San Diego's North Island Naval Air Station is one of the largest and most important naval bases on the west coast today. The facility had its start at the dawn of flight, when aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss used the site to establish one of the first pilot training schools in the country. The United States Army saw the advantages that the location offered as an air station and training center and it soon acquired the island, establishing Rockwell Field as its west coast training center. Eventually the U.S. Navy took over the growing base and today it is a thriving deep water port and naval aviation center, serving as home for some of the most advanced ships and aircraft in the Naval inventory.
The site has a rich aviation history dating back to 1910. The officers, enlisted men and students of Rockwell Field and later North Island Naval Air Station are composed of some of the most important and influential aviation figures of the 20th century. One of these was Henry "Hap" Arnold, who served as overall commander of the Army Air Forces in World War II and was one of the primary figures responsible for the establishment as the United States Air Force.
Arnold served as Rockwell Field base commander on three separate occasions during the crucial early years of the establishment of the base. He was fascinated by its development and the potential that it offered as an aviation center. Arnold wrote of these early years in 1925 when he penned "A History of Rockwell Field", a chronicle of the history of the site up until that time. His manuscript sheds light on the vital first years of the North Island base, when the function of aviation and the potential that it offered to the military was still being defined. It is an important document that so far has never been published, a situation that hopefully will soon be resolved by the publication of the book by the San Diego Air and Space Museum.
The Museum has augmented the text by the addition of many rare and unpublished photographs of the locations, incidents and individuals that Arnold writes about in "A History of Rockwell Field". As such, the book is a vital document that chronicles the early years of the development of a military base that has had a large influence on aviation in the 20th century, written by one of the most influential figures in aviation history.