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U.S. Statehood Military
Military, U.S. Statehood, 1912-1945

Kirtland Air Force Base has been here almost from the beginning of aviation in New Mexico.

In 1939, after World War II broke out in Europe, Albuquerque sent two representatives to Washington to propose an air base here. That year the City of Albuquerque had completed a new airport with funding from the federal Works Progress Administration, and it had facilities to brag about. As a result, the Army Air Corps leased land east of the airport to build a flight training base. By 1941 the base had dozens of new buildings.

That year the first military aircraft to land was a B-18 bomber, and the first troops arrived, including the 19th Bombardment Group commanded by Lt. Col. Eugene L. Eubank. Activity picked up with the arrival of trainees for the new B-17 Flying Fortress.

Within days of the Pearl Harbor attack in 1942, the base was named Kirtland Army Air Field, after Col. Roy C. Kirtland, an aviation pioneer and first commander of Langley Field, who had died a year earlier.

During the war the base’s three schools trained thousands of pilots, bombardiers and mechanics. In 1943 scientists developed and tested the Variable Time Proximity Fuze, considered the second most important project after the atom bomb. The weapon was deployed in the siege of Okinawa and in the Battle of the Bulge. In 1945 Kirtland trained combat crews for the B-29 Super Fortress, eventually used to drop the first atomic bombs.

After the war, Kirtland began testing and evaluating new weapons.

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