NAS Squantum, MA
Aerial view of NAS Squantum during 1943. The aircraft from which this photo was taken was flying over Dorchester Bay. The Neponset River is to the right and Quincy Bay is visible on the opposite side of the base.
NAS Squantum served as the
home of the naval air reserve in New England from 1923 to 1953. The base
was located on the Squantum peninsula in the city of Quincy, Massachusetts
surrounded by the waters of Dorchester Bay, Quincy Bay, and the Neponset River.
Squantum's association with aviation goes back to 1910 when the Harvard Aeronautical Society leased land on the peninsula from the New Haven Railroad and built an airfield called the Harvard Aviation Field there. The Harvard Aviation Field was used to hold competitive air shows (the Harvard-Boston Aero Meets) that were jointly sponsored by the Harvard Aeronautical Society and the Aero Club of New England during the summers of 1910 and 1911. In 1912 a private venture held a similar air show called the Boston Air Meet at the Harvard Aviation Field. The 1912 event was marked by tragedy when aviatrix Harriet Quimby and her passenger William A. Willard fell 1,000 feet to their deaths in the Neponset River from Quimby's Bleriot Monoplane in front of thousands of spectators.
In addition to the Aero
Meets/Air Meet, Squantum was the location of the first Intercollegiate Glider
Meet in May 1911. This event, the first of its kind in America, featured
gliders that were built and flown by students from a number of colleges around
the country such as Harvard, MIT, Tufts, etc. To work around the fact that
Squantum has no elevations, the sponsors of the Intercollegiate Glider Meet
erected a swiveling wooden ramp on the Harvard Aviation Field to allow the
participants to launch their craft into the wind regardless of its direction.
In 1916 the Sturtevant Aeroplane Company of Boston's Hyde Park neighborhood used the former Harvard Aviation Field to flight-test Sturtevant aircraft. During the spring of 1917, after the country entered the First World War, the Massachusetts Naval Militia built a wooden seaplane hangar along the Dorchester Bay shoreline and used the site as a primary flight training facility for student pilots bound for advanced flight training with the Navy at Pensacola, FL. That summer, the Navy took over the Massachusetts Naval Militia property and Squantum became a naval air station providing primary flight training for student naval aviators as well as training for aircraft mechanics. However, in the fall of 1917 NAS Squantum was closed due to the Navy's decision to consolidate all flight training activity in warmer areas of the country where flying could be conducted year-round.
In 1923 the long-closed First World War naval air station at Squantum was re-opened as a naval reserve air station providing refresher training to veterans as well as primary flight instruction to new members of the naval reserve. Although initially a Navy Reserve facility, Squantum soon became used by the Marine Corps Reserve as well. At first NRAS Squantum had no airfield and was only capable of operating seaplanes. However, a small 30-acre airfield was built at the base in 1929, permitting operations with landplanes. Improvements to the airfield and the physical plant at the base during the years immediately leading up to the country's involvement in the Second World War resulting in Squantum being designated a fully-fledged regular Navy naval air station in 1941. During the war, NAS Squantum provided elimination and primary flight training for Navy and Marine Corps student pilots, advanced training for British Royal Navy torpedo and dive bomber squadrons and for US Navy carrier air groups, and also served as an operational patrol base helping to protect the waters around Boston Harbor from the German submarine menace.
After the Second World War ended NAS Squantum was handed back over to the Navy and Marine Corps reserve. The proximity of the base to the Commonwealth Airport (modern Logan International Airport) as well as its short runways caused the Navy to move all the reserve units drilling on the base to nearby NAS South Weymouth. NAS Squantum was closed in December 1953. Today the site of NAS Squantum is an upscale waterfront condominium development called Marina Bay.