Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ghosts of NAS Hitchcock

I am a bit of a history nut, one of those nerdy types prone to stop and read every scrap of information about a place when I am visiting.
Drives the rest of my family nuts.

Last year we took some out-of-town friends to see the Battleship Texas, one of my most-favorite historical sites in the state. I could spend an entire weekend on the old Dreadnought. My wife was ready to hit the gift shop within the first hour.

Fortunately, my friends were impressed enough by the park to take in the magnificent San Jacinto Monument as well. I could spend a week there.
We managed to kill an hour.

Recently I was a guest in the beautiful weekend hacienda of Ed Gardner, near Hitchcock, Texas.
A friend pointed out a strange site to the northwest of his home, four odd-looking monoliths, shimmering in the distance in the summer heat.

He told me it was the remains of a blimp base from World War Two.

I was intrigued, and on my way home that afternoon, followed some rough directions to find the concrete quartet of markers for NAS Hitchcock.

The Blimp Base, as the locals know it, was built by the US Navy during the most fearful months of the War, when German U-boats were lurking off the coasts of major American cities, sinking commercial shipping vessels with wild abandon. Airships had been proven to be able trackers of the elusive subs, and a string of air bases were hastily erected along the coastlines to protect our shipping interests. NAS Hitchcock was the last such base to be built; had the war continued, a second hangar would have been added.

The Blimp Base at Hitchcock was only in use for 17-months, as the U-boat threat to the Gulf Coast was neutralized by that time.
In October, 1944, NAS Hitchcock was converted from blimp traffic to more conventional naval aircraft.

After the War, the base was sold and used for various research and storage projects. In 1961, Hurricane Carla so damaged the hanger, that it had to be dismantled.

All that remains today are those four sentinel columns and a concrete water tower. The nearby Administration Building is being renovated as a bed and breakfast.

A steel warehouse has been constructed over the west row of concrete pedestals that once supported the wooden trusses of the hangar's roof. The ocean breezes from the nearby Gulf of Mexico whistle through the barren support posts on the east side of the hangar's footprint.

I was in the area recently, and much to the chagrin of my Bride, had obtained permission to walk the property and capture some images. Hey, she's just lucky there weren't any plaques around there to read!

You can view more photos from this weekend excursion on my Facebook page.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You have a good point. I have always enjojed how you always can find humor in all that you talk/blog about.