Norton Air Force Base
|Norton Air Force Base|
|Part of Air Mobility Command (AMC)|
|Located in San Bernardino, California|
2006 USGS airphoto
|Type||Air Force Base|
|Controlled by||United States Air Force|
|In use||Open May 1942 – closed March 1995|
|Garrison||Air Mobility Command|
|Occupants||63d Airlift Wing (various designations) (1967–1994)|
- 1 Overview
- 2 History
- 2.1 Leland Francis Norton
- 2.2 World War II
- 2.3 Desert Training Center
- 2.4 Post-war
- 2.5 California Air National Guard
- 2.6 Air Base Wing
- 2.7 Expansion
- 2.8 Logistics Depot
- 2.9 Strategic Airlift
- 2.10 Air Defense Command
- 2.11 Closure
- 2.12 Previous names
- 2.13 Major commands to which assigned
- 2.14 Major units assigned
- 2.15 Highlights
- 3 Current status
- 4 Norton in popular culture
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
For the majority of its operational lifetime, Norton was a logistics depot and heavy-lift transport facility for a variety of military aircraft, equipment and supplies as part of Air Material/Air Force Logistics Command (1946–1966), then as part of Military Airlift/Air Mobility Command (1966–1994).
Major secondary missions of Norton Air Force Base was as Headquarters Air Defense Command for Southern California, during the 1950s and 1960s. The Air Force Audio-Visual Center produced air force films for training and public relations. The Air Force Now film, shown at monthly commander's calls at air force bases around the world was produced at Norton. Norton hosted numerous Air Force Reserve transport units. The Office of the Inspector General was located at Norton, as was the Directorate of Aerospace Safety and the Air Force Audit Agency Headquarters.
Norton AFB was closed in 1994 as a result of Base Realignment and Closure action 1988.
Leland Francis Norton
Norton Air Force Base was named for San Bernardino native Captain Leland Francis Norton (1920–1944). While attacking a marshaling yard on his 16th combat mission, Captain Norton's Douglas A-20 Havoc was struck by antiaircraft fire on 27 May 1944 near Amiens, France. After ordering his crew to bail out, Captain Norton perished with his aircraft. His portrait hung in the officers' club until base closing.
World War II
Norton Air Force Base began before World War II as Municipal Airport, San Bernardino under Army Air Corps jurisdiction. The $100,000 publicly-owned 900-acre site was dedicated on Tuesday 17 December 1940. Due to inclement weather, the ceremonies were held on the grounds of the National Orange Show rather than at the site itself. During the summer of 1941 it became a training base to meet the needs of the 30,000 Pilot Training Program. In December 1941, within days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, combat-ready fighter planes arrived to protect the Los Angeles area from enemy attack
On 1 March 1942, the airport was renamed San Bernardino Army Air Field and the San Bernardino Air Depot was established there. The first aircraft arrived at the new base on 2 June 1942. The base was under the administration of the Fourth Air Service Area Command. All runways were completed by December and night flying was initiated in March 1943. Requests to establish commercial air service by Western Air Lines in mid-late 1942 were refused. During the war, Norton's primary function was the repair and maintenance of aircraft. By 1945, the base was processing hundreds of new aircraft monthly, readying them for shipment overseas. Types handled included P-51s, F-5 reconnaissance modifications of P-38s, P-47s, and P-61s. San Bernardino Air Service Technical Command also refurbished C-47s, which had seen heavy service. At the end of the war, the base became a processing and separation center for the millions of servicemen being discharged.
Desert Training Center
During World War II, San Bernardino Army Airfield provided administrative and logistical support for the United States Army Desert Training Center (DTC). The DTC was a massive training facility set up in the Mojave Desert; largely in Southern California and Western Arizona. Its mission was to train United States Army and Army Air Corps units and personnel to live and fight in the desert, to test and develop suitable equipment, and to develop tactical doctrines, techniques and training methods. Known sub-bases and auxiliaries set up to support DTC Army Air Force activities were:
Housing shortages affected the base in 1946. On 15 May, Lt. Paul Smith, in charge of housing for San Bernardino Army Airfield, disclosed that 125 enlisted men and officers were seeking accommodations for themselves and their families. "They either have their families in hotels or tourist camps or are unable to be with them. We are particularly interested in relieving this condition for the enlisted men, because of the expense to the men in maintaining their families in hotels," he said. He urged property owners to contact the field's personnel affairs office, by telephone or mail, when vacancies occur.
