NAS Whidbey Island, WA History
NAS Whidbey Island was first surveyed on December 8, 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, by a group of three civic-minded citizens. This work force grew to 17, then ballooned to over a hundred. Farmers and other land owners essentially thrust the site on the Navy, which built an air station on site. The location, Clover Valley, was well suited to aviation, and had a commanding position guarding the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The air station opened September 1942, for land-based and sea-based patrol craft, including F4F Wildcats, PV-1 Venturas, F6F Hellcats at Ault Field, and PBY Catalinas and PBM Mariners at the Seaplane Base. In addition to patrol, the station was used for practice dive bombing and long range navigation training, and flew support patrol and supply missions to the Aleutian Islands.
At war's end, it was clear that NAS Whidbey would be decommissioned. The field did not have the 6,000 foot runway minimum required for modern jet planes - however, neither did any of the other naval air stations in the region, and NAS Seattle was too small as well, and unable to expand. NAS Whidbey stayed open.
In the 1950s, NAS Whidbey Island became the Navy's primary air patrol station and home station for a series of heavy attack squadrons. The base expanded, adding housing, extending runways, and generally bringing the station to modern standards.
The 1960s saw a reduction, and eventual halt of air patrol, as modern radar stations had replaced routine patrol. By the early 1970s Navy patrols from NAS Whidbey had stopped. Also in the 1970s, NAS Whidbey became home station for 16 A-6 Intruder medium bomber squadrons, workhorse of the Navy's heavy attack air forces from the 1970s through the end of the 1990s.
This was part of a roll to electronic warfare squadrons at NAS Whidbey; in the 2000s Whidbey became station for eight EA-18 Growler squadrons, seven EA-6B Prowler squadrons (the next generation of the Intruder), four P-3 Orion squadrons (flying a well-proven submarine finder), one EP-3E Aries squadron (a P-3 variant for signals intercept), all electronic warfare aircraft, and a DC-9 Skytrain squadron (because somebody has to do the lifting)..