NAF Atsugi has been home to Sailors and their families for nearly 60 years and the only permanently forward deployed, co-located Air Wing, Carrier Air Wing Five for more than 28 years. The only Naval installation supporting an entire Air Wing, Atsugi supports more than 40 award- Winning tenant commands, which not only guarantee mission accomplishment, but also ensure the success of our numerous community and youth programs through teamwork and volunteerism.
The 1,249 acres of Naval Air Facility Atsugi lies in the heart of the Kanto Plain on Honshu, the main island of Japan. The base was originally built in 1938 by the Japanese Imperial Navy as Emperor Hirohito's Naval Air Base. There were other air bases in Yokosuka, Kisarazu and Tateyama; however, these were regarded as being unfit bases for the larger planes to be used by the Japanese Navy in the future. The surrounding area was almost evenly divided into two parts - mainly farmland and forest. Most of the latter consisted of pine trees and underbrush. Hardly any houses were found in this area, which gave it a very lonely appearance. For transportation facilities, there was the main line of the Odakyu Electric Railroad, Fujisawa Line and the Jinchu Line. The base was used to train the Emperor's pilots. The 302 Naval Aviation Corps, flew their Zero and Gekko fighters, and were the most formidable factor in Japan's air defense during World War II, as was the 1st and 2nd Sagamino Naval Air Group. These groups used Atsugi as a strategic airfield for night actions, and worked to construct the base's underground defense facilities. Part of this series of tunnels remains today.
The Atsugi Airdrome, as it was called then, under the command of Captain Yasuna Kozono, was the top aviation base in Japan and only the best pilots flew from here. However, on August 15, 1945, Emperor Hirohito announced to the world that Japan would surrender unconditionally with the acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration. Many groups throughout the country initially refused to lay down their arms. Among these were Kozono and his pilots at Atsugi, who vowed to defend mainland Japan "to the end." They revolted and printed thousands of leaflets stating that those who had agreed to surrender guilty of treason and urged the continuation of the war. The leaflets were dropped over Tokyo, Yokohama, Yokosuka and other locations around the Kanto Plain. They also held the base captive for seven days. Realizing that surrender was a reality, the pilots took off in 33 planes for their final destination and the disarmament finally began.
General Douglas MacArthur landed at Atsugi, August 30, in his C-54, the "Bataan" to accept the formal Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri and assume the duties as military Governor of Japan. Before MacArthur arrived, paratroopers of the 11th Airborne Division deplaned at Atsugi Airfield. By the end of that day more than 4,200 troops in 123 planes had completed the move from Okinawa to mainland Japan. The war was over.
During the next five years the base was used by the Army as a storage area, and as an overflow camp for Camp Zama, located about five miles from Atsugi. During World War II, all building and facilities were in very poor condition and very little effort was spent to maintain the buildings and grounds.
At the outbreak of the Korean War, June 25, 1950, Atsugi was selected by the Navy as its major Naval Air Station in the Far East. Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Two arrived in October and found the station in a complete state of disrepair. Base restoration and development began immediately. Following them was Fleet Aircraft Service Squadron Eleven, which moved to Atsugi to prepare the new station for operational readiness and formal commissioning at the earliest possible date.
NAS Atsugi was commissioned December 1, 1950 on a wet and gusty afternoon. Three officers and 50 enlisted men were on hand to hear Captain R.C. Sutliff, USN, read his orders as the new Commanding Officer. In January 1951, Patrol Squadron Six came as the first squadron operating from the station. They were followed shortly by a detachment of Fleet Aircraft Service Squadron 120 based at Oppama, near Yokosuka, which was ordered to Atsugi to support the VP-6 "Neptune" planes.
During the early part of the Korean War, WWII-era fighters were quickly mobilized to respond to the threat, but their advanced age and dated performance characteristics meant that more and more now-practical jet aircraft began to be employed in the conflict. These state-of-the-art planes began to be seen at Atsugi as well. The shift was not just from propellers to jets, through. The traditional Navy blue scheme of WWII was dropped in favor of the two-tone gull gray/white scheme and, at the same time, unit markings became much more colorful and extravagant.