With Congress loosening purse strings and calling for a greatly strengthened Air Force in 1948, San Bernardino Air Depot began hiring the first of 3,500 civilian workers in May, as authorized by the base's reactivation program. The depot hired 450 for immediate requirements with the remainder of the 3,500 added over the next six months. In June 1948, 2,190 civilians were employed at the base representing an annual payroll of $1,539,000.
California Air National Guard
The wartime 411th Fighter Squadron was allotted to the California Air National Guard, on 24 May 1946 and redesignated as the 196th Fighter Squadron. It was organized at Norton Air Force Base, on 12 September 1946 and federally recognized on 9 November 1946. The squadron was equipped with P-51D Mustangs and assigned to the 146th Fighter Group, at Van Nuys Airport by the National Guard Bureau.
The squadron trained for tactical fighter missions and air-to-air combat under the supervision of Fourth Air Force. In June 1948, the unit received 25 F-80C Shooting Star aircraft. The 196th was one of the first Air National Guard units to receive these new jets.
The 196th was federalized on 10 October 1950 due to the Korean War and departed Norton at this time.
Air Base Wing
Bids were opened on 15 September 1953 for nearly a million dollars of work at Norton, including a 2,450-foot extension of the southeast - northwest runway bringing it to 10,000 feet, long enough for anything in the inventory. The extension requires the closing of the east end of Mill Street at Tippecanoe Avenue, and the relocation of the Pacific Electric track, both of which right-of-ways the runway will cross. The project included taxiways and drainage facilities. The widening of the runway by 50 feet to 200 feet was also proposed. Traffic to Redlands was rerouted off of Mill Street to Central Avenue.
"Directives to acquire land for the runway lengthening were signed in June by the secretary of the Air Force and sent to the Los Angeles office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers."
With the air force moving into the jet age in the late 1940s, Norton began overhauling jet engines in 1951, and the San Bernardino Air Materiel Area became one of three air force jet overhaul centers by 1953. To accommodate the largest Strategic Air Command bombers, the main runway was extended to 10,000 ft by 1954. B-45 Tornado upgrades were performed at Norton in the late 1940s and into the 1950s.
Effective 1 January 1955, the former Army Quartermaster depot at Mira Loma became the Mira Loma Air Force Annex, under the jurisdiction of the San Bernardino Air Materiel Area, announced Maj. Gen. Edward W. Anderson, SBAMA commander.
On 22 March 1956, the San Bernardino Daily Sun reported that "In compliance with stated Air Force policy directing the depots to concentrate their immediate efforts in support of weapons systems with high priority and tactical value, Headquarters AMC recently advised San Bernardino that depot shops here had been selected to service and maintain F100 fighter aircraft. Moving with justifiable speed, the first group of aircraft are already on the base and have started through the IRAN [inspect and repair as necessary - Ed.] line. Numbers to be handled the balance of fiscal 1956 and subsequently is classified information, but the volume is sufficient to occupy some hundreds of NAFB employes [sic] in both Maintenance and Supply, as well as to fill the big hanger [sic] and apron with many of the hottest operational aircraft in existence. Present plans call for locating a double production line for F100s where the B45 aircraft is currently being handled inside the big hangar on the east. The B45 operation will be moved gradually outside to apron space now under construction." The article also noted the addition of B-66s, F-102s, and J57 turbojets to SBAMA responsibility.
Construction of an 18-hole golf course on the base was announced on 29 March 1956.
