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  • NAF Atsugi, Japan

  •  Kamiseya, Japan
 
 

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Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi is the largest Naval Air Facility in the Pacific and home to Carrier Air Wing FIVE. NAF Atsugi is located in the Tokyo area. More specifically, it is in Kanagawa Prefecture in Ayase (ah-ya-sey) City, which is about 16 km due west of Yokohama and about 36 km south-west of Tokyo. On a detailed map of Japan, the base is sometimes shown as Atsugi Airport.

NAF Atsugi's Mission is to provide facilities, services and material support for U.S. Navy and Marine Corp aviation operations, and to provide logistic support for Carrier Air Wing 5.

Ironic twists of fate have transformed what was once farmland and pine groves into a truly international aviation community which meets the security needs of both Japan and the United States. In it's brief history, NAF Atsugi has been many things to many people.

NAF Atsugi has been Japan's strategic last line of aviation defense in World War II; the site of a revolt by Kamikaze pilots and other military personnel who refused to recognize or accept the word "surrender"; the place where General Douglas MacArthur first set foot on Japanese soil, en route to attend the formal surrender ceremony; and a home-away-from-home for thousands of U.S. Forces personnel and their dependents.

The Japanese Imperial Naval Air Force first began construction of an airfield at this site in September 1938. The new facility was to be capable of handling carrier-based aircraft and close to ships ported at nearby Yokosuka. The full runway was completed in 1941 with the remainder of the base to be completed in 1943 with an initial compliment of 48 carrier fighters, and 12 night fighters for training. These aircraft were also to defend the skies over the Kanto Plain, an area which includes Tokyo and Yokohama.

The Atsugi Japanese Naval Air Group reached its peak compliment on February 20, 1944, with 72 carrier fighters, 24 night fighters and 12 reconnaissance planes. This Air Group was the first unit to receive the order to defend mainland Japan "to the end." There was a great deal of anxiety about enemy air attacks. Japanese military leaders realized that, if the Marianas fell, B-29 raids on the mainland would be inevitable.

Fear of the B-29's and their destructive capabilities drove the inhabitants of Atsugi Base underground. Nearly 2,000 military personnel, aided by scores of civilians undertook the herculean task of digging large caves to serve as subterranean hangers and barracks. After six months, 12 immense caverns were finished. In November, 1944, the feared B-29 raids became a reality, laying Tokyo and the surrounding area to waste by the following August. Ironically, Atsugi Base was not touched.

Emperor Hirohito announced Japan's surrender on August 15, 1945. However, the officers of the Atsugi Naval Air Group did not give up the fight. Their Commanding Officer, Commander Ozono, declared the surrender orders to have been issued by individuals guilty of treason and therefore unauthorized.

Handbills outlining the rebelling officers' position were distributed in the Atsugi area, and support was given outside the base gates. On August 17, 1945, General MacArthur's Headquarters sent word that an official Japanese delegation was to report to Sadamisaki, in Southern Japan on Shikoku Island, to discuss the terms of the surrender. The Japanese leaders feared that the rebelling pilots at Atsugi would attempt to shoot down the delegation's plane. But the rebelling forces were not organized and did not learn of the delegation until it was already assembled in Sadamisako. Because of poor organization and the lack of targets to strike against, the rebellion faded into a calm yet formal statement of protest. Atsugi appeared to be under control but was still a source of concern for the Japanese leaders.

Meanwhile, MacArthur's headquarters requested to use the Atsugi Air Base as the landing place for the first wave of occupation troops. The Japanese attempted to delay the decision by convincing the Americans that Atsugi Base was not large enough for the troop carriers. But the Americans showed the Japanese delegation U.S. reconnaissance photos discrediting these claims. The situation at Atsugi was now critical for the Japanese. On August 21, Japanese working parties sped to the planes on the air field. They began tearing off propellers and draining fuel from the planes in an effort to disable them.

The Japanese pilots responded by brandishing their swords, pulling these workers from the planes and climbing into the cockpits. The workers laid down in front of the planes as the pilots started their engines, but then they stood up and waved as the planes took off. Thirty-three planes took off that day to destinations unknown; they were neither seen nor heard from again. The next day, August 22, security forces from Yokosuka encircled the area and restored order. On August 26 the Japanese government agreed to make Atsugi Base the site of the arrival of the first U.S. occupation troops.

At 0600, August 30, paratroopers from the 11th Airborne Division landed at Atsugi to initiate an operation which was one of the greatest military gambles of all time. This small group of daring men, an advance contingent preceding the arrival of General MacArthur, landed in a hostile country where they were greatly outnumbered.

Shortly thereafter, General Douglas MacArthur arrived in his C-54, the "Bataan," to accept the formal Japanese surrender. Following the General's departure for his new headquarters in Yokohama, and throughout the first day of the occupation of Japan, huge transports began landing at Atsugi. By the end of the day, approximately 8,000 troops in 123 planes had completed the move from Okinawa to mainland Japan. The war was over.

The 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment remained at the base and assumed responsibility for the occupation until early 1946, when it moved to Hokkaido. Also in 1946, the Eighth Army established a Replacement Training Center at Atsugi. The Training Center continued to be the principal activity at the base until March 1949, when it was disestablished.

