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Saturday, February 16 , 2019, 8:32 pm | A Few Clouds 51º

 
 
 

Santa Barbara Airport’s WWII Memorials Open to Visitors

Wreaths will be placed at the sites over the weekend

Every Memorial Day, visitors frequent two distinctive World War II memorials at the Santa Barbara Airport: a granite obelisk memorial near the airline terminal, and a Corsair propeller memorial at the administrative offices.

Wreaths will be placed at each of these sites over the weekend in observance of the Memorial Day holiday.

The granite memorial bears the names of local aviators who perished during WWII and the Marine squadrons who trained at the airport during the war. This memorial at Vista Point was dedicated in a special ceremony last May with local veteran groups and community dignitaries. It is situated in reflective setting with slate walkways, olive trees, stone benches and interpretive signage.

The Corsair memorial is an actual WWII aircraft propeller with a plaque that states, “This airport is dedicated to the memory of the pilots and air crews of the United States Marine Corps trained at this station who gave their lives to the country. Semper Fidelis. May 5, 1948.”

Visitor access to the memorials is convenient since the granite memorial is located at 500 Fowler Road, near the entrance to terminal long-term parking. The propeller memorial is located at 601 Firestone Road, directly west of the Elephant Bar Restaurant off Hollister Avenue.

Twentieth century history of the Santa Barbara Airport shows it was quickly transformed in 1942 by the U.S. government from a sleepy local airport to a Marine Corps Air Station to support national defense. The Marines constructed 103 buildings and installed about 5.5 million square feet of pavement on the site, which included the present-day airport, and much of the land that is now UCSB

Soon after development began, Marine fighter and bomber pilots started advanced training in preparation for combat in the Pacific. Pilots were assigned to squadrons where they trained primarily in Corsair fighters, or Dauntless and Avenger bombers. By 1944, more than 400 Women Reserves were assigned to the station performing administrative, communications, maintenance, vehicle driving and pilot ground training.

By 1946, the war had ended and the Marines handed the airport, additional land and the improvements back to the city of Santa Barbara for use as a municipal airport. Later, the Santa Barbara City Council honored local WWII aviators by naming airport streets after many of those who lost their lives in the service to their country.

— Terri Gibson is the marketing and communications manager for the Santa Barbara Airport.

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