Street Smarts: Man who built Davis-Monthan Air Force Base among oldest active-duty military ever

2013-11-12T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T15:33:26Z Street Smarts: Man who built Davis-Monthan Air Force Base among oldest active-duty military everBy David Leighton For the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 12, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The man who helped build one of Tucson’s most significant institutions, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, is honored with a street named after him on the base.

Ames S. Albro Sr. was born to Addis and Mary (Scribner) Albro in Schenectady, N.Y., on Oct. 7, 1882. His father was a professor and college president at Union College in Schenectady.

From 1901 to 1905, Albro attended Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., and earned a degree in engineering. For the next five years he worked in this field in Pittsburgh.

He worked as a mining engineer from 1910 to 1917 around Tombstone.

In October 1917, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. The next year, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Aviation Section Signal Corps at Rich Field, Texas, and in April 1921 he was promoted to first lieutenant. In October 1921, he entered pilot training at Kelly Field in San Antonio, and within a short period he was a pilot.

He married Judith Louis Harper in 1929, and son Ames S. Albro Jr. was born on Sept. 13, 1931, at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. That same month he received a promotion to captain, and in 1936 was promoted to major.

In 1939, he was stationed at March Field (now March Air Reserve Base), near Ontario, Calif.

On Sept. 29, 1940, as a result of the growing conflict in Europe, the U.S. War Department announced it would establish an Army air base in Tucson. Maj. Albro arrived Feb. 4, 1941, to take command of the construction of the base. Working with city officials, and due to the lack of military personnel onsite, he used the help of men from the federal Work Projects Administration and built a military installation in two months.

The base was activated on April 17, 1941. The next day, Albro was promoted to lieutenant colonel.

In a letter dated Nov. 8, 1941, Albro explained some of the work that had been done by the WPA: “Under a project sponsored by the city of Tucson and Pima County, the present airdrome (airfield) was constructed on the site of the original municipal airport. ... The land was cleared and fenced for this project. Drainage ditches were built, runways were constructed … and an entirely new system of field lighting installed. In the cantonment (barracks) area the WPA also laid the paving and sidewalks… For many months, weather permitting, the WPA worked three shifts, 24 hours a day.”

In January 1942, Albro was promoted to colonel. He was the first commanding officer of what is now called Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. (The base is named in honor of Lt. Samuel H. Davis and Lt. Oscar Monthan, two Tucson pilots who died in separate plane crashes after World War I

In July 1942, he was at Alamogordo Field, N.M. (now Holloman Air Force Base), where he supervised the construction of that base. In October 1942, he received a waiver to continue active duty past the age of 60.

In November 1942, he was part of the 8th Air Force, stationed at Warton Air Depot, near Liverpool, Britain. Its role was to receive B-24s from the U.S. and prepare them for combat missions.

After he retired from the Air Force in 1943, he returned to his home in Tucson, 3301 N. Stone Ave., and worked as chief of contracts for the Tucson plant of Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft Corp. On May 13, 1946, he opened a real estate office , 54 W. Council St., with George R. Eubanks under the firm name of Albro-Eubanks Realty Co.

Albro died in 1958 and is buried in Eagle Pass, Texas, where he had a ranch.

Ames S. Albro Sr. was known in the family by his nickname, “Buckshot,” says his grandson, Trevor Albro.

It’s believed Albro Boulevard on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base was named in the early 1950s.

Sources:

Special thanks to Doug Herndon, historian for the 355th Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, for research assistance.

Phone interview and emails from Trevor Albro of Virginia (grandson of Ames S. Albro).

“Col. Albro, First D-M C.O., Dies,” Tucson Daily Citizen, July 11, 1958.

“First Officer Has Nothing But Praise,” Tucson Daily Citizen, Sept. 22, 19419-22-1941.

“Col. Albro’s Record Told,” Tucson Daily Citizen, Sept. 22, 1941.9-22-1941

“Col. A.S. Albro,” Arizona Daily Star, May 12, 1946.

“Col. Ames S. Albro Chairman of Airport Zoning Unit Here,” Arizona Daily Star, May 22, 1946.

Letter dated Nov. 8, 1941, from A.S. Albro to Mr. W.J. Jamieson, State WPA Administrator, Phoenix, Ariz. (Trevor Albro family archives).

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base history: www.dm.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=4318

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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