyannis and both the Navy and Army Air Forces flew antisubmarine patrols from the airport.
Located .5 miles North of Post Office; Altitude: 15’; Square landing area, 54 acres, 2,300’ by 2,200’; Runways: (2) 2,600’ long, turf, level, natural drainage. High tension pole line along E; buildings, grandstand and hangar to E; orchard to SE; trees to S., NW, and N, grandstand to E.; Beacon, boundary, approach and landing area flood lights. Beacon, white, flashing characteristic; “H”, sunset to midnight.
NAAF Martha’s Vineyard: 1943-1946
Lat/Long 41 23 30 N, 70 36 30 W
Commissioned on March 26, 1943- This air base was constructed in the center of the island on State Forest land donated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Three asphalt 3,700’ runways were built, a crash boat and crew were based at Vineyard Haven, a rocket firing range was set up in Katama near the island’s former civil airport which was closed for the duration. Five targets for gunnery and bombing were set up on Nomans Land island southwest of the airfield. Carrier Air Service Unit 22 (CASU 22) operated the airfield, serviced the aircraft, trained personnel and provided instrument proficiency and target tow aircraft. NAAF supported and trained 21 Navy and Marine Corps squadrons during WWII. This field was decommissioned May 27, 1946.
NAAF Nantucket: 1942-1945
Lat/Long 41 15 30 N, 70 03 30 W
1945- Formerly Nantucket Airport, municipal, 2.6 miles SE of center. Landing facilities: 2 bituminous runways: NE/SW 4,000’ by 150’; NW/SE 4,000’ by 150’; Useable acres: 600; Irregular shaped field, Partly fenced. Obstructions: Silo, building and hangar. Services: hangar, office, control tower, gas, 100 octane.
NAAF Otis (Falmouth): 1944-1945
Lat/Long 41 39 24.48 N, 70 31 22.116 W
This field used by the USAAF at the beginning of WWII for anti submarine patrols from Long Island, NY to the Canadian border. Twin engine B-18A Bolo bombers from Westover AAF were based at Otis Field to be used for the long range, off shore patrol. Additional patrols inshore and out in the New England shipping lanes was provided by the Civil Air Patrol Piper Cubs and other light aircraft from Falmouth Airport. In 1944 the U.S. Navy assumed the coastal patrol and convoy escort duties off the New England Coast with patrol aircraft from NAS Squantum and USCG Station Salem.
U.S. Coast Guard
Coast Guard Aviation Station Ten Pound Island, Gloucester: 1925-1935
Lat/Long 42 36 08.56 N, 70 39 50.91 W
Section Base #7 at Parsons Wharf Coast Guard Station in East Gloucester was the parent unit that Lt. Comdr Carl C. von Paulsen assigned a Vought UO-1 seaplane in May 1925 to assist in maritime surveillance and patrol. This aircraft and aviation support staff were detailed to Ten Pound Island a small island which was south of Rocky Neck in East Gloucester in the outer harbor.
The UO-1 flew daily to patrol the coast primarily for run runners but also to assist in search and rescue missions. This initial phase of the work of the first Coast Guard Air Unit in New England when completed, finished up with the return of the UO-1 to the U.S.N. in April 1926. The second phase began with Congress appropriating for the construction of two air stations: one at Ten Pound Island and one at Cape May N.J. and for an order for five observation type seaplanes.
Ten Pound Island was ready early in 1927 for its aircraft: two Loening OL-5 amphibians and one Vought UO-4. These aircraft were used intensively for offshore patrols and rescue mission at sea. The two Loening Amphibians were lost in accidents in 1929 and 1930 without serious injury to their crews. From that point on Ten Pound Island only had the UO-4 for its many off shore duties in late 1930 and in 1931. Gloucester received a new Douglas RD Dolphin flying boat in January 1932, and in August 1932 they received a new Douglas RD-1. In 1933 these two Dolphins were transferred out and replaced by a new Douglas RD-2 along with a second Vought UO-4. An expansion of the U.S.C.G. aviation was started in 1934 which included the construction of a new Air Station at Salem Harbor twelve miles south of Gloucester.
The USCG Air Station Salem was commissioned on February 15, 1935 and that same day Ten Pound Island, the first permanent U.S. Coast Guard Air Station, was closed and its UO-4 was sent to Salem and the Douglas RD-2 to Cape May, NJ.
Coast Guard Air Station Salem, Winter Island, Salem: 1935-1970
Lat/Long 42 31 35.85 N, 70 52 08.87 W
On 15 February 1935 the Coast Guard established a seaplane facility at Salem, Massachusetts because there was no longer space to expand the Ten Pound Island Gloucester air station. Air Station Salem was located at Winter Island, an extension of Salem Neck which juts out into Salem Harbor. The aviation facilities consisted of a single hangar, a paved 250 ft parking apron, and two seaplane ramps leading down into the waters of Salem Harbor. Salem was equipped with, what were at the time, state of the art communications and modern repair facilities. Barracks, administrative and dinning facilities and motor pool buildings were also part of the complex. The station was commissioned with a complement of 35 men and two airplanes.
