Naval Air Station South Weymouth

Weymouth, Massachusetts
The abandoned structures of the once massive Naval Air Station South Weymouth are some of the most interesting sites to see in Massachusetts.
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About This Location

The abandoned remains of the once massive Naval Air Station South Weymouth are some of the most interesting sites to see in Massachusetts. The base was established in 1942 and was largely abandoned after the Cold War. Today, a few structures from the station remain standing including two large runway control towers.

World War II Operations (1942-1945)

Naval Air Station South Weymouth, nestled in the heart of South Weymouth, Massachusetts, emerged as a vital military asset during World War II. Its establishment as a blimp base in 1942 marked the beginning of a legacy that would extend beyond the war years. The station’s strategic location and purpose were evident in its primary mission—to support anti-submarine blimp operations along the East Coast.

Anti-Submarine Blimp Operations

The wartime landscape of NAS South Weymouth was dominated by two colossal blimp hangars, each with its unique construction—one of steel and the other of wood. These hangars housed the airship patrol squadron ZP-11, responsible for conducting patrols and convoy escort missions. The K-class blimps of ZP-11, drifting through the skies, played a crucial role in maintaining the security of Massachusetts Bay and the Gulf of Maine.

As the war progressed, NAS South Weymouth became a focal point for innovative endeavors. In 1944, it served as the starting point for the first transatlantic crossings of non-rigid airships. The K-123 and K-130 blimps embarked on a journey that took them from South Weymouth to destinations such as Newfoundland, the Azores, and finally, French Morocco. These transatlantic flights were not only milestones in naval aviation but also exemplified the station’s role in advancing the capabilities of lighter-than-air craft.

Post-war Transition and Cold War Use

With the conclusion of World War II, the station underwent transitions reflective of the changing geopolitical landscape. Downgraded to a naval air facility, it served as a storage site for surplus naval aircraft awaiting final disposition. The post-war era saw NAS South Weymouth evolve, both in terms of infrastructure and purpose.

In 1953, the station experienced a resurgence, being reactivated as a reserve training base. Significant upgrades, including the construction of new runways and the replacement of the iconic LTA Hangar One, transformed the base to accommodate conventional aircraft operations. This period also witnessed the presence of the secretive Naval Air Development Unit (NADU), conducting research and development associated with electronic equipment for air defense and anti-submarine warfare.

Structural Changes and Technological Advancements

The 1960s brought about notable changes to the station’s landscape. The iconic LTA Hangar One, a symbol of the station’s early years, was replaced by a smaller concrete arch hangar in 1966. The base continued to adapt to technological advancements, hosting unique Anti-Submarine Warfare Operational Flight Trainers on its southern side. These trainers, utilizing retired aircraft fuselages, contributed to the training of reserve aircrewmen.

The airfield played a role in significant achievements, such as the long-distance flight of the ZPG-2 “Snow Bird” in 1957. Piloted by Commander Jack Hunt, this airship set distance and endurance records, covering over 9,000 miles without refueling.

Redevelopment and Modern Transition

The late 20th century witnessed the closure of NAS South Weymouth in 1997, initiating a new phase in its history—redevelopment. Over 600 acres were earmarked for transfer to the local community, marking the beginning of the site’s transformation. Plans for SouthField, a condominium community, and SouthField Studios, a movie studio complex, aimed to bring vibrancy and economic opportunities to the region.

Union Point: Embracing the Future

In subsequent years, the site transitioned into Union Point, a visionary development incorporating smart city concepts. Plans for residential spaces, commercial areas, green roofs, ponds, and extensive open spaces unfolded. The former naval air station, once a hub of military activity, now aspired to become a modern, sustainable community.

As of 2018, Union Point stands as a testament to adaptive reuse and forward-thinking urban planning. The development envisions around 4,000 homes, 10 million square feet of commercial space, and various amenities, including a market, college campus, movie theater, hotel, and sports complex. The bid for Amazon HQ2 reflected the ambitious scope of Union Point, even though it did not reach the finalist round.

Legacy and Future Integration

While Union Point embraces a future focused on innovation and community, remnants of NAS South Weymouth’s military history endure. The fire control towers, standing as silent sentinels, provide a link to the past. The Shea Memorial Grove, with its A-4 Skyhawk jet and naval aviation museum, serves as a perpetual reminder of the sacrifices and achievements associated with the site.

As visitors explore the remnants and the museum, they are not merely witnessing the vestiges of a bygone era but participating in the ongoing narrative of a place that seamlessly integrates its historical legacy with modern aspirations. Naval Air Station South Weymouth, now Union Point, continues to evolve, bridging the past and the future in a harmonious tapestry of progress and remembrance.

Finding the runway control towers

Today, visitors seeking out the remaining two runway control towers can park along Patriot Parkway. Parking is free. The walk to the towers is about a half mile.

Location

Address: Patriot Parkway, South Weymouth, Massachusetts
Place GPS Coordinates: 42.144444, -70.945250
Parking GPS Coordinates: 42.144444, -70.945250
Parking Notes: Today, visitors seeking out the remaining two fire control towers can park along Patriot Parkway. Parking is free. The walk to the towers is about a half mile.

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