Naval Air Station Whidbey Island on map

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NAS Whidbey Island Navy Base in Oak Harbor, WA Washington Military Bases


Naval Air Station Whidbey Island is located in Washington State within the borders of Island County. The dual runway base is 90 miles due north of Seattle and is staffed by 7500 active duty and reserve military personnel. The air station encompasses multiple Navy installations near Oak Harbor including a seaplane base, Ault Field, Outlying Field Coupville and Boardman Training Range, making Naval Air Station Whidbey that single largest naval installation in the Pacific Northwest. It also fills the billet of one of four Navy installations that make up Navy Region Northwest.


The main sector if NAS Whidbey, Ault Field, was a named for a United States Navy Commander who was killed in action by Japanese fighter planes while piloting his own craft in the Battle of the Coral Sea in 1942. Though presumed killed, Commander Ault is technically listed as missing in action, as he was never recovered. Commander Ault has additional asset that bears his name, the destroyer USS Ault, commissioned in 1944.



One year prior to the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor the 13th Naval District was tasked with finding a new location for seaplane bases in the Puget Sound area. The strategically important area of Oak Harbor was considered a potential target for attack and finding suitable defense for the area was problematic. Geography severely limited base options and access was extremely limited. As a result, the idea of building a base in Oak Harbor was abandoned.


One day after the attacks on Pearl Harbor Navy officials reconsidered, and the decision was made to build at Oak Harbor. Construction began in March of 1942 the airfield was able to begin receiving aircraft in August of the same year. Despite the frantic construction, the base was woefully unfinished, with several sections of runways still incomplete and structures still in varying stages of development.


In September of 1942 the base was officially commissioned as an operational United States Naval Air Station. Torpedo overhaul systems, F4F Wildcats, and F6F Hellcats made up the much of the first resident aircraft. Ault Field was officially named in September of 1943 and operations expanded to include SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber aircraft.


Following World War II, the pace of activity at NAS Whidbey slowed dramatically. Decommission of the air station was planned on paper, and asset diversion quickly followed. It was quickly decided however that due to the all-weather nature of the airfield it would be used to fleet activities and operations in Alaska.


The Korean War saw another expansion of NAS Whidbey and breathed new life into the installation. By the end of the war two Fleet Air Support and Six VP Patrol squadrons called the base home. Rather than scale down as the base did following World War II, the Navy made the decision to continue moving assets and unites into NAS Whidbey in anticipation of future conflicts.



Today, more than 50 tenant units, 19 active duty squadrons and two reserve squadrons call NAS Whidbey home. The installation houses 15 Prowler Squadrons, two C-12 Huron aircraft, two EP-3E Fleet Recon units and four P-3 Orion Patrol squadrons. The base also regularly plays host to Canadian Fleet vessels and United States Coast Guard surface ships.

Naval Air Station Whidbey Island


NAS Whidbey is the largest naval installation in the Pacific Northwest and is actually composed of two bases five miles apart: the original Seaplane Base on the eastern shore of Whidbey Island and Ault Field, on the island’s western shore, looking out at the magnificent Olympic Mountains and the San Juan Islands.


Whidbey Island is 64 miles long and the largest island in the continental United States. Here you will find abundant recreation possibilities, from boating, hiking and biking to hunting and fishing.


The air station has consecutively over the last five years ranked among the top three naval installations worldwide in the annual Commander in Chief Installation Excellence Award.


On Jan. 17, 1941, almost 11 months before the U.S. entered World War II, the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations asked the Commandant of the 13th Naval District to find a location for the re-arming and refueling of Navy patrol planes operating in defense of Puget Sound, should such defense be necessary.


Lake Ozette, Indian Island, Keystone Harbor, Penn Cove and Oak Harbor were considered and later rejected because of mountainous terrain, bluff shorefront, inaccessibility, absence of sufficient beaches and lee shores.


But within 10 days, the commanding officer of Naval Air Station Seattle recommended the site of Saratoga Passage on the shores of Crescent Harbor and Forbes Point as a base suitable for seaplane takeoffs and landings under instrument conditions.


A narrow strip of land tied Oak Harbor to what is now Maylor’s Capehart Housing. Dredging, filling and running water and power lines to the city were under way when at the end of November word came to find a land plane site.


Clover Valley

On December 8, three workers started a topographic survey of what would become Ault Field, about four miles to the north. The crew would soon grow to 17. None of them were engineers, but with the attack at Pearl Harbor, everyone went to work. Regardless of the weather, there were 175 men on the job at the peak of survey work.


Bewildered citizens, caught up in the war effort, signed up for jobs to build the station. There were approximately 20 farms on 4,325 acres. Farmers turned over the titles to their ancestral lands, known for growing some of the finest wheat in the country, to the government for runways and hangars. They quietly moved to other farms in Skagit County. Clover Valley—level, well drained and accessible from any approach—was tailor-made for a landing field. The strategic location, commanding the eastern end of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, guarded the entrance to Puget Sound. It was far enough from populated areas to carry on operational training flights with live loads. The area experienced visual flying conditions about 89 percent of the time and there was plenty of room to grow.


Actual construction of Ault Field started on March 1, 1942. The first plane landed there on Aug. 5, when Lt. Newton Wakefield, a former civil engineer and airline pilot who would later become Operations Officer, brought his SNJ single-engine trainer in with little fanfare. Everyone was busy working on the still-incomplete runway.


Commissioning Day

On Sept. 21, 1942, from the steps of Building 12, Commanding Officer Capt. Cyril Thomas Simard read the orders and the watch was set. U.S. Naval Air Station Whidbey Island was duly commissioned. There were 212 present for the ceremony.



