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Other Military Bases In Japan / Okinawa

Atsugi Naval Air Station

Misawa AFB

Yokota AFB

Yokosuka Naval Base

Iwakuni MCAS

MCB Camp Butler

US Naval Hospital, Okinawa

Naha Air Base

Futenma Marine Corp AS

Kadena AFB


Marine Corps Air Station At Iwakuni


The Gate At Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station

The Fire Station At Iwakuni

Bus Stop at The Gate in Iwakuni.


MCAS Iwakuni History
350 years ago the waters of the Inland Sea rolled over the area where aircraft wheels now screech as they hit the solid concrete of the airfield, and fish swam nonchalantly over the spot where the main gate now stands. The land has been wrestled from the ocean’s grasp and is now the location of MCAS Iwakuni, Japan.

The Air Station and the surrounding city of Iwakuni occupy an area originally covered by two small towns and three villages, which were incorporated in 1940 into the city of Iwakuni with a population of 51,000. Yesterday only a sleepy farming village, Iwakuni today is a center of the air age with a population of over 110,000.

MCAS Iwakuni’s military history began in 1938 when the Japanese government purchased a large portion of land on which the Air Station now stands. Construction began in April 1938, and in December of 1939 a training squadron attached to the Kure Naval Headquarters became the first unit to use the newly established Naval Air Station. In February of 1941, a training squadron for reconnaissance students was established here.

At the beginning of World War II, Iwakuni Naval Air Station was used as a training and defense base, with 96 trainers and 150 Zeke (better known as the Zero) fighter aircraft stationed on the airstrip. A Mitsubishi assembly line plant for aircraft engines stood in the area, which is the present Monzen housing area.

A branch of the famous Eta Jima Naval Cadet School (comparable to a combination of our Annapolis and Pensacola Naval Air Station) was installed here in November 1943, and between 1,500 and 3,000 men were stationed here during the war. The only attack on the naval air station during the course of the war came in July 1945, when a carrier base strike force carried out a strafing raid.

A group of U.S. Marines were the first allies to come to Iwakuni after Japan capitulated in August 1945. They concluded a local agreement which ended the war for the Japanese naval air station. Post-war Iwakuni witnessed a procession of allied forces from many countries. After the initial occupation of the Iwakuni Naval Air Station by U.S. Marines, a U.S. Army ordnance disposal team arrived. The Army troops were followed by the armed forces of Britain, India, Australia and the U.S. Air Force.

In March 1948, the station became a Royal Australian Air Force Base. Eventually, over the next five years the forces from “Down Under” dwindled until only one organization, Squadron No. 77, remained although RAAF and RAF personnel were still in Iwakuni until the mid-1950s.

In June 1950, when the United Nations began opposing the communist forces in Korea, the RAAF base at Iwakuni suddenly burst into activity. American planes flew daily from Iwakuni to support front line troops, and B-56s of the USAF Third Bomber Wing operated out of Iwakuni for more than a year, conducting strikes into North Korea and in support of U.N. forces.

U.S. Navy PBM squadrons and detachments of P4Ys, operating under Fleet Air Wing Six and Task Force 77 and 95 in support of the United Nations’ efforts, made night flare drops over enemy territory, and provided air coverage for fleet replenishment and shore bombardment in North Korea near Wonson. PBMs from Iwakuni also assisted in the Hungnam evacuation by airlifting troops and litter patients to safe areas.

As a result of this activity, Iwakuni became known to the Japanese of this area as the “Gateway to Korea.” On 1 April1952, the U.S. Air Force took command of the air station. Following the Korean War, the commander of Fleet Air Wing Six moved his headquarters ashore to the air station after years of operating from various ships and from Naval Air Station Atsugi.

Two years later, the air station became a U.S. Naval Air Station, and in 1956 was greatly enlarged when the 1st MAW moved its headquarters here from Korea. Marines took command in January 1958 and the air station was commissioned a Marine Corps Air Facility. On 20 July1962, the official control of the air station was transferred from the commander of Naval Forces Japan to the commander of Marine Corps Bases Pacific in June 1965.

