Author Topic: WWII era Yellow Water Naval Air Gunnery School  (Read 17248 times)

RMHoward

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WWII era Yellow Water Naval Air Gunnery School
« on: April 11, 2010, 08:56:22 PM »

1943 image



1952 image



2006 image




Hello all,
Here are three pictures covering roughly the same area just north of the former Cecil Field NAS. This was the location of the Yellow Water Naval Air Gunnery School (NAGS).  Constructed in 1942, it was short lived and became inactive in either 1946 or 1947.  The oldest of the three pictures is from 1943 and shows the school as it would have appeared at the beginning of the war, right after construction. The picture is labeled "confidential".   Not all of the buildings or ranges are in place yet. The middle picture is from 1952. It shows the school as it would have appeared at the end of the war.  In it, most of the buildings and ranges are  evident and appear to be in good shape.  The newest picture is 2006 imagery from Google Earth.  If you notice, the outlines from all of the ranges and roads are still easily visible. Also, the new Jax Equestrian Center can be seen in the newer image in the lower left hand corner. This is a large area.  The distance across these pictures is approx. 2 miles, and does no encompass the entire school.  It was too big for one picture, unless you pan all the way out.   In all pictures, the road running diagonally from top right to lower left, is Normandy Blvd.  The area above (North of) Normandy Blvd. is the gunnery school and extended all the way to Interstate 10.  The area below (south) of Normandy Blvd. is the main gate area of former Cecil Field.   Many concrete structures still exist and are hidden in the undergrowth awaiting discovery.  In the late 50's, most/all of the wooden structures were torn down.  However, wooden structures like the railroad and vehicle bridges are still in place.  The school had its own spur railroad line coming in on the lower right of the pics.  The railroad bridge crossing yellow water creek is still there, but the tracks are gone.  If this post is successfull, i will post some other things i have discovered exploring the area.  The area is frozen in time due in part to high security resulting from part of the area being turned into a nuclear weapons storage area from 1959-approx 1999(not visible in these pics). The more recent nuc storage area only took up a small part of the former WWII gunnery school acreage.  I believe this school to be a significant, and mostly forgotten part of Jax WWII history.  It is overshadowed by NAS Jax, Cecil, Mayport, Camp Blanding, etc.  According to one source, 30,000 men spent 5-6 weeks at the school learning all phases of aerial gunnery at the school.  The ranges themselves were complicated and expensive to construct.  There were 7 different (visible) loop (not necessarily circular) ranges using self propelled target cars.  Approximately 8 miles of railroad tracks were used to construct these ranges.  I have found some of the track to still be in place is some areas.  Many WWII Navy veterans often mention the gunnery school (also referred to Jacksonville NAGS) in their testimony/memories of training.  The school was one of only three Navy gunnery schools in the US, and was by far the largest.  The other two schools were located in Purcell OK, and in Hollywood, Fl.  Any additional info. anyone has about this school would be would be welcomed.  There really isnt much infol out there about this place.  Thanks
Rick  
« Last Edit: April 12, 2010, 10:48:00 AM by RMHoward »

RMHoward

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Re: WWII era Yellow Water Naval Air Gunnery School
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2010, 09:30:39 PM »
Here are some images i have taken:

Hidden in the woods, very large swimming pool. I believe this pool served a more important purpose that just recreation.  I believe all sorts of survival training would have been conducted here.

pool handrail, kind of eerie.  How many of the "greatest generation" climbed up that railing?

Have found 8 of these structures.  Believe they are called a "Butt".  This is because one (only one) of these structures has the word "BUTT 4" painted clearly on the entrance.  These structures were located at either end of the ranges.  Made of concrete, they offered protection for men and material during firing.  I believe flags, targets, and self propelled target cars were housed in these.  Also had a telephone box in them.  See following pictures.


Another Butt

Loading ramp

One of the Butts actually labeled "Camp Yellowater". Larger background lettering says "BUTT 4" on it. Only writing on any butt i could find.