When North Korea invaded the Republic of Korea on June 25, 1950, U.S. Naval Aviation at Naval Air Facility Yokosuka was closest to the scene of the conflict. Yokosuka's aviation facilities had been used by the Navy for some time after the surrender, but the buildings, hangers and landing area had gradually been turned over to the US Army. Thus, in June 1950, it was little more than a beachhead for a limited number of seaplanes. In all of Japan, there was no Navy installation which could provide for land operations of patrol squadrons.

The Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet selected Atsugi as the location of the principal Naval Air Station for the Far East. On October 5, 1950, an advance echelon from Mobile Construction Battalion TWO arrived to find a seriously deteriorated base. The runway was useless. The 220 buildings on the 1,200 acre base were a shambles.

On November 5, elements of Fleet Aircraft Service Squadron ELEVEN moved into Atsugi and began construction of a 6,000 foot runway where the former airstrip had been.

On December 1, 1950, Naval Air Station, Atsugi was commissioned with Captain R. C. Sutliff as the first Commanding Officer. On board were three officers and 50 enlisted men.

Patrol Squadron SIX became the first squadron to operate from the station in January, 1951, followed shortly thereafter by a detachment of Fleet Aircraft Service Squadron 120.

Commander Fleet Air, Japan moved his headquarters from Tokyo to Atsugi in April, 1951, with Captain Sutliff assuming the additional hat. At the same time, Commander Fleet Wing SIX moved his headquarters from USS PINE ISLAND to the station.

As the number of personnel swelled, support and recreational facilities improved. A new photo lab, control tower and parachute loft were completed. The finishing touches on a nine-hole golf course were envisioned for the spring of 1952.

By November, 1952, the first dependents of Atsugi's service members arrived. A bowling center, station theater and a swimming pool were added to the list of recreational facilities.

Throughout 1953 and 1954 a large number of units moved to Atsugi to provide necessary fleet services, including Marine Aircraft Group ELEVEN. By September, 1955, MAG-11 had 94 aircraft and over 2,000 officers and enlisted men at the base.

Commander, Fleet Air Western Pacific was established and headquartered at Atsugi in November, 1954. That position still exists and is the senior U.S. billet aboard Atsugi.

In early 1955, additional units of the First Marine Aircraft Wing were withdrawn from Korea and based at Atsugi. By now, the total onboard count was approximately 4,745. At one point there were as many as 250 aircraft assigned.

In 1957, high performance jets were brought onboard to replace older aircraft. The new models included the F3H, F4D, F8U, FJ-4 and F11F. Mobile arresting gear was put into service when the runway was wet, to ensure the new jets didn't overshoot the strip. New Naval Aviation units brought aboard included VR-23, FASRon-11 and VU-5.

In April 1969, Atsugi was involved in an international confrontation when an EC-121 reconnaissance plane assigned to VQ-1 (Atsugi) was reportedly shot down over the Sea of Japan by two North Korean MIGs. All 31 Navy men aboard the plane were killed. The base became a bustling community almost overnight when President Richard Nixon ordered an armada of Navy vessels to assemble in the Sea of Japan. Many Atsugi personnel toiled long hours to provide the 29 ships with logistic support. Gradually the tense situation abated, and the ships and Atsugi Base personnel returned to normal duties.

As the Sixties drew to a close, the Naval Air Station was phased down became a Naval Air Facility. Plans were made to relocate VQ-1, VRC-50 and HC-7.

By early 1970, the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) began moving in. Since then, the base has been shared by aviation elements of both nations. Although the U.S. forces continued to have access to the runway, the actual control of the runway was turned over to the JMSDF. Atsugi officially became a Naval Air Facility on July 1, 1971, with it's primary mission becoming maintenance of aircraft belonging to other units and facilities.

JMSDF patrol aircraft accounted for many of the flights in the early 1970's. The first JMSDF aircraft actually arrived in December 1971. The headquarters for the JMSDF's Fleet Air Force and Fleet Air Wing FOUR moved here in December 1973.

For a time, U.S. flights were limited to aircraft belonging to the detachments maintained here by VQ-1 and VRC-50. When carriers pulled into Naval Station (NS) Yokosuka, the pace quickened as many of the embarked aircraft flew to Naval Air Field Atsugi for maintenance.

When the USS Midway home-ported in Yokosuka, NAF Atsugi became the home of Carrier Air Wing 5, the first carrier air wing to be permanently forward deployed. In 1991 the USS Independence replaced the decommissioned Midway, but CVW-5 remained to support the newer carrier. This summer, CVW-5 will again cross-deck to the USS Kitty Hawk as it replaces the USS Independence.

In 1993, HSL-51 was established to provide aviation support for the Yokosuka-based ships of Destroyer Squadron 15.

With the closing of NAS Cubi Point in the Philipines in 1991 and NAS Agana in Guam in 1995, NAF Atsugi became the primary base for support of naval aviation in the Western Pacific.

Because of the "joint use" arrangement between the JMSDF and American military personnel, NAF Atsugi enjoys a unique international base of operations. It is an interesting, rewarding place in which to work and to live.

Official Installation Link

Base Operator
DSN: 264-1110
011-81-467-63-1110

Major Units
Carrier Air Wing 5

Billeting/Quarters
DSN: 264-6880
011-81-467-63-3304

Mailing Address
NAF Atsugi Headquarters, PSC 477 Box 9
FPO, AP
96306-1209

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