As the sole naval aviation support in the Pacific Northwest, we provide the highest quality facilities, services and products to the naval aviation community and all organizations utilizing Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.


Population Served

There are over over 7,600 military men and women who are assigned to the largest naval installation in the Pacific Northwest.


NAS Whidbey is actually composed of two bases five miles apart: the original Seaplane Base on the eastern shore of Whidbey Island and Ault Field, on the island’s western shore, looking out at the magnificent Olympic Mountains and the San Juan Islands.


Whidbey Island is 64 miles long and the largest island in the continental United States. Here you will find abundant recreation possibilities, from boating, hiking and biking to hunting and fishing.


The air station has consecutively over the last five years ranked among the top three naval installations worldwide in the annual Commander in Chief Installation Excellence Award.


Base Transportation

By Ferry

From Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula, take a 30-minute ferry ride to Coupeville Terminal, four miles southwest of Coupeville. From Mukilteo, north of Seattle, a 20-minute ferry ride takes you to Clinton, Whidbey’s southernmost community.


The air station is about 20 minutes from the ferry landing. Reservations are recommended at


Island Transit

Island Transit provides fare free bus service throughout Island County, making stops at NAS Whidbey Island’s Ault Field by Whidbey Apartments, as well as the Commissary and Main Navy Exchange on Seaplane Base on Saturdays only. For bus route information visit or call (360) 678-7771.



A sponsor is someone from your new unit who is assigned to assist you in settling into your new location. You must request a sponsor through your unit. You can learn more about the sponsorship program and how to apply through your Relocation Assistance Program or the Family Center at your new installation.


Your Service will appoint your sponsor in writing. He/she will be the same or close to your rank and the same marital status, if at all possible. This person will be knowledgeable about the local community and the installation; available to assist you and your family for at least two weeks post arrival, and be someone who is positive and outgoing.


Temporary Quarters

Unaccompanied Housing aboard Ault Field features 1,700 beds in 11 buildings. All residences are within walking distance to the flight line, Galley, Navy Exchange, McDonald’s, Rice King, Subway, ATM machine, recreational, educational and religious services.


Newcomers will register to Unaccompanied Housing Front Desk, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at Navy Gateway Inns and Suites (NGIS) in Building 973, McCormick Lodge. (360) 257-2038, DSN 820-2038.


Family Housing

Hours are Monday through Friday,

7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Housing Services Center serves all active duty service personnel, their family members, federal employees, and civilians by assisting them to find suitable housing. Properties for rent or sale in Island and Skagit Counties can be found on the Automated Housing Referral Network (AHRN).


Relocation Assistance

Relocation Assistance

Whether you are settling in or departing from Navy Region Northwest, the following relocation services can help ease the associated stress and make the transition easier for you and your family:


Relocation Workshops

Welcome Aboard Information

Hospitality Kits and Loaner Items

Individual or Family Consultation

Exceptional Family Member Program


Critical Installation Information

The Pacific Northwest is known for its warm, dry summers and cool, stormy winters. Winter weather on Whidbey Island is dominated by the Olympic Mountains, a mere 30 miles to the southwest, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Olympics “intercept” incoming Pacific storms, force tremendous lift and torrential rain on their windward side, and create a huge downdraft to their lee, over Whidbey Island. This lee trough is often seen as a small, swirling area of slightly lower pressure that simultaneously inhibits rainfall (NAS Whidbey Island receives less than half the annual rainfall of Seattle), and produces consistent near-gale force winds out of the southeast.


Thus, the same storm system that produces light winds and steady rain over much of the Puget Sound region typically yields only a light, windblown drizzle at NAS Whidbey Island.


Of course it does rain, and there are plenty of storms that come out of the due west, or south, that are not affected by the Olympic Mountains. In fact, NAS Whidbey Island is one of the favorite meeting spots for cold, British Columbian air, and warm, Pacific moisture, resulting in occasionally heavy snowfalls. The warm air always wins, however, ensuring the snow is never around for long. Expect winter temperatures predominately in the 40s, though short cold snaps in the 15-25 degree range are not uncommon.


With weeks on end of dry, sunny weather, cool west winds and up to 17 hours of daylight, Whidbey Island summers are worth the wait, even if you have to wait till mid-July. Fog is common in the morning hours, but almost always gives way to bright sun by the afternoon and temperatures in the low 70s.


Summer is the favorite time of year to explore the mountains, waterways, forests and beaches of the amazing Pacific Northwest.


Frequently Called Numbers on Base

Bachelor Enlisted Quarters (360) 257-5513 DSN: 820-5513

Bachelor Officers Quarters (360) 257-2529 DSN: 820-2529

Child Development Center (360) 257-3302 DSN: 820-3302

Combined Bachelor Quarters (360) 257-5513 Fax: (360) 257-3794 DSN: 820-5513 DSN Fax: 820-3794


Dental Clinic (360) 257-2301

Exceptional Family Member Coordinator (360) 257-9830 Fax: (360) 257-9662 DSN: 820-9830 DSN Fax: 820-9662

Family Child Care Program (360) 257-6116 Fax: (360) 257-3723 DSN: 820-6116 DSN Fax: 820-3723

MWR Youth Center (360) 257-3150 DSN: 820-3150

Naval Hospital Oak Harbor (360) 257-9500 DSN: 820-9500

Navy Lodge (360) 675-0633 Fax: (360) 675-1201


School Age Care Program (360) 675-0889

Whidbey Medical Clinic (360) 679-3161

Youth Activities, MWR (360) 257-2528 DSN: 820-2528

NAS Whidbey Island Navy Base in Oak Harbor on map