Beginning that same year, 1st MAW units deployed from Iwakuni to Da Nang and Chu Lai in the Republic of Vietnam to support combat operations against insurgent communist forces in that country. Major units of the 1st MAW based at Iwakuni at the time made deployments to Vietnam including: the Marine Wing Headquarters Group One; Marine Wing Support Group 17, Marine Transport Squadron 152, and Marine Aircraft Group 12 consisting of Marine Composite Reconnaissance Squadron 1 and Marine Attack Squadrons 121 and 225 as the principal operating units.

The first Iwakuni based unit to deploy to Vietnam was MAG-12, which sent its Marine Air Base Squadron 12 ashore at Chu Lai in late April 1965 to begin construction of a Marine expeditionary airfield.  MABS-12 was soon joined by MAG-12’s tactical aircraft on 1 June 1965. In mid-June of that year, the Wing Headquarters itself deployed to Vietnam. Within the next 12 months, all of the former 1st MAW units based at Iwakuni deployed to the Republic of Vietnam.

In the meantime, MAG –13 arrived in July 1965, and was the Station’s only tactical Marine aircraft unit until replaced by MAG-15 in July 1966.

During the period of June 1965 until August 1969, the air station’s military population dwindled from more than 6,000 to a low of about 2,700 personnel. It was during this period, In July 1967, that Headquarters Marine Corps began authorizing Marines assigned to the air station to bring their family members with them for an accompanied tour of duty, thus becoming one of the few stations overseas with accompanied tours of duty. During the period from July 1967 until July 1970, MCAS Iwakuni’s family member population rose from none to approximately 1,200.

With the partial withdrawal of U.S. Marine aviation units from Vietnam beginning in late summer 1969, Marine Aircraft Groups organic to the 1st MAW were stationed at MCAS Iwakuni and MCAS Futenma on Okinawa. The first unit to arrive at MCAS Iwakuni was Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 334 on 27 August with its compliment of 14 F4J Phantom jets. This squadron was followed on September 9 by VMFA-232, which replaced VMFA-122 as MAG-15’s second Phantom unit. On 5 October, MCAS Iwakuni got it’s “first ever” A6A Intruder squadron with the arrival of VMA(AW)-533.

With an ever increasing number of 1st MAW units being deployed to Iwakuni and Okinawa, a new command suite, the 1st MAW (Rear) was formed on 7 September 1969 with its headquarters at MCAS Iwakuni. Brigadier General William G. Johnson, who had been Assistant Wing Commander of the 1st MAW in Vietnam, was named the head of the new command.

The mission of the newly formed 1st MAW (Rear) was the conduct of air operations in support of the Fleet Marine Force Pacific Units outside Vietnam. Air units under the control of the Iwakuni contingent of the 1st MAW (Rear) in November 1969 were Mag-15 and Marine Air Control Group 18 (Rear). MAG-15 consisted of VMA(AW)-533, VMFA-334 and VMFA-232.

The lead element of MAG-12, VMA-211, arrived at MCAS in February 1970, and two months later VMA(AW)-533 was transferred from MAG-15 to MAG-12. On 17 July 1970, VMCJ-1arrived and brought to a close MAG-12’s redeployment to 1st MAW (Rear).

The ranks of 1st MAW (Rear) continued to swell when MWSG-17 returned to Iwakuni on 24 August 1970 following a 4 year deployment to Vietnam.

With 5 tactical squadrons operating out of Iwakuni, the air station’s 8,000feet of runway stayed in operation around the clock. Operational flights numbered between 8-10,000 monthly, and the harbor facility handled between 10-30 ships per month.

From a low of approximately 2,700 personnel, it’s population had swelled to more than 6,000 service men and women. Air station facilities which had deteriorated during the period when most of the air station was in a caretaker status were severely taxed as the population more than doubled in a 6 month period.

An emergency construction and renovation program headed by the Station Public Works Department, however, kept problems attendant to the increase in station loading with manageable proportions. A new million dollar barracks complex on the north side of the air station was completed 6 December 1969, providing 556 spaces of modern living area for MCAS-based Marines. Complete or partial renovation of most BEQ and BOQ facilities, clubs, recreational facilities and warehouse and office spaces aboard the air station were begun or completed in the period from January to December 1970.

Construction of the first television station to be located aboard a Marine Corps installation was begun on Far East Network’s Iwakuni facility in April 1970. The $10,000-plus studio began telecast operations during December 1970.

