In late 1942, the Navy started work on two auxiliary stations in the San Joaquin Valley near the small and isolated communities of Vernalis and Crows Landing. At Vernalis, 16 miles west of Modesto, 700 acres were purchased to build a base to support two multi-engine patrol squadrons. The navy formally inaugurated as Naval Auxiliary Air Facility Vernalis on June 8, 1943, with the function of being the auxiliar base for Alameda Naval Air Station and counting with a single 4,000 ft. tarmac runway.

In November the same year, the existing runway was extended to 7000 ft. and were added some buildings and gasoline storage capacity. In the meantime, base's designation changed to the definitive denomination as Vernalis Naval Auxiliary Air Station. During this time, VB-148 and VB-150 operated there but in the spring of 1944, the Navy realized that the airfield at Crows Landing, located 18 miles to the southeast counted with concrete runways. As this base would be better suited for these heavier planes the two stations swapped missions and thereafter, Vernalis hosted only carrier squadrons.

With the arrival of carrier units, Vernalis added a 160 acre dive bombing range. Also in this time several improvements were done in the field: the addition of a 4000 x 150-ft. crosswind runway, permanent runway lighting and a Seabee installed catapult and arresting gear. Finally, at a strafing range on the Diablo Mountain Range to the west, a silhouette of a submarine was painted on rocks for strafing practice.

After the war, Vernalis initially was chosen to remain open; however, Crows Landing received the nod due to its concrete runways. On October 15, 1945, Vernalis was placed on caretaker status and finally abandoned three months later. After that in several aerial maps of the time the installation airfield was labeled as "Closed. Emergency only."

Balloons: Born again

In the 1950's the site would be used again by the US Air Force, being denominated according several sources as "Vernalis Geophysics Annex" and operated by the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratory. The first use was related to a country wide project started by the Air Force called "Moby Dick" and intended to study the high altitude wind patterns. For this project, Vernalis -among other bases- was choosed to launch stratospheric balloons wich would be tracked by a network of radio receiving stations while traveled throught the US.

Many of the balloons launched there, traveled as far as Mexico, Canada and even Europe.

After the program was completed several other balloons mission took place there during the decade including some flight test of balloon surveillance equipment and a series of launches to test launch techniques and systems as part of a project aimed to detonate a nuclear device in the stratosphere using a balloon as carrier. That mission known as "Yucca" shot took place in 1958 at the Eniwetok Proving Grounds, in the Pacific Ocean.

Some other balloon launches took place there during the remainder of the decade and the first year of the following, but that would be the last ones.

The site remained abandoned until the 70's decades when the runway was used on a more or less regular basis on weekends as drag strip, eventually leading to a formal business and a real track established. Finally by the 80's decade this activity also ceased and from that moment on the terrain occupied by the former base has been used for various purposes including scrap metal, scrap wood processing, and fertilizer manufacturing businesses.

Nowadays, the only remains of the older station is the flag pole and some older buildings.

Much of this history was obtained in Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields an excelent website maintained by Paul Freeman