April 1951, Commander Fleet Air, Japan, Rear Adm. G.R. Henderson, was ordered to an important command afloat and as a result moved his staff of about 15 officers and 60 enlisted men from his headquarters in Tokyo to Atsugi and this station then became the naval Air activity in the orient. On April 30, Captain Sutliff, Commanding Officer of NAS Atsugi assumed the additional duty of COMFAIRJAPAN. Commander Fleet Air Wing Six also moved his headquarters from the USS Pine Island to Atsugi at the same time. With the advent of warm weather, Medical Officers formed a sanitation detail and assigned it the important chore of keeping the rat and mosquito populations in hand. The Medical Department also waged war against the dreaded Japanese "B" encephalitis disease.
On June 11, 1951, the station newspaper - the NAS Atsugi News - was proposed and indicated the growth and development of the station.
In August 1951, major construction projects neared completion including the new photo lab, control tower, parachute tower and the final inspection of a new gatehouse.
In September 1951, dial telephones were installed and a brand new 800 line dial exchange replaced an old and worn out 300 line manual switchboard.
By November 1951, the first family member arrived under the new Far East entry regulations. Recreational facilities were added, including a bowling center, Station Theater and a swimming pool - all still in use today.
December 1951, one year after the base’s commissioning, NAS celebrated with "open hours" for Japanese guests to come in and share in the hotdogs and games. Christmas time had a pageant by small Japanese school children and a party for them afterwards.
During the 1950's and 60's many units few out of Atsugi. At one point there were as many as 250 aircraft here. By comparison, Carrier Air Wing FIVE has about 80 aircraft. Following the end of the Korean War, conflicts in Indochina eventually developed into the Vietnam War. At the same time, Navy aircraft saw huge advances in design and performance, including the breaking of the sound barrier. By the late 1960's NAS was phasing down preparing to become a Naval Air Facility.
The original "Japan Maritime Security Force" was formed in 1952, with its first air units being stationed at Tateyama base. At that time, the entire force consisted of just seven Bell 47 and S-51 helicopters. In March of 1954, the MSA Agreement was signed, leading to the formation of the Defense Ministry and the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) in July. Because of the MSA Agreement, the JMSDF began receiving deliveries of SNJ and PV-2 aircraft, as well as newly built P2B-7's. These were stationed at Konoya airbase in Kagoshima. Beginning in the mid-1950s, license-built versions of several aircraft began to emerge, as well as partially or wholly domestic designs such as the anti-submarine P-21, PS-1, YS-11 and KM-2. In addition, the helicopters employed by the JMSDF showed a trend toward larger and larger models. Joint efforts with the U.S. Navy carried out in the mid-60s led to the development of still more types of new aircraft, significantly boosting the JMSDF's anti-submarine capability. In 1972, it was mutually agree that the base would be shared by both nations and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense force moved in and became our partner in defending freedom.
When USS Midway (CVA-41) was forward deployed to Yokosuka in 1973, Atsugi became a support base for her planes. The area around NAF Atsugi also underwent a population explosion during this same period. In 1991, USS Independence (CV-62) replaced the Midway. In 1998 USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) replaced the Independence. In September 2008, USS George Washington (CVN 73) replaced Kitty Hawk at a cross-decking ceremony in San Diego, making her the only forward deployed carrier in the Pacific. NAF Atsugi is the only U.S. Navy base in the world that has a forward-deployed, co-located complete Air Wing.
Carrier Air Wing Five has a long and rich heritage in naval aviation. Originally commissioned as Carrier Air Group Five (CVG-5) in 1943, CVW-5 embarked on USS Midway to become part of the first Carrier/Air Wing team permanently forward deployed overseas. On January 17, 1991, Operation Desert Storm began as CVW-5 transitioned to USS Independence. In August 1999, the Air Wing again transitioned to the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63). The George Washington is a nuclear powered aircraft carrier which, combined with its Air Wing, provides a significant contribution to our defense roles and mission in the Pacific. The Air Wing now consists of eight squadrons: VFA-27, VFA-102, VFA-115, VFA-195, VAW-125, VAQ-141, HSC-12 and HSM-77. Additionally, there is a squadron detachment from VRC-30, and the helicopter squadron HSM-51. Whether repairing an engine, inspecting aircraft for safety or launching them, there is no doubt the GW/Five team is the best at what they do and represents a potent deterrent to aggression and a constant combat ready presence.
Our current community includes 10,000 personnel, including U.S. military, JMSDF, civilians, family members and Japanese National employees Taking our role as ambassadors to the Asian Pacific to heart, we strive daily to improve the strength and quality of our ties to our host nation. NAF Atsugi's strategic importance continues to grow, providing the finest facilities, maintenance and logistic services to support to make up the "Tip of the Sword" ensuring stability in the Western Pacific.