Construction of the navy's first air station in Alaska began in Sitka in 1939. The facility received the designation of Naval Operating Base in 1942. With the Pacific theater moving farther away, the base was decommissioned in 1944. Since the war, Mount Edgecumbe School, a boarding school for Natives, has operated in these buildings. The surviving buildings and the setting still powerfully evoke the character of the air base of half a century ago.
The facilities were designed primarily for seaplanes, evidenced by two concrete ramps leading into the water. Because of the lack of level land, a short runway for wheeled planes, which survives, was equipped with arresting gear and catapults similar to those on an aircraft carrier. Other facilities associated with the Naval Operating Base include two metal-clad hangars (recently re-sided), a concrete two-story administration building, and a concrete auditorium. Most of the other buildings