Taylor Stuard

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Fallon Air Field
Taylor Stuard

The people of the United States of America have had many years of a peaceful sense of security. There have been very few battles that our military have had to encounter on our own soil. That sense of security was shaken during World War II with the threat of Japan invading the United States. The attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan in 1941 was the first foreign strike against United States territory since the war of 1812. With the threat of losing our freedom and many innocent lives, our country was now faced with finding a way to defend itself from foreign attack.

The United States Army Air Corps began focusing their attention on building airfields throughout the West, in particular, the state of Nevada during 1942. One of the Airfields still used today is in Fallon, Nevada. According to "Naval Air Station — Fallon" (2012)," “The Civil Aviation Administration and the Army Air Corps began construction of four airfields in the Nevada desert.” This development was described as the Western Defense Program. Its purpose was to fend off the predicted attack from Japan on the west coast.

There was no denying the need to ramp up our National Security in the U.S. as the war began growing fiercer in the Pacific. The Navy began training its pilots in a practical situation using strategies and weapons presently being developed. Fallon, Nevada was a clear choice for the Navy’s training grounds. “In 1943, the Navy assumed control of the two 5,200 foot runways. Construction soon began on barracks, hangars, air traffic control facilities and target ranges” ("Naval Air Station — Fallon", 2012). The threat from Japan continued, while building and flight training intensified in Fallon NV. Just as the construction of the air base was completed Japan surrendered to the U.S.

Fallon, Nevada is just 60 miles East of Reno. The air field is now known as Van Voorhis, named after Field Lt. Commander Bruce A Van A. Voorhis. The lieutenant was a World War II naval aviation hero. Lieutenant Van Voorhis earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. He spent his childhood in Fallon then went on to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. Voorhis was an active member of the military during World War II. An account of the late days of Lieutenant Van Voorhis’ life on The Arlington National Cemetery Website states “In December 1942, Van Voorhis, a Lieutenant Commander since July, assumed command of VP-14, but soon thereafter took command of VB-102. While serving in that capacity, LCDR Van Voorhis gave his life for his country near Hare Island of Kapingamarangi Atoll, the southernmost of the Eastern Caroline Islands. After a 700-mile flight alone, LCDR Van Voorhis launched successive bombing and strafing attacks on the enemy ground installations. During his onslaught, he succeeded in destroying a radio station, anti-aircraft emplacements, and at least one airborne fighter as well as three others on the water” (Patterson, 1994).

After the Japanese surrendered and the threat to the Pacific side of the U.S. was over, the airbase was somewhat abandoned. The Fallon site once again became a desirable training ground and was reestablished by the Navy in 1953. Today Fallon, Nevada Air Station is fully functioning and a training spot for some of the top fighter pilots in our military. In fact, in 1996 the Top Gun Flying School left Miramar in San Diego and now calls Fallon, Nevada its home. While several airfields that were created throughout the state of Nevada during WWII have become non operative or abandoned, the state of Nevada is able to boast that some of the greatest pilots today come out of Fallon.