Torrance Airport (CA) (Images of Aviation)
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Californians were panicked by the Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941, and civilian flights within 200 miles of the coast were immediately terminated. Airfields were commandeered and new ones hastily built. One of these was the Lomita Flight Strip, known today as Zamperini Field, the Torrance Municipal Airport, or TOA. This 490-acre parcel sent four squadrons of P-38 fighter pilots off to war with one commanded by the judge of the Charles Manson trial, an ex-Flying Tiger. Six other pilots became generals, two became commandants of cadets at the Air Force Academy, and one became the only fighter pilot with combat victories in both World War II and the Vietnam War. Japanese Americans returning from World War II internment camps found temporary housing at the field, and the world’s largest manufacturer of civilian helicopters settled there in 1973. The first runway takeoff of a Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft was pioneered at TOA, and aerobatic champ Bob Herendeen trained at the site.
After the war, the company manufactured aluminum lawn furniture for the Kroehler Furniture Company while exploring ideas for vertical flight. Helicopters, ducted fans, counter-rotating impellers, and rigid blades with trailing edge flaps and spoilers were all projects conceived in the visionary mind of Edmond Doak. (Courtesy Virginia Doak.) Toward the mid-1950s, army research and development awarded Doak a contract to explore vertical flight coupled with forward flight. In competition with Bell
Flying weather was good, surplus World War I aircraft were abundant, and aviation thus came of age in the 1920s. Clover Field at Santa Monica was dedicated in 1923, and the Blair Flight School in Culver City taught flying to Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Ruth Chatterton, and Henry Fonda. By 1927, 52 airports had sprung up in Los Angeles, 37 of these privately owned. Mines Field (now Los Angeles International Airport or LAX) hosted the National Air Races in 1928, 1933, and 1936. Aviation boomed in
Army Air Force Base Unit. The 556th managed the field until the war ended and the field closed in September 1945. Thereafter the commander of the 6th Ferrying Group granted permission to the Third Region Civil Air Patrol to continue to remain active. The CAP had been using the field since December 28, 1944. The Lomita Flight Strip was one of over 100 military airfields in the seven Western states, including 60 in California. Fighter-squadron training was largely coordinated from the Grand
housed Japanese American families returning from internment camps. Eventually all LFS buildings were razed to make room for Crenshaw Boulevard and the Rolling Hills Shopping Center. (Courtesy Air Force Historical Research Agency.) Captain McElhinney spikes a hard one during physical-education practice. Softball and basketball teams were also organized and played in local leagues and against squadrons based at Palmdale and Oxnard. Note the wooden building, scrub vegetation, and distant Torrance
Medal with five Oak Leaf Clusters and the Distinguished Flying Cross. (Courtesy Air Force Historical Research Agency.) The 434th Squadron’s commander, James Herren, conducted a mock briefing for his enlisted personnel to experience firsthand what pilot mission briefings were like. The 434th arrived in England in May 1944, the last squadron to join the 8th Air Force. Missions were flown daily, escorting B-17 and B-24 heavy bombers, conducting fighter sweeps, and attacking anything on the ground