FACILITIES

When WDD was established in July 1954, it set up temporary headquarters in a former parochial school on Manchester Avenue in Inglewood, California. The old schoolhouse was only a stopgap solution, however, and early in 1955, WDD moved into buildings on Arbor Vitae Street in southwest Los Angeles, near the airport. These offices housed not only Air Force and civil service personnel, but also personnel working for the Ramo-Wooldridge Corporation, which supported WDD's missile programs.


The former parochial school in Inglewood, California, that served as the first headquarters of the Western Development Division.


In 1955, Ramo-Wooldridge purchased 40 acres on the southeast corner of Aviation and El Segundo Boulevards in El Segundo. The site was three miles from the Arbor Vitae complex but was the closest site available. Beginning in the middle of 1956, a complex of seven buildings was constructed on the site to provide a home for the Ramo-Wooldridge operation. That complex, known as the Research and Development (R&D) Center, was completed in the fall of 1958, and employees of Ramo-Wooldridge, now part of TRW, moved into it.

The Arbor Vitae Complex and the R&D Center provided much more room than the old schoolhouse, but they did not provide enough. By the late 1950s, the missile program had expanded, and WDD (now AFBMD) had become involved in the space program as well. The manpower associated with these growing programs left the Arbor Vitae complex and the R&D Center extremely congested, and additional facilities had to be found to accommodate it. Trailers were rented and parked at the Arbor Vitae complex and the R&D Center, and additional buildings were rented in southwest Los Angeles, Inglewood, Hawthorne, Lawndale, and Torrance.


The Arbor Vitae complex-- the second headquarters of the Western Development Division. The runways of Los Angeles International Airport can be seen in the background, and beyond them, marked by a rectangle, STL's R&D Center in El Segundo.


In April 1961, AFBMD was divided into BSD and SSD, and between July and September 1962, BSD moved to Norton AFB in San Bernardino, California. TRW employees who performed systems engineering for the missile program went there as well. Meanwhile, in December 1961, the Air Force had purchased the R&D Center from TRW to serve as a home for The Aerospace Corporation, which had been created in 1960 and was now supporting Air Force space programs. As a result of these changes, SSD now occupied the Arbor Vitae complex and Aerospace occupied the R&D Center. The departure of BSD and TRW relieved pressure on the facilities, and there was now enough office space for SSD and Aerospace.

While the office space problem had been solved, another problem remained--the fact that the Arbor Vitae complex and the R&D Center were three miles apart. It was obviously more efficient to consolidate SSD and Aerospace in one place, and during 1961/62, a plan was devised to bring that about. The plan involved acquisition of two pieces of real estate adjoining the R&D Center. One, a 50 acre parcel at the northwest corner of Aviation and El Segundo Boulevards, was part of an aircraft plant owned by the Navy. That site was transferred to the Air Force in October 1962. The other site, a 31 acre parcel at the southwest corner of the same intersection, was owned by the Utah Construction and Mining Company. The Aerospace Corp. acquired that site in November 1962, and a new headquarters for Aerospace was built there between February 1963 and April 1964. As Aerospace personnel moved into their new headquarters, Air Force people moved into the R&D Center and the former Navy facility. By 30 April 1964, this process was complete, and the Air Force property at the intersection of Aviation and El Segundo Boulevards was designated as Los Angeles Air Force Station (AFS). The R&D Center became Area A of Los Angeles AFS, and the former Navy facility became Area B.


Los Angeles AFS as it appeared during the SAMSO era. Area A is is in the lower middle part of the picture, with The Aerospace Corporation complex to its left and Area B beyond them. The Santa Monica Mountains can be seen in the distance, along with a small sliver of Santa Monica Bay.

Headquarters of the Ballistic Missile Organization at Norton AFB as it appeared in the early 1990s. From 1962 to 1981, missile elements at Norton AFB occupied a converted warehouse on the main base. In 1981, they moved to this facility just outside the main base.

Building 105 of Area A, as it appeared during the 1960s and 1970s. Command section offices were, and still are, on the top floor of this building. The Thor Agena launch vehicle in front of the building, a landmark for many years, was blown down by a strong wind in March 1975.


SSD's successors have remained at Los Angeles AFS, which was redesignated as Los Angeles Air Force Base (AFB) in September 1987. For several decades, Air Force elements responsible for development and production of ICBMs remained in San Bernardino. This geographical separation continued even in the SAMSO era, when the missile and space functions belonged to the same organization. However, the situation finally changed due to the drawdown of missile programs following the end of the cold war. The old BSD/BMO headquarters in San Bernardino closed in September 1995, and the few remaining personnel moved to Los Angeles AFB.

In the years since it was established, Los Angeles AFB has expanded by acquisition of two geographically separated annexes. One, referred to as the Lawndale Facility or Annex 3, is 13 acres in size and is located on Aviation Boulevard in the city of Hawthorne, about a mile south of the main base. The Lawndale Facility has one building, a former Army missile plant. The facility was acquired by the Air Force in 1982, and renovation of the building was completed in December 1986. It was then used as office space by personnel working in Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) programs managed by Space Division.


Aerial view of Fort MacArthur during the mid-1980s. The parade ground is in the middle of the picture; in the background is the Pacific Ocean.


The other annex is Fort MacArthur, another former Army installation acquired by the Air Force in 1982. It is 96 acres in size and is located in the community of San Pedro, about 13 miles south of the main base. The Fort now serves as a housing area for military personnel who work at the base, but it had a long and proud history as an Army installation before it was acquired by the Air Force. We will now look at that early history and then focus on the acquisition of the Fort by the Air Force and the construction of housing for Air Force personnel.

