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Naval Auxiliary Air Station saluted, fire hall decommissioned
ARLINGTON A relic of local military history was honored March 31 by the veterans and community that it had affected.
The Arlington Airport presented a Salute of Remembrance for its former Naval Auxiliary Air Station, while decommissioning the air stations fire hall.
Richard Logg Sr., a retired Marine master sergeant whose family lived and worked in the fire hall when he was a child, introduced fellow veterans Julius Dycus, who served on the USS Salamaua, Maurice Vincent, one of only 269 sailors and Marines who survived the attack on the USS Arizona, Doug McLaughlin, a former member of Strike Fighter Squadron 31, and Robert Sebers, one of six brothers who served in World War II.
Logg also mentioned local veterans Don Meier, who taught flying and aeronautical engineering at the Arlington Airport after retiring from the Air Force, and Harry Yost, who worked in the Naval Auxiliary Air Stations air traffic control and prevented the crash landing of a B-24 Liberator from Canada that was low on fuel. Logg commended these men as he commemorated his former home.
My dad ran a body and fender shop out of this fire hall, Logg said. I worked for him as a kid and got paid with Hershey bars, or got a swift kick in the butt if I did something wrong. There wasnt a lot of privacy in the place, but there was a whole lot of fun. This building is very special to me, but after today I dont know that Ill come back here until its absolutely gone.
Arlington Airport Coordinator Dale Carman summarized the history of the Arlington Airport, which was leased in 1934 by the town and cleared by the Works Progress Administration as a grass runway for local pilots and the Naval Auxiliary Air Station which was established in 1940 to accommodate the overflow of pilot training in Seattle.
During its next two years as a Navy airport and practice field, the Navy constructed a hangar for its vehicles and a new 4,000-by-400-foot surfaced runway to match the area of the existing grass runway. The Army developed the airfield into a medium bomber base from 1942 into 1943, buying land in addition to what the Navy had purchased. The Army also constructed two asphalt runways, as well as a control tower and barracks and facilities for more than 450 personnel. On June 26, 1943, the Navy reestablished its Auxiliary Air Station to provide combat aircrew refresher training.
Carman explained that the fire hall was built in October of 1943 to replace the previous fire hall that the Army had converted from one of its operations buildings. The fire hall was one of several facilities that the Navy constructed for pilots and ground personnel, including eight enlisted barracks and two bachelor officers quarters, an aircraft maintenance hangar and parachute loft, a supply warehouse and another runway.
The Navy closed the field Dec. 1, 1945, and one year later allowed the city of Arlington to manage the airport under an interim use permit before the federal government deeded the airport to the city in February of 1959.
The Arlington Airport has a rich history and has shown itself an asset, not only to the city of Arlington but to the United States as a whole through its role in WWII, Carman said.
Navy Capt. Thomas Tack, U.S. Pacific Fleet Electronic Attack Wing Commander, praised the past and present residents of Arlington for their support of the Army and Navy personnel who served at the airport during WWII. He requested that attendees remember the veterans who have endured hardships of service, extended separations from their families, injuries and even the loss of life to defend the safety and ideals of their country. He also urged the audience to recognize the contributions of Americas modern military.
Today, we have a much smaller, all-volunteer force that primarily enters military service from much more humble and disadvantaged roots, Tack said. But they serve and sacrifice as proudly and passionately as the legendary members of the greatest generation. What these young men and women need, more than anything, is support and admiration from their countrymen.
Debate the conflict and the threat, question the logic of Iraq, argue the evidence and challenge the politics, for those are rights which accompany freedom and liberty, he added. But please do not question the loyalty or motives of your service members, because a finer, harder-working group of youths you will not find.
Tack asked all the veterans in attendance to stand and encouraged them to pass on their memories to successive generations, by showing off their military memorabilia and telling sea stories about their service, including their experiences at places such as the Naval Auxiliary Air Station.
Buildings like this old fire hall are an integral part of the history of critical training conducted here in the 1940s, Tack said. They may soon be demolished, but the legacy of contributions made by the local community, the city of Arlington, this facility and the personnel who served and trained here lives on as this ceremony attests.
City of Arlington Mayor Pro-Tem Sally Lien read a letter from Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire, citing the selflessness and courage of the veterans who served in WWII, and at the Naval Auxiliary Air Station, as inspirations to their fellow Americans. Lien described some of the ways in which the air station and the airport have changed the community and the lives of its citizens.
I dont remember much about the air station, Lien said. I believe all of us in grade school at the time were aware of its presence and saw occasional planes and sailors in town. The one thing I do remember, believe me, is the face of a Navy doctor who shared a new drug, sulfanilamide, with me when I was afflicted with mastoiditis and hospitalized. I wish I could thank him now after so many years.
Lien counted at least 160 companies who currently employ as many as 3,000 people on the airport lands alone, in addition to the presence of baseball and soccer fields, a Boys and Girls Club, a location to shoot off fireworks on the Fourth of July and an airfield large enough to host the Northwest Experimental Aircraft Associations annual Fly-In. She thanked Logg and his wife Renee, as well as Carman and the Arlington Airport Commission for making it possible to pay tribute to the fire hall, the air station and the city they helped to create.
This city could not function without the Arlington Airport, Lien said. It is too much a part of us, our heritage and our lives. Thanks to the Army and Navy, who saw value in a farmers pasture. Thanks to the 3,000 sailors who trained here and thanks to the personnel who hung around, and our citizens, we have this magnificent asset which will continue to grow and develop, with fiscal integrity and good planning.
Dycus recalled coming from Texas in 1944 to train at the Naval Auxiliary Air Station, shortly before being shipped off to the war in the Pacific.
We had all the milk we could want to drink, even though rationing was on, Dycus said. We worked hard and got the job done, but we had fun on our off-hours, and the people of Arlington were beautiful to us. They took us sailors in like we were their own kids. This was one of the best bases I ever served on, but Im a bit biased since I met my wife at the roller rink in town.