This mammoth blimp hangar was one of two built in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor to house the manned airships that patrolled the coast of California looking for enemy submarines. At 17 stories high and over 1,000 feet long, it towers over the houses in the Orange County town of Tustin, and is still among the largest freestanding wooden structures on the planet.
The Tustin military base was built in 1942 to keep and maintain the lighter-than-air (LTA) airships operated by the U.S. Navy. The giant hangars were made almost entirely of wood as steel was in short supply due to the war effort. Each hangar covers about 7 acres of enclosed space, enough to house six lightweight helium blimps each about 250 feet long. The sheer scale of the structures would earn them recognition as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, not to mention some impressive film and TV cameos.
After the airship program was shut down in 1949, the obsolete blimp hangars were used for Marine helicopter training with the outset of the Korean War. The base, then known as the Marine Corps Air Station Tustin (and nicknamed “Hangar City”) operated until 1999 when it shut down for good.
In November 2023 the north hangar (Hangar #1) was destroyed by fire. The south hangar still stands today, though the future of this historic relics of airship warfare is uncertain.
Know Before You Go
Take the Jamboree exit off Interstate 5 at Tustin, California. The former Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) is now a planned community called Tustin Legacy, adjacent to The District shopping center. The South Hangar is visible from the street, while the North Hangar burned down in November 2023.