NAS-JRB Willow Grove History
In 1926, aviation pioneer, Harold F. Pitcairn, purchased a large section of farmland on the west side of Doylestown Pike (now Route 611) and constructed a hangar and a grass airstrip. That farmland today is the former Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base (NAS-JRB) Willow Grove located in Horsham, Pennsylvania. From 1926 to 1942 Pitcairn used the airfield for numerous air shows and to design, construct and test a number of aircraft, including the Mailwing which was used by the United States Postal Service to carry the overnight mail between New York and Atlanta.
In 1942, Pitcairn sold his air field to the United States Navy. Two hundred fifty naval personnel from Mustin Field at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard took possession of the field that year. In January 1943, the field was officially commissioned the Naval Air Station Willow Grove. Following World War II, NAS Willow Grove was designated a Naval Air Reserve Training Station. Training and operation support activities increased during the Korean War. In 1957, the Department of Defense purchased additional land, bringing the air station to its present total of 1,100 acres.
In 1994, the air station's name was again changed to Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base (NAS JRB) Willow Grove to more accurately reflect the integration and joint operations of the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Army Reservists, as well as the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.
NAS-JRB Willow Grove was one of the bases on the BRAC 2005 list for realignment and closure. The Navy and Marine Corps squadrons/units moved to McGuire Air Force Base on March 31, 2011. The 111th Fighter Wing of the PA Air National Guard remains at their present site along with Army Reserve and Army National Guard units on the former U.S. Air Force Reserve Center facility. The U.S. Army Reserve, Pennsylvania Air National Guard, and Pennsylvania Army National Guard units are be located on the approximately 200-acre base located near the intersection of County Line and Easton Roads. The name of the new installation is "Horsham Air Guard Station".
A "Base Disestablishment Ceremony" was held March 30, 2011 to formally commemorate the closure of NAS-JRB (Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base) Willow Grove. More than 500 guests bid farewell to a Naval Air Station that throughout the last 68 years has been the home to thousands of military men and woman and their families. As a final symbol of closure, the flag was lowered for the final time and aircraft took off after the ceremonies for the last time. NAS-JRB Willow Grove was officially closed on September 15, 2011.
While the military operations that were at NAS-JRB Willow Grove have been relocated, the Navy continues to own the property and is providing the necessary maintenance and security services through a caretaker agreement until the property is transferred and those responsibilities go to the new owner.