On 29 November 1957, General Thomas D. White disclosed the development of an anti-missile called the Wizard, the assignment of intercontinental and intermediate-range ballistic missile programs to Strategic Air Command, and a transfer of the 1st Missile Division to SAC. The San Bernardino Air Force Depot was to assume support for long-range ballistic missile programs.
In the 1960s, Norton expanded its depot support mission by supporting Titan and Atlas Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM)s, with depot-level logistical support. Also, the Space and Missile Systems Organization (SAMSO), which managed the LGM-30 Minuteman and LGM-118 Peacekeeper programs, was located at Norton from the 1960s. "In January 1961 the new Air Force Secretary, Eugene M. Zuckert, met with top Air Force officials to consider a proposal to relocate the Ballistic Missile Division from Inglewood to San Bernardino Air Materiel Area at Norton AFB, California." As solid-fuel Minuteman missiles entered service, the more problematic liquid-fueled Atlas and Titan systems were removed from alert status. "All of the Atlas Ds were phased out between May and October 1964. From January through March 1965, SAC removed the Atlas Es and Fs, and by June 1965 had deactivated all of the Titan I missiles as well. The Atlas ICBMs were shipped to San Bernardino Air Material Area, Norton AFB, for storage; the Titans were stored at Mira Loma Air Force Station, near Vandenberg AFB." Upon base closure, the mission of SAMSO was transferred to Los Angeles Air Force Station, later, Los Angeles Air Force Base.
On 8 July 1964, the 2848th Air Base Wing was replaced by the 2848th Air Base Group.
The Air Materiel Area was disestablished in 1966.
A change of mission in 1966 from Air Force Logistics Command to Military Airlift Command (MAC) meant that Norton became one of six Military Airlift Command strategic-airlift bases, supporting US Army and Marine Corps' airlift requirements among other functions. Also, a new MAC passenger terminal was built to replace the World War II era (1944) facility to better handle passenger traffic, primarily to and from Southeast Asia. The new airline-style building was activated in 1968. The base newspaper in this era was named "The Globetrotter".
Discrete C-130 Hercules modification tests were conducted out of Area II of the base in the late 1960s, with the 1198th Operational Evaluation and Training Squadron operating four highly classified C-130E(I) special operations testbeds modified at Lockheed Air Services, at near-by Ontario Airport under projects Thin Slice and Heavy Chain. Their electronics suites were developed for and identical to those of the MC-130 Combat Talon, with the addition of AN/APQ-115 Forward looking infrared, and 1198th OE&TS test missions were flown out of Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, under project "Heavy Chain", with the aircraft painted all-black.
A base railroad system interchanged with the Pacific Electric/Southern Pacific branch line on the south side of the installation. When base rail operations were discontinued in the late 1970s, the base diesel locomotive, a General Electric centercab B/B 90/90, USAF 8580, was donated to the Orange Empire Railway Museum at Perris, California.
Air Defense Command
In 1950, Air Defense Command activated the 27th Air Division (Defense) at Norton AFB, being assigned to the Western Air Defense Force. Its mission was the air defense of southern California and later southern Nevada. By 1953, its area of control included a small portion of Arizona. The 27th AD controlled both aircraft interceptor squadrons, as well as general surveillance antiaircraft radar squadrons.
In 1955, the 27th AD established a Manual Air-Defense Control Center (ADCC) (P-84) at Norton to monitor and track aircraft in Southern California. This manual site was replaced in 1959 by a Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) Data Center (DC-17) . The SAGE system was an automated computer network linking Air Force (and later FAA) General Surveillance Radar stations into a centralized center for air defense, intended to provide early warning and response for a Soviet nuclear attack. It was initially under the Los Angeles Air Defense Sector (LAADS), established on 1 February 1959 by redesignation of 27th Air Division.
LAADS was inactivated on 1 April 1966 and the designation was returned as the 27th Air Division, being stationed at Luke AFB, Arizona under Fourth Air Force as part of a consolidation with the inactivating Phoenix Air Defense Sector. DC-17 at Norton was inactivated a few months later on 25 June 1966, its mission being consolidated with SAGE Data Center DC-21 at Luke AFB under the 27th AD.
