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Naval Air Station Glenview

Glenview Naval Base in Glenview, IL


Even though the Naval Air Station Glenview (NAS Glenview) had short life span of action 1936-1995 it saw major use during World War II and the Cold War. It trained 20,000 Navy pilots and acted as the Navy’s Primary Training command until 1946 when it’s war-time status is closed and it transitions to a Combat Information Center Officers School. In 1951 NAS Glenview is converted to the Naval Air Reserve Training Command, the Marine Air Reserve Training Command, and the Marine Air Detachment.

Inception (1929-1936)

The air field itself was first build by the Curtiss Flying Service and officially named Curtiss-Reynolds Airport in October 1929 with the original intention of being a hub for air service in the Chicago land area. I was most notability known for its “Hangar 1”. The site was most well-known at the time for its lavish Hangar which allowed plane passengers to see the maintenance on planes. In addition, this time period saw the rise in air races. Curtiss-Reynolds was the host of the 1930 National Air Race and the 1933 international air race which was being held by the Century of Progress (Chicago World’s Fair). [5]

Jumping a few years ahead to 1936, Curtiss-Reynolds would start to lease space to the Navy. Due to the old trend of demilitarization there was a decline in military budgets between the First and Second World Wars. When this trend happened, both the War and Navy Departments saw a need and emphasis on increasing the Reserve and National Guard forces. This resulted in a need for facilities to be in large metropolitan areas due to their large centers of employment for civilians. The Navy’s approach to this goal was to establish Naval Reserve Air Bases of which NAS Glenview was one of the first 3 made. The base served as a reserve base through the 30s next to the preexisting Naval Train Station Great Lakes 24 miles north in North Chicago. Curtiss-Reynolds would see a slew of military upgrades in the late 30s while it still operated with civilian and Military air operations. [1]

Naval Air Station Glenview and WWII (1940-1946)

The Navy would end up purchasing Curtiss-Reynolds Airport for $530,000 ($9.4 Million in 2017). The airport was renamed to Naval Air Station (NAS) Chicago and would see it name changed to NAS Glenview in 1944. The choice behind NAS Glenview was for its proximity to Lake Michigan and for practicing aircraft carrier landing.  Cadets would take off from the base fly to Lake Michigan and then practice takeoff and landing on the USS Wolverine and USS Sable which were stationed off short of the “Loop” in Chicago [1]. With the onset of World War II NAS Glenview became the “focal point of the Navy’s expanded flight training program and a Primary Training Command” [2]. This saw a giant $12.5 million construction expansion project get launched with the goal of expanding run ways, constructing hangars, administration buildings, and class rooms. By 1943 the original 20 officers, 120 enlisted men and less than 100 cadets had grown to 300 officers, 1,000 cadets, and 3,500 enlisted men. [2] This status was kept up until a year after WWII where NAS Glenview’s war-time status was ended and it transitioned from being the Navy’s Primary Training Command to the Naval Air Reserve Training Command Headquarters.  During its service through WWII NAS Glenview would see approximately 9,000 cadets, 800,000 hour of flight time, and 2 million take off and landings. With this many flights operational accidents did occur, through this time period there where a total of 3 accidents two in 1943 and one in 1944 where two collisions between planes occurred and on loss of altitude. These events took the lives of 7 pilots.

Post WWII and into the Cold War (1946-1971)

In the years following WWII NAS Glenview saw it’s roll change slightly picking up the additional task in 1947 of Combat Information Center Officers School. Then in 1951 it became the Naval Air Reserve Training Command, the Marine Air Reserve Training Command, and the Marine Air Detachment. This also marks the beginning of the trend seen after WWII where military spending would see a slight decrease, but not to the level as seen after previous wars and conflicts. During this period, the Marine Corps Reserves established the Marine Helicopter Transportation Squadron 776 (HMR-776) using HUP-2 helicopters. It was also during this point in time where NAS Glenview would see the housing of the Air Barons which where the reserve flight demonstration team and where deemed the “Blue Angles” of the Reserves by the public.[2] The Air Barons would be see use until their disbandment in 1972. NAS Glenview would also open its runways for the Blue Angles and the Air Force’s Thunderbirds when they were doing a show in the Chicagoland Area.

As the Naval Air Reserve Training Command Headquarters (NARTCH), NAS Glenview was tasked with the job of overseeing several other NAS in the US where aviators would maintain their flight proficiency. This proved to be vital in the years to come with the onset of the Korean War and Berlin Crisis where these pilots were called upon. As the NARTCH, they also saw their pilots used in the blockading of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis in addition to providing air support to other operations in the area.

