NAS South Weymouth, MA
This over-view of NAS South Weymouth was taken sometime during early 1954, just a few months after the base was re-opened to take over from NAS Squantum. The two blimps hovering in the foreground are part of the Naval Air Development Unit's (NADU) large fleet of research aircraft. Behind them are LTA Hangar #1, demolished in late 1966, and row upon row of NADU and Naval Air Reserve aircraft.
Naval Air Station South Weymouth,
Massachusetts served as a United States Navy air base from 1942 to 1997.
Located close to the strategically important port of Boston, NAS South Weymouth
was originally built and commissioned to support regular Navy blimp operations during
the Second World War. Later, after the war ended NAS South Weymouth became
an important component of the Naval Air Reserve Training Command, hosting a wide
and changing variety of Navy and Marine Corps reserve squadrons as well as other
kinds of reserve units over the years.
Located on land drawn from the towns of Weymouth, Rockland, and Abington, the site of NAS South Weymouth was first surveyed in 1938 as a possible location for a municipal airport. It was then developed into a military airfield by the Navy during early 1942. During the Second World War NAS South Weymouth served as an operational base for ZNP-K class anti-submarine patrol blimps. In its original WW2 form, the base had two gigantic blimp hangars, one made of steel (Hangar One) and the other made of wood (Hangar Two). These blimp hangars were among the largest structures in the world at that time, each covering about eight acres of hangar deck. The wartime base had a 2,000 foot diameter blimp landing mat, six mooring circles, and a 4,500 foot long grass runway.
During the Second World
War NAS South Weymouth served as the home base for blimp squadron ZP-11 and
hosted detachments from
blimp squadrons ZJ-1 and ZP-12. It is worth noting that ZJ-1, based at Key
West, Florida, was the Navy's only blimp utility squadron. ZJ-1's South
Weymouth detachment flew K and G class blimps in support of electronics research
projects conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, aerial
photography missions, and torpedo testing by the Naval Torpedo Station at
Newport, Rhode Island.
The base was downgraded to a naval air facility after V.E. Day and was subsequently used as a preservation and storage site for surplus naval aircraft pending their final disposition. At that time the base was referred to as a Naval Aircraft Parking Station or "NAPS". Closed in 1949, the base was substantially rebuilt and then reactivated during December 1953 to take over the Navy and Marine Corps reserve operations from NAS Squantum, which was ordered closed due to airspace conflicts with the Commonwealth Airport in East Boston (modern-day Logan International Airport) and short runways that were unsuitable for routine jet operations. During South Weymouth's reconstruction for the reserve program the wooden blimp hangar, Hangar Two, was demolished and three paved runways were built.
From 1953 through 1961 NAS South Weymouth hosted a secretive regular
Navy research and development command called the Naval Air Development Unit (NADU),
which operated a variety of blimps and conventional aircraft in support of
electronics projects run by the MIT Lincoln Laboratories and local defense
contractors. Although many different types of reserve squadrons were initially
assigned to NAS South Weymouth during the post-war era, in later years the base
specialized in airborne anti-submarine warfare units. In late 1966 the landmark
Second World War-era steel blimp hangar,
Hangar One, was demolished and replaced with a much smaller structure made from
The Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) of 1995 recommended that NAS South Weymouth be closed during 1997. At that time, the last reserve squadrons on the base, VP-92 and VR-62, were transferred to NAS Brunswick, Maine. Today, the former NAS South Weymouth is in the process of being redeveloped into "SouthField", a planned mixed-use commercial/industrial/residential community.