Georgetown Naval Air Station, Sussex County Airport

In 1941, the Sussex County Levy Court subsequently borrowed $25,000 to build an airport. The
county wished to purchase 581.05 acres of land for the airport, but was unable to reach and
agreement with property owners over the purchase. Construction of the airport was delayed as
the land purchase issue was resolved in court (Frebert 1998).

Once the property was secured, leaflets were dropped on nearby towns calling for people to clear
the land designated as the Navy’s Georgetown Airport. The first Navy unit assigned to the
airport was the Twenty-third Carrier Aircraft Service Unit, arriving November 27th, 1943. The
27 men in this unit lived with local residents, since housing was not available at the airport
(Frebert 1998).

Lawrence Lind of the Twenty-third Carrier Aircraft Service Unit described in an interview with
George Frebert the unit’s duties at the airport, as well as the airport’s appearance during the
war.

The interview with George Frebert

The Curtiss SB2C dive-bomber used the adjacent marsh lands for target practice. A large target
was displayed for the pilots to use for bombing. Unfortunately, many of the pilots had little
flying experience and a lot of planes crashed. One plane, with the pilot and navigator, crashed
in the marsh and was entirely consumed. We also hauled wrecked airplanes back to the airport,
disassembled them and shipped the parts out. Although we did simple repairs outside, we did
not have any major repair facilities since there were no hangars.

A simulated carrier deck was painted on the runway to outline the landing area for pilots. A
mobile lighting truck was used at night to light the simulated aircraft carrier deck for night
sorties. The signalman used lighted paddles for pilots of the Navy Curtiss SB@C and the
Douglas TBF-1 airplanes to help guide them in. the airport was not equipped with lights, so
corners of the simulated deck were lighted with hand-held flashlights. This was very dangerous
and I was surprised no one was killed. Those pilots were anything but skilled, and they were all
over the place. Although our work was interesting, life and facilities were quite primitive at the
airport. I had to sneak the few photos I got because taking pictures was strictly forbidden
(Frebert 1998:247).

The war continued

As the war continued, and the Naval Air Station at Wildwood became busier, operations at the
Georgetown Naval Air Station increased. The Navy had to lease the National Guard Armory in
Georgetown to billet 150 men now assigned to the airfield. An area capable of storing 55,000
gallons of gasoline was leased and the Navy also began construction of buildings at
Georgetown. A field lighting system was approved for the airfield during the second half of
1944. Two HE-1 catapults, requested by the Navy for Georgetown, were completed in February
1945 (Rowe n.d.).

Handover of the airport

After the war, the Navy no longer had a use for the Georgetwon Naval Air Station.
Subsequently, the airport was designated as surplus on March 25, 1947, and control of it was
returned to the county. A celebration of the turnover was held on Memorial Day weekend in
1947. The military participated in the celebration, which amounted to a huge air show. Among
the aircraft present were B-29 Superfortresses, P-47 Thunderbolts, B-25 Mitchells, and F4U-1A
Corsairs, aircraft that had helped win the Second World War (Frebert 1998).

However, the Memorial Day celebration proved premature for Sussex County could not find
businesses willing to make the airport home. Once different passenger carriers, including All
American Airways, realized that the stop in Georgetown was not feasible, the county attempted
to convince the state to move the Delaware National Guard to the airport. That too failed
(Frebert 1998).
Delaware Military History