Now And Then Crissy Field

From 1921 to 1936 Crissy Army Airfield was the center of West Coast military aviation. During these years of explosive advances in air power, pilots from Crissy performed maneuvers and mock battles, flew endurance flights, surveyed the west by air, and scouted for forest fires. A major restoration of the airfield area was completed in 2001.
 
people on a sunny beach boats loaded with people by the beach
Ted Barone NPS
Golden Gate National Recreation Area Park Archives 35340.438

30th Infantry “The Friscans” Training for Hawaiian Maneuvers 1932

The 30th Infantry was posted in San Francsico after WW I. Their most important role was to train the 2nd Marine Division and thus became the principal authority within the U.S. Army on amphibious tactics and procedures
Archive photo:




 
a grassy field with the golden gate bridge in the background soldiers in trucks with the golden gate bridge in the background
Ted Barone NPS
Golden Gate National Recreation Area Park Archives 35256.0312

Troops in Vehicles Lining Crissy Field 1941

Crissy was originally a brackish tidal marsh that extended from Fort Point all the way to Black Point (Fort Mason). Against the bluffs to the west was a frewshwater pond fed by springs while streams from the Presidio uplands added freshwater to the Bay. There are accounts from the Spanish period of occasional use of the shoreline for rodeos and bull and bear fights. However, much of the rubble from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire was dumped into the marsh and then preparations for the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition, large suction dredges pumped a mixture of sand and mud from the bottom of the bay into the salt marsh, obliterating most natural and cultural landscape features. The U.S. Army made good use of the former exposition grounds as a staging area for the movement of troops and equipment during WW II.

In 1994, the Presidio ws transferred to the NPS. Between 1997-2000, 40 acres of natural habitat were restored including 18-acre tidal marsh. More than 230,000 cubic yards of fill were removed. 100,000 native plants representing 110 species were planted or seeded in the site.




 
cyclists crossing the street planes parked along the road
Ted Barone NPS
Golden Gate National Recreation Area Park Archives 32485.083

91st Observation Squadron c. 1921

The 91st Observation Squadron (DeHavilland DH-4B aircraft) was the first permanent unit at Crissy Field. To justify continued growth of the Army Air Service in peacetime, aerial forest fire patrol was inaugurated in 1919. the 91st not only fought fires but mapped bug-infested areas of forest lands, made aerial surveys of road construction through National Forests, and assisted with Search and Rescue operations.




 
a field along the ocean spectators on a field
Ted Barone NPS
Golden Gate National Recreation Area Park Archives 20022.001

World Flight Competition 1924

On September 24, 1924, a small squadron of three Douglas World Cruiser planes landed at Crissy Field, 5 ½ months after they departed Seattle. Their route included Japan, China, Thailand, India, Turkey, France, England, Iceland, and Greenland. Circumnavigation of the globe by air was considered the most important pioneering flight of the time in terms of difficulty and international prestige. The British, Portuguese, and French all simultaneously tried to fly around the world. The U.S. team was the first.




 
golden gate bridge golden gate bridge in construction
Ted Barone NPS
Golden Gate National Recreation Area Park Archives 35339.107

Golden Gate Bridge Construction 1933

Crissy Field’s position as a key airfield for first-line flight operations ended in 1936 as the Golden Gate Bridge neared completion. With the bridge to the west obstructing flight patterns, the area became too cramped to meet the needs of a new generation of aircraft, particularly the high-speed, closed-cockpit monoplanes that were emerging as the most useful aircraft for military operations. The War Department Subcommittee of the House Appropriate Committee recommended Crissy Field be closed saying, “Crissy Field is an unnecessary risk to every pilot forced to land there … utterly unsuitable for airplane operation.”




 
cyclists with the golden gate bridge in the background soldiers attempt to repair a jeep with the golden gate bridge in the background
Ted Barone NPS
Golden Gate National Recreation Area Park Archives 35256.0878

Repairing the Jeep

Crissy Field was used as for training, helicopter deployment, and organization throughout World War II. The sand dunes on the north side of the field fronting the Bay are the only original natural features that remain from its marshland days.
Archival Photo:




 
cars on the street with the golden gate bridge in the background ammunition wagons led by horses on a road
Ted Barone NPS
Golden Gate National Recreation Area Park Archives 1766

Ammunition Wagons on Crissy Field 1932

These escort wagons rolling down Mason Street was the 30th Infantry heading to Fort Mason on its way to maneuvers in Hawaii.




 
people fishing in the bay a firing squad
Ted Barone NPS
Golden Gate National Recreation Area Park Archives 1766

Firing Salute

After the end of World War II, the Sixth Army Flight Detachment based at the Presidio of San Francisco, used Crissy Field for light utility and passenger planes and helicopter operations. During the Vietnam War, the Army used the field for liaison flights and MedEvac flights to Travis Air Force Based from the Presidios Letterman Hospital. In 1974, the Army closed Crissy Field to airplanes. It was decommissioned in 1994 and placed this ”jumble of asphalt and forsaken buildings” in the hands of the National Park Service. The fishing pier adjacent to the Warming Hut is a popular place for tourists and locals alike.




 
people on a sunny beach a wrecked plane sinking in the ocean
Ted Barone NPS
Golden Gate National Recreation Area Park Archives 17986.01

Surveying the Wreckage




 
aerial view with a cityscape planes lined up in a field
Ted Barone NPS
Golden Gate National Recreation Area Park Archives 37164

Crissy Field (planes lined up)




 
 

Last updated: June 20, 2018

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Building 201, Fort Mason

San Francisco, CA 94123-0022

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(415) 561-4700
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