The Naval Air Station Key West has a rich Naval history and impact as it was and still is an influential point for training and flight operations in the southeast United States. The base has a 3 runway setup and open seas surrounding its borders. With year round cooperating weather it is very appealing not only for US aviation training squadrons but also for foreign forces who come to cross train.
Prior to the NAS Key West being established the US Navy first built a base in the keys to try and prevent piracy, slave traders, and attacks on US ships in the Caribbean by having US ships and naval forces on the coast of southern Florida. The bases key location helped fast track ships along the coast for resupply and reinforcements. Importing supplies and labor from the surrounding Caribbean Islands. Fast forwarding to the Civil War the Unions strong hold in Key West allowed the Navy to stage blockades which helped to cutting off Confederate resupply lines from those same over sea Confederate allies.
During World War 1 the base was actually commissioned as a Naval Air Station on December 18 in 1917 having its first aircraft take off just three months prior a Curtiss N-9 seaplane flown by U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Stanley Parker who later became the first base Commanding Officer.The Air Stations main mission During World War I was to stop German Submarines form getting to Mexican oil supplies which fueled America in the war. Launching look out planes both civilian and Military to help protect our shores from enemy forces. Its geological location at the tip of the peninsula proved to be an advantage for forces to go east into the Atlantic, west into the gulf and south into the Caribbean islands. At the time the frequency of flights leaving NAS Key West and favorable weather conditions brought the base its first school of aviation pilots to aid the war. More than 500 pilots were trained before the end of the World War I and then temporary shut down of the base. When the base had closed most of the land was sold to civilian companies for local development but the air strip remained under government tenure with a small outpost still active with only a few seaplanes launching.
What we now know as NAS Key West reopened in 1940 just prior to the United States involvement in World War II. During this time expansion of other bases in Florida were on a rise with the opening and expansion of Naval Air Stations Jacksonville and Pensacola and Eglin Air Force base. The surrounding town of Key West and most of Florida in general were seeing an influx of US troops and some of their families moving to Florida to aid in the war efforts. This brought the development of the surrounding south Florida Monroe County. Again the bases main mission was to conduct aviation and logistical support to the US and allied forces. This meant that training production of Naval Pilots had to be expedited to fuel war demands. Post World War II instead of decommissioning the air station the US Navy kept it open as a training base for fleet replacement pilots. The base proved once more vital in the Cuban Missile crisis in 1962 when the threat of nuclear war was imminent. Swift reactions of reconnaissance forces launched from the base provided valuable information that potentially avoided nuclear disaster.
Since then NAS Key West remains open to host US Navy, Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force aircraft and allow foreign squadrons to train and operate on its three landing strips. Its peacetime contributions include disaster relief with recent hurricane Irma for South Florida and much of the Caribbean islands.The base has a rich history of Naval Aviation with over 100 years of conducting flights and counting. With surrounding museums and air shows frequented by the Blue Angels civilians are attracted to visit NAS Key West and its surrounding city in Monroe County.