Located about 5 miles from California City just off of State Route 14 south and 40 miles from Barstow on State Route 58 heading west, comes a not so small community which has made history throughout the years; I’m talked about the community of Mojave in the Eastern Kern County desert. Why is Mojave so famous? Well, I did some research on the history of this community and the following is what I found from the Calif. Military History and About Mojave Air and Space Port.
MOJAVE – (formerly Mohave) is an unincorporated community in Eastern Kern County located approximately 50 miles east of Bakersfield and 100 miles north of Los Angeles at an elevation of 2,762 feet above sea level; Mojave is located in the western region of the Mojave Desert below and east of Oak Creek Pass and the Tehachapi Mountains; according to the 2010 U.S. Census, the population in Mojave was approximately 4,238 people which is up from the 2000 census of 3,836.
The town of Mojave began in 1876 as a construction camp on the Southern Pacific Railroad; from 1884 to 1889, Mojave was the terminus of the Twenty Mule Team, which carried borax from Harmony Borax Works in Death Valley. Mojave also served as the headquarters for the construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct.
Mojave also has a rich aviation and military history and has three main areas of activity; flight testing, space industry and development and aircraft heavy maintenance and storage. In 1935, Kern County established the Mojave Airport east of town to serve the gold and silver mining industry in the area; the airport consisted of 2 dirt runways (one of which was oiled) but lacked any fueling or servicing facilities. In 1941, the Civil Aeronautics Board began improvements to the airport for National Defense purposes that include two 4,500 by 150 foot asphalt runways and adjacent taxiways and Kern County agreed that the airport could be taken over in event of a war.
In December 1941 after the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Marine Corps took over the airport and expanded it into the Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Station Mojave (more about this in a later story); the two existing runways were extended and a third one was added, barracks were constructed to house 2,734 male and 376 female personnel; civilian employment at the base would peak at 176 and the Marines would eventually spend more than $7 million on the 2,312 acre base. Many of the Marine Corps World War II flying aces got their gunnery training in Mojave; during WWII, Mojave hosted 29 aircraft squadrons, 4 carrier aircraft service detachments and 3 air warning squadrons. At its peak Mojave had 145 training and other aircrafts.
The Marine Corps Auxiliary Station at Mojave was deactivated on February 7, 1946 and a U.S. Navy station was activated the same day; the Navy used the airport until January 1947; the base remained closed until the onset of the Korean Conflict (Congress never declared it a war) and Mojave was reactivated as an auxiliary landing field to MCAS El Toro; the airport was recommissioned as a MCAAS in December 1953. The United States Marines transferred operations to MCAS El Centro in 1961 and Kern County obtained title to the airport then, in 1972, the East Kern Airport District was formed to administer the airport and still does to this day. During the 1970’s, the Mojave Airport served commuter air carrier Golden West Airlines with scheduled passenger flights operated with de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin-Otter turboprops direct to Los Angeles; in November 2012, the airport district board of directors voted to change the name of the district to the Mojave Air and Space Port; officials said that the spaceport name was well-known around the world but East Kern Airport District wasn’t; the name change took effect on January 1, 2013.
Mojave and the airport are now home to many aerospace companies and institutions like Scaled Composites and the National Test Pilot School; Mojave is also home to Dick Rutan and “Voyager” (which was the first aircraft to fly around the world non-stop without refueling), the first inland spaceport in the country and is the location of the first private spaceflight with the launching of SpaceShip One on June 21, 2004.
Mojave is also used in the fictional universe of STAR TREK; in the future, Mojave (which becomes home to Captain Christopher Pike) becomes a bustling community surrounded by 50 miles of parkland on all sides.