Search and rescue, hunting for derelict vessels and medical evacuations were the primary areas of responsibility. During the first year of operation the Salem crews performed 26 medivac missions. They flew in all kinds of weather and the radio direction capabilities of the aircraft were of significant value in locating vessels in distress. Fog, on numerous occasions, complicated the situation.
In 1941 air crews from Salem began to fly neutrality patrols along the coast. During World War II the air station roster increased to 37 aircraft. Anti-submarine patrols were flown on a regular basis. In October of 1944 Air Station Salem was officially designated as the first Air Sea Rescue station on the eastern seaboard. The PBM Mariner a hold-over from the war, became the primary rescue aircraft in 1946. In the mid 1950s helicopters came as did the Grumman Albatross amphibians. Salem Harbor was large enough to provide a seadrome with three sealanes. These offered a good choice of take-off headings regardless of wind direction unless there was a strong steady wind from the east. This produced large waves that swept into the mouth of the harbor making water operations difficult. When the seadrome was too rough returning amphibian aircraft would use Beverly Airport.
Recognizing that weather conditions could render the seadrome inoperable from time to time and that night operations in Salem Harbor had become hazardous, a sub-unit, Coast Guard Air Detachment Quonset Point, was established at the Naval Air Station Quonset Point, Rhode Island. With a complement of one Albatross amphibian, four pilots, and eight crewmen, Quonset was responsible for supplementing Salem planes during rescue operations and for fixed-wing flying when Salem could not provide it. The Quonset crews stood a tough port-and-starboard duty schedule of three days on watch and three days off.
Salem Air Station closed in 1970. The Salem and Quonset Point operations moved to Otis Air Force Base out on “The Cape” and Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod was established.
U.S. Army Air Force
AAF – Army Air Field
Bedford Army Air Field: 1942
42 28 21.504 N, 71 17 21.732 W
The Bedford airport came into existence at a time when the U.S. was strengthening its defenses as World War II began in Europe, and new airports were created across the country that could support our national defense programs.
On the recommendation of the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission headed by Crocker Snow, Massachusetts Governor Leverett Saltonstall advocated on January 2, 1941 that the Commonwealth’s Department of Public Works develop a new airport to serve as an auxiliary to Boston Airport. On May 14 of that year, the Massachusetts Legislature purchased 500 acres of farmland from the towns of Bedford, Lincoln, Concord, and Lexington for $60,000.
On May 24, the federal Civil Aeronautics Administration told the Massachusetts Commissioner of Public Works that $229,000 was available to build the airport under the Defense Landing Act. This act, also known as Public Law 812, was passed on October 9, 1940 and appropriated $40,000,000 in federal funds for the development of 250 new public airports across the United States to support national defense. The groundbreaking ceremony, with Governor Saltonstall in attendance, was held on July 17, 1941. Initially Bedford had two paved runways of 5,000’
On July 1, 1942, after the U.S. had entered the war, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts leased the airport to the U.S. War Department for use by the Army Air Force. The next day, the 85th Fighter Squadron, equipped with Curtiss P-40 fighter aircraft, arrived in Bedford to prepare for overseas deployment. It was one of several fighter squadrons, including the 318th Fighter Squadron, that would train at the Bedford Army Air Base in 1942 and 1943 and later go on to combat in North Africa and Europe. By the end of the war, there were 95 Army and Navy planes at the base and two large hangars to house and service them at Bedford.
Early in the war Bedford AAF began to work more closely with MIT on radar systems. In 1944, the wartime Radiation Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology moved its local testing site for new airborne and ground radar systems from Boston Airport to Bedford Airfield. On September 20, 1945, the Army Air Force created Cambridge Field Station, in Cambridge, Massachusetts next to MIT. The Cambridge facility was charged with continuing the Army Air Force’s programs in radar, radio, and electronic research after the dissolution of the wartime laboratories of MIT and Harvard University. It recruited scientists and engineers from the laboratories and took over MIT’s experimental radar test facilities at Bedford, which included the Microwave Early Warning ground radar located on "MEW Hill" next to a runway.
The Cambridge Field Station was renamed the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratories (AFCRL) on July 5, 1949. In 1950, it demonstrated technology for transmitting radar data to a computer. Aircraft echoes picked up by the MEW radar at Bedford were sent over telephone lines back to the Barta Building at MIT where they were processed and displayed on the Whirlwind computer’s cathode ray screen. This technology lead to the creation and deployment of the SAGE air defense system across North America in the 1950’s and 1960’s
Boston Airport: 1923 - Boston Municipal Airport - Commonwealth Airport:
Lat/Long 42 21 45 N, 71 01 15 W
Airfield and seaplane base at East Boston opened September 1923.
Operators: Colonial Air Transport, Inc., Curtiss Flying Service of N.E.; East Coast Aircraft, Skyways, Inc.; Wetmore Savage Aircraft Corp.; Bay State Flying Service, Also National Guard and Regular Army units.
