(San Diego Air and Space Museum)
(San Diego Air and Space Museum)

This remarkable photograph was taken in 1944 inside one of two blimp hangars at Naval Air Station Glynco in Brunswick, Georgia. Aside from the three K-class blimps, there is a fascinating collection of wartime aircraft. The majority are Curtiss SB2C Helldivers and Beechcraft SNBs (the Navy version of the Beech Model 18). There are also a couple of Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers in Atlantic camouflage, a couple of Beechcraft GB Staggerwings, a Grumman Duck floatplane, and a handful of North American SNJs (the Navy’s version of the T-6 Texan). There is supposedly a Brewster SB2A Bermuda dive bomber hiding in there somewhere as well.

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(San Diego Air and Space Museum)
(San Diego Air and Space Museum)

Located on the southeast coast of Alabama in Glynn County (hence the name), NAS Glynco was active from 1942 to 1974 and was originally built to house and service blimps and other aircraft that patrolled the Atlantic coast searching for German U-boats. Due to a wartime shortage of steel, the gigantic hangars were constructed entirely of wood. Douglas fir was cut in Oregon and milled in Washington, then the hangar sections were assembled at the mill, numbered, disassembled, and then shipped to Georgia by rail for reassembly. Construction of the hangars began in September 1942 and was completed in just 14 months. When finished, the hangars were 1,058 feet long, 182 feet tall, and nearly 300 feet wide. They were among the largest wooden structures in the world at the time. Concrete pylons on either end of the hangars reached 150 feet into the air to support the massive hangar doors.

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The first wooden arch is completed. Assembled arch sections awaiting placement can be seen on either side of the box car. (Brunswick Golden Isles Airport)
The first wooden arch is completed. Assembled arch sections awaiting placement can be seen on either side of the box car. (Brunswick Golden Isles Airport)
Scaffolding supports the construction of the concrete pylons. Railroad tracks laid through the center of the hangars allowed construction materials to be rolled directly into the structure and hoisted by cranes.  (Brunswick Golden Isles Airport)
Scaffolding supports the construction of the concrete pylons. Railroad tracks laid through the center of the hangars allowed construction materials to be rolled directly into the structure and hoisted by cranes. (Brunswick Golden Isles Airport)
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An aerial photograph of the completed station gives a sense of the scale of the base and hangars. The circular areas are mooring points for airships, and perpendicular runways have been marked out on the asphalt surface.
An aerial photograph of the completed station gives a sense of the scale of the base and hangars. The circular areas are mooring points for airships, and perpendicular runways have been marked out on the asphalt surface.
An N-class blimp, popularly known as a Nanship, moored at Glynco in 1952. (Brunswick Golden Isles Airport)
An N-class blimp, popularly known as a Nanship, moored at Glynco in 1952. (Brunswick Golden Isles Airport)
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The station was slated for closure following the war, but the outbreak of hostilities in Korea caused the Navy to change its mind and keep the base open. A paved runway was constructed at Glynco to the north of the original blimp base, and the station became a training base for Naval Flight Officers, Navy air traffic controllers, and Combat Information Center (CIC) personnel. But even though the blimps evolved from their original WWII configurations, they finally gave way to Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft by 1960.

The original footprint of NAS Glynco is still visible at the modern site of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.
The original footprint of NAS Glynco is still visible at the modern site of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.
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After 29 years of exposure to the elements, and damage from Hurricane Dora in 1954, the wooden hangars were demolished in 1971, and the station closed three years later. Today, the former blimp base is home to a Federal Law Enforcement Training Center that includes two driving tracks and street courses used for the Law Enforcement Driver Instructor Training Program, while the jet runway is now home to the Brunswick Golden Isles Airport.


For more stories about aviation, aviation history, and aviators, visit Wingspan.


Sources:
Brunswick Golden Isles Airport
Project Glynco: A history of NAS Glynco, Brunswick, Georgia by Leslie Faulkenberry

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