Miramar’s military roots began in 1917, when the U.S. Army purchased the Miramar area and established Camp Kearny. The camp was used as a demobilization center after the war, but ceased to function as a military base and languished for 12 years.
The Navy’s occupation of the area began in 1932, when the largest aircraft in the world came to Camp Kearny. A mooring mast was built at the camp for the dirigibles USS Akron and USS Macon. Both airships crashed at sea within only a few years, and Camp Kearney was quiet once again.
The U.S. military began a precautionary buildup at Miramar when conflicts in Europe eventually lead to the outbreak of World War II. Runways were built in 1940.
During the 1940s, both the Navy and Marine Corps occupied Miramar. After World War II, all of the military facilities were combined and the base was designated Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. This lasted just 13 months, however, when the Marines moved to El Toro in 1947. In the early 1950s, a plan was developed to create a master jet base where air groups and squadrons would be combined at a single installation. In 1952, the installation became the first master jet base when it was designated Naval Air Station Miramar.
In 1961, Miramar was selected to serve as a support base solely for fighter squadrons. Fightertown, USA was born.
Miramar had prepared and supported carrier groups and squadrons during World War II and Korea, but it was during the Vietnam War that Miramar met its greatest challenge: to train fighter crews in air-combat maneuvering and fleet air defense. The mission was accomplished through the creation of Top Gun, a graduate-level training school for aviators that garnered fame throughout the military for its success. The movie “Top Gun,” starring Tom Cruise, brought worldwide fame to Fightertown. Portions of the movie were filmed aboard Miramar.
A Base Realignment and Closure Committee decision in 1993 recommended that Naval Air Station Miramar be realigned to a Marine Corps Air Station. Top Gun and the last F-14 squadron left the air station in 1996.
On Oct. 1, 1997, Miramar once again became a Marine Corps Air Station as Marines landed back home in San Diego after a 50-year hiatus. The final chapter in the transition process was written July 2, 1999, with the closing ceremony for MCAS El Toro and MCAF Tustin. This historic event marked an end to a 56-year Marine presence in Orange County and signified the final step in a five-year transition.
In 2012, the United States Marine Corps celebrated 100 years of Marine aviation. From the first Marine Corps aviator, 1st Lt. Alfred A. Cunningham, to the pilots of today, they continue to serve proudly by supporting a variety of missions throughout the world.
Today, Miramar is the ideal to base the majority of the Marine Corps’ West Coast aircraft. It is strategically close to the Navy ships from NAS North Island and Naval Base San Diego our Marines deploy on the ground combat troops we support at Camp Pendleton and Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Training Center, Twentynine Palms, California, and aviation training ranges at MCAS Yuma, Arizona, necessary for keeping skills sharp.