Sunday, July 10, 2011

OC Residents Remember Their Martial Spirit at Old MCAS, El Toro

USS Iowa BB-61 broadside shot
 MCAS El Toro,
This Saturday brought back memories of an event, only interupted by my military service, that I attended every year, from my childhood until I reached my middle years. For any young boy growing up within driving distance of the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, late summer, meant their annual air show that ran from the 1950's to 1997 and drew up to two million visitors over a two day run. After the based closed part of the land was used to try and build what was to be the West Coast version of New York's Central Park. On apperarence, the effort has a long way to go to mirror that target, but still offers people a place to play soccer, visit an art centers and take a tethered baloon ride over the suburbs of central Orange County.

Great Park and a hint of the old runway
In an effort to honor to memory of the great air shows put on by the Marines, a small air show was part of the celebration of the opening of a new phase at the park. Billed as the MCAS El Toro Airshow it was a shadow of the old air show, but it still brought the thousands who had flocked to partake of the food and music; crowding to the edge of the flight line to check out a collection of Marine Helicopters flown in just for the program and a modest display of historic aircraft assembled to bring back memories of the base's heritage.

Pacific Battleship Center
Alongside the static aircraft displays were booths selling memorabilia and others promoting museums, like the Pacific Battleship Center  a group of stalwart history lovers who have spent countless hours preparing documents and raising money in an effort to secure what is billed as a "New Mission for a Living Legend" the USS Iowa BB-61. For most who follow this blog or keep up on all things Navy, you aware that the Iowa has been waiting disposal by the Navy, and the group mentioned above, has submitted all the paper work and is awaiting the signal that the Navy has awarded the ship to the organization so it can be moved to the Port of Los Angeles for conversion to a living museum and education center.

An American Excalibur
The reason for this post is relate to you the kind of people who care about preserving this important link to what I believe is the Excalibur that helped the United States to become a Great Power and eventually the only super power on earth. My fellow volunteers are made up of men and women who come from many walks of life, educators, the law, former sailors, landlubbers, historians, model ship builders and retired professions of all stripes. We all have one thing in common, a love of preserving a piece of our heritage that more than anything else, is a symbol of something bigger than the sum of all of us. If the interest displayed by the hundreds who ventured by our booth was any kind of evidence; the interest and fascination of our naval heritage and the awesome display of power that no cruise missile can compare too, saw many new plank owners and volunteers signing up to help work on the ship when she arrives.

Great White Fleet
The battleship more than any other ship marks the transition of America from a frontier nation to a Great Power. Theodore Roosevelt understood this when he ordered the Great White Fleet to sail around the world in 1904. Later in two World Wars battleships played a role, that even with the advent of the carrier in World War II, and their domination of the air, saw the battleship still essential as it provided super accurate supporting gunfire, and such a curtain of anti-aircraft fire that it was the rare aircraft that was able to penetrate their screen to harm the vulnerable carriers. After the war, the four Iowa Class ships were retired and recalled in Korea and Vietnam, and again during the buildup in the 1980's. They ended their reign shortly after helping to break Saddam's grip on Kuwait and now all but the USS Iowa are museums. Her turn is next, and it is hoped that within a fortnight someone in the Navy Department will sign the document granting the ship a new home in San Pedro, the former home of the Pacific battle fleet from 1919 to 1940. Stay tuned for that announcement, in the mean time anyone living in driving distance of San Pedro and wanting to help get this ship ready for her next mission, click on this contact link and ask for a signup form to help get her shipshape, or even better click to become a Plank owner.

1 comment:

Ray U Urban said...

Early 1943, I was among the first 50 Marines to open ElToro - Just out of Machinist mate school, Norman, OK - Our assignment was to doodle supplies from San Diego My memory is hazy of some of the time there - Made friend with one of the Major, as would go up in the trainer with him when he was sobering up by oxygen - That is alos another story -- even tho was an aviation machinist mate - never worked on a plane- Took over office duties checking in supplies for the base then continued when VMF-212 was formed - Have only crossed paths with one Marine from El Toro, a volunteer at WWII Museum, New Orleans, la, he raised the flag for dedication of the base- We had a F4U spin in on the fly over, wish I could locate the pilots name - Keep thinking it was Major Cowboy Stout - Am now 93 altho in fairly good shape and fair memory --Do WWII talks and set up a mini-WWII museum. -- MSGT Ray U Urban (348491) USMC - WWII & Korea VETERAN