Long Beach Air Base

Long Beach Air Base ~ California

28th July (Denver to California) for 6 Days
Fifteen of the Squadron Aircraft left Lowry Field at 09.35 hrs en route for Long Beach, Los Angeles, California, arriving at 15.00 hours precisely.  The Rockies were crossed via the Alberquerque Pass which enabled the Flight to be made without Oxygen for the Passengers (Ground Crew) and give superb views of the Rockies & the Grand Canyon. This Flight was long, hot & bumpy and 3 members of the Squadron were airsick.  Many Tropical Storms were dodged en route.  The weather was good at Long Beach, but the Haze off the Pacific reduced visibility to about 1½-miles, thus it was felt that the Lead Navigators had put up a particularly good effort to arrive, once again, at the appointed time.  F/Lt Stockwell arrived from Mitchel Field in Lancaster TL-R having followed the Commander-in-Chief’s Bottomley’s Route from Mitchel Field via Dayton & Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas.LosAngelesTimesGWTour

Long Beach (California) a few miles South of Los Angeles, and they were to take part in the USAAF Air Force Day Celebrations in Long Beach, Los Angeles on the 1st August.craiglongbch

They were met by the Base Commander Colonel K C McGregor, British Consul General J H M Carvell,  and C in C Sir Norman Bottomley who travelled separately to the Base in his own sound-proofed Lancaster, and also the Jet Engine Inventor Air Cmdr Frank Whittle (then on a Lecture Tour of the USA) of the RAF.

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On Arrival, the Squadron was received by Col McGregor, Commanding Officer of the 6th Ferrying Group, USAAF.  Addresses of welcome were given by Mr C E Wagner, who was representing Mayor Lewis of Long Beach, Mr J H M Carvell, British Consul General and Sir Aubrey C Smith, Film Actor.  Personnel were then Transported to Quarters and later Receptions & Buffet Dinners were held in the Officers & NCO Clubs. Amongst the distinguished visitors were Air Chief Marshal Sir Guy Garrod, Air Marshal Sir Norman Bottomley, Air Commodore Frank Whittle, Sir Aubrey C Smith, Mr Nigel Bruce, Mrs Ruth Day, Mrs Hall and the British Consulate Staff.

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Sir Norman Bottomley  Standing with W/C Craig Seated Left

Much later in the evening some of the Officers were entertained at the homes of Actors in Beverly Hills.  This part of Los Angeles, however, was, unfortunately, 1½-hrs drive from the Airfield.

29th July (Long Beach, California)

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Lancaster, SW313 TL-B (F/O Barker) was signed by a Hollywood Celebrity Dorothy Lamour

At 09.15 hrs all Officers left by Buses on a Tour of the various Film Studios and saw Films in Production. Afterwards, they had Lunch in the Studio Cafeteria. Most Officers then spent a few hours Shopping and viewing Hollywood.  At 18.00 hrs the Officers were taken to a reception at the home of Mr J H M Carvell, British Consul. Practically the whole of the British Film Colony attended this Party and many notable people were introduced to the Officers of the squadron.  Among these Actors & Actresses were Peggy Cummings, Sir Aubrey Smith, Nigel Bruce, David Niven, Herbert Marshall, Boris Karloff, Alan Mowbray, Richard Greene & Olivia de Havilland. After a very pleasant Party, Officers were Privately Entertained by Actors & Actresses.
At 09.15 hrs a Party of NCO’s & Airmen left by Bus for Long Beach Salt Water Plunge on the Pike and the Amusement Park where Free Amusements were available.
Ar 12.00 hrs a Party of 25 NCO’s were the Guests of Mary Pickford at her Residence.
At 18.30 hrs NCO’s & Airmen attended a Baseball Game at the Recreation Park

30th July (Long Beach, California)

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Senior Officers had a Sail and went Fishing on the Boat “Snafu Maru” and later visited the Lockheed Works and were entertained to Lunch.  Other Officers at 09.30 hrs had Transport provided to Long Beach and enjoyed the morning sightseeing, Swimming & Sunbathing.  Buses returned to Long Beach Base at 14.30 hrs and after Dinner, Officers wishing to do so attended a Ball Game at Lakewood Stadium.  The Airmen left at 09.00 hrs for a Tour of the Film Studios, returning from Hollywood at 01.00 hrs.

While at Long Beach W/C Craig flew to San Francisco with S/L Pearson in the Avro York on Tuesday 30th July.   

31st July (Long Beach, California)

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One Aircraft, Captained by Flt/Lt Hardy and manned by the Squadron Commander’s Crew, flew on rehearsal Flight over the Route of the Los Angeles Fly Past.  All officers left for the Ship “Snafu Maru” for a visit to Catalina Island, returning at 18.00 hrs. They were later entertained in the Officers Club at an “Open Evening”.  At 09.30 hrs, 50 NCO’s made a Tour of the Lockheed Works and at 13.00 hrs a party of 16 NCO were entertained at the Beverly Hills home of Alan Mowbray the English & Hollywood Actor.  At 18.30 hrs, all Airman & NCO’s were given the privilege of attending the (Hitching) Post Theatre, Hollywood Boulevard.

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Scenic view of Catalina Airport on Santa Catalina Island. Four planes are parked on a small Runway, with 3 men, each standing by a sea-plane. One man points to writing on the plane which reads, “Wilmington-Catalina Airline, Ltd” This unique Airport at Hamilton Cove, the 2nd Cove North of Avalon. This Airport was designed to accommodate the Douglas Dolphin Amphibian Planes carried 10 Passengers.  The twin-Engine Dolphins landed just Offshore and would taxi up a ramp to a large turntable mechanism.  The Aeroplane would then be rotated until it was facing the water and ready for a trip back to the Mainland. Note the small Spanish-style Terminal Building.  Catalina’s 2nd Airport in the Sky opened on 27th June 1946. 

1st August (Long Beach, California)overlosangeles

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March Field Air Force Base

Exactly 12 Aircraft took part in American Air Forces Day Flying Display and flew past in Formation over Los Angeles, Pomono, Rosebowl, Loquita, Long Beach, Santa Monica & Culver City.  Take off was at 10.07 hrs and arrival back at base 14.08 hrs. The intermediate ETA’s which were given for some of the points on the Route were all exactly satisfied by the ATA’s.  The Flying Conditions were very smooth, although the thick Haze up to 2,000ft almost constituted low cloud at parts of the Route.

One Lancaster TL-O TW882 with F/L Dawson and Crew left for March Field, Riverside County, California (above) to take part in the Air Force Day at 12.30 there and returned at the conclusion of the celebration 17.30 hrs.  March AFB was then back into the business of Training Aircrews.  Throughout WW2, many soon-to-be-famous Bombardment Groups performed their Final Training at March AFB before embarking for Active Duty in the Pacific.  

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Lancaster TL-B and Avro York Aircraft on Display

An Open Day was held on the Station & RAF Personnel stood by the 2 Aircraft which were exhibited to a very large attendance.  Lancaster TL-B TW813 and the York Aircraft were lined up with American Aircraft on this static display and seemed to form the centre of attraction for the 100,000 visitors who came to Long Beach during the course of the day.  At 20.00 hours all Officers were entertained at Long Beach Town Club by the Batchelorettes Party (Hen Night).
At 17.30 hrs NCO’s & Airmen attended a Dance at the Hollywood Studio Club (for Girls).

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That night there was a 7.30pm Reception at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in the California Room to mark the USAAF 39th Anniversary.  Lt Gen George E Stratemeyer was the Guest Speaker, Sir Guy Garrod &, Air Marshal Sir Norman Bottomley with Group Capt Collard & W/C A J L Craig were also in attendance having received Western Union Telegram Invitations.

NightAndDayPoster1946Air Chief Marshal Sir Guy Garrod, Air Marshal Sir Norman Bottomley, Wing Commander Craig, Squadron Leader Beetham & Squadron Leader Harris were invited as Honour Guests to a Formal Dinner given by the by the City of Long Beach, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and the USAAF Association, whose local Chairman was Mr Jack L Warner, the Film Producer at the Lakewood Country Club Long Beach at 6.30pm.  Lt Gen Stratameyer was the Chief Speaker, and Air Marshal Bottomley replied suitably to a Toast to the RAF by Lt General George, Commanding Air Transport Command.  There was considerable and enthusiastic applause when Air Marshal Bottomley concluded his speech by announcing that at that very time, massed Formations of the RAF were flying & dipping in salute over the American Embassy to honour the 39th Anniversary of the founding of the American Army Air Corps
Group Captain Collard attended the premiere of the new Warner Bros Musical Film Night & Day and all the Officers attending the Army Air Forces Dinner joined Group Captain Collard afterwards at a “First-night Party” given by Mr Jack L Warner at a Night Club.  The film features several of the best-known Porter songs, including the Title Song “Night & Day,” “Begin the Beguine” and “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.”

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Lancaster TL-B on Display – Top Left

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During a Lecture Tour in the US Frank Whittle after a stressful life and being addicted to benzedrine had a nervous breakdown and retired from the RAF on Medical Grounds on 26th August 1948, leaving with the Rank of Air Commodore.
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Other notable Guests included British/Hollywood Screen Actors led by Sir C Aubrey Smith, who had just flown in from Los Angeles in a tiny Aircraft flown by his niece – the 2nd Flight of his Life, Herbert Marshall, Merle Oberon, Mary Pickford, Olivia de Havilland, Alan Mowbray,  Peggy Cummings, Boris Karloff, Gracie Fields, Nigel Bruce, Richard Greene, & Peter Lawford.  It was here that RAF Fighter Ace Alan Geoffrey Page announced his engagement to Pauline Bruce (above) daughter of British Actor Nigel Bruce (of Dr Watson fame) who in 1934, moved to Hollywood, later setting up home at 701 North Alpine Drive, Beverly Hills.  Many Actors & Studios made Open House and entertained the Aircrews at Beverley Hills.

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Flight Lieutenant Stockwell arrived at Long Beach from Mitchel Field, NYC in Lancaster TL-R having followed the Commander in Chief, Sir Norman Bottomley’s Route as ‘Back-up Aircraft‘ from Mitchel Field via Dayton & Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas.

Squadron Personnel were entertained at NBC  Film Studios, Private Residences in the company of Actors & Actresses including Sir C Aubrey Smith, David Niven, Boris Karloff, Herbert Marshall, Alan Mowbray, Nigel Bruce, Richard Greene, Ginger Rogers & Olivia De Havilland. There is a clip of a Female ‘celebrity’ signing one of the Lancs, SW313 TL-B, – Dorothy Lamour.  Visits were made to the Rose Bowl Sports Arena in the Pasadena Valley, the Hollywood Bowl Amphitheatre, the Long Beach Pike Roller-coaster overlooking the Harbour, the Cahuenga Boulevard with its 8 Lane Super Highway, and the Beach at Santa Monica.  Here David Niven seems to be practising his own Rugby Union Conversion Kick

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Long Beach Field, Los Angeles, F/L Bullen, F/L Gardner, F/L Hulbert, F/L Simpson, F/L Lewis plus a couple of friends.  The biggest Crowds were round the Avro Lancasters & Avro York Aircraft.

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Lancaster TL-B on Display

They also visited the Lockheed Works, Palmdale, Antelope Valley – 60-miles from Los Angeles
The Comic Strip, “Li’l Abner,” in which there was a running joke about a mysterious & malodorous place deep in the forest called the “Skonk Works.”  There, a strong beverage was brewed from skunks, old shoes & other strange ingredients.  One day, Culver‘s Phone rang and he answered it by saying “Skonk Works, inside man Culver speaking. Fellow employees quickly adopted the name for their mysterious Division of Lockheed. “Skonk Works” became “Skunk Works.”  The once informal nickname is now the Registered Trademark of the Company: Skunk Works®. Palmdale, California

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WASPS6thFerryingGroupLong Beach Army Airfield (4 miles North of the actual Beach) became the Home of the Army’s Air Transport Command‘s 6th Ferrying Division, which included a Squadron of 18 Women (WASP Squadron Operations) Pilots Commanded by Barbara London, a long-time Long Beach Aviatrix.  The Army’s Ferrying Work was an immense undertaking, thanks to Douglas Aircraft’s Wartime Production.  The Ground was broken for the initial Douglas Aircraft Facility in November 1940, with dedication in October 1941. Douglas had been drawn to Long Beach’s growing Municipal Airport with its Army & Navy Facilities. With Wartime Contracts, the Company went into intensive Production.  The Company’s 1st C-47 was delivered 16 days after the Attack on Pearl Harbour and another 4,238 were produced during the War.  The Plant turned out some 1,000 A-20 Havocs, not to mention 3,000 B-17 Flying Fortresses & 1,156 A-26 Invaders.

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They observed a US Navy High-Speed Launch carrying 2 Radio Controlled Target ‘Drones‘ at taking a good look at 50yds Range and the Howard Hawkes Flying Boat  ‘Spruce Goose‘ seen in Dry Dock at Long Beach.  Dredging Operations were in progress to clear its passage to the Sea, there was much speculation and not a little cynicism in the USAAF circles as to whether this Amphibian would Fly successfully.

IWM Reel 1 Detail: San Francisco – Military Base during an Open Day – various US Aircraft on Display – Overflight by 12 Lancasters in Formation. Constellation, B-17 C-47, C-54 on the Apron. US Army Recruiting Service bus, CBS info desk, shot of Lancaster (TW657) and Avro York (TW892). Shot of Staff Cars & Senior Foreign Officers being greeted by US officers. RAF Air Chief Marshal in the Shot (Guy Garrod).  Foreign Officers viewing white painted Lancasters. Street views of Chinatown, Officers ‘window shopping’.  View of Golden Gate Bridge & Local Bay Area.  Driving over Golden Gate Bridge. A C Marshall Bottomley of RAF arrives by Aircraft, walkabout RAF Station then departs in Dakota (KG782). B-17 overflying Lake, servicemen swimming, shot of Log Cabin & Crews sitting around a Camp Fire.  Officers throwing rocks into the Lake (Merrit?).  A scene of Outdoor Swimming Pool, couples posing for a Photographer, general messing about.  B-29 (521785) taxiing, Lancasters lining up for Take-off. Air to air shots of Lancasters in Formation Flying over New York City(?).  Shot of Lancasters on the Apron (ramp) & Aircrews on Parade and taking part in March Pasts. Marshalling taxiing Lancaster & VIP speeches.

IWM Reel 2: Aircrew arriving at Aircraft (TL-HTW878 F/O Timothy Lamb) and Taxi out. VIP visitors looking around Lancaster with 6th Ferrying Group of Long Beach, Sign on background building.  Female Celebrity (Dorothy Lamour) signing Lancaster SW313, TL-B – F/O Barker and posing in front of B-29 “City of Spokane”.  RAF Officers on a Sightseeing Trip, scenes at Barbecue.  Lancasters in Formation air to air over Baltimore (Baltimore Brick Co. sign on Factory Roof). Flying over US Capitol Buildings, Washington, Crews on Parade in front of Aircraft.   View of Senate House & White House, back to Aircrew & Groundcrews being inspected by RAF/ USAAF Officers & VIPs. Picnic scene with Crew eating & posing.  Avro York being Serviced with C-47 & Lancasters on Apron. B-25 taxiing. Visitors (US Officers & Spouses) strolling around Aircraft on Display.  Engine Service on Lancaster.  Interior Shots of Officers Club.  Shots of City Skyline & elevated view over Central Park, New York & Surrounding Streets.

LosAngelesFly-past.pngAs the main event was to be present as part of the USAAF Air Force Day display with  Open Day’s at Long Beach Field, March Field, San Bernadino and Victoriaville. On 1st August the Squadron made a show of taking off in Combat Formations and made a Flypast of Los Angeles, Harbour District and Hollywood.    The theme was ‘Air Power is Peace Power‘. 12 Lancaster Aircraft took off at 30 sec intervals to take part in a Formation Flight over Los Angeles, Pomono, Rose Bowl Arena, Lomita, Long Beach, Santa Monica, and Oliver City which took 1½ hrs.  Take off was at 10.07 am and arrival back at Base 14.08 pm.   The intermediate ETA’s which were given for some of the points on the route were all exactly satisfied by the Actual Time of  Arrival. Wing tips only 50 ft apart (half span).  Lanc Pilot of TL-H (for Harry) F/O Tim Lamb from London sweated through his undershirt as he held his starboard wing tip almost at grazing point with the Leaders Tailplane said – “I’m glad it doesn’t get this hot in England” The flying conditions were very very smooth although the thick haze up to 2,000ft almost constituted low cloud at parts of the route.  They flew in formation over the Good Samaritan’s Hospital dipping their Wings in honour of Aviator Howard Hughes who was then recovering from his near-fatal Crash in a Maiden Flight of his Prototype XF-11 on 7th July 1946

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At 17.00 pm all Officers were the Guests of the then 72-yr-old Mr Arthur Atwater Kent (Largest US Radio Manufacturer & Millionaire) who gave a colossal Party at his Estate in Bel Air in Beverley Hills.  Kent himself had closed his Business an immediately headed for California, bought a Palatial Estate in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles and proceeded to enjoy the fruits of his many years of highly profitable enterprise. He acquired a Mansion named Capo di Monte atop the highest Hill in Los Angeles. This Estate was well-known as a venue for Lavish Parties, attended by numerous Hollywood Luminaries. The Party was known as a Circus Party the Guests were greeted by the famous Italian Organ Grinder & his Monkey who were often seen on the Silver Screen.  Clowns showed the way to the Party in the Garden which was displayed as for a Circus with a Circus Band, Clowns, an Elephant, a Camel, Performing Dogs, and a Performing Horse.  These various animals later all performed at a Cabaret.  There was Dancing and of course unlimited supplies of food & drinks.  A very large section of the ‘Acting’ Community’ were there and as can be imagined a very lavish and happy evening was spent by the Officers present.  Unfortunately owing to the early departure the following morning Personnel had to leave at 21.00pm.  Capo di Monte is now the site of the Bel Air Hotel(In the Spring of 1949 Atwater Kent became hospitalised with a virus infection & passed away at the age of 75).

The NCO’s & Airmen were entertained at a farewell Party at the NCO Club.  The week-long stay at Long Beach had been truly memorable.  

Grand Olympic Auditorium – Corner of 18th & Grand, Los Angeles, Boxing Evening
For more than 90 years, the corner of 18th & Grand has been dominated by the massive Grand Olympic Auditorium.  Architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood designed the Space as a Boxing Arena & Convention Centre, but one that could also accommodate Opera & Ballet and Roller Derby’s. More than 15,000 cheering Patrons packed the Opening Night Bout on 5th August 1925.  The Hall hosted Boxing, Wrestling, & Weightlifting competitions of the 1932 Olympic Games and thrived as a Sports venue with deep roots in the Spanish-speaking Community of Los Angeles into the 1980s.

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Long Beach Amusements Park Incarceration
Ground Crew & Companion go straight to Jail – on the Right is LAC Colin Earnshaw working on the Maintenance of H2S Radar Equipment on board the 16 Lancasters – Flying on both TL-P

3rd August (California to Texas)
15 Aircraft led by the Squadron Commander Craig left Long Beach at 07.45am en route for Kelly Field Nr San Antonio arriving at 16.00 hrs.  The route was via Indio, Blythe, Gila Beno, Tuscon & El Paso on the Mexican Border to San Antonio, Texas over the Arizona & New Mexico Deserts and was remembered as very hot and uncomfortable.