One of three large magazines

Western Electric telephone box, located in each butt

Inside of a butt (gonna regret that)

Another view inside.  Rough boards used for concrete framing very evident

Another magazine

View from top of butt looking down

Many layers of paint (lead probably) on heavy magazine doors

One of many brick lined man holes without lids waiting for someone to fall into

Hard to see.  Nicely preserved shallow tile lined pit.  Shower or urinal left over in middle of the woods

Open telephone box

Probably where a fire hydrant was located in the barracks area

light gauge target track left over from smaller oval shaped track on right of above maps

Another view.  Still there after 70years

Heavier gauge rail from larger target ranges center and left on above maps

One of the few war time images i have found of men training at Yellow Water.  Of all things, with BB guns.  I got this pic from a website dedicated to the "McGlashan" type BB gun used to train men the art of shooting.  Economical way to teach rapid fire and "leading" your target, which was important for aerial gunners. Loaded with Coke bottles full of BBs.  Note Coke bottle on fence in front of gun.  Oh well got to start some where.

Another rare war time pic of Yellow Water

Another one

Pic/story from WWII periodical "Naval Aviation News"

Enough for now.
« Last Edit: April 12, 2010, 11:05:02 AM by RMHoward »

Charles Hunter

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Re: WWII era Yellow Water Naval Air Gunnery School
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2010, 09:37:10 PM »
Very interesting - never knew that stuff was out there.

billy

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Re: WWII era Yellow Water Naval Air Gunnery School
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2010, 09:42:23 PM »
Fascinating...great job....

stephendare

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Re: WWII era Yellow Water Naval Air Gunnery School
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2010, 10:06:48 PM »
Brilliant stuff RMHoward!  Thanks for posting these!  What a cool site.
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RMHoward

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Re: WWII era Yellow Water Naval Air Gunnery School
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2010, 10:15:48 PM »
Thanks guys.  I have lots of info i want to post on here WWII related.  Jacksonville's WWII history would rival any other area of the country in significance.  I spend a lot of time at Camp Blanding, Yellow Water, Cecil Field, NAS Green Cove seeing whats left.  One thing about Yellow Water.  This is not a place you want to explore in summer time.  I have had run-ins with rattlesnakes, wild pigs, and every bug known to man. Luckily the pigs went the other way when i walked up on them.  I would have been SOL if they would have come at me.  The deer flies at certain times of year are terrible.  Have seen numerous deer, foxes, and i think a bobcat.  Rough place.  Thanks for your remarks.
Rick
« Last Edit: April 11, 2010, 10:33:28 PM by RMHoward »

Sportmotor

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Re: WWII era Yellow Water Naval Air Gunnery School
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2010, 10:47:05 PM »
So I see you like to take pictures in the butt huh?  :D


anyway, do you have the coordinates to this? I'd like to take a vist myself.
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RMHoward

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Re: WWII era Yellow Water Naval Air Gunnery School
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2010, 10:53:30 PM »
Hey Sport,
Yea, i carry my GPS on all my outings.  I have coordinates for almost everything i have found so far.  Let me know what you want to see, and i will happily pass it on.
Rick

Ocklawaha

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Re: WWII era Yellow Water Naval Air Gunnery School
« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2010, 12:20:46 AM »
Rick there were several other target ranges in the area as well for use in aeral gunnery practice or strafing.  The one that intregues me the most is in the Fernandina - Nassau - St. Marys River marsh area where a Navy Wildcat went down surrounded by miles of grass. Rather then pull the plane out, it became a low level attack target. Since the Wildcat was grossly underpowered, and tended to fall like flies to Zero's the Navy probably figured it was better off as a target without a crewman, then somewhere over Guam WITH a dead crewman. These beasts were quickly replaced with HELLCATS and after the war BEARCATS, which made up the first BLUE ANGELS squadron. The ANGELS as I have pieced together their story were formed at NAS, practiced at BRANON FIELD (code named THE EVERGLADES) and performed their first public show at Municipal Airport #2 which is now known as CRAIG FIELD. I would LOVE to find that old wreck.

