Naval Air Station Banana River


Naval Air Station Banana River
Naval Air Station Banana River
Brevard County, near Satellite Beach, Florida
NAS Banana River NAN4 47.jpg
Aerial view of NAS Banana River in the mid-1940s looking east
Type Naval Air Station
Coordinates Coordinates: 28°14′06″N 080°36′36″W / 28.235°N 80.61°W / 28.235; -80.61
Built Commissioned October 01, 1940[1]
In use 1940-1947
Current
owner
Transferred to U.S. Air Force on
September 01, 1948[2]
Commanders Commander Waldo Tullsen, USN
(first commanding officer)
Commander Adolphus W. Groton, USN (assumed command on
June 02, 1942)[3]
Occupants Naval Aviation (PBM Mariner, PBY Catalina), WAVES
Battles/wars WW II

Naval Air Station Banana River was a U.S. Navy airfield and seaplane base located just north of Satellite Beach, Florida along the Banana River prior to and during World War II. Deactivated as a naval installation in 1947 and placed in a caretaker status, NAS Banana River was transferred to the United States Air Force on September 1, 1948 and renamed the Joint Long Range Proving Ground on June 10, 1949.[2] The installation was renamed Patrick Air Force Base in August 1950 and is currently an active Air Force installation.

Contents

History

World War II

Authorized by the Naval Expansion Act of 1938, NAS Banana River was commissioned October 1, 1940 as a sub-base of NAS Jacksonville, Florida. With the advent of war with Japan and Germany in December 1941, the Navy began anti-submarine patrols along the Florida coast using PBY Catalina and PBM Mariner seaplanes based at this facility. PBMs returned to training duty in March 1942 when replaced on patrol by OS2U Kingfisher seaplanes. Landing strips were constructed in 1943, thereby allowing for concurrent operation of shore based aircraft. Officers of the Free French Navy also trained in PBMs at NAS Banana River at this time. Various military related activities took place at NAS Banana River, including maritime patrol aviation operations against German U-Boats, air search and rescue operations, patrol bomber bombardier training, seaplane pilot training, and communications research. Other activities included a blimp squadron detachment, an Aviation Navigation Training School, and an experimental training unit termed Project Baker, a confidential program that developed and tested instrument landing equipment.[4] NAS Banana River also hosted and a major aircraft repair and maintenance facility. Later in the war, a small detachment of German POWs from Camp Blanding worked at NAS Banana River on cleanup details. At its peak, the base complement included 278 aircraft, 587 civilian employees, and over 2800 officers and enlisted personnel.

NAS Banana River patch
PBM-3Cs of Patrol Squadron 201 (VP-201) at NAS Banana River, late 1942

Flight 19 probe

Three months after World War II, on December 5, 1945, NAS Banana River had an ancillary role in the disappearance of Flight 19, a formation of five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers, which had departed NAS Fort Lauderdale, Florida on a routine over-water training mission. When the flight failed to return to home station, a search and rescue operation was undertaken by multiple air and naval units. After sunset on December 5, two PBM Mariner seaplanes from NAS Banana River, originally scheduled for their own training flights were diverted to perform square pattern searches in the area west of 29°N 79°W/29, -79. One of these aircraft, a PBM-5, Bureau Number (BuNo) 59225, took off at 19:27 Eastern Time from NAS Banana River, called in a routine radio message at 19:30 Eastern Time, and was never heard from again.[5]

At 19:50, the tanker SS Gaines Mills reported seeing a mid-air explosion, then flames leaping 100 feet (30 m) high and burning on the sea for 10 minutes. The position was 28°35′N 80°15′W / 28.59, -80.25. Captain Shonna Stanley of the SS Gaines Mills reported searching for survivors through a pool of oil, but found none. The escort carrier USS Solomons also reported losing radar contact with an aircraft at the same position and time. No wreckage of PBM-5 BuNo 59225 was ever found.

During investigation by a board of inquiry regarding the entire Flight 19 incident, attention was also paid to the loss of the NAS Banana River-based PBM. Several witnesses from both NAS Banana River and other PBM Mariner operating locations were questioned concerning occurrences of aviation gasoline (AvGas) fumes in the bilges of PBM series aircraft and associated no smoking regulations, which were reportedly well posted and rigidly enforced aboard all PBMs. Although the board's report is not a verbatim record and no accusations were made, there seems to be enough inference present to cause one to suspect that the board was aware of the PBM's nickname, "the flying gas tank". As such, it is possible that the PBM-5 was destroyed by either (a) an aircrewman violating the no smoking regulations in the aircraft or (b) a stray electrical spark in the lower aircraft hull that may have ignited AvGas fumes[5]

Transition

NAS Banana River closed in September 1947 after a gradual deactivation and was placed in a caretaker status. In September 1948 the facility was transferred to the U.S. Air Force.[6] Several of NAS Banana River's original structures, including runway segments, certain hangars, support buildings, seaplane parking areas and seaplane ramps into the Banana River remain part of modern-day Patrick Air Force Base.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Melissa Williford Euziere. From Mosquito Clouds to War Clouds: The Rise of Naval Air Station Banana River (master’s thesis Florida State University, November 10, 2003), p. 24. An electronic copy of this thesis is available for download at Florida State University Electronic Theses and Dissertations website.
  2. ^ a b Cliff Lethbridge. “Chapter 2: The Missile Range Takes Shape (1949-1958)”, The History of Cape Canaveral, Spaceline, Inc. website, 2000. Retrieved on November 16, 2007.
  3. ^ Melissa Williford Euziere. From Mosquito Clouds to War Clouds: The Rise of Naval Air Station Banana River (master’s thesis Florida State University, November 10, 2003), p. 34. An electronic copy of this thesis is available for download at Florida State University Electronic Theses and Dissertations website.
  4. ^ Melissa Williford Euziere. From Mosquito Clouds to War Clouds: The Rise of Naval Air Station Banana River (master’s thesis Florida State University, November 10, 2003), p. v. An electronic copy of this thesis is available for download at Florida State University Electronic Theses and Dissertations website
  5. ^ a b http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq15-2.htm
  6. ^ http://www.flheritage.com/wwii/sites.cfm?PR_ID=85

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