NAS North Island, CA Image 1
    NAS North Island, CA Image 2

    NAS North Island, CA History

    NAS North Island is today part of the large Naval Base Coronado installation, along with seven other major facilities.

    NAS North Island has a long, interesting history. It is the birthplace of US Naval Aviation, as the site where, in 1911, Naval Aviator #1, Lt. Theodore G. Ellyson, received training from Glenn Curtiss, one of the earliest aviation pioneers of the US. Lt. Ellyson worked with Mister Curtiss to develop what would turn into carrier deck aviation and, separately, pontoon-floated seaplanes. North Island was the location of Mr. Curtiss' flying school, but the location became a joint Navy-Army training field in 1912. Additional early innovations continued in this early age of flight, including early parachute demonstrations for the Army and Navy by Tiny Broadwick, a civilian woman and parachutist pioneer. Tiny was the first person to perform a manual parachute free fall jump, for a military demonstration to Army and Navy observers; the static line tangled, and she adapted. Tiny was five feet tall, and about 90 pounds of bold.

    In 1917 a North Island became a joint Army-Navy military installation, which it would remain until 1937, with an Army relocation to other fields, leaving the the island to the Navy. In 1923, North Island was the base for the first mid-air refuelling, and the departure point for the first transcontinental crossing. From 1924 to 1936 NAS North Island became home of the US Navy's first aircraft carrier, the USS Langley, CV-1.

    Charles Lindbergh, before his transatlantic crossing, flew his custom built Spirit of St. Louis from North Island airfield, May 9, 1927; it had been built by San Diego based Ryan Airline Company/Ryan Aeronautical. Lindbergh flew cross country to position for his famous solo New York to Paris flight.

    In 1935 NAS North Island became home port of all four Pacific Fleet carriers, USS Langley, USS Lexington, USS Saratoga and USS Ranger. Langley was converted to a tender in 1937, but the other three carriers, and their air wings, went on to distinguished careers in World War Two. Soon, as world tensions built up and eventual war broke out, North Island and San Diego became home of a dozen carriers, other ships, and many Marine, Seabee, Coast Guard, and Army units.

    Naturally, such a concentration of military force required a massive construction wave, and a great deal of temporary housing, runway improvements, and other improvements were made. USO shows were a weekly event during much of the war, including Hollywood stars Bob Hope and the the Marx Brothers, as well as many big bands and famous singers.

    Continuing through the 20th Century, NAS North Island has been the cornerstone of Naval aviation for the southwest USA.