The SAAAB Story

Located on the second floor of Heroes Hall

The SAAAB (Santa Ana Army Air Base) Story exhibition celebrates the history of the flight training center, its contribution to the war effort, the airmen that served here and its role in the development of the growth of Orange County through film, photographs, maps, oral histories, works of art, and ephemera. 

The air base’s location once included the land on which the OC Fairgrounds now sits, and Heroes Hall’s building is a renovated barracks from the base. The exhibit first debuted when Heroes Hall opened in 2017 but has been updated with several new artifacts and pieces of memorabilia.

“The SAAAB Story is much more immersive now,” said Carol Singleton, Heroes Hall Supervisor. “It will help people better understand what the cadets went through while they were training here. Everything about the exhibit is connected to the Santa Ana Army Air Base.”

The Costa Mesa Historical Society provided many of the artifacts, including original posters, uniforms, cadet personal items, trophies and telegrams. Previously the exhibit featured photo reproductions but now includes original photos on display.

Other new sections include information about:

• Women, Latinos and LGBTQ service members in the military during World War II
• Letters sent from 8th graders who were held in internment camps to their white classmates in Westminster
• German POWs who worked on the base picking oranges
• Tuskegee Army Air Field, which is where the Black airmen who would have trained at SAAAB were placed were it not for segregation
• Victory gardens, rationing and other campaigns led on the home front

“My favorite part is the personal stories of the cadets that graduated here,” Singleton said. “There are eight different cadet stories, each one extraordinary, and all eight went on to the war in either the South Pacific or the European theatre.”

The SAAAB Story is a permanent exhibit at Heroes Hall. Heroes Hall is open year-round, Wednesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.