During the late 1930's and early 1940's, Dare County was served by a small privately owned airport at Skyco on Roanoke Island. On March 1st, 1940, the Dare County Board of Commissioners appointed a committee to acquire property and begin planning for the construction of a publicly owned airport.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the United States Navy considered a Naval Auxiliary Air Station on Cape Hatteras. However, since airport construction had already begun in Manteo, Manteo was chosen as the new site. On July 27, 1942, a mass flight of Civil Air Patrol aircraft left Charlotte, Asheville, Elkin and Winston Salem for Skyco Airport on Roanoke Island with direct orders not to land at the Naval Auxiliary Air Station under construction on the north end of the Island. The Civil Air Patrol operated Coastal Patrol Base 16 at Skyco until construction permitted them to use the new airport in the late fall of 1942. The Civil Air Patrol's primary task was anti-submarine patrol. It was one of 21 Coastal Patrol Bases formed to combat the German submarine menace on the east coast during the war. CAP Base 16 was in operation from July 22, 1942 until August 31, 1943.
The facility was opened as a Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) and officially commissioned on March 3, 1943. NAAS Manteo was used for special training of squadrons and the most common aircraft used were F4F Wildcats, F6F Hellcats, SB2C Helldivers, TBM and TBF Avengers, PBY Catalinas and F4U Corsairs.
In early April 1943, a squadron of F4U Corsairs came to NAAS Manteo. This squadron commanded by Lieutenant Commander Tom Blackburn proved to be the most famous Navy squadron of their time. One of Dare County's own, Lt. Sheldon R. "Ray" Beacham of Kitty Hawk, was a pilot with VF17. He was credited with their first victory.
On August 31, 1943, the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard took over the anti-submarine patrols and the Civil Air Patrol Base 16 closed. The Navy continued special training of many different squadrons until the station was placed on caretaker status on December 15, 1945.
In 1947, Dare County asked for the return of the airfield and their request was granted. Since then the facility has been operated by a Fix Base Operator (FBO) and later the Dare County Airport Authority, which took over the airport in 1983 and still oversees the airport’s daily operations today.
On display are photos, documents and artifacts related to WWII squadrons that had special training at NAAS Manteo. Artifacts on display are from VF-17, the most famous Navy squadron of WWII with 154 victories in 76 days and VF-50, a squadron of F6F Hellcats.