The 1st MAW (Rear) headquarters relocated to Okinawa in April of 1976, leaving MAG-12 and MAG-15 at Iwakuni.

In 1977, the first project in a new phase of construction was completed with the dedication of a $1.6 million dollar dining facility. In 1981, a ground breaking ceremony was held at the site for a new $6 million dollar school facility. In 1982, talk began of moving the airfield seaward, and several members of the Japanese Diet visited the air station to personally observe the planned relocation site. Also in 1982, the air station received the first UC-12B aircraft to replace its aging C-117A fleet. Other facilities improvements in 1982 included 88 new family housing units to replace the “trailer city” in the Monzen Housing area, a new mess hall on the north side of the air station, 4 BOQs (total 160 rooms), three BEQs (total 387 rooms), and a new temporary lodging facility to replace the aged Hostess House.

On 13 March 1983, Marine Wing Weapons Unit 1 relocated from MCAS Iwakuni to NAS Agana Guam. While the Gensuikyo (Japan Council Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs) and the Japan Communist Party speculated that the move was made to ally suspicions that nuclear weapons or materials were stored aboard the air station, the move was made to broaden training opportunities for the Marines of MWWU-1.

On 10 August 1984, the air station received a full scale mock-up Zero fighter from the Toho Motion Picture Company. The aircraft was used in the motion picture “Zero on Fire,” is now housed in the worlds only remaining Zero Hangar, located on board the air station, where it is displayed for the public’s enjoyment.

Facilities upgrades continued into 1985 with the completion on two mid-rises and five townhouses (total of 108 family housing units). 1986 saw further construction with the completion of a third mid-rise, the new commissary, a new High School, a jet engine maintenance shop and a new aircraft rinse facility.

In December 1989, the air station saw a chapter in history close when MAG-15 and MABS-15 stood down after 46 years of service. MABS-15 and MABS-12 combined to form a new MALS-12, and MAG-12 became the air station’s only air group.

During 1989, AV-8B Harrier aircraft deployed to MCAS Iwakuni, the first aircraft of this type to deploy to Japan. Although there was much anxiety in the local community concerning the noise and safety of the aircraft, this was quickly allayed when Japanese government officials were invited to observe the arrival of the aircraft. The general consensus among the observers was that the Harriers were relatively quiet aircraft, and very little attention was given to them in the press after the initial deployment.

In the time between 1996 and 1999 MCAS Iwakuni, once again, added new facilities and replaced aging ones. Included in this massive Government of Japan construction program were projects to enhance MCAS Iwakuni’s mission effectiveness and maintain quality of life initiatives. In July 1998, a food court complex was opened which also provided new office spaces for several retail operations. Also that summer a new auto-mini mart facility was opened on the north side of the station to support MAG-12 and MALS-12 personnel.

Three new housing mid-rises were completed and opened early in 1999 brining the total number of housing units on Iwakuni to grow in excess of 660 units. In the summer of 1999 a new joint Law/Provost Marshal building was opened and in late October 1999 Club Iwakuni was introduced to the Iwakuni community. This multi-modular club facility replaced the existing Officer’s, Staff NCO and Enlisted Clubs. This facility also allowed for the relocation of the Eagle’s Nest Restaurant and the Torii Pines Golf Course Clubhouse all under one roof.

The increased construction pace experienced by MCAS Iwakuni in the last 10 years of the decade were all designed to place Iwakuni in the ready for the new runway That’s planning began back in 1982. Ground was officially broken in June 1997 for this monumental reclamation of the sea and movement of the existing runway 1,000 yards seaward.

The air station today bears little resemblance to the facility established by the Japanese government in 1939. With its modern facilities, including a state of the art medical and dental clinic, new exchange and commissary, and a modern gym, pool and fitness center complex, the air station provides its residents with a wide range of support facilities and service. More than 4,600 Japanese employees work aboard the station, and the total population of the air station is over 10,000. The air station continues to provide support and service to units of the Fleet Marine Force with the same professionalism and dedication that have always been its hallmarks, and which have also earned it the reputation as the best air station in the Marine Corps.

