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Clockwise from upper left – B-24 bomber; the 308th Bomb Group in China after training at D-M; Tucson and D-M in 1942. (Photos: Courtesy Davis-Monthan Air Force Base)

From Lindbergh to Age of Jets By David B. Pittman A few months after Charles Lindbergh’s historic flight across the Atlantic, the pioneering aviator flew into Tucson. It was Sept. 23, 1927 and Lindbergh came to the Old Pueblo to dedicate a new municipal airport at the site where Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is today. The airport replaced the city’s first – Tucson Municipal Flying Field – which was established in 1919 and located four miles south of the city on Nogales Highway, where the Tucson Rodeo Grounds are now. According to the Davis-Monthan Air Force history fact sheet, the new airport was called Davis-Monthan Field, named in honor of Lieutenants Samuel Davis and Oscar Monthan – a pair of Tucson aviators who died in separate airplane crashes after World War I. Following years of stalled negotiations between city officials and the U.S. War Department, the city council authorized the purchase of the 1,280-acre 136 BizTucson


Winter 2014

site and transferred airport operations there in hopes the military would reconsider and establish an aviation branch in Tucson. That didn’t happen for 13 years. As a result of expanding conflict in Europe, the War Department did take over the air field in September 1940. It opened an Army Air Base at the site on April 17, 1941 and the 1st Bombardment Wing Headquarters assumed command. The first base commander was Brig. Gen. Frank Lackland. The outbreak of World War II resulted in parts of the 1st Bombardment Wing and the 41st Bombardment Group departing for the Pacific. In February, the 39th Bombardment Group arrived at D-M and began training B-17 Fortress and B-24 Liberator units and crews for the war effort. Military aircraft filled the skies over Tucson until V-J Day (Victory over Japan) in August 1945. At the war’s end, constant airport

operations ceased and D-M’s mission transitioned from training airmen to separation – the bureaucratic process used to send soldiers home after their military service was complete. At this time Davis-Monthan also took on the responsibility of aircraft storage – because Tucson’s dry climate and alkali soil was ideal for aircraft preservation. It is a mission that continues at the base to this day. In March 1946, the newly activated Strategic Air Command took control of the base. In 1947, the Air Force became a separate branch of service and two bombardment groups at D-M achieved “Wing” status. On Jan. 13, 1948, DavisMonthan Field was officially re-designated Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Adaptation and shifting missions have been a constant at D-M, as the base and its soldiers were required to meet continual military and security demands in an ever-changing world. Here are other highlights of D-M’s history: continued on page 138 >>>

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