NAS Pensacola: A Century in Photographs
posted in NAS Pensacola 100th on January 9, 2014 in NAS Pensacola 100th on 1/9/2014
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When she was in her nineties, Anna Lamar Switzer still remembered walking along the shore of Pensacola Bay in 1914, a crab net slung over her shoulder, and seeing the gray hull of the battleship Mississippi. The ship had arrived on January 20, 1914, along with the collier Orion, the vessels’ arrival signaling a transformation of the old Pensacola Navy Yard that came of age in the days of sail to a veritable laboratory for the newfound science of aeronautics. In the skies over brick forts from which some of the first shots of the Civil War had been fired, the buzzing of primitive wood and fabric biplanes drew the attention of the local citizenry, the intrepid men who took to the air becoming part of the social fabric of the town, including a young ensign who would propose to and marry young Anna in 1924. Over time, there grew an indelible link between naval aviation and the panhandle town that came to be known as the “Cradle of Naval Aviation.” It is a bond that this year celebrates a momentous birthday, 100 years since naval aviation came to Pensacola.

Throughout 2014 the National Naval Aviation Museum will commemorate the base that has been our home since we opened in 1963 and whose history forms an important chapter in the story we tell. This includes the creation of an NAS Pensacola scrapbook drawn from photographs in our collection and acquired from other sources to capture the history of U.S. Navy’s first and oldest naval air station.

AH Seaplane in Flight at the Pensacola Navy Yard

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There is much to see in this view of the shoreline at the Pensacola Navy Yard (designated Naval Aeronautical Station in November 1914). Visible flying along the shoreline is a Curtiss AH (Airplane, Hydro), which was among the early aircraft types that operated from Pensacola after the arrival of aviation personnel on January 20, 1914. Moored in the wet basin is a former Arkansas-class monitor converted to a submarine tender. A pair of Atlantic Fleet boats, which periodically trained in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, is visible alongside the tender. The structure rising behind these vessels is Building 45, which was constructed during 1905-1906 and served as a headquarters for administrative offices. Adjacent to the tenders is Building 38, which was completed in 1881, and with the arrival of aviation was used as a machine shop. Engines were repaired on the second floor, an elevator installed in the building to transport them up and down.

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