Monday, February 7, 2011

Military Monday - Eureka Blimp Base

Eureka, California, bustled with home defense activity during World War II. The sandy beaches of Humboldt Bay's north peninsula held a Coast Guard station and a variety of Navy operations. Most unique was the Navy Blimp Base.

The base supported two K-type patrol airships. These lighter-than-air vessels searched for enemy submarines and escorted ships leaving the bay. They also rescued shipwreck survivors and helped lost fishermen find their way home.

Each blimp had a large helium filled gasbag over two-hundred-fifty feet long. A gondola, or passenger car, hung at the bottom with room for a pilot and nine crewmen. Stocked with supplies and outfitted with a galley, these airships cruised south to San Francisco, north to Tillamook, Oregon, and west to Hawaii.

Using radar to find Japanese submarines, the blimp crew dropped depth charges to complete their seek-and-destroy missions. Their closest target appears to have been a sub boldly lurking off the Trinidad coast just miles north of the base.

There are no military blimps today, but a few buildings and the airplane landing strip at the old blimp base, now a community airport, remind us of the debt of gratitude owed those brave air-born defenders of the coast.

Originally written by Dawna Curler, with help from the Humboldt Historical Society, July 15, 2005, for the JPR radio show As It Was.
Humboldt Historical Society
Nash, Glen. "When Blimps Once Dotted the North Coast," Humboldt Historian, Autumn 1994, pp. 32-39; "School days," Humboldt Historian, September-October 1993,pp.12-13; Faulkner, Jessie. "Navy Had Blimps in Samoa During World War II," The Humboldt Beacon, March 11, 1999, p. A10.

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  1. It's hard to picture the Goodyear Blimp as a Navy craft with depth charges and machine guns.

  2. Blimps and the giant airships are so fascinating. I had an opportunity to ride in the Goodyear one out of Long Beach CA. Very memorable.
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)