The United States Naval Air Service

Queenstown Base

(Aghada, Co.Cork, Ireland)


The entry of the United States into the First World War in 1917 saw the arrival of US forces in Europe to aid the Allied cause. The US Navy had bases in mainland Europe and the British Isles in an attempt to combat the U-Boat menace, including the first at Queenstown (Cobh) in Ireland.

The Naval Aviation Branch, known as the United States Naval Air Service also needed bases for the recently developed weapon of the flying boat, as well as stations for kite balloons. In Ireland there were four flying boat bases, located at Queenstown (actually Aghada in Cork), Wexford, Lough Foyle, and Whiddy Island. There was also a kite balloon station at Berehaven in West Cork. The Irish unit was organised as USNAS Ireland under Commander F.McCrary, who was based at Queenstown.

A Curtiss H16 'Large America' Flying Boat

Commander F.McCrary
Commander, USNAS, Ireland

The command was established in February 1918 and bases were completed by September 1918. The largest base, and headquarters for Ireland, was in Aghada (Queenstown), on the eastern side of Cork Harbour, on a site chosen by the British Admiralty , and commandeered under the ‘Defence of the Realm’ act. This was not only an operational flying boat base, but also was the assembly premises for planes, and training station for pilots on the 'Ireland Station'.

Handbill advertising USNAS Sports Day

The Aghada station had an area of operations that covered areas from Cape Clear in the West, to the convoy channels to the east on the routes to France in the St Georges Channel. The flying boats used in Ireland were of one type, the Curtiss ‘Large America’ H16. This aircraft, which was enormous for it’s time was a twin-engined craft with a 76ft wingspan and 2 x 400hp liberty engines. It’s length was 46ft. The first planes arrived in Queenstown in June 1918 and operational patrols began in August 1918. The Aghada base had 28 planes and nearly 1500 personnel by the end of the War in November 1918 .

First Flight of H16, July 1918
December 2006


These were the early stages of naval aviation, and the fact the USNAS managed to have patrols in operation was very creditable. The lack of success in destroying German submarines was tempered with the fact that the German High Command became very wary of theses patrols, and tried to route their flotillas round them, hampering operations.

'Sunday Inspection' 1918 (Courtesy of Ronny Vogt)
December 2006


'In Flight' (Courtesy of Ronny Vogt)

Air Base site 2006



The only known fatality from operations on the Irish Coast was the crash of aircraft no A1072 on the 22nd October 1918 resulting in the loss of one crew member. With the Armistice there was no need for these bases and the Queenstown base closed on the 10th of April 1919.

Quickly the fixtures and fittings were sold and auctioned off to the residents of Cork, and notices such as those above continued in the local press for most of the summer of 1919

Sale of the pier and other goods from the base

Parts of the 1918 base can still be seen on the shores of Cork Harbour. A portion of the concrete ‘apron’ and the slipway to the waters of Cork harbour can be seen, as well as a few red-bricked administrative buildings. It is now the site of the local tennis club but local memory remains strong and it is still known as the ‘air base’. The site was utilised in the 1970’s for an ill-fated venture at hovercraft construction which only lasted a few years.


Slipway from right

Concrete Apron

View of Tennis Club

Aghada in Winter



The following is a summary of USNAS Ireland operations:
Total number of flying Hours 761
Distance Covered 45683miles
Oil Patches sighted 5
Oil Patches bombed 3
Submarines sighted 7
Submarines bombed 7

USNAS Situation Nov 11th 1918:

Queenstown: Operations commenced: Sep 30th 1918
Aircraft Nov 11th 1918: 28 Seaplanes
Number of flights 64
Number of sea miles patrolled 11,568
Number of officers 72 Numbers of men 1426

Lough Foyle:
Operations commenced: Sep 3rd 1918
Aircraft Nov 11th 1918: 7 Seaplanes
Number of flights 60
Number of sea miles patrolled 11,000
Number of officers 20
Numbers of men 432

Operations commenced: Sep 18th 1918
Aircraft Nov 11th 1918: 5 Seaplanes
Number of flights 98
Number of sea miles patrolled 19,135
Number of officers 22
Numbers of men 405

Whiddy Island:
Operations commenced: Sep 25th 1918
Aircraft Nov 11th 1918: 3 Seaplanes
Number of flights 25 Number of sea miles patrolled 3870
Number of officers 18
Numbers of men 400

Operations commenced: May 21st 1918
Aircraft Nov 11th 1918: 16 Kite Balloons
Number of flights Test flights only
Number of sea miles patrolled ------
Number of officers 12
Numbers of men 91






US Navy in Cork

Royal Navy in Cork

The Irish Naval Service