1.5 miles East of Customhouse Tower; Altitude: 12’ Field Triangular 100 acres;-about 2,600 ‘ by 2,000’ on side; level. cinders, tile drainage; 4 landing strips: 3,700’ N/W- S/E; 2,500’ N/E-SW; 2,500’N/S; 2,500’ E/W;
During WWII Boston Airport was shared by the military services and regional and national air carriers. Its defense role was to provide a base of operations for U.S. and Allied aircraft supporting military radar and electronic warfare test flights, instrument landing systems, airborne search radars, radio controlled unmanned aircraft and air to air intercept radar systems. Research and development companies, Boston Area colleges and universities and the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army Air Force had a major presence at the airport.
The USAAF’s Air Technical Service Command and its Navy counterpart had operations and test facilities here. The Air Transport Command operated personnel transport and cargo aircraft for domestic and transatlantic flight services.
Westover Army Air Field: 1940- present
Lat/Long 42 12 09.216 N, 72 32 02.292
Westover Field was created by a war-readiness appropriation signed by President in 1939. It was initially assigned to the Northeast Air District. Westover Field was dedicated April 6, 1940 and operational on that date. Later, as part of the and later, Westover was a base for antisubmarine operations against German in the early years of World War II.
During the course of the war, it became the largest military air facility in the Northeast. Westover was the command center during 1942-1943 for all the Massachusetts tactical AAF operational air fields including: Ayer, Hyannis, New Bedford and Otis Army Air Fields. The base was a major advanced training center for B-17 and B-24 bomber crews destined for duty with the 8th and 15th Air Forces in the United Kingdom, North Africa and Italy.
Westover had three hard surface runways, the longest 7,000’. The airfield was named for Major General Oscar Westover, commanding officer of the Army Air Corps in the 1930s, killed in the crash of his Northrup A-17AS on 21 September 1938.
Ayer AAF: 1942-1943
Lat/Long 42 34 26.436 N, 71 36 13.644 W
The airfield for Fort Devens, Ayer, MA. This field was used for training U.S. Army liaison and observation pilots in support of the Army ground forces at Fort Devens. In 1944 it became surplus to AAF requirements and the Navy requested that it be assigned as an auxiliary field to NAS Squantum to support USN and Fleet Air Arm advanced training. In 1944 NAAF Ayer had three runways available the longest with 5,200’ and was intensively used by USN and Fleet Air Arm.
Hyannis AAF: 1942-1943
Long/Lat 41 40 01.2 N, 70 16 49.656 W
This field was used by the USAAF at the beginning of WWII for long range anti submarine patrols. B-18A Bolo bombers based here were supported and under the operational control of Westover AAF. This field was located .5 miles North of Post Office; Altitude: 15’; Square landing area, 54 acres, 2,300’ by 2,200’; Runways: (2) 2,600’ long, turf, level, natural drainage.. High tension pole line along E; buildings, grandstand and hangar to E; orchard to SE; trees to S., NW, and N, grandstand to E.; Beacon, boundary, approach and landing area flood lights. Beacon, white, flashing characteristic; “H”, sunset to midnight .
New Bedford: AAF- 1942-1943
Lat/Long 41 40 44.58 N, 70 57 29.772 W
This field was also used by the USAAF at the beginning of WWII for anti submarine patrols directed from Westover. Circa 1945 - New Bedford Airport, municipal, 2.5 miles NNW of center. Altitude 78’; Landing facilities: 2 gravel and asphalt runways: NE/SW 5,000’ by 150’; NW/SE 5,000’ by 150’ Useable acres: 231; Irregular field, Navigation facilities: Rotating beacon,, boundary, range, contact, runway, flood and obstruction lights. Boundary day markers, Wind cone and tee. Obstructions: Chimneys and house –SE. Services: hangar, office, teletype, Weather Bureau.
Otis AAF: 1942-1943
Lat/Long 41 39 24.48 N, 70 31 22.116 W
This airfield was used by the USAAF at the beginning of WWII for anti submarine patrols from Long Island, NY to the Canadian border. Twin engine B-18 Bolo bombers from Westover AAF were based at Otis Field for the long range, off shore patrol. Additional patrols inshore and out in the New England shipping lanes was provided by the Civil Air Patrol Piper Cubs and other light aircraft from nearby Falmouth Airport. In 1944 the U.S. Navy assumed the coastal patrol and convoy escort duties off the New England Coast with patrol aircraft from NAS Squantum and USCG Air Station Salem.
Otis AAF was named for pilot, flight surgeon, and eminent surgeon, Lt. Frank "Jesse" Otis, a member of the 101st Observation Squadron who was killed on Jan. 11, 1937 when his Douglas O-46A crashed while on a cross-country training mission. Ten years later the base was renamed Otis Air Force Base in his honor. Until 1973, it was the largest base in the world and is the only base named for a doctor
During 1944-1945 the field was known as Naval Auxiliary Air Facility Otis and was a subordinate field for Naval Air Station Quonset Point, Rhode Island.