Table of balloons launched from Vernalis

DateHourFlight DurationExperimentPayload landing place or cause of the failure
1/8/195315:0580 h 55 mMOBY DICKLast known position of the balloon in flight was 33.9º N - 85.8º W
1/10/195313:0116 hMOBY DICKIn Embry, Mississipi
1/16/195313:1552 h 20 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 43.4º N - 78.9º W
1/18/195313:2615 h 35 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 32.2º N - 117.3º W
1/30/195315:0220 h 30 mMOBY DICKIn Concepcion del Oro, Zacatecas, Mexico
2/1/195315:5551 h 6 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 33.0º N - 79.0º W
2/3/195316:0010 h 30 mMOBY DICKIn Morrison, Colorado
2/5/195318:0611 h 25 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 32.2º N - 112.9º W
2/6/195315:0620 h 55 mMOBY DICKIn Juan Aldama, Zacatecas, Mexico
2/7/195316:0013 h 25 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 34.2º N - 118.7º W
2/8/195315:5130 h 15 mMOBY DICK12 miles S of Saint Francis, Kansas, US
2/10/195315:5030 h 35 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 31.0º N - 109.2º W
2/12/195320:1632 h 40 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 33.8º N - 118.7º W
2/13/195316:4555 h 50 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 31.9º N - 114.5º W
2/16/195318:4118 h 50 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 35.6º N - 111.4º W
2/17/195315:5735 h 35 mMOBY DICKIn Sheridan Lake, Colorado
2/19/195316:3515,4 hMOBY DICK14 miles SW of Casa Grande, Arizona, US
2/20/195316:0829,4 hMOBY DICK10 miles S of Kirkland, Arizona, US
2/21/195316:4857,2 hMOBY DICK--- No Data ---
2/22/195317:229,6 hMOBY DICK11 miles E of Springfield, Colorado, US
2/25/195317:379,4 hMOBY DICKAt coordinates 37.3º N - 122.8º O
2/26/195315:5337,6 hMOBY DICK--- No Data ---
3/4/195316:3422 h 25 mMOBY DICKIn Thompsonville, Illinois
3/5/195319:2036 h 10 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 35.6º N - 109.5º W
3/6/195317:5956 h 30 mMOBY DICKIn Hoehne, Colorado
3/7/195317:5044 h 40 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 37.9º N - 89.9º W
3/8/195317:127 h 20 mMOBY DICK3 miles N and 5 miles E of Auburn, Nebraska
3/9/195317:0557 h 25 mMOBY DICKIn Kitty Hawk, N Caroline
3/13/195314:2421 h 35 mMOBY DICK18 miles N of Ogallala, Nebraska, US
3/13/195300:2113 h 10 mMOBY DICK30 miles northeast of No. Platte, Nebraska
3/14/195320:4021 h 20 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 38.5º N - 111.7º W
3/16/195313:3012 hMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 38.6º N - 116.9º W
3/24/195316:4838 h 40 mMOBY DICK3 miles southeast of Birchtree, Missouri
3/30/195316:5633 h 35 mMOBY DICK6 miles W of Nederland, Texas
4/1/195317:108 h 20 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 37.8º N - 119.8º W
4/9/195316:3514 h 25 mMOBY DICKIn Lodge Pole, Nebraska
4/11/195317:1713 h 10 mMOBY DICKIn Hamblin, Brown County, Indiana
4/14/195300:378 h 25 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 37.8º N - 114.8º W
4/15/195317:1332 h 20 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 30.0º N - 85.5º W
4/16/195316:316 hMOBY DICK6 miles E of Mt. Vernon, Ohio
4/17/195319:157 h 50 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 36.8º N - 117.8º W
4/18/195316:3926 h 55 mMOBY DICKIn Proctor, Nevada
4/21/195316:4482 h 20 mMOBY DICK4 miles southwest of Indian Springs Air Force Base, Nevada
4/23/195316:2856 h 30 mMOBY DICKIn the Gulf of Mexico, near Port Aronsas, Texas, US
4/26/195318:5340 h 35 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 34.1º N - 115.3º W
4/28/195316:389 hMOBY DICKIn Sabinas, Coahuila State, Mexico
4/29/195317:0829 h 25 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 42.3º N - 120.2º W
5/1/195316:445 h 20 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 36.2º N - 116.5º W
5/2/195316:2413 h 35 mMOBY DICK1 mile W of Ariuaca, Arizona, US
5/3/195316:5051 h 40 mMOBY DICKIn Salina Spring, Arizona
5/4/195316:3732 h 55 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 33.3º N - 94.5º W
5/7/195312:5819 hMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 38.7º N - 117.2º W
5/9/195316:2813 h 30 mMOBY DICK5 miles NE of Potter, Nebraska
5/11/195318:0518 h 55 mMOBY DICK7 miles E of San Carlos, Arizona
5/12/195316:0819 h 55 mMOBY DICK17 miles W of Needles, California, US
5/13/195317:1757 h 40 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 44.7º N - 84.2º W
5/14/195321:4411 h 18 mMOBY DICK4 miles E of Heron Lake, Minnesota
5/15/195319:267 h 5 mMOBY DICKIn Lancaster, California
5/17/195316:559 h 5 mMOBY DICKIn Macedonia, Ohio
5/18/195317:1226 h 50 mMOBY DICKIn Garden County, Nebraska
5/19/195309:0210 hMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 32.6º N - 111.0º W
5/25/195313:3012 h 30 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 47.2º N - 116.5º W
5/26/195316:1081 h 20 mMOBY DICKIn Ganado, Arizona
6/3/195316:539 h 36 mMOBY DICK4 miles N of Maxbass, N Dakota
6/4/195310:3118 h 30 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 33.5º N - 109.2º W
6/5/195317:1412 h 20 mMOBY DICKIn Gloucester County, Virginia
6/17/195318:0010 h 30 mMOBY DICK15 miles E of Guadalupe Island, Mexico
6/22/195316:586 hMOBY DICKIn Meeker, Colorado
6/25/195316:457 h 50 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 39.0º N - 120.3º W
6/26/195316:437 h 20 mMOBY DICKIn Orem Juab county, Utah
6/30/195316:507 h 10 mMOBY DICK300 miles NE of Winnipeg. Canada
7/8/195317:1211 h 50 mMOBY DICKNE of Scotts Bluff, Nebraska
7/12/195317:269 h 35 mMOBY DICKIn Plumas County, California
