On April 1, 1941, a B-18 Bolo bomber landed on a north-south runway on Albuquerque’s east mesa, signaling the official opening of the Albuquerque Army Air Base, which would evolve into what is today Kirtland Air Force Base.
Construction of the Army air base started on Jan. 7, 1941, on 2,000 acres near a privately owned Albuquerque airport, and was completed in August 1941, four months after that lone B-18 landed and four months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into World War II. Within two weeks after the Pearl Harbor attack, the first bombardier cadets arrived at the Albuquerque air base for training.
“Major accomplishments at the Albuquerque air field during World War II included training over 1,200 pilots and 5,200 bombardiers, participation in the Manhattan Project (atomic bomb) and the development and demonstration of the proximity fuze,” said John L. Deuble Jr., an Albuquerque author who specializes in military history. “During World War II, the atomic bomb was the number one technology and the proximity fuze (which detonates an explosive device when it reaches a predetermined distance from a target) was number two. The allies would not have won World War II without these two items.”
Deuble will give a talk titled “Kirtland Army Air Field During World War II” at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, in Botts Hall at the Special Collections Library, 423 Central NE. Admission is free.