Jun 15, 2016 at 06:37 PM

Marines Invade Goleta: World War II Brought Big Changes to Goodland – Noozhawk, February 25, 2016

By Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation


Air station and training base directly affected development of the Santa Barbara airport and UCSB

World War II brought a lot of changes to our world, and Goleta was no exception.

Our little airport served as the backdrop for a Marine air station that served as a training base for multiple squadrons that went on to support combat operations in the Pacific Theater.


A 1938 photo shows how things looked in the vicinity of what is now the Santa Barbara Airport in the few years before before World War II. (Adam Lewis Collection)

This sleepy little agriculture village was abruptly invaded by the U.S. Marines in 1942, and the work they did in a few short years changed Goleta forever.

Today, an aerial view shows the ever-expanding UCSB on one side and the Santa Barbara Airport on the other. The size of the airport and the location of the university are both direct results of the U.S. Marine base.

Photos from 1938 shows how things looked a few years before before the war. The red arrow points to downtown Goleta. The white arrow shows the single runway of the earliest stages of the airport.

The green arrow points to a complete Mescaltitlan Island. The slough was still a large lagoon of sorts, and the mesa that holds UCSB was farmland.

Two old General Western hangars were used for additional barracks and a mess hall. A temporary station headquarters was set up in the old terminal building ,and for squadron areas they used the former Army revetments.  

Things were pretty rough for the first Marines. High tides and heavy rains flooded the landing field with mud, so four-wheel-drive Jeeps were required to get around the base.

Mosquitoes were abundant and a constant nuisance.

The Marines nicknamed the station “The Swamp,” and a standing joke among the pilots was to request permission to land on Santa Barbara Lake.

Life got a little easier for the Marines with the construction of new living quarters. Due to the marshy slough surrounding the air base, the operations and the housing had to be widely separated. 


Planes wait on the flight line at the U.S. Marine training base in Goleta during World War II. (Adam Lewis Collection)

These buildings would later lay the groundwork for the UCSB, as many were easily converted into classrooms.

By the time the base was complete, it was considered to be one of the most comfortable places for a Marine to be stationed.

The citizens of Santa Barbara and Goleta made the Marines feel right at home. With the memory of the Japanese attack at Ellwood fresh in their minds, the locals considered the Marines their protectors.


Due to the marshy slough surrounding the air base, the barracks buildings were spread out. Many were converted to other uses after the war. (Adam Lewis Collection)

But it wasn’t all fun and games. Goleta was the last stop before the Marines went into the Pacific war zone. This base was where pilots and gunners learned the specific skills needed to perform their upcoming combat missions.

Today, the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation is working to create a unique and powerful monument commemorating the historical significance of the Marine Corps Air Station at the Santa Barbara Airport.

The monument will be placed in front of the new terminal. Learn more and make a donation to this worthy cause at Wings of Honor website.

[Click here to read the full story at GoletaHistory.com]

Tom Modugno, a local businessman, publishes the website GoletaHistory.com.


The Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation is working to create a monument commemorating the historical significance of the Marine Corps Air Station at the Santa Barbara Airport. (Wings of Honor)



Posted in News.