Our History

Our History

Honoring a Military Legacy

Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Tustin played a critical role in Navy and Marine aviation for over 50 years. At its high point, the base employed some 5,000 military and civilian personnel, about 4,500 of whom lived on the base.

The base was commissioned in 1942 to be a Lighter-Than-Air (LTA) facility to patrol the coastline with manned blimps following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Blimps would conduct reconnaissance missions and sometimes were equipped with machine guns and depth charges to attack hostile ships and submarines. Operations commenced in 1942 with a single blimp and expanded to 12 blimps operating from a concrete mat and mooring mast until the hangars were completed the following year.

In 1951, in response to the Korean conflict, the base was re-activated as a Marine Corps aviation facility for helicopter operations and became the country’s first military airfield dedicated solely to helicopter operations – MCAF (Marine Corps Air Facility) Santa Ana. By the end of 1952, two Marine Air groups and 13 helicopter squadrons called the base home. The now-obsolete blimp hangars proved to be ideal for large-scale helicopter operations, providing indoor storage and maintenance areas for huge numbers of helicopters, along with acres of ramp space for parking additional aircraft. The base continued to serve as a major facility for Marine helicopter training and operations during the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.  

On July 3, 1999, MCAS Tustin was officially closed, 57 years after the base and its iconic hangars arose from the fields of Orange County. Since the closure of MCAS Tustin, the City of Tustin has been leading the redevelopment of the base now known as Tustin Legacy.

We encourage you to visit the Tustin Hangars page to learn more about the hangars and the history of MCAS Tustin.

Timeline

  • October 1, 1942: Naval Air Station (NAS) Santa Ana commissioned
  • 1949: Naval Air Station (NAS) Santa Ana decommissioned 
  • 1949-1951: Used as civilian airfield, blimp storage and air museum
  • May 1, 1951: Re-commissioned as Marine Corps Air Facility (MCAF) Santa Ana
  • September 1, 1969: Renamed Marine Corps Air Station (Helicopter) (MCAS(H)) Santa Ana
  • April 3, 1975: Hangars entered into the National Register as a historic district
  • April 23, 1976: Base annexed by City of Tustin
  • June 1, 1978: Renamed Marine Corps Air Station (Helicopter) (MCAS(H)) Tustin
  • 1991: MCAS Tustin recommended for closure by Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC)
  • July 3, 1999: Closed in accordance with Base Realignment and Closure act