Saturday, October 4, 2008

El Toro Then & Now: Hangar 244

Historic photo of Hangar 244 taken with the VMF-314 Bob's Cats squadron posing in front. Two period fighter jets flank both sides of the photo. This was most likely taken around 1945/46.
(Photo courtesy of the Tom O'Hara Collection/Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum)

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Current photo of Hangar 244.

11 October 2008: Well we're back after a longer-than-expected break. So far all the El Toro base pictures featured here have been taken within the last few years. However the story of MCAS El Toro cannot be fully told without including some snapshots from the past. So today we're unveiling the first of an ongoing series called "El Toro Then & Now". As the name suggests, we're going to feature historic shots of the base and compare them with current-day photos.

(Please contact us if you have any pre-1999 photos of El Toro that you would like to share!)

El Toro Then & Now: Hangar 244 - 10/04/08 04
Current interior photo of Hangar 244

Our series begins with Hangar 244. Located on the south-western part of the base off Marine Way, this Hangar was built in 1942 and was part of El Toro's original buildings that were first constructed on the base. This wooden hangar was one of many that housed fighter aircraft between WWII and the Vietnam War.

After many decades of service, Hangar 244 had become obsolete by the 1980's. More modern concrete hangars started to displace the older WWII era hangars on the base. At the turn of the 1980's three veterans (Brig. Gen. Jay Hubbard, Harry Gann and Tom. J. Dozier) got together to form a group that would help preserve and commemorate the important history at MCAS El Toro. After much time spent organizing the trio officially founded the The Marine Corps Air Station El Toro Historical Foundation in June 1989.

Hangar 244 housing an F4F-3 Wildcat on display during its time as a museum
(Photo courtesy of MidwaySailor/VAQ-136 Gauntlets)

The foundation grew to support its own on-base museum named the MCAS El Toro Command Museum at the turn of the 1990's. Hangar 244 was given new life and was converted into a showroom for part of the museum, displaying military exhibits and used as a storage for museum artifacts and supplies. The museum was one of only two official USMC command museums.

Eventually the displays were transferred to the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum at MCAS Miramar as base closure became eminent. The museum continued to operate until El Toro closed in 1999. Hangar 244 lay vacant until 2007 when the City of Irvine began to refurbish the historic structure as part of the base redevelopment. Plans currently call for preserving the hangar and re-establishing a military museum.

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