The SAGE Direction Center closed in 1966 along with the other ADC facilities at Norton. It became the home of the Air Force Audiovisual Service. The windowless, temperature controlled SAGE structure was perfect for film storage. It also was the home of the Air Combat Camera Service. After Norton closed in April 1994, the facility was essentially abandoned, and remains so today. Many adjacent smaller structures have been demolished, and likely it remains standing is due to its heavily-reinforced concrete and steel construction.
The closure was cited as due to environmental wastes, inadequate facilities, and air traffic congestion (due to air traffic from Ontario International Airport, twenty miles (32 km) west, and Los Angeles International Airport, 60 miles (97 km) west).
The last of the facilities on the base were closed in 1995.
- Municipal Airport San Bernardino (under Army Air Forces jurisdiction), 2 July 1942
- San Bernardino Army Air Field, 14 July 1942
- San Bernardino Air Field, 24 December 1947
- San Bernardino Air Force Base, 13 January 1948
- Norton Air Force Base, 2 March 1950 – 1 April 1994
Major commands to which assigned
- Fourth Air Force, 2 July 1942 – 13 October 1942
- Air Service Command, 13 October 1942 – 14 July 1944
- AAF Materiel and Services Command, 14 July – 31 August 1944
- AAF Technical Services Command, 31 August 1944 – 1 July 1945
- Air Technical Services Command, 1 July 1945 – 9 March 1946
- Air Materiel Command, 9 March 1946 – 1 April 1961
- Air Force Logistics Command, 1 April 1961 – 1 July 1966
- Military Airlift Command, 1 July 1966 – 1 June 1992
- Air Mobility Command, 1 June 1992 – 1 April 1994
Major units assigned
- 2193rd Communications Squadron
- 1601st USAF Dispensary (Medical and Dental Clinics), dates including 1967-1970
- 630 Maintenance Squadron (Total years unknown, but was probably organized in April 1967 along with the 63d MAW. The 630 MS did exist in 1969-70 as noted on my orders when assigned there)
- On 24 March 1944, the second of only two Vultee XP-54 experimental fighters made its first and only flight, landing at Norton with a failed Lycoming engine. The P-54 project was canceled and the airframe grounded to support the first prototype.
- Norton AFB served as the last assignment for Chuck Yeager. He retired at the base on 1 June 1975.
- Norton AFB was the final duty station of Sgt. John Levitow the lowest ranking man to be awarded the Medal of Honor, where he served as a loadmaster with the 63d Military Airlift Wing.
- The famed C-141 Starlifter Hanoi Taxi was based at Norton AFB with the 63d Military Airlift Wing at the time of its famous missions as part of Operation Homecoming.
- In 1957, while flying aboard a C-124 Globemaster II, the WAF Band was invited by General James L. Jackson, Deputy Commander of the San Bernardino Air Materiel Area, Air Materiel Command, to move to his headquarters at Norton AFB. The move took place in January 1958. The band retained its training and chain-of-command connection with the USAF band school at Bolling AFB, Washington, D.C. At Norton, the band found it easier to schedule C-124 planes and pilots to keep up their touring schedule. Upon arriving, the 55 female airmen discovered that their new housing facilities were tiny cubicles for rooms and that the shared bathroom had no doors on the toilet stalls, a disappointing change from their former quarters at Lackland AFB, Texas, and at Bolling. The women worked to transform the barracks into a more homey atmosphere. The WAF Band was inactivated in 1961. Because of the warm climate and welcoming environment, some of the women airmen settled permanently in the San Bernardino area after their tour of duty.
