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Mather AFB

For the civil use of this facility and airport information, see Sacramento Mather Airport

Mather Air Force Base (Mather AFB) is a closed United States Air Force Base located 12 miles (19 km) east of Sacramento, in the present-day city of Rancho Cordova on the south side of U.S. Route 50 in Sacramento County, California. (The base had already been closed before the city was incorporated in 2003.) Mather Field was one of thirty-two Air Service training camps established after the United States entry into World War I in April 1917.[1]

The Mather AFB land has various post-military uses including the 1995 Sacramento Mather Airport.

History

Mather Air Force Base was named after Second Lieutenant Carl Spencer Mather, a 25-year-old army pilot killed in a mid-air collision while training at Ellington Field, Texas on 30 January 1918.[2] Mather learned to fly in 1914 at the Curtiss Flying School in Hammondsport, New York, and became an instructor there at the age of 20. He enlisted as an aviation cadet in August 1917 and as a licensed pilot was commissioned with part of his class as a second lieutenant on 20 January 1918. He continued training to earn a Reserve Military Aviator rating and promotion to first lieutenant but was killed ten days later. The remainder of his class was requested that Mills Field be renamed in Mather's honor.[2]

World War I

In January 1918, the Department of War sent a cadre of officers to the Sacramento, California area to survey sites for an aviation school. The group decided on a location about 12 miles southwest of Sacramento called Mills Station. An agreement to lease the land for the Army was concluded, and the construction of some 50 buildings began 15 March 1918. Mills Field, named after the local community was opened on 30 April 1918. It covered ovrer 700 acres and could accommodate up to 1,000 personnel. Dozens of wooden buildings served as headquarters, maintenance, and officers’ quarters. Enlisted men had to bivouac in tents. Mather Field's first commander was 1st Lieutenant Sam P. Burman, March 15, 1918. The first unit stationed there was the 283d Aero Squadron, which was transferred from Rockwell Field, North Island, California.[2]

Flight training

Only a few U.S. Army Air Service aircraft arrived with the 283d Aero Squadron, Most of the Curtiss JN-4 Jennys to be used for flight training were shipped in wooden crates by railcar. Mather Field served as a base for flight training for the United States Army Air Service. In 1917, flight training occurred in two phases: primary and advanced. Primary training took eight weeks and consisted of pilots learning basic flight skills under dual and solo instruction. After completion of their primary training at Mather, flight cadets were then transferred to another base for advanced training.[2] Training units assigned to Mather Field:[3]

  • Post Headquarters, Mather Field April 1918-November 1919
  • 200th Aero Squadron (II), June 1918
Re-designated as Squadron "A", July–November 1918
  • 201st Aero Squadron (II), June 1918
Re-designated as Squadron "B", July–November 1918
  • 283d Aero Squadron (II), April 1918
Re-designated as Squadron "C", July–November 1918
  • 294th Aero Squadron (II), June 1918
Re-designated as Squadron "D", July–November 1918
  • Squadron "E", July 1918
  • Flying School Detachment (Consolidation of Squadrons A-E), November 1918-October 1919

With the sudden end of World War I in November 1918, the future operational status of Mather Field was unknown. Many local officials speculated that the U.S. government would keep the field open because of the outstanding combat record established by Mather-trained pilots in Europe. Locals also pointed to the optimal weather conditions in the Sacramento area for flight training. Cadets in flight training on 11 November 1918 were allowed to complete their training, however no new cadets were assigned to the base. Also the separate training squadrons were consolidated into a single Flying School detachment, as many of the personnel assigned were being demobilized. Finally, flight training activities ceased on November 8, 1919.[2]

Inter-war years

With the end of World War I, in December 1919 Mather Field was deactivated as an active duty airfield, however, and a small caretaker unit was assigned to the facility for administrative reasons. It was used by the aerial forestry patrol. It also was used intermittently to support small military units. However, with the return to a peacetime economy, military training facilities such as Mather Field were deemed unnecessary, and it was closed on 12 May 1923. The War Department had ordered the small caretaker force at Mather Field to dismantle all remaining structures and to sell them as surplus. Throughout the remainder of the 1920s, the War Department leased out the vacant land to local farmers and ranchers.[2]

Mather Field was reactivated on 1 April 1930 but as a sub post of the Presidio U.S. Army Post, San Francisco; Hamilton Field and Stockton Field in that order during the 1930s. Mather Field, however, had to be refitted with new electrical, water, and telephone lines. Soon, Mather was again, alive with activity, though the renovation process could not compare to the original base construction.[2]

World War II

The Field was reestablished as a separate post and activated on 13 May 1941. The Field area was increased from 872 to 4,418 acres (17.88 km2) in June 1941. Known sub-bases and auxiliaries of Mather AAF were:

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