HITCHCOCK NAVAL AIR STATION
HITCHCOCK NAVAL AIR STATION. Hitchcock Naval Air Station was a World War II naval air station for lighter-than-air craft—semirigid airships, also known as blimps. The mission of the LTA craft at Hitchcock was to protect shipping facilities and ship traffic along the Texas coast from possible Axis submarine attacks. The base was located thirty-five miles south of Houston and fifteen miles northwest of Galveston, within the boundaries of the small community of Hitchcock in Galveston County. It was on approximately 3,000 acres of coastal plain procured by a government "Declaration of Taking" in April 1943.
The construction of the $10 million blimp hangar, which was designed to hold six of the giant airships, was actually begun in 1942. The hangar was 1,000 feet long, 300 feet wide and more than 200 feet high; it had more than 300,000 square feet of unobstructed floor space. Other necessary buildings included warehouses, dormitories, shops, vehicle garages, administration and office buildings, and a recreation building containing an auditorium, a gymnasium, a stage, dressing rooms, kitchen facilities, and an Olympic-size swimming pool. All of the buildings were of wood and painted gleaming white. The station was commissioned on May 22, 1943, by navy captain Arthur D. Ayrault. At the time 143 officers and men were attached to it. The base was struck by a hurricane on June 27 but suffered only minimal damage.
As the Axis powers were brought toward their ultimate defeat, the threat of U-boat attack on the Texas coast subsided, and the LTA stations were closed down. Hitchcock was redesignated a naval air facility, to be used primarily for the storage of inactive aeronautical material. In 1949 the General Services Administration sold the installation to H. L. Harvey for $143,777. The Commodity Credit Corporation used the hangar for storing rice; it has been noted that the entire rice harvest of Texas could have been stored in the immense building. In 1950 the site was sold to John W. Mecom. In 1951, during the Korean War, the facility was leased to Bowen-McLaughlin, Incorporated, and the hangar was converted to remanufacture half-tracks and army tanks. In 1961 the hangar suffered such major damage from Hurricane Carla that it was considered too expensive to repair and was demolished in 1962. John Mecom continued to use the site for his various business interests in 1990. The station had a lasting impact on the community of Hitchcock. Many of the civilians and military personnel who came to live and work there either stayed or later returned to the area.
Galveston Daily News, March 27, 1943, January 14, 1962.