7/19/195317:2820 h 30 mMOBY DICKIn Holden, Utah
8/1/195318:147 h 18 mMOBY DICKIn Cando, Saskatchewan Province, Canada
8/13/195317:5012 h 10 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 38.8º N - 121.4º W
8/18/195315:5912 h 30 mMOBY DICKIn Randolph, Utah
8/26/195317:006 h 30 mMOBY DICKIn Cody, Wyoming
8/31/195316:4414 h 50 mMOBY DICK70 miles S of St.George, Utah
9/16/195316:5429 h 35 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 37.8º N - 123.7º W
9/18/195318:1626 h 10 mMOBY DICKIn Lexington, N Carolina
9/23/195317:2032 h 40 mMOBY DICK8 miles NW of McCamey, Texas
9/25/195317:2154 h 10 mMOBY DICKIn the Fenwick Island, Delaware
9/27/195317:017 h 30 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 37.6º N - 118.2º W
10/3/195317:2725 h 36 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 36.5º N - 123.2º W
10/4/195316:399 h 55 mMOBY DICKIn McGill, Nevada
10/8/195317:408 h 20 mMOBY DICK11 miles S of Georgetown, Colorado, US
10/13/195316:3731 h 25 mMOBY DICKIn Shelton, Washington
10/29/195317:1380 h 35 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 43.8º N - 70.6º W
10/30/195317:4715 h 15 mMOBY DICKIn Ciudad Obregon, Sonora State, Mexico
11/6/195317:166 h 40 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 35.3º N - 118.4º W
11/15/195315:1715 h 42 mMOBY DICKIn Mazapil, Zacatecas State, Mexico
12/2/195317:5016 h 10 mMOBY DICK19 miles NW of Albany, Texas, US
12/7/195318:3645 h 55 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 42.9º N - 70.8º W
1/9/195417:3116 hMOBY DICKIn San Angelo, Texas
2/15/195420:3323 h 30 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 35.4º N - 97.0º W
2/18/195417:1483 h 20 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 37.7º N - 96.3º W
4/2/195420:1432 h 50 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 33.6º N - 81.5º W
4/3/195416:3040 hMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 32.3º N - 79.9º W
4/21/195417:4057 h 20 mMOBY DICKIn Pinco Mesa, Tucunmari, New Mexico, US
5/1/195416:4055 h 50 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 40.2º N - 120.2º W
5/2/195415:4010 h 50 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 31.4º N - 113.2º W
5/5/195416:1933 h 10 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 32.9º N - 81.8º W
5/12/195416:0471 h 55 mMOBY DICKIn Floyd, Virginia
5/13/195416:007 hMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 37.5º N - 116.1º W
6/2/195419:4725 h 40 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 37.5º N - 96.5º W
6/3/195415:3859 h 25 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 36.2º N - 74.6º W
6/15/195415:4711 h 40 mMOBY DICK50 mils S of Flagstaff, Arizona
6/24/195415:358 h 25 mMOBY DICKPayload lost. Last known position of the balloon in flight was 37.5º N - 119.6º W
10/8/1954 ---WS-124A (FLYING CLOUD) TEST FLIGHT--- No Data ---
10/9/1954 ---WS-124A (FLYING CLOUD) TEST FLIGHT--- No Data ---
10/11/1954 ---WS-124A (FLYING CLOUD) TEST FLIGHT--- No Data ---
11/30/1954 ---WS-124A (FLYING CLOUD) TEST FLIGHT--- No Data ---
12/13/1954 ---WS-124A (FLYING CLOUD) TEST FLIGHT--- No Data ---
1/20/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
1/20/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
1/20/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
1/20/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
1/20/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
1/20/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
1/20/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
1/20/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
1/20/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
1/20/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
3/4/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
3/4/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
3/4/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
3/4/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
3/4/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
3/4/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
3/4/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
3/4/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
3/4/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
3/4/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
5/13/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
5/13/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
5/13/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
5/13/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
5/13/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
5/13/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
5/13/1955 ---PAYLOAD UNKNOWN--- No Data ---
5/13/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
5/13/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
5/13/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
5/13/1955 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
1/8/1956 ---PAYLOAD UNKNOWN--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
8/2/1956 ---BARBERSHOP--- No Data ---
10/21/1956 ---PAYLOAD UNKNOWNNear Modesto, California, US
4/9/19597:14 local---PAYLOAD UNKNOWN--- No Data ---
2/29/196015:00 local1 hPAYLOAD UNKNOWNBalloon burst at 35.000 ft over Empire, California, US
4/25/1960 5 dPAYLOAD UNKNOWNCap-aux-Meules, Quebec, Canada
8/29/19606:11 local---TECHNOLOGICAL FLIGHTBalloon burst at 40.000 ft over Stockton, California, US
11/1/1960 ---GRATING SPECTROGRAPH--- No Data ---
4/17/196113:53 utc9 dSUPERPRESSURE BALOON TESTIn the Pacific Ocean, 400 miles off the coast of the State of
Washington, US