NAVY

NAS
MAYPORT
WHITEHOUSE
CECIL
NAVAL FUEL DEPOT
YELLOW WATER
LEE FIELD - Green Cove Springs
FRANCIS FIELD - WGV (listed as ELWOOD, FL)
12 MILE SWAMP - Live Ordnance Target Area (now being logged!)
SWITZERLAND FIELD
TROUT CREEK - Rivertown/WGV area
FLEMING ISLAND - Called "Thunderbolt" Named for a huge stockpile of P-47 "THUNDERBOLTS" stored after WWII.
BRANON FIELD - South of Cecil Field
BELMORE FIELD - South of Penny Farms
SPENCER BOMB RANGE - South of Branon Field (Site of new school complex... dig lightly little ones!)
HERLONG FIELD
FOREMOST FIELD - Penny Farms
MIDDLEBURG FIELD - Site: Super Walmart Middleburg
WILLIAMS FIELD/MELSON FIELD/PAXON FIELD - Site: Paxon Jr High School, Jacksonville's first Airport
Bessie Coleman (the world's first licensed black pilot)
was killed in a plane crash at Paxon Field while on the barn-storming circuit in 1926. So we blew it up too!
HART FIELD - West of Paxon/ NE of Marietta / Navy advanced training command for about 1 year! AMAZING hanger intact at corner of Commonwealth and Lane... Better take a pix today cuz we'll blow it up tomorrow.
JASPER FIELD - S. of Jasper Fl
MILE BRANCH FIELD - Between Herlong and Branon (northeast corner of old Middleburg and Marlee Rd)
KAY LARKIN FIELD - Palatka, “Kay Larkin Field”, for a local U.S. Army Air Corp pilot instructor and Palatka native killed during the Second World War.
FERNANDINA - Amelia Island, also a waterbourne target training site.


CIVILIAN FLIGHT TRAINING PROGRAM - WAR EFFORT
STENGEL FIELD - SW of Gainesville (Archer Road) First scheduled airline service between Orlando-Gainesville
                         3500 foot sod runway, extensive buildings, military/UF Flight Schools


ARMY AIRFORCE + ARMY

IMESON - Army Air Force/Municipal the new airport was visited by Charles Lindbergh. (So we blew it up!)
CAMP BLANDING - Training + POW Center


<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/FallApXYHbs&amp;hl=en_US&amp;fs=1&amp;color1=0x402061&amp;color2=0x9461ca&quot;&gt;&lt;/param&gt;&lt;param name=" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/FallApXYHbs&amp;hl=en_US&amp;fs=1&amp;color1=0x402061&amp;color2=0x9461ca&quot;&gt;&lt;/param&gt;&lt;param name=</a>

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/99ihdd5PAsA&amp;hl=en_US&amp;fs=1&amp;color1=0x402061&amp;color2=0x9461ca&quot;&gt;&lt;/param&gt;&lt;param name=" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/99ihdd5PAsA&amp;hl=en_US&amp;fs=1&amp;color1=0x402061&amp;color2=0x9461ca&quot;&gt;&lt;/param&gt;&lt;param name=</a>


OCKLAWAHA

Sportmotor

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Re: WWII era Yellow Water Naval Air Gunnery School
« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2010, 12:44:01 AM »
Hey Sport,
Yea, i carry my GPS on all my outings.  I have coordinates for almost everything i have found so far.  Let me know what you want to see, and i will happily pass it on.
Rick

Whatever you found and marked from this adventure on this particular piece of land, with no limits.
I dont have to worry about snakes, I have snake proof boots, I dont have to worry to much about pigs I have a 40cal pistol(16round) and a CWL, and bugs are a HA! I got thermacell and or a 'bugtamer' camoed.

