When I was growing up in Orange County, California, everyone knew the area as the “Blimp Base.” Acre after acre dotted with military-issue buildings dwarfed by the enormous metal hangars designed to house wartime airships. We passed them on the road and Mom or Dad would never fail to point out, “There’s the Blimp Base where your dad was stationed during the War.”
As a Navy Reservist while attending college in Los Angeles, Ed May spent many weekends on training exercises held on base. First established by the Navy for airship support during World War II, by 1951 the base had been decommissioned and then reactivated under the Marine Corps flag to support the Korean War. By the time Ed went from Reserve to Active Duty, the base was used for anti-submarine training.
Click to hear Ed talk about the LTA Station
A few years ago my dad casually mentioned that “someone” from “someplace” had interviewed him about his time at the El Toro LTA Station. Persistent questions revealed that the interviewer was a “very nice young man.”
Since then I’ve learned that, yes, a local oral history project had been collecting interviews and material from servicemen who served at the base. On November 11, 2009, Adam Kelly, from the Center for Oral and Public History at California State University, Fullerton, interviewed my dad for the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station Oral History Project.
Last month, I attended the L.A. as Subject Archives Bazaar where archivists and librarians from throughout Southern California meet and greet the public for a one-day event to showcase projects and programs. Los Angeles is remarkably rich in local archives, from film to foreign language ephemera I think you can find it here. But the highlight of my day was meeting Archivist Stephanie George from Cal State Fullerton who works closely on the El Toro project. “No problem,” she said when I asked if it might be possible to get a copy of Dad’s interview for the El Toro project.
It seems that he has a lovely bound copy of the transcript, but that’s news to me!
Fortunately, I now have a copy too. And, a copy of the audio file. I know this interview is something Dad’s grandchildren will love to hear. It sounds just like him, especially when he laughs. He’s trying to be very serious and answer the interviewer’s questions carefully, but once in a while he slips up and just laughs. It’s great.
This past summer I asked Dad about his “tour of duty” on the Blimp Base.
What did you do there, Dad?
Well, I was the Cook.
You’ve got to be kidding. You can’t cook.[Laugh] Yea, well. I cooked. We’d go up in the airship and I had to cook lunch on one little burner. I don’t remember what I cooked. . . but, it had a lot of butter. I just remember a lot of butter. We went out over the ocean for target practice and we were gone for a long time, so we had to have lunch.
Now, that would have been a question for the recorded interview!
Click on the media link above to hear Ed talk about what he did when he was stationed at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.
And THANK YOU, to the Archivists at Cal State Fullerton, Center for Oral and Public History for generously sharing this interview.