The aviation facilities of the base were converted into San Bernardino International Airport, and 3 of the 4 stationed squadrons (all 4 of which were part of the 63d and 445th Military Airlift Wings) – C-141 Starlifter, C-21, and C-12 Huron aircraft – were moved to nearby March Air Force Base, while the remaining squadron – C-141 aircraft – was moved to McChord Air Force Base, Washington. Control of the airport and surrounding facilities was turned over to a consortium consisting of several nearby cities to manage and oversee its operation. While the airport is reported to be making money, no company currently operates scheduled flights from the airport. A bid to gain traffic from DHL was lost to March Air Reserve Base and current market conditions do not lend themselves to any airlines wanting to start service to a new airport in the Greater Los Angeles Area. However, improvements in recent years to the runway and terminal facilities as well as infrastructure support such as widening of area roads have been made and the airport is still looking for a carrier willing to begin operations. Charter as well as private flights do operate from SBIA and it is also used as a base for firefighting planes when needed.
Recently, private development on the former base has helped turn the basically unused land into jobs and revenue for the city of San Bernardino as several companies have opened distribution centers on the property. Mattel opened a distribution center in 2004, consolidating three other smaller ones from around Southern California into a single location. Stater Brothers Markets also built a new headquarters as well as a centralized warehousing facility. The completion of the project in 2007 consolidated the headquarters and a warehouse from nearby Colton as well as several other warehouses that had been located around the Inland Empire into a single location. Industrial buildings used by Pep Boys Auto and Kohl's are also located on the premises.
Norton in popular culture
- Norton AFB was the filming site of The Twilight Zone episode "The Last Flight" in which a World War I Royal Flying Corps pilot is transported in time in a cloud to the 1960s. An authentic Nieuport 28 was provided and flown by Frank Tallman, a Hollywood stunt pilot. The episode first aired on 5 February 1960.
- Norton AFB is mentioned in the 1992 film Sneakers. Dan Aykroyd's character Mother states "O.K., boss, this LTX-27 concealable mic is part of the same system that NASA used when they faked the Apollo moon landings. Yeah, the astronauts broadcast around the world from a soundstage at Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino, California. So it worked for them, shouldn't give us too many problems."
- While preparing for The Division Bell Tour, Pink Floyd spent most of March 1994 rehearsing in a hangar at Norton AFB.
- Some scenes for The Fast and the Furious movies were recorded on the flight lines.
- San Bernardino International Airport
- California World War II Army Airfields
- List of USAF Aerospace Defense Command General Surveillance Radar Stations
- Norton AFB Museum http://www.nafbmuseum.org/
- A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization 1946 – 1980, by Lloyd H. Cornett and Mildred W. Johnson, Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado
- Winkler, David F. (1997), Searching the skies: the legacy of the United States Cold War defense radar program. Prepared for United States Air Force Headquarters Air Combat Command.
- Information for Norton AFB Perm, CA
- Staff, "County To Dedicate Airport Today - Supervisors Sponsor Construction Of Road to Desert Artillery Range", The San Bernardino Daily Sun, San Bernardino, California, Tuesday 17 December 1940, Volume 46, page 13.
- Staff, "Big Airport Development Predicted", The San Bernardino Daily Sun, San Bernardino, California, Wednesday 18 December 1940, Volume 46, page 13.
- Staff, "Depot Crews Training For Foreign Duty - Gen. Perrin Assumes Command Of Fourth Air Service Area And Praises U. S. Planes", The San Bernardino Daily Sun, San Bernardino, California, Tuesday 13 October 1942, Volume 49, page 6.
- Staff, "Lines May Ask Use Of Army's Landing Field - Western Air Virtually Assured Of Operating Privileges but Facilities Are Lacking", The San Bernardino Sun, San Bernardino, California, Saturday 10 October 1942, Volume 49, page 6.
- Staff, "Aerial Fighters Get Final Check - Hundreds of Combat Planes Go Overseas", The San Bernardino Daily Sun, San Bernardino, California, Wednesday 9 May 1945, Volume 51, page 12.
- Special, "Housing for 125 Enlisted Men, Officers Sought", The San Bernardino Daily Sun, San Bernardino, California, Thursday 16 May 1946, Volume LII, page 8.
