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)

El Toro Then & Now: Hangar 244 - 10/04/08 02
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.

El Toro Then & Now: Hangar 244 - 10/04/08 03

Monday, May 5, 2008

El Toro by Air

05 May 2008: Today we thought we'd try something new and take some aerial pictures of the El Toro Marine Base. We recently took a short flight overhead the base and got to see a whole different perspective of El Toro. Our Marine fighter pilots must have had a similar view while flying overhead.

El Toro by Air - 01/12/08 01

Above you can see a majestic view of MCAS El Toro nestled beneath the Santa Ana Mountains in the foreground, with the snow-capped Angeles Mountains seen in the background. This photograph is looking to the northwest, showing the mainside El Toro area below.

El Toro by Air - 01/12/08 03

Here is the same picture above, but with a close-up on the base. You can see the Main Gate to the left and Trabuco Rd. coming across the picture through the Base HQ in the below-center. The barracks, PX, and other service buildings are shown in the upper part of the picture.

El Toro by Air - 01/12/08 04

You may have forgotten which building is which, well don't worry, we've taken the liberty to identify some of the buildings in the picture. As you can see from these photographs, El Toro has changed quite a bit; however many of the base's important and historic landmarks are still present.
[Note: Make sure to click on the pictures if you would like to see them in a larger size]

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Happy Spring!

Happy Spring! - 04/26/08
26 April 2008: Bright red flowers welcomes spring time at the old El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. However record temperatures throughout this month and a lack of rain will likely return vegetation back to its yellow/brown self.
[Note: This pictures was taken at the Irvine Amtrak train station, facing the Naval Supply Area section of MCAS El Toro, looking north. The building seen in background is Bldg. 800, the former home of the Marine Wing Support Squadron 373 (MWSS 373).]

Saturday, March 1, 2008

After the Storm Has Cleared

01 March 2008: After several weeks of on-and-off rain throughout Southern California, the former El Toro Base finally gets a bit of relief. Remnants of the recent rainstorms have been reduced to small puddles behind a vacant building #800. As mentioned earlier, the recent rain has brightened things up with lively green grass and other plants. As we enter the month of March we can begin to look forward to the arrival of Spring.

[Note: These pictures were taken at the Naval Supply Area section of MCAS El Toro, adjacent to the railroad tracks. The building seen in both pictures is Bldg. 800, the former home of the Marine Wing Support Squadron 373 (MWSS 373).]

Monday, January 28, 2008

Winter Storms

28 January 2008: After a record drought season in 2007, Southern California started the new year by exceeding last year's entire rainfall amount (with the help of three consecutive rain storms). As you may have guessed, MCAS El Toro is thoroughly drenched from the constant pounding of rain. The above picture gives you an idea of nearby weather conditions as you approach the main gate.
Winter Storms - 01/28/08 02
As you pass the gentry shack and reach the stop sign, you can immediately notice just how soaked the streets are. The continual storms did not allow for much of the water from the early storms to evaporate. Below you can take a look at the storm's dark rain clouds brewing above the base Child Development Center (left hand side), the Marine Exchange (straight ahead), and the barracks (right hand side). The raindrop down the middle of the photo attests to ongoing downpour.
Winter Storms - 01/28/08 03

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Grass is Greener

2 January 2008: It's a brand new year and the landscape is beginning to look very alive. For most of 2007, MCAS El Toro was surrounded by yellowish-brown grass, shrubs, weeds, and dirt, due in part to the Southern California drought. Since the Marines turned off the sprinklers in 1999, the grounds on the base have been badly neglected. However today for the first time in a long time, the ground wasn't such an eye sore as vivid green grass peppered the area. Winter rainstorms over the Holidays brought the area much needed water in what was one of the worst droughts in recent time.

The Grass is Greener - 01/02/08 02

These pictures of the base attest to the recent wet weather. You can see a nice view of the brick 1950's-era barracks, and just behind it, the new and modern looking "Castle" barracks. In the other picture, you can see a view of E Street with the base chapel in the background, and in the right side of foreground, two columns from the base gas station stand alone.

The Grass is Greener - 01/02/08 03

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fire at El Toro Base (Part 2)

15 November 2007: It has been little over a month since the Santiago Canyon Wildfires torched the northern property of the former MCAS El Toro and Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) return back to the base--no need to afraid--this time the fire was planned by firefighter officials. The ATM annex building of the Marine Exchange was the location of a controlled fire and a mock rescue operation. Just outside the building, you can notice another rescue operation of a simulated car crash. The rubble of the Base Commissary can be seen in the far left background and the Marine Exchange is located off to the right.

Fire at El Toro Base Part 2 - 11/15/07 02