Memories Of MCAS El Toro

I have many fond memories of MCAS El Toro. I was stationed there from Nov. ’56 thru Nov. ’59. I served with MARS-37 as a 6442 Hydraulics Repairman MOS. I would like to know where MARS-37 was moved to. I participated in the Fleet Schooling (acceptance) programs for the FJ4B North American A/C and later for the F8U Crusader A/C, known as FIP’s (Fleet Introduction Programs).

My wife was with me for the period aboard the NAMAR housing. We were both enjoying some of the best duty in the Corps for families. We couldn’t believe it when we heard of its move/disbanding!

Does anyone know the story of MARS-37 and its removal and subsequently the Station itself?

Tom Harp USMC
A/Sgt 1953-1959


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10 thoughts on “Memories Of MCAS El Toro”

  1. MY first duty station after finishing my MOS school. 6711 (Air Traffic Control-Tower) with SOES Aug 1965 to March 1966. Newly married en-route from NATTC NAS Glynco, Ga.. Both those bases now gone for the Navy/Marine Corps. What is left of El Toro now a rusting hulk. And Glynco, the old southeast coast Navy blimp base, is now the Federal Law Enforcement Training Command (FLETC). Good memories from both but especially El Toro and our first apartment in Santa Ana on Lacy Street whose owner brought us a basket of citrus from his orchards each month when he came to collect the rent. Finding out I had been promoted to LCpl. while en-route, the base riding stable, running PRT’s in formation around the long runway, the huge base exchange, the orange groves lining the road from the freeway to the main gate. Pristine Laguna Canyon on the way to the small but beautiful Laguna Beach and the overlook where the Old folks played duckpins on the grass court and we would sit in the gazebo on the point looking out to sea until dark. Knott’s Berry Farm instead of the expensive Disneyland. Capt. Cash (Captain Crash) of the SAR unit who loved chasing deer up and down the ravines on Sundays in his assigned H-19,and leading visiting aircraft from the runway when the field was IFR, and shining his H-19 landing lights into the tower after midnight just to make sure the controllers were there on our mid watches, haha. Capt. Mary Clark, Flight Service duty officer, physically jerking a Mexican pilot out of his private aircraft when he landed without clearance south bound on the N-S runway while a flight of 3 C-130’s on a Sand Burner training flight from The Stumps had just received clearance to land heading north. Actually had him sent to the brig and his twin engine Cessna towed into a hanger and confiscated until the US State Dept. got involved. Two Secret Service agents not able to enter the control tower in time to monitor LBJ’s arrival when we locked the tower hatch at the specified time, they threatened us with arrest if we did not open the hatch, but instead we were congratulated by the CO for following orders by not doing so. They were late due to spending too much time in the first level break room. Sen. Goldwater flying his own Air Force aircraft in and out of the field. Watching the smog lift about 1000 hrs. each day so one could actually see Santa Catalina in the distance from the control tower. AND those God-awful Santana winds. Our last transmission to departing aircraft heading north on the long runway…”Cleared for takeoff, come up departure control frequency, left turn heading 270 within 2 nautical miles”. (This was to avoid collision in the mountains to the north). Being told I was on the list for Cpl. in Feb 66 but they were going to hold the promotion T/O for someone staying on base since I had orders for MCAS Iwakuni, Japan 1st MAW being processed. Got the orders for 18 months at Iwakuni but never got there. Got caught COG in LBJ’s Easter 66 buildup in Nam and wound up with MABS-16 MATCU-68 at Hue Phu Bai with no orders just before Easter with no warning until they rousted us out at Okinawa 0430 our third morning there. Gave each of us a new sea bag for storage as we left our quanset hut quarters and marched us a warehouse to store our civies and class a’s and then to the flight line to board a flight of 3 C-119’s at Kadena Air Base. Always figured El Toro the treat before being shang-haied to Nam for 14 months without orders. The great thing in Nam was promotion from L/Cpl. to Sgt. in less than 11 months. El Toro was “dream” duty and I prayed, if I made it home, for the wife and I to be there again, but went to the swamps of MCAS Beaufort instead. Not as great as El Toro, but a far cry better than I-Corps RVN.

  2. The only thing that I remember about El – Toro is that’s where I flew out of in May 1966 on C-130’s going to Nam for 13 months as a 0311 grunt.

  3. As said above MARS 37 was deactivated in 2012. MCAS El Toro was decommissioned in 1999. Around that time MARS 37 was moved to MIRIMAR.

  4. MCAS El Toro is located in Irvine, Orange County, CA. To developers this makes the site pure gold, I’m surprised it took this long to grease enough palms at the local, state, and federal level to decommission it and shut it down. Used their runway in the late 90’s for a C5A aircraft during a cross country trip.

  5. My first duty station after going through all the aviation schools was El Toro. Newly married,we traveled across country to get there only to find there was no apartment. Found one in Santa Ana. The A4Ds were just coming into VMA211 & sent to school on them .we did a lot of flying training pilot’s to use them. When the outfit rotated out & VMA 311 came back, I was some how “ INPORTANT “ lol lol that I was to stay at EL TORO to help 311 get settled in. I worked on the flight line & never had any problems getting all out birds in the air. The pilots always felt comfortable & safe which made us feel great too. Was a great experience.19 years old & giving that much responsibility was something every young person should thrive for. Made me a better man for the rest of my life.

  6. MARS-37 was renamed MAMS-37 sometime before I arrived in april 64. Worked in Avionics shop till nov 66. Name was changed again few years later then disbanded. Good duty at El Toro.

  7. I have been to El Toro twice. Both times in the dark. Flew out of there 2/Jan/70 to Vietnam. Landed there 7/Jan/71 when I got back. In between was an 0311 with Mike 3/1 CUPP.

  8. I was stationed at MCAS El Toro in the Spring of 1967 after being trained as a jet mech at NAS Millington, TN. Got there a Lance Corporal, joining VMA 214 just returned from 2 years in Vietnam. I volunteered to help the lone admin clerk sort out and organize the Admin Office. I was supposed to stay 2 weeks and stayed over a year going from Lance to Sgt E5. El Toro was wonderful. We would spend weekends at Laguna beach or Disneyland. At the time CA was only 12 million people. Laguna Canyon Road was open country. I served with VMA211 at Chu Lai from 1968 t0 1969 returning to El Toro. I was saddened that it was closed just like millington and of course Chu Lai. It is like my whole tour has been mothballed. Good thing Parris Island is still there. Semper Fi to all. Paul Chacho Jr.

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