- "Search for generals". generals.dk. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
- Staff, "Depot To Start Hiring Workers Monday", The Sun-Telegram, San Bernardino, California, Sunday 16 May 1948, Volume I, Number 57, page 17.
- Special, "Doyle Predicts Big Increase At Air Depot", The San Bernardino Daily Sun, San Bernardino, California, Saturday 26 June 1946, Volume LIV, Number 258, page 11.
- As the successor unit, the 196th Fighter Squadron was entitled to the history, honors, and colors of the 411th.
- Staff, "Hot Operational Aircraft To Be Serviced At Depot", San Bernardino Daily Sun, San Bernardino, California, Thursday 22 March 1956, Volume LXII, Number 175, page 23.
- Mueller, Robert (1989). Air Force Bases, Vol. I, Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982 (PDF). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-53-6., pages 247-252.
- Staff, "Bid Opening Set At Norton AFB", San Bernardino Daily Sun, San Bernardino, California, Tuesday 15 September 1953, Volume LX, Number 13, page 17.
- Special, "Air Force Takes Over Mira Loma Supply Depot", The San Bernardino Daily Sun, San Bernardino, California, Saturday 8 January 1955, Volume LXI, Number 113, page 16.
- Staff, "At Norton Base: Hot Operational Aircraft To Be Serviced At Depot", San Bernardino Daily Sun, San Bernardino, California, Thursday 22 March 1956, Volume LXII, Number 175, page 22.
- Staff, "Golf Course at Norton AFB Set", San Bernardino Daily Sun, San Bernardino, California, Friday 30 March 1956, Volume LXII, Number 182, page 35.
- "Official Site of the U.S. Air Force - History Milestones". archive.is. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
- Neufeld, Jacob, "Ballistic Missiles in the United States Air Force 1945-1960", Office of Air Force History, United States Air Force, Washington, D.C., 1990, Library of Congress card number 89-71109, ISBN 0-912799-62-5, page 212.
- Neufeld, Jacob, "Ballistic Missiles in the United States Air Force 1945-1960", Office of Air Force History, United States Air Force, Washington, D.C., 1990, Library of Congress card number 89-71109, ISBN 0-912799-62-5, page 238.
- Mueller, Robert (1989). Air Force Bases, Vol. I, Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982 (PDF). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-53-6., pages 247-252.
- "Historic California Posts: Norton Air Force Base". californiamilitaryhistory.org. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
- Olausson, Lars, Lockheed Hercules Production List – 1954–2008 – 25th ed., Såtenäs, Sweden, April 2007. Self-published. [ISBN unspecified].
- Mueller, Robert, Air Force Bases Volume I – Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982; Office of Air Force History, United States Air Force, Washington, D.C., 1989, page 447. ISBN 0-912799-53-6.
- Schemmer, Benjamin F., "The Raid: The Son Tay Prison Rescue Mission", Revised and Updated, The Ballantine Publishing Group, a division of Random House, New York, 1976, 1986, 2002, ISBN 0-345-44696-8, page 80.
- "Vultee XP-54 Swoose Goose - Fighter - History, Specs and Pictures - Military Aircraft". militaryfactory.com. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
- Air Force biography: Brigadier General James L. Jackson
- Dixie L. Johnson. Tribute to MaryBelle Johns Nissly (GIF image)
- Kelly, David (2007-09-27). "San Bernardino Airport – Transition from Norton Air Force base in progress". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-08-08.
- "Mattel, San Bernardino". Retrieved 2009-08-08.
- http://www.lexisnexis.com/us/lnacademic/results/docview/docview.do?docLinkInd=true&risb=21_T7111954049&format=GNBFI&sort=BOOLEAN&startDocNo=1&resultsUrlKey=29_T7111954052&cisb=22_T7111954051&treeMax=true&treeWidth=0&csi=153562&docNo=2. Missing or empty
- "Sneakers (1992)". IMDb. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
- "Pink Floyd - The Official Site". pinkfloyd.com. Retrieved 3 June 2015.