100th Anniversary – NAS North Island

November 8, 2017

November 8, 1917 – 100th Anniversary – NAS North Island

100 years ago today, Naval Air Station San Diego (as it was originally known) was commissioned at North Island.    This marked the first time in five years that the Navy had been on North Island, having departed in 1912 when the first aero-squadron was reassigned, leaving the Army as the sole residents on North Island until 1918.

Without fanfare, Naval Air Station San Diego was officially commissioned on November 8, 1917.   Lt. Earl Spencer reported for duty on this date as the first commanding officer of North Island on November 8, 1917.

Details still needed to be settled between the Army who resided at Rockwell Field at North Island, and the Navy.  The two military branches vied for adequate space  on their airfields to fulfill their missions.  It took several months to agree on the boundary line to separate the two air stations.  The Army agreed to move their operations to the south side of the island, freeing up access Spanish Bight and San Diego Bay for the Navy to have their seaplanes and dock ships.  On January 14, 1918, the details were settled and the Navy, temporarily housed at the Naval Training Center in Balboa Park, moved onto North Island permanently.

LT Earl Spencer was married to Wallis Spencer, better known for her later marriage to the Prince of Wales. The Spencers lived quietly on Coronado in homes on Alameda Blvd and Flora Avenue.  The lieutenant worked, with very few resources, to build a naval air station from scratch. By the time he left his command two years later, he had overseen the construction of multiple hangars, established a flight-training program, and completed a manual for flight instructors.

Photos from Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain

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