During World War II, in an effort to disguise the facility and ward off enemy fire, officials at Burbank’s Lockheed Air Terminal (now known as Bob Hope Airport ) took the unusual but highly effective step of covering the entire airport with strategically placed camouflage netting. Up from the air, in the eyes of the enemy, the entire area looked like a rural subdivision.

Before

before

After

after

 

In February 1942, a Japanese submarine was spotted just outside San Francisco Bay. When another Japanese submarine surfaced off Santa Barbara, a few nights later, and fired a few shells at an oil storage facility the War Department ordered Lt Gen John L De Witt, head of Western Defense Command, to protect vital installations along the Pacific Coast.

The job of disguising California fell upon Colonel John F Ohmer, a pioneer in camouflage, deception and misdirection techniques. During the Battle of Britain in 1940, Colonel Ohmer’s carefully made and positioned camouflage caused the Luftwaffe to waste thousands of tons of bombs on empty fields.

With help of scenic designers, painters, art directors, landscape artists, animators, carpenters, lighting experts and prop men from movie studios in Hollywood, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Disney Studios, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Universal Pictures and others, Colonel Ohmer began the task of disguising March Field and its neighborhood.

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Ohmer concealed key factories and assembly plants that may be targets, including Douglas Aircraft. In a short period of time the entire area of the factory was camouflaged. The Lockheed-Vega aircraft plant in Burbank was fully hidden beneath a complete suburb replete with rubber automobiles and peaceful rural neighborhood scenes painted on canvas. Small farm complete with animals, a barn, a silo and other buildings were erected. Pastoral settings used frames of lumber and large spreads of canvas.

Hundreds of fake trees and shrubs were positioned to give the entire area a 3-dimensional appearance. The trees and shrubs were created from chicken wire treated with adhesive, then covered with chicken feathers for leaves, then painted various shades of green (with spots of brown, even). Air ducts were disguised as fire hydrants.

In other sections, scattered decoy aircraft made of canvas scraps, ration boxes, and burlap on chicken wire as well as flattened tin cans dominated the landscape. None of these aircraft looked real up close but looked great from a distance. Fake runways were made by burning grassy strips.

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Maintaining the illusion of a neighbourhood required signs of life and activity. Workers emerged to relocate automobiles, and took walks on hidden catwalks. Some took washing down from fake clotheslines only to replace it later at scheduled times. Parked automobiles were moved to indicate drivers were using their cars daily and returning home from work.

Ohmer’s “suburb” brought requests for other camouflage projects. In Seattle, Boeing Aircraft covered nearly 26 acres. It became covered by a complete town with municipal buildings, a park, schools and homes.

The disguise of California ceased to be critical when the US Navy dealt a smashing defeat to a Japanese carrier task force at Midway Island. The threat of a serious attack against the West Coast diminished, then vanished.

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Lockheed Air Terminal Control Tower, exterior view, looking up from the ground. Man standing on deck, looking through binoculars. What appears to be a second story is a fake building, built as a part of the camouflage for the airport. Numbered "894." 8 x 10 in. black and white photograph.
Lockheed Air Terminal Control Tower, exterior view, looking up from the ground. Man standing on deck, looking through binoculars. What appears to be a second story is a fake building, built as a part of the camouflage for the airport. Numbered “894.” 8 x 10 in. black and white photograph.

 

 

 

 

Lockheed Air Terminal
 
 
This airport, in the northwest corner of Burbank, was built in 1930. By 1934 the airport had become Los Angeles’ primary airport known as Union Air Terminal. During the1930’s Lockheed Aircraft Company, adjacent to the field, evolved into one the nation’s largest aircraft manufacturers, and in 1940 Lockheed purchased the airport. It was then renamed Lockheed Air Terminal and used to test and delivery Lockheed aircraft. It also remained Los Angeles’ primary civil airport and remained the area’s only civil airport throughout the war. During the war Lockheed built P-38 fighters, Hudson and B-17 bombers. The Royal Air Force’s Air Technical Services Command and US Army Air Forces Western Technical Training Command had operations at the field. The airport and the Lockheed plant were extensively camouflaged during the war. The main Lockheed plant and runways were made to appear as grain fields and houses, and the parking lot was covered over with netting to appear as alfalfa fields. In addition, an extensive smoke screen system was installed to hide the plant under smoke. See photographs below for examples of this deception. In 1947, when Mines Field was expanded to become Los Angeles’ primary airport, this facility became a secondary airport. In 1975 the cities of Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena bought the airport and renamed it Burbank Glendale-Pasadena Airport. Lockheed continued in operation at the field for many years. Source: World War II Sites in the United States: A Tour Guide and Directory by Richard E. Osbourne  Additional Historical Information: The US Air Force (USAF) facility at Lockheed Air Terminal is shown in a 1952 Headquarters, USAF installations directory as occupying 409 acres and operated by the Air Pictorial Service. The 1354th Video Production Squadron activated there in December 1952 and moved to Orlando AFB in late 1953 according to a 2002 Air Force News Service story. Lockheed Air Terminal transferred from Military Air Transport Service to Air Materiel Command (presumably inactive), March 1, 1954 by Department of the Air Force General Order 21, May 21, 1954.

 

Images of Lockheed Air Terminal during World War II
 
 
 

Extract, War Department Inventory of Owned, Sponsored and Leased Facilities, 1945

Army Air Forces Technical Training School, Lockheed Aircraft Corporation
 
  • Capacity:
    • Enlisted:
      • Permanent:
      • Mobilization:
      • Theater of Operations: 969
      • Hutments:
      • Tents:
      • Total: 969
    • Officers: 17
    • Station Hospital:
  • Acreage
    • Owned: 150 acres
    • Leases: 9 acres (1 lease)
    • Total: 159 acres
  • Storage:
    • Covered:
    • Open:
  • Cost to Government Since 1 July 1940:
    • Annual lease payments: $1.00
    • Land: $353,029.00
    • Construction: $384,610.00
    • Total (less annual leases): $737,639.00
  • Remarks:

 

Additional Online Histories
 
Lockheed-Martin Corporation
 
 
Army Units Assigned to Camp Kohler
 
 Data Source
Date(s)
 Unit(s)
 Army of the United States Station List  1 June 1943
Air Depot Detchment (Pacific Airmotive Divition of Airplane Manufacturing and Supply Corp.) (AAF)
Air Depot Detchment (Western Airlines) (AAF)
Training Detachment Vega Aircraft Corporation (Civilian Contract Factory School, Airframes) (AAF)
Headquarters, 13th Transport Transition Traing Detachment (Western Airlines) (AAF)
74th Chemical Smoke Generator Company (Colored) (WDC)
174th Chemical Smoke Generator Company (Colored) (WDC)
733rd Military Police Battalion (Zone of the Interior) (Colored) (WDC)
603rd Coast Artillery Regiment (Anti-Aircraft) (Semi-Mobile) (less Band and 3rd Battalion) (WDC)
 Army of the United States Station List  7 April 1945
63rd Signal Radar Maintenance Unit, Type C (AAF)
3715th Army Air Forces Base Unit (Factory School) (Lockheed Aircraft Factory School)

 

AAF – Army Air Forces units AGF – Army Ground Forces ASF – Army Service Forces units WDC – Western Defense Command
 Extract, US Army Air Forces Airfield Directory, January 1945

 

 

from:http://www.amusingplanet.com/2010/12/how-military-hid-lockheed-burbank.html

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