NAVAL AIR STATION
U.S. Naval Air Station Jacksonville has evolved from a relatively small training base into
the hub of the Navy's third largest complex, right behind San Diego and Norfolk.
It all started
back in 1938 when a Congressional board visited Jacksonville looking for a suitable place
to build a Navy base. Intense lobbying by the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce persuaded
Congress to pass, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt to sign into law on April 26,1939, a
bill authorizing the aviation facility for Jacksonville.
million bond issue was voted by the citizens of Jacksonville and Duval County, and in July
1939 the land at Black Point on the west side of the St. Johns River was purchased and
given to the Navy.
The land was
given to the Navy had formerly served as an Army camp during World War I - Camp Johnston,
and later a Florida National Guard camp - Camp J. Clifford R. Foster.
Hastened by the
war in Europe, construction began in late 1939 and the first pilot to land on the
still-unfinished runway arrived Sept. 7, 1940. The base was officially commissioned on
Oct. 15, 1940, with Capt. Charles P. Mason as the first command officer.
immediately, aviation cadets started arriving for training. By the time the United States
entered the war, training was in full operation and by VJ Day, a total of 11,000 pilots
and 10,000 aircrewmen had undergone training to earn their wings. Over 30,000 gunners were
also trained. An impressive one million flight training hours were logged during the war
years, with two take-offs and landings every minute on the average.
over 6,000 feet were built as were seaplane and repair facilities that later became the
Naval Aviation Depot.
Near the end of
the war, NAS Jacksonville became a Prisoner of War camp for about 1,650 German POW's. They
were held on a small compound near the site where the commissary now stands.
After the war,
thousands of Navy men and women were discharged at a separation center here, and the Naval
Hospital provided medical care for many who were wounded in the war.
helicopter to land in Florida, an HNS, landed here on Nov. 28, 1944.
The air station
was the first home of the Navy's flight demonstration team - the Blue Angels - who gave
their first public performance in June 1946 at Craig Field, a private airfield in south
For two years -
from 1946 to 1948 - NAS Jacksonville was the headquarters for the Seventh Naval District.
In 1948, the
major mission of the air station had changed from training to the support of fleet units
and in that year the post of Commander Fleet Air, Jacksonville, was established.
COMFAIRJAX was the predecessor of today's senior command onboard, Commander, Naval Base
By 1949, half the
Navy's aircraft on the East Coast were stationed in Jacksonville, at NASJAX and the Naval
Auxiliary Air Station Cecil Field, 15 miles to the west.
The early 1950's
saw the establishment of patrol - VP - squadrons at the air station, with the mission of
antisubmarine warfare, which remains the major mission of the air wings based here today.
Hurricane Hunters were mostly based at the station from 1953 until disestablishment in
Today, the air
station stands at the forefront of antisubmarine warfare readiness. Its two aviation wings
- Patrol WING ELEVEN and Helicopter Antisubmarine WING ATLANTIC, which relocated to NASJAX
in 1973 - fly the P-3 Orion long-range maritime surveillance aircraft and the SH-3 Sea
King and SH-60 helicopters.
occupies 3896 acres on the St. Johns River and is home to 14,532 personnel and 68 tenant
Text borrowed from NAS JAX Hompage