United States Navy USN Blimp Squadron 32 
Air Ship Squadron 32 Blimpron-32 Blimp Hedron 32 ZP-32 Detachment 32 in World War II Two WWII Moffett Field.

USN L-ships from Airship Patrol Squadron 32 over Naval Air Station Moffett Field during WWII. Hangar #1 on left. Hangars 2 and 3 on right.

When the United States entered WWII, a coastal defense plan was developed to protect the shipping lanes and search for enemy vessels and aircraft. The plan established 10 USN airship bases. Airships were generally better than airplanes to escort surface ships and search for submarines and mines because of their slower speeds, longer times aloft, and resultant advantages for visual, magnetic, and radar surveillance. The existing airship hangar (Hangar #1 in above photo) made Moffett Field an obvious choice for the first west coast airship base and Airship Patrol Squadron 32 (ZP-32) was established there on January 31, 1942 with LCDR George F. Watson as commanding officer. Ironically, Moffett Field was an army base at the time and the squadron's first two airships, TC-13 and TC-14, were originally army airships. But later in 1942, the base was transferred back to the Navy, the squadron was renamed Blimp Squadron 32 (still ZP-32), and Hangars 2 & 3 (above photo) were built to house its L, G, M, and K-type Goodyear airships. In 1931, Hangar #1 was constructed for the USS Macon and in 1933, the base was dedicated as NAS Sunnyvale. It was renamed NAS Moffett Field later that same year to honor Rear Admiral William A. Moffett who was killed when Macon's sister ship, USS Akron, was lost in a storm off the New Jersey coast.

ZP-32 patrolled the central Pacific coast from Moffett Field and auxiliary bases at Eureka and Watsonville, California. The northern and southern coasts were patrolled by the other two west coast blimp squadrons: ZP-33 at Tillamook, Oregon and ZP-31 at Santa Ana, California, respectively. The west coast airships operated from Ensenada, Mexico to Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. In October of 1942, all of the west coast airships were under the command of Captain Scott E. Peck of Airship Patrol Group 3 at Moffett Field. Two months later, the west coast airships were organized as Airship Group 3 of Fleet Airship Wing 31 with headquarters at Moffet Field. From July of 1943 until the end of the war, the official organization was Fleet Airships Pacific, Fleet Airship Wing 3 and included ZP-31 at Santa Ana, ZP-33 at Tillamook, and ZP-32 and Blimphedron 3 (Blimp Headquarters Squadron 3) at Moffett Field. The airships patrolled shipping lanes, escorted surface vessels, searched for missing aircraft, personnel, Japanese submarines and mines, and experimented with new radar and magnetic detection methods under development at that time. These methods included magnetic anomaly detection (MAD) and microwave early warning (MEW) radar. Similar to Patrol Squadron VP-63, which adopted the name "MAD CATS" to emphasize its use of magnetic anomaly detection, ZP-32 apparently adopted the "MEW" cat on its insignia to emphasize its use of microwave early warning radar. However, it is not known if this was an official insignia.

One of the first L-class airships based at Moffett Field, the L-8, delivered important equipment to the USS Hornet
that was needed for the B-25 Mitchell bombers that attacked Japan on the Doolittle Raid in April of 1942.

About 4 months later, the L-8 crashed mysteriously in Daly City, California with no one onboard:

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On August 16, 1942, Lt. Ernest D. Cody (who piloted the L-8 on the USS Hornet delivery mission above) and Ens. Charles E. Adams took-off in the L-8 from Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay on a routine anti-submarine patrol. After about an hour, Cody radioed that they were going to investigate an oil slick. That was the last message heard from the L-8. Later that day, the blimp was spotted south of San Francisco up against a beachside cliff. The airship became dislodged, drifted inland, and floated down in Daly City. But no one was aboard the L-8 and the fate of Cody and Adams has never been determined. According to the Aviators Flight Log Book kept by AAM3/c Harris H. Reed of ZP-32, the L-8 was flying again by December 4, 1942 and still flying almost one year later according to airship pilot John Fahey:
"Don Potts and I were in the same LTA class, graduating on December 7, 1943. Our training schedule was rather strange. We reported from our various Navy Preflight Schools to Lakehurst in July 1943 when it was decided to conduct basic instruction in L-ships at Moffett Field. We attended ground school classes at Lakehurst in July and then in mass, traveled by train to Moffett Field to begin flight training in free balloons and L-ships. In August and September I flew 35 flights in L-ships including some in the L-8 which was back on line. Again the class traveled back by train to Lakehurst to begin flying K-ships in September. Our class covered more distance by train in 1943 than we did by air in training."

Blimps and Hangars at NAS Moffett Field:

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Personnel at Moffett Field:

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FLEET AIRSHIPS PACIFIC - Command Structure - May 1, 1945

Commander Fleet Airships, Pacific - CAPT H. N. Coulter
Commander Fleet Airship Wing 3 - CAPT H. N. Coulter
BlimpHedRon 3 - Commmander V. L. Smith (USNR)

BlimpRon 31, 8 ZNP, LCDR W. F. Lineberger (USNR)
BlimpRon 32, 8 ZNP, LCDR R. E. Huse (USNR)
BlimpRon 33, 8 ZNP, LCDR F. N. Klein (USNR)

Additional ZP-32 and Moffett Field Personnel during WWII.
Officers of ZP-32.

More ZP-32 Airships:

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Crash of K-99-X at Arcata, California in 1947:

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Read the ZP-32 Squadron Diary (this is a large pdf file).

Many thanks to the Moffett Field Historical Society and especially to Curator Bill Stubkjaer for providing most of the photographs on this page.

Contact: don.kaiser@gmail.com

Airship Patrol Squadron ZP-11
Airship Patrol Squadron ZP-14
Airship Patrol Squadron ZP-33
Airship Utility Squadron ZJ-1

The Naval Airship Association, Inc.