NAS Glenview would see its annexation into the city of Glenview in 1971 marking the beginning of a decline in military operations.

Post Annexation and Closer(1971-1993)

This period of time begins with the NAS Glenview being used as an arrival point for Prisoners of War on their way from Vietnam in 1971. In addition, NAS Glenview would also see the deployment of troops for Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1991.

At the end of the Cold War, Congress established Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commissions with the purpose of reducing what was considered to be excess military units and infrastructure. 1993 saw the review of NAS Glenview and resulted in its selection for closure by September 30, 1995 at the latest with the deactivation or transfer of its units and operations to other NAS in the US.

After its decommission the NAS Glenview saw its conversion into residential space and a shopping center. Now called “The Glen” all that remains is Hangar 1 and the original radio tower.

Workers Protesting in 1955

Public Opinions & Civil engagement

Throughout its time in service NAS Glenview saw its fair share of public opinion. This would be found via protests that civilians would hold near the entrance to the base. The two main protests that review were regarding workers in a circuit plan in 1955 where the workers were protesting that some employees were working during off hours. The second incident was seen during 1984 with civilians protesting the Naval involvement in Central America and Puerto Rico. [4] The NAS Glenview would also hold days where the public could tour the facility and look at the aircraft. These Air Expo days would give NAS Glenview a chance to give back to the community and should them the interesting and innovative technology that the Navy had in terms of equipment and vehicle.

Branches and Aircraft

NAS Glenview saw use from the all military branches with the exception of the Air force. The Navy saw the most use of the station with the use of the of the Naval Air Reserve Training Unit where they would train as Attack Squadron 209 with A-4B Skyhawks and the later A-4L model.  From the 1970s to the 1990s NAS Glenview would be the home of two naval patrol squadrons in that of the Sixty (VP-60) and Ninety (VP-90) who were equipped with the P-2 Neptune with later transitions to the P-3A and then P-3B Orion aircraft.  NAS Glenview would also be the home of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron Fifty-One (VR-51) which used C-118s and then switched to C-9B Skytrain II. This group is notable for being one of the squadrons called upon for Operations Desert Shield and Storm in the 90s.

The next major branch that saw use was the US Marine Crops which saw a reserve established in 1951 to train helicopter pilots (Squadron 776 (HMR-776)) using HUP-2 Helicopters. They would change to CH-34D in 1962 and then again to UH-1E in 1972. They would eventually see the upgrade to the UN-1N in the 90s which was used in Operations Desert Shield and Storm. In addition, NAS Glenview was responsible for housing the Marie Corps midair Refueler KC-130F and KC-130T Hercules until 1994 where they were then relocated to NAS JRB Forth Worth due to the BRAC commission.

The US Army saw the use of the NAS for its C-12, U-21, and UH-1 from Fort Sheridan’s Haley Army Airfield near Highwood in 1978. Hangar 1 became the new home for this active duty Army Flight Detachment which was responsible for the transport of U.S. Army Recruiting Command, Military Enlistment Processing Command, Fourth U.S. Army, USARMR V and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which were based out of Fort Sheridan.

Finally, the Coast Guard saw NAS Glenview become home to the Coast Guard Air Station Chicago which would make its home in the northwest corner of NAS Glenview’s airfield in 1969. Here they would use the HH-52 Seaguard helicopter. When NAS Glenview closed in 1995 this operation was moved to Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City where they would upgrade to the HH-65A Dolphin. They would then see the shift again to the current Coast Guard Air Facility in Waukegan.



Primary Sources:

Source 1. “Naval Air Station.” The Village of Glenview, 2013

Source 2. Wings at the Ready, U.S. Naval Institute, Annapolis, MD, pp. 128–131, c1991, ISBN 1-55750-750-3

Source 3. Freeman, Paul. “Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields: Illinois: Northern Chicago Area.” Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields: Illinois, Northern Chicago Area, The Illinois Pilots Association, 20 Sept. 2017

Source 4. , 2016 Feb. “Naval Air Station Glenview.” Naval Air Station Glenview — Chicago Tribune

Secondary Sources:

Source 5. Collins, Mike. “75 Years: The First to Sign Up.” 75 Years: The First to Sign Up, 5 May 2014

Source 6. Glenview Naval Air Station

Source 7. Hangar 1, Naval Air Station (Glenview) nomination form (PDF). Illinois Historic Preservation Agency HARGIS (Report)

For Further Reading: