As the name suggests, our family estate has historical ties to aviation! To find out more about the WWII airbase that resided on our property, see the sections below:
The official story:
Just prior to the United States entry into World War II, the Olympic Air Transport Company contacted our founder, H. Lloyd Miller, about the possibility of leasing land from him for a period of a few years in order to build an airbase to train military pilots. Lloyd, a successful realtor and landowner, knew it would be several years before the arrival of Roza irrigation water so he agreed to lease out his property.
Construction of the airbase commenced in the latter part of 1941. The buildings erected on the site included a 70 foot water tower, several airplane hangars, a mess hall, barracks, and several smaller storage buildings. Three dirt runways were also formed, each of which was over a half mile long. The pilots trained primarily on bi-winged Stearman Airplanes.
The airbase continued operations until the mid 1940’s. Shortly after WWII came to an end, the pilots moved off site and the recently constructed buildings were auctioned off to the highest bidder. The only bidder turned out to be H. Lloyd Miller, and it is said that he got one heck of a deal on all the buildings. These unique buildings became the headquarters of the Miller family’s farming operations up to today. Over time, many of the buildings began to deteriorate, but two of the original hangars still exist and we continue to use them as workshop and storage facilities.
The unofficial story is that the military airbase had ulterior motives. It was not just designed for training pilots. During the war years, there were six small airbases that made a horseshoe pattern around Hanford Reach. These bases were located near Moxee, Ephrata, Connell, Othello, Richland, and “Airfield’s” base in Sunnyside. These bases were strategically located around Hanford Reach in order to conduct surveillance over the highly classified Hanford Nuclear Reservation that was refining plutonium for the atomic bombs that would eventually be dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The airbase also provided potential defense if we came under attack because the runways were long enough to allow for the landing of larger fighter and attack aircrafts. Although these are just rumors, they do make a lot of sense.