Thursday, July 31, 2014

Naval Air Station Norfolk

World War I erupted in Europe 100 years ago this week. Though the United States managed to avoid entry into the war for over two years, the war presaged the build-up of naval forces in the Hampton Roads region. Among those forces was naval aviation, with a detachment of pilots, mechanics, and seaplanes. Initially located in Newport News, a more suitable location was identified in the fall of 1917 to establish a permanent aviation detachment.
In this photo you can view a seaplane in the foreground and the tower of the Pennsylvania House
in the background, the initial home of the Hampton Roads Naval Museum in 1979.
The site selected was a plot of 150 acres on the former Jamestown Exposition, located in the northeastern corner of the Naval Operating Base at Norfolk, Virginia. With seven seaplanes, five officers, and 20 mechanics on board, the Navy constructed several canvas hangars to house aircraft, framed buildings for repair, smith, and fabric shops, and erected three two-story barracks, along with mess halls. By the end of 1917, the Navy added two H-12, one H-16 seaplane, and one Sopwith Speed Scout to the inventory of planes assigned to the unit. Other aircraft assigned included R-6 and R-9 seaplanes and the HS-2 flying boat. As the result of increased operations, four hangars, an administrative building, a lighter-than-air hydrogen plant, and a dispensary were also constructed.
P. N. L. Bellinger

By the end of the war, the air detachment was recognized as one of the most important sources of trained naval aviators. In recognition of its importance, on August 27, 1918, the detachment became Naval Air Station Hampton Roads, a separate station under its own commanding officer, Lt. Cmdr. Patrick N. L. Bellinger. The Naval Air Station existed as a separate command until the Navy consolidated it with Naval Station Norfolk in 1999.

(This blog post was written by HRNM Education Director Lee Duckworth.)

No comments: