MCAS Kaneohe Bay, located on the Mokapu Peninsula on the Northeastern coast of the island of Oahu, has a diverse background which includes a Hawaiian heritage filled with myths and legends, and both the Army and Navy, as well as the Marine Corps have called the peninsula home. For over 49 years the base has trained countless carrier pilots for combat, provided logistical support for naval aviation forces throughout the Pacific, and supported airborne early warning and antisubmarine patrol operations.
The peninsula, inhabited since the 13th century, was originally valued by the Hawaiian royalty who owned it as one of the most productive agricultural areas in all of the islands. The military history of the peninsula began in 1918.
The U.S. Army acquired 322 acres of the peninsula when President Woodrow Wilson signed executive order 2900 establishing the Kuwaaohe Military Reservation. Little is known about the operations of the fort, however, at the end of World War I, the military property was leased for ranching. In 1939, Kuwaaohe was reactivated, subjected to many name changes to include Camp Ulupa’u, and eventually named Fort Hase.
Prior to and during World War II, Fort Hase grew from a humble beginning as a defense battalion to a major unit of the Windward Coastal Artillery Command. In 1939 Navy planners began eyeing the peninsula as the home of a strategic seaplane base. They liked the isolated location, the flat plains for an airfield and the probability of flights into prevailing trade winds. The Navy acquired 464 acres of the peninsula for use by the PBY Catalina Patrol seaplanes for long-range reconnaissance flights. One year later, the Navy owned all of the Mokapu Peninsula except for Fort Hase.
On December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked the air station minutes prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Of the 36 Catalinas stationed at the base, 27 were destroyed, six others were damaged, and 18 sailors perished in the attack. The first Japanese aircraft destroyed in action were shot down at Kaneohe, and Aviation Ordnanceman Chief Petty Officer John Finn, stationed at Kaneohe Bay, was awarded one of the 1st Medals of Honor for valor on that day.
During the war, the air station was a major training base in the Pacific theater. The Fleet Gunnery School trained thousands of Navy gunners. There was a school for celestial navigation, sonar, aircraft recognition, and turret operations. Flight instructors also trained Navy and Marine Corps aviators in flight operations prior to being sent to a forward combat area. Following the war, Fort Hase became a skeleton outpost and the air station consisted of limited air operations, a small security detachment, and a federal communications center.
In 1949, the Navy decommissioned the air station. On January 15, 1952 the Marine Corps re-commissioned the idle airfield Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, making it an ideal training site for a combined air/ground team. Station Operations and Headquarters Squadron supported flight operations until June 30, 1972, when Station Operations and Maintenance Squadron (SOMS) was created to take its place. SOMS served until it was disbanded on July 30, 1994. Marine Corps Air Facility, Kaneohe Bay was formed on this date.
Following the Base Realignment and Closure Committee’s decision to close NAS Barbers Point, the base acquired 4 Navy P-3 patrol squadrons and one SH-60 Anti-Submarine squadron in 1999. Today there are almost 10,000 active duty Navy and Marine Corps personnel attached to the base, demonstrating on a daily basis the finest blue/green team in the service.
On May 22, 2009, a redesignation ceremony was held renaming Marine Corps Air Facility to Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay and the Commemorative Naming of the Airfield to Carl Field in Honor of Major General Marion E. Carl USMC (Deceased).