Naval Air Station Cecil Field
or NAS Cecil Field
was a United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...
base, located in Duval County
Duval County is a county located in the U.S. state of Florida. As of 2010, the population was 864,263. Its county seat is Jacksonville, with which the Duval County government has been consolidated since 1968...
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...
. NAS Cecil Field was the largest military base in the Jacksonville, Florida, area.
NAS Cecil Field consisted of four separate facilities, the Cecil Field Complex (Cecil Field), the Outlying Field ("OLF") Whitehouse, the Yellow Water Weapons Department and the Pinecastle [Pine Castle] Electronic Warfare Target Area / Warfare Range. Including nearly 2,500 acres (10 km²) at OLF Whitehouse, the Cecil Field complex consisted of 22,939 acres (92.8 km²); in addition, the base leased another 8,379 acres (33.9 km²). Approximately 17,200 acres (69.6 km²) were transferred to the private sector, the remainder was transferred to Naval Air Station Jacksonville
Naval Air Station Jacksonville or NAS Jacksonville is a military airport located four miles south of the central business district of Jacksonville...
As directed by Congress in BRAC 1993 and BRAC 1995, the facility was decommissioned 30 September 1999.
Cecil Field was named in honor of Commander Henry Barton Cecil. Shortly before World War II, a 2,600 acre (11 km²) tract of land was purchased in Duval County and construction began on the "U.S. Naval Auxiliary Air Station, Cecil Field."
The base got its start in June 1941, and operations were accelerated just 11 days after the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...
VF and VSB units of Advanced Carrier Group, Atlantic arrived at Cecil Field in late 1942 to commence replacement pilot combat training.
Cecil Field was commissioned as a Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) in February 1943.
In March 1943, the fighter training unit moved to nearby Lee Field, in Green Cove Springs, and NAS Cecil Field became the principal war-at-sea and dive-bombing training center for the Navy. From 1943 until the war ended, Cecil Field was a pilot's last stop before assignment to combat in either the Atlantic or Pacific fleet.
It operated at full capacity during the war years and after the war.
Disestablished at the end of World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...
, it was then re-established and disestablished until finally designated as a Naval Air Station on June 30, 1952. The station was rejuvenated as an operating base for fleet aircraft units which ushered in the "jet age" for the Jacksonville area.
In the mid-1950s Cecil Field's growth was given further impetus when the station was selected to serve as one of four bases specifically used for the operation of jet aircraft. In 1951 the land area of Cecil Field was increased to 4,600 acres (19 km²) and additional new buildings and facilities were constructed. Naval Air Station Cecil Field occupied 19,664 acres (79.6 km²), and was projected to be Navy's largest master jet base.
- RF-8 Crusader
The Vought F-8 Crusader was a single-engine, supersonic, carrier-based air superiority jet aircraft built by Vought for the United States Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps, replacing the Vought F7U Cutlass...
- A-7 Corsair II
The Ling-Temco-Vought A-7 Corsair II is a carrier-based subsonic light attack aircraft introduced to replace the United States Navy's Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, initially entering service during the Vietnam War...
- F/A-18 Hornet
The McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet is a supersonic, all-weather carrier-capable multirole fighter jet, designed to dogfight and attack ground targets . Designed by McDonnell Douglas and Northrop, the F/A-18 was derived from the latter's YF-17 in the 1970s for use by the United States Navy and...
- S-3 Viking
The Lockheed S-3 Viking is a four-seat twin-engine jet aircraft that was used by the U.S. Navy to identify, track, and destroy enemy submarines. In the late 1990s, the S-3B's mission focus shifted to surface warfare and aerial refueling. The Viking also provided electronic warfare and surface...
- ES-3 Shadow
- A-4(A4D) Skyhawk
It was RF-8 Crusaders from VFP-62 out of Cecil Field who detected the presence of missiles and monitored the Soviet buildup during the Cuban Missile Crisis
The Cuban Missile Crisis was a confrontation among the Soviet Union, Cuba and the United States in October 1962, during the Cold War...
Squadrons from NAS Cecil Field were aboard every Atlantic Fleet aircraft carrier deployed to Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...
. During this period, 13 Cecil Field pilots were listed as POW or MIA
Missing in action is a casualty Category assigned under the Status of Missing to armed services personnel who are reported missing during active service. They may have been killed, wounded, become a prisoner of war, or deserted. If deceased, neither their remains nor grave can be positively...
. The POW/MIA memorial located behind the base chapel has become the chosen site for retiring AGs and METOC officers to hold their retirement ceremonies.
The first Atlantic Fleet Squadrons to fly the A-7 Corsair II, the FA-18 Hornet, the S-3A and S-3B Viking, and the ES-3 Shadow were all based at NAS Cecil Field. Cecil Field squadrons again made history during the Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...
, marking the final combat deployment for the A-7E Corsair II and the first combat operations for the S-3B Viking.
The first weather observations were recorded at Cecil Field in May 1949, with the first meteorological equipment installed in December of the same year. In those days, weather observing and forecasting services were provided by the Meteorology Division of the Air Operations Department. The "weather guessers" of Cecil Field first became a detachment, as Naval Weather Service Environmental Detachment (NWSED), Cecil Field when, in an effort to centralize control of support from the Navy's shore-based meteorological units, the CNO established the Office of the Naval Weather Service on December 29, 1965. In September 1979, almost 14 years later, the name changed to Naval Oceanography Command Detachment (NOCD), Cecil Field.
Base Realignment and Closure
Naval Air Station Cecil Field was identified for closure by the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission ("BRAC") and approved by the Congress and the President in July 1993. Upon this notice by the BRAC, the city of Jacksonville initiated the development of a reuse plan to guide transition of base property and facilities to other uses that support local goals for economic and community development. There have been efforts to see the base returned as a Naval Air Station (NAS), but these have failed due to political and economic forces.