Marine Corps

July 19, 2012

MCAS Yuma approaches 50th anniversary

Desert Warrior Staff

MCAS Yuma Then…

Marine Corps Air Station Yuma turns 50 years old July 20. The station started out as Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Station after being signed over from the Air Force to the Navy January 1, 1959 and turned over to the Marine Corps nine days later.

On July 20, 1962, MCAAS Yuma was elevated to a Marine Corps Air Station , making it the newest autonomous Fleet Aerial Training Base. While the fundamentalmission of supporting weapons proficiency and combat-readiness training remained unchanged, with its “coming of age” the importance of MCAS Yuma’s role in the Naval and Marine aviation establishment was solidified; flight operations and base development projects increased commensurately in the ensuing years. This trend of growth acceleratedin the mid 1960s, as the United States entered into war in Vietnam and MCAS Yuma reacted to the Navy’s and Marines’ increasing demand for combat-ready pilots. By the mid 1970s, as the Vietnam Era drew to a close, MCAS Yuma had become as it remains the Marine Corps’ busiest air base.

One factor contributing to the increase in operations at MCAS Yuma was the decision to host Marine and Navy squadrons from all over the country, rather than just from the Pacific Fleet as had been the case when it was an auxiliary air station. In September 1962, Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 242 became the first East Coast Marine unit to deploy to the air station. Based at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, the squadron arrived with twenty A4D Skyhawks and embarked on a three-week attack training course including rocketry, strafing, conventional bombing, and napalm and loft-bombing exercises.

During the early 1960s, a period characterized by downsizing and base closures throughout all branches of the military, MCAS Yuma thrived, owing in large part to its unique combination of facilities and environmental and geographical conditions.

MCAS Yuma Now…

In December 1962, MCAS Yuma celebrated a milestone when an F8U Crusader touched down, marking the 500,000 flight operation since the base’s establishment in 1959. Another milestone, reached in August 1964, was the arrival of the 500th squadron deployed at the Marine Corps air station, VMA-142 from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida. This operational activity was matched with a continuing building program that added vital new facilities and infrastructure to the base.

Activities and operations at MCAS Yuma spiked again during the Vietnam War era. The conflict in Southeast Asia required the participation of all Marine Corps facilities on the West Coast and elsewhere. Marine Corps aviation became involved as early as 1962, when helicopters from the 1st MAW were deployed to support American advisors, but Marine aviators were assigned to Vietnam in substantial numbers beginning in 1965.

Throughout the Vietnam War era, MCAS Yuma continued its primary mission of supporting Fleet aerial weaponry training, but refined its scope to emphasize perfecting air-to-ground tactics and techniques in support of deployed Marine forces. The frequency of training exercises escalated at MCAS Yuma continued to escalate as the United States became more deeply embroiled in the conflict.

In March 1966, Commanding Officer Colonel McGlothlin announced a planned six-year buildup of personnel levels at MCAS Yuma, citing the need to keep pace with a projected increase in general Marine Corps personnel levels from 190,000 to 278,000 over the same period.

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