Miramar History

history

MCAS Miramar Units

Headquarters & Headquarters Squadron, MCAS Miramar

Miramar Flight Division:
Grizzly

3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
MWHS-3 Eagles

Marine Aircraft Group 11:
VMFA(AW)-225 Vikings, VMFA-232 Red Devils, VMFA-314 Black Knights, VMFA-323 Death Rattlers, VMFAT-101 Sharpshooters, VMGR-352 Raiders, MALS-11 Devil Fish, MWSS-373

Marine Aircraft Group 16:
HMH-361 Flying Tigers, HMH-462 Heavy Haulers, HMH-465 Warhorses, HMH-466 Wolfpack, VMM-161 Greyhawks, VMM-163 Evil Eyes, VMM-165 White Knights VMM-166 Sea Elk, VMM-268 Red Dragons, VMM-363 Red Lions, MALS-16 Forerunners, MWSS-374

Marine Air Control Group 38
MTACS-38, MWCS-38

3rd MAW Band

4th MAW
VMM-764 Moonlight

Miramar has a long history as a part of San Diego County

In 1846 during the Mexican-American War, a detachment of Marines from the second-class Sloop-of-War Cyane landed here to raise the American flag above the Plaza in what’s now called Old Town.

As a result of that war, the U.S. acquired San Diego and the rest of California (as well as Nevada, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, thus creating a nation “from sea to shining sea”).

At that time, today’s Marine Corps Air Station Miramar was part of an enormous rancho. Cattle grazed on the mesa now covered by runways.

In 1890, newspaper publisher Edward Scripps moved to San Diego County. He is credited with naming Miramar, which loosely translated from Spanish means “a view of the sea.” Scripps established a ranch on 2,000 acres in the Miramar area. Scripps Ranch adjoins present-day MCAS Miramar.

Although both the Navy and Army had established facilities on North Island in 1912, Miramar’s military roots were not planted until 1917, when the Army purchased the Miramar area and created Camp Kearny, named for Gen. Stephen Kearny, whose Army of the West had captured California during the Mexican-American War. The base cost $4.5 million, and was closed just three years later. Most of Camp Kearny’s soldiers lived in tents, as more than 65,000 men arrived by train from the San Diego docks on their way to World War I battlefields in Europe. After the war, the camp was used as a demobilization and convalescent center, and in 1920, it ceased to function as a military base. Miramar languished for 12 years.

The unused base was perfectly located for Charles Lindbergh, whose Spirit of St. Louis was built by Ryan Airlines Corp. in nearby San Diego. Lindbergh used the abandoned Camp Kearny (East Miramar) parade field to practice tricky landings and take-offs with the new plane, which had no forward-looking windshield. From San Diego, he took off for New York, Paris and international fame.

In the 1930s, the U.S. Navy put their faith in dirigibles. These large, helium-filled airships could patrol long distances along the coasts. The 785-foot-long airships USS Akron and USS Macon could launch and retrieve their five Curtiss F9C-2 Sparrowhawk pursuit aircraft in mid-air, like flying aircraft carriers. In 1932 a mooring mast and hangar were built at the camp for the dirigibles (it was claimed that the hangar was so huge that it had its own weather system!). When the Navy gave up the airship program, Kearny Mesa was quiet once again.

Miramar lay dormant for a few more years until the clouds of war again appeared on the U.S. horizon. By the time World War II had broken out in Europe, Miramar was already undergoing a “precautionary” renovation. Camp Holcomb (later renamed Camp Elliott) was built on part of old Camp Kearny, to be used for Marine artillery and machine gun training. Even before the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, the base contained more than 26,000 acres. Camp Elliott became home to Fleet Marine Force Training Center, West Coast and the 2nd Marine Division, charged with defending the California coast.

Runways were constructed in 1940, and the 1st Marine Air Wing arrived on Dec. 21 of that year (in August 1942 it would move to Guadalcanal). The Navy commissioned Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) Camp Kearny in February 1943, specifically to train crews for the Consolidated PB4Y Catalina, which was built less than 10 miles away in San Diego. A month later, the Marines established Marine Corps Air Depot Camp Kearny, later renamed Marine Corps Air Depot Miramar to avoid confusion with the Navy facility.

The big Catalinas proved too heavy for the asphalt runway the Army had installed in 1936 and the longer runways built in 1940, so the Navy added two concrete runways in 1943.

During the 1940s, both the Navy and the Marine Corps occupied Miramar. East Miramar (Camp Elliott) was used to train Marine artillery and armored personnel, while Navy and Marine Corps pilots trained on the western side. The bases were combined and designated Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in 1945.

In 1947, the Marines moved to El Toro in Orange County, and Miramar was redesignated as a Naval Auxiliary Air Station. In 1954, the Navy offered NAAS Miramar to San Diego for $1 (the offer was refused). Only the western half of Miramar’s facilities were put to use, and the old station literally began to deteriorate, with many buildings sold as scrap.

Miramar found new life as a Navy Master Jet Station in the 1950s, but really came into its own during the Vietnam War. The Navy needed a school to train pilots in dog-fighting and in fleet air defense. In 1969 the Top Gun school was established (and immortalized by the 1985 movie of the same name).In October 1972, Miramar welcomed the famed F-14 Tomcat. VF-124’s mission was to train Tomcat crews for aircraft carrier operations. The first two operational Tomcat squadrons, VF-1 and VF-2, trained here before deploying aboard USS Enterprise (CVN-65) in 1974. These squadrons flew “top cover” during the evacuation of Saigon in 1975.

In 1993, the Base Realignment and Closure Committee recommended closing the El Toro and Tustin air stations and moving the Marines to Miramar. Top Gun and the Navy’s F-14 Tomcat and E-3 Hawkeye squadrons were relocated and the base was once again redesignated as Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. Marines began arriving in August 1994, and by 1997 MCAS Miramar was fully operational. In 1999, El Toro and Tustin were closed.

MCAS Miramar now serves as home to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, including MAG-11’s fixed-wing F/A-18 and KC-130 Hercules squadrons and MAG-16’s  MV-22 Osprey tiltrotors and CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters. The support command Marine Air Control Group 38 and the 3rd MAW Band are also located here. The 4th Marine Air Wing, an MV-22 Osprey squadron and H&HS Marine Flight Division’s UC-12 and UC-38 squadrons are here at MCAS Miramar as well.

With a storied past behind it, MCAS Miramar is looking forward to a bright future as the West Coast’s home to Marine air power.