Davis-Monthan History

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The U.S. Army declared Tucson’s second airfield suitable for military operations Oct. 6, 1925. The city successfully built the field in accordance with U.S. Army guidelines. Twenty days later the field's flight log received its first entry — a small detachment serviced transient aircraft bound for California. Many pioneer aviators stopped at the field during its time, including several destined to head the country’s military flying forces. World-famous aviator Charles Lindbergh dedicated the Tucson landing field Sept. 27, 1927, for two longtime Tucsonans who died in separate aerial accidents while serving in the U.S. Army, 2nd Lts. Samuel H. Davis and Oscar Monthan.

The first building, Hangar 8030, built by the Army at D-M, was completed March 25, 1932. However, it wasn't until April 1, 1941, that the Army stationed units at D-M. Paving the way for troops, the Army made Lt. Col. Ames S. Albro the first base commander Feb. 4, 1941. By the end of April 1941 the 31st Air Base Group had begun operations. The base officially became Davis-Monthan Field Dec. 3, 1941.

The day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the field’s personnel went on 24-hour alert and D-M’s two bombardment units shipped out for war. However, the base wasn’t idle for long.

Beginning in 1942, personnel trained and prepared bomber crews for battle in B-24 and B-29 aircraft. Many bombardment units passed through D-M on their way to war. The instructors at D-M taught the men to be bomber crews. The pilots first learned high-altitude flying, then steady bomb approaches, while the navigators, radiomen and gunners all practiced their duties. When they left D-M, each member knew his job, and all worked together to accomplish their mission.

After the war, D-M became one of three Second Air Force separation centers. The base helped process nearly 10,000 returning Soldiers for transition to civilian life. The field also became a storage location for excess bombers and cargo aircraft. Tucson's dry climate and alkali soil made it an ideal location for aircraft storage and preservation, a mission that continues today.

As the Air Force came into its own, strategic forces took charge of D-M, bringing in several B-29 bomber groups. After its official creation as a separate service, the Air Force inherited the installation Jan. 13, 1948, and officially named it Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. The next year a B-50 aircrew based at D-M completed the first nonstop flight around the world (taking 94 hours). The early 1960s brought added strategic missions in the form of Titan II missiles and U-2 reconnaissance forces. In 1964, another wing activated at the base and began training aircrews in the nation's most sophisticated fighter, the F-4 Phantom. Another war had developed and D-M was again training aircrews to accomplish their mission and survive. The base's U-2s also flew missions over Southeast Asia.

The 355th Tactical Fighter Wing came to D-M July 1, 1971, flying the A-7 Corsairs. This caused the F-4 program to move to Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. Five years later, the 355th’s pilots converted to the A10-A Thunderbolt II aircraft. By the end of the year the wing took over host unit responsibilities, reflecting the transfer of the base from Strategic Air Command to Tactical Air Command.

The 41st Electronic Combat Squadron began flying operations at D-M in 1980. A unit of the Tinker AFB-based 28th Air Division, the 41st ECS aircrews flew the specially modified EC-130H aircraft. Their mission — Compass Call — was intended to confuse or disrupt enemy command, control and communications.

After 10 years of 355th TFW leadership, the 836th Air Division activated at D-M in 1981 and assumed host base responsibilities. The next year the 602nd Tactical Air Control Wing joined both the air division and D-M families. Members of the 602nd directed forward air forces and coordinated them with ground forces for a combined team effort. They were responsible for tactical air control forces west of the Mississippi River. To accomplish their mission, 602nd air controllers and liaison officers were stationed on many Air Force bases and Army posts.

The 868th Tactical Missile Training Squadron also activated in 1981 and trained crews on ground-launched cruise missiles. Then, in 1984, the last Titan missile was taken off alert and an era ended at D-M. Six years later, as a result of the U.S.-Soviet intermediate-range nuclear forces agreement, the Air Force inactivated the 868th TMTS. D-M destroyed the last U.S. GLCM in May 1991.

Meanwhile, between December 1989 and January 1990, other D-M personnel participated in Operation Just Cause, helping to secure and defend Panama's main airport. Later in the year D-M deployed more than 1,300 people in support of Operations Desert Shield and Storm, the response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and its subsequent liberation.

In May 1992, the Air Force, in a downsizing move, inactivated the 836th Air Division and once again made the 355th, now simply designated 355th Wing, the host unit. The service also announced the 12th Air Force’s move to D-M from Bergstrom Air Force Base, Texas. A month later D-M became an Air Combat Command base.

Other Department of Defense agencies located at D-M include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Air Force major commands: Air Force Material Command, Air Education and Training Command, and the Air Force Reserve Command.