On 25 September 1942, the area presently known as Marine Corps Air Station, Camp Pendleton, California was designated an auxiliary landing field and served as a sub-unit of Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro. The airfield consisted of little more than a dirt runway and provided landing facilities for such aircraft as the Beech C-45 and the Sikorsky HRS-1 and 2. During the early 1950’s, the airfield was used for the filming of “The Flying Leathernecks” starring John Wayne. The first permanent squadron stationed at the airfield was formed in the late
1960’s. This became a composite squadron consisting of OV-10’s and UH-1s.
Through the years, aviation began to play an increasing role in Marine Corps tactics, creating a need for modern facilities. To meet this need, the auxiliary landing field was re-designated a Marine Corps Air Facility on 1 September 1978 serving as home to Marine Aircraft Group 39. Since 1978, the Group expanded to a strength of four tactical helicopter squadrons, one helicopter training squadron, one observation squadron, and an aviation logistics squadron. This increase in aircraft and personnel established once again the need for improved facilities.
Marine Corps Bulletin 5450, dated 13 March 1985, re-designated the Air Facility a Marine Corps Air Station effective 1 April 1985. On 15 August of that same year, Colonel Ransom became the first Commanding Officer
of the Marine Corps’ newest command.
Today, the Air Station supports over 180 helicopters assigned to MAG-39, MAG-46 Det A, and a wide variety of other Marine Corps units and visiting aircraft from other branches of the Armed Forces. The closure of MCAS Tustin and MCAS El Toro were a result of Base Realignment and Closure legislation. MCAS Camp Pendleton expanded its facilities again to support three additional helicopter squadrons. The first medium lift helicopter squadron joined MAG-39 in January 1999, and the final one came in June of that same year.