Specifically anything found for storage of nukes are typically a joy to go look around in ;D
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RMHoward

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Re: WWII era Yellow Water Naval Air Gunnery School
« Reply #10 on: April 12, 2010, 12:57:42 AM »
Hi Ock,
Thanks for your input.  I dont post here much but have read many of your posts.  I plan on tapping your knowledge in the future.  As a kid, i grew up riding a motorcycle around Branan Field.  Man, that was a big place.  Had no idea what it was at the time.  I grew up in jacksonville as a military brat.  Spent lots of time at Cecil and NAS jax.  I am familiar with most of the sites you mention above.  Additionally some in St. Johns County.  Not far from my current home, was a bomb range in Doctor's Lake in Mill Cove. Some of the piling can still be made out marking the target.  Web site called "Abandoned and little-known airfields" by a guy last named Freeman has done a lot of work in this area.  Learned a lot on his site.  The bomb target  just south of Branan Field  in the area of Kindlewood drive is now covered by a housing development.  No telling what those folks might dig up.  According to a book titled "history of NAS jacksonville", a plane crashed practicing instrument landings on approach at NAS Green Cove Springs in late 40s or early 50s. It crashed in a swamp just south of airfield.  Book says pilot survived until rescue could arrive from NAS Jax (Green Cove closed by then).  But, they left the plane there.  Book says it is still there to this day.  I think i know where this swamp is.  Tried to get in there, but is too wet and damn near primevil.  Really tough area to access.  Anyway, I love this stuff.  Yellow Water isnt well known.  Trying to spur some interest in that place.
Rick

BridgeTroll

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Re: WWII era Yellow Water Naval Air Gunnery School
« Reply #11 on: April 12, 2010, 06:42:03 AM »
Wow!  Thanks for the info and pics RM!  Outstanding stuff!
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buckethead

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Re: WWII era Yellow Water Naval Air Gunnery School
« Reply #12 on: April 12, 2010, 07:29:55 AM »
I must agree! This is a fascinating thread.

Overstreet

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Re: WWII era Yellow Water Naval Air Gunnery School
« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2010, 08:16:58 AM »
The "Butts" are the target area of the range.  The structure may be a shelter for the people working the butts or a target back stop. These look most like shelters or storage.

Target backstops, butts,  are often made of timbers and filled with soils to stop the projectiles. They are usually for test firings of machine guns after maintenance.

These ranges were probably targets infront of dirt berms. Often the workers in the butts would be in "pits", think long low recessed sidewalk,  that were behind the first berm with targets behind that infront of a higher berm.  If they were shooting wood or paper they might be in the pits. Otherwise if they were shooting steel targets on trolleys the pits would be unmanned because of all the splatter. Sometimes no pits for trolleys.

Interesting being in the pits with the rounds cracking, little sonic booms, over head.

RMHoward

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Re: WWII era Yellow Water Naval Air Gunnery School
« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2010, 08:39:21 AM »



Overstreet,
In this pic, i zoomed into 3 of the ranges in the 1952 picutre.  In it, you can see the small butts and the top (backstop side) and bottom (near side) of each individual range.  They appear as small square buildings.  You are correct, of course.  The Butts were imbedded in a high berm that encircled the target ranges.  There appear to be two different types of butts here at Yellow Water.  On the near side of the range (rounds flying over heard), the butts are obviously more for personnel protection.  The butts on the far side of the range were imbedded in the berm in such a way that the entrance to it, was on the outside of the berm.  The far side berms  (backstop side)were obviously more for storage as they had small garage type doors on them.  The berms themselves were constructed in a way that the self-propelled target cars could move freely while being protected by the berms from machine gun fire.  In any case, i am facinated that these structures are still here after all this time.  Overstreet, you sound as though you spent some time on ranges like these.  Care to elaborate?
Thanks for inputs
Rick
« Last Edit: April 12, 2010, 09:00:38 AM by RMHoward »