MCAS Iwakuni Historical Highlights 

1940- Japanese Naval Air Station established. Defensive and training missions flown. Maximum Japanese personnel strength- 3,000 men.
1943- Branch of Eta Jima Naval Cadet School opened (September).
1945- Allied B-29 bombers attacked air station and city (May and August). Last raid conducted one day before war’s end. U.S. Marines from the 4th Marine Regiment occupy air station (September). U.S. Army demolition Disposal Team arrived shortly thereafter to destroy Japanese munitions.
1945-1948- Air station occupied by various Allied military units from; United States, Britain, India and Australia.
1948- Air station designated a Royal Australian Air Force Base (March).
1950- 3rd USAF Bomber Wing B-26 began combat operations against North Korea from Iwakuni (June). U.S. Navy aircraft squadrons of Fleet Air Wing Six and Task Forces 77 and 95 also used the base to fly Korean combat missions.
1952- Base redesignated a U.S. Air Force Base (1 April).
1954- Fleet Air Wing Six began tenancy (January). Base redesignated a U.S. Naval Air Station (1 October).
1958- Air Station redesignated a U.S. Marine Corps Air Facility (1 January)
1962- Air Facility redesignated a U.S. Marine Corps Air Station (20 July)
1965- Operational control of the air station transferred from COMNAVFORJAPAN to commander Marine Corps Bases Pacific (June). 1st MAW units deployed to Da Nang and Chu Lai, Vietnam (April).
1969- VMFA-334 became the first unit to redeploy to MCAS Iwakuni (August). Establishment of 1st Marine Aircraft Wing (Rear) (November).
1970- Establishment of FEN-TV station at Iwakuni (December).
1971- Reestablishment of 1st MAW Headquarters from Da Nang (April). Return of VMA311 from Vietnam (last squadron) (May)
1976- 1st MAW Headquarters (Rear) relocated to Okinawa, Japan.
1982- MCAS receives UC-128 aircraft to replace C-117 fleet.
1983- MWWU-1 relocates to NAS Agana, Guam.
1989- MAG-15 stands down. MABS-15 and MABS-12 combine to form MALS-12. First deployment of AV-8B Harrier to Japan occurs at MCAS Iwakuni.

Marine Corps Air Station, Iwakuni
Commanding Officers
Col. E. H. Vaughan ----- Jan 1958 – Feb 1958
Col. R. R. Yeaman ----- Feb 1958 – Aug 1958
Col. J. L. Neefus ----- Aug 1958 – Sep 1959
Col. J. H. Earle ----- Sep 1959 – Jun 1960
LtCol. P. L. Crawford  ----- Jun 1960 – Aug 1960
Col. A. C. Lowell ----- Aug 1960 – Jul 1961
Col. J. H. McGlothlin  ----- Mar 1962 – Jun 1962
Col. M. E. W. Oelrich ----- Jun 1962 – Jul 1963
Col. V. H. Hudgins ----- Jul 1963 – May 1964
Col. C. D. Wolverton  ----- May 1964 – Dec 1964
Col. H. A. Peters ----- Dec 1964 – Aug 1965
Col. J. T. McDaniel ----- Aug 1965 – Jul 1966
Col. W. M. Lundin ----- Jul 1966 – Jul 1967
Col. F. A. Shook ----- Jul 1967 – Jul 1969
BGen. W. R. Quinn ----- Jul 1969 – Aug 1970
Col. H. L. Van Campen ----- Aug 1970 – Aug 1972
Col. E. S. Murphy ----- Aug 1972 – Feb 1975
Col. M. V. Statzer ----- Feb 1975 – Jul 1976
Col. R. D. Miller ----- Jul 1976 – May 1979
Col. S. F. Shea ----- May 1979 – Jul 1983
Col. D. J. McCarthy ----- Jul 1983 – May 1986
Col. J. B. Hammond ----- May 1986 – May 1988
Col. R. L. Pappas ----- May 1988 – Sep 1989
Col. R. R. Renier ----- Sep 1989 – Jul 1992
Col. S. A. Brewer ----- Jul 1992 – Jun 1995
Col. R. S. Melton ----- Jun 1995 – Apr 1998
Col. R. C. Dunn ----- Apr 1998 – Jun 2001
Col. D. T. Darrah ----- Jun 2001 – Jun 2004
Col. M. A. Dyer ----- Jun 2004 - Present