The area occupied by Fort MacArthur has been a government reservation since at least the mid 19th century. When ships discharged cargo in San Pedro Bay, a tract of land was used primarily for traffic at the boat landing. This tract was defined and protected in 1846 by Mexican Governor Pio Pico, who confirmed the private ownership of Rancho de los Palos Verdes but required the owners to leave free "500 varas square" (44.25 acres) at the port of San Pedro. After the US government acquired California from Mexico, it continued to recognize the 500 varas square as a government reservation, and in 1888, President Grover Cleveland declared the area a military reservation. In 1914, the reservation became Fort MacArthur, named in honor of Lieutenant General Arthur MacArthur--a military leader in the Spanish-American war, a governor of the Philippines, and the father of future General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. At that time, the Fort comprised three parcels of land: the original 500 varas square, later known as the Middle Reservation; an area on Point Fermin, later known as the Upper Reservation; and a small plot on Terminal Point. The Middle Reservation would later be expanded to take in much of the area along the bluffs to the south, and the Fort would also acquire other property, including a parcel fronting on Cabrillo Beach, known as the Lower Reservation, and parcels at White Point and Point Vicente.

Fort MacArthur was established to provide a home for coastal artillery batteries that the government had decided to build at San Pedro. In 1917, the Army completed construction of four batteries of 14-inch disappearing carriage rifles and two batteries of 12-inch mortars on Point Fermin. By 1919, it had constructed housing and headquarters buildings on the Middle Reservation in the Mission Revival and California Craftsman architectural styles. In 1917, the fort was garrisoned by the 1st Coast Artillery Company, Fort MacArthur. During World War I, the fort guarded the harbor and served as a training and staging area for Army units departing for the European theater. Over 4,000 soldiers at one time were stationed at the fort before the end of the war.


The Patton quadrangle at Fort MacArthur, with four of the historic buildings constructed by the Army during World War I. The building on the front left housed the post exchange and the gymnasium, the building on the front right was a guard house and fire house, and the buildings in the rear were barracks for enlisted personnel.


Between World Wars, Fort MacArthur continued to guard the harbor. The California National Guard also trained there, and the Civilian Conservation Corps occupied its housing facilities. Its armament grew increasingly outmoded in comparison to naval ordnance, however, and in 1926 and 1930, the Army emplaced two modern 14-inch railroad guns on the Middle Reservation. Antiaircraft units augmented the fort's defense in the 1930s.

During World War II, the fort maintained its defenses, trained artillerymen for service overseas, and processed soldiers entering and leaving military service. None of the large guns were fired at enemy targets, but a small gun shelled a suspected enemy submarine in the first month of the war. The armament was modernized again in 1943 when two 16-inch rifles were emplaced at White Point near the Upper Reservation. All of the major armament was inactivated and most of it sold for scrap between 1943 and 1946.

Fort MacArthur's mission changed radically after the war. In 1948, it became a major training center for Army reservists. Reserve units from all of southern California reported to the fort for supervision and training. In 1954, the fort became an antiaircraft missile site when a NIKE AJAX missile battery was emplaced on the Upper Reservation. Other NIKE sites were built in remote locations around southern California, all controlled by the 47th Artillery Brigade headquartered at Fort MacArthur. In the 1950s, the NIKE AJAX missiles began to be replaced by the more powerful NIKE HERCULES missiles, capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

By 1974, the NIKE sites had become obsolete and were shut down, causing the Army to reduce its presence at Fort MacArthur. The Army retained the Middle Reservation as an administrative center for support of active and reserve Army and National Guard units in southern California. However, it disposed of all other land attached to the fort, which included the Lower Reservation, the Hospital Area, the Upper Reservation, White Point, and Point Vicente. In 1975, Fort MacArthur became a sub-post of Fort Ord and was manned by an Army support detachment.

In 1978, the Army announced that it would transfer its support units from Fort MacArthur to the Los Alamitos Armed Forces Reserve Center and would declare the remaining land excess. At that point, SAMSO was looking for a site to build housing for its military personnel, many of whom could not afford to buy or even rent housing in the very expensive Los Angeles market. SAMSO saw Fort MacArthur as the solution to its problem, and it asked the Air Staff to place a hold on the land. In September 1979, the Department of Defense approved the transfer of Fort MacArthur from Army to Air Force jurisdiction. After some initial delays, Congress appropriated funds for construction of military housing at the Fort, and 370 townhouses were built there between November 1981 and December 1985. In addition, 33 existing homes at the Fort were renovated. Fort MacArthur was officially transferred from Army to Air Force control on 1 October 1982, and Air Force families began moving into the first of the newly built townhouses at that point.

While the construction of townhouses at Fort MacArthur alleviated the housing problem for Air Force personnel in Los Angeles, it did not completely solve it, and even before construction was finished, Space Division began looking for a place where it could build another 170 units. It targeted 50 acres at White Point, which the Army had declared excess in 1975 and turned over to the City of Los Angeles. The city was unwilling to transfer this land to the Air Force, but a compromise was eventually reached, whereby the Air Force received title to 11.34 acres at White Point and 22.09 acres of nearby Bogdanovich Park. An agreement to this effect was signed in April 1987, and between August 1987 and August 1989, 170 units of military family housing were built at the White Point site, which was renamed Pacific Heights, and at Bogdanovich Park, which was renamed Pacific Crest. Completion of this construction gave Los Angeles AFB a total of 573 units of military family housing at Fort MacArthur, Pacific Heights, and Pacific Crest. This housing made the base a more viable installation and helped it to survive three rounds of base closures conducted under the Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1990.