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Albrook Air Force Station

Air Combat Command.png

Part of Air Combat Command
Located near Balboa, Panama
Type Military Air Force Station
Coordinates 08°58′33.24″N 079°33′19.91″W / 8.9759°N 79.5555306°W / 8.9759; -79.5555306
Built 1928
In use 1932-1997
Controlled by United States Air Force

Albrook Air Force Station is a former United States Air Force facility in Panama. It was closed on 30 September 1997 as a result of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties which specified that United States military facilities in the former Panama Canal Zone be closed and the facilities be turned over to the Panamanian government. It was located on the east side of the Panama Canal just south of Fort Clayton and north of the township of Balboa, Panama.

Contents

Major Commands to which assigned

USAF Southern Air Division, 1 Jan 1976 - 1 Jan 1989
830th Air Division, 1 Jan 1989 - 15 Feb 1991
Air Forces Panama, 15 Feb 1991 - 11 Feb 1992

Major Units assigned

  • 16th Pursuit (later Fighter) Group
24th Pursuit (later Fighter) Squadron, 26 Oct 1932-10 Jan 1943; 28 May-9 Jun 1943
28th Pursuit Squadron, 1 Feb-5 Oct 1940
29th Pursuit (later Fighter) Squadron, 1 Oct 1933-17 May 1942
43d Pursuit (later Fighter) Squadron, 1 Feb 1940-13 Jul 1942
73d Pursuit Squadron, 1 Oct 1933-14 Jul 1941
78th Pursuit Squadron, 15 Oct 1932-1 Sep 1937
  • 19th Composite Wing, 25 Jan 1933
Redesignated 19th Wing, 1937
Redesignated 19th Bombardment Wing, 1940 - 25 Oct 1941
30th Pursuit Squadron, 13 Nov 1940-24 Nov 1941
31st Pursuit (later Fighter) Squadron, 13 Nov 1940-9 Nov 1941; 31 Dec 1941-3 Feb 1942; 19 May-30 Sep 1942
  • Headquarters, Panama Canal Air Force, 20 Nov 1940
Redesignated: Caribbean Air Force. August 5, 1941
Redesignated: 6th Air Force, September 18, 1942
Redesignated: Caribbean Air Command, July 31, 1946
Redesignated: United States Air Forces Southern Command July 8, 1963-1 Jan 1976
  • 12 Pursuit Wing, 10 Nov 1940-6 Mar 1942
  • 32d Pursuit (later Fighter) Group
51st Pursuit Squadron, 1 Jan-21 Aug 1941
52d Pursuit Squadron, 1 Jan-21 Aug 1941
53d Pursuit Squadron, 1 Jan-21 Aug 1941
  • VI Bomber Command, 25 Oct 1941-1 Nov 1946
  • XXVI Fighter Command, 6 Mar 1942 - 25 Aug 1946
  • 1st Communications Squadron, Air Support, 23 Apr 1942-Apr 1943
  • 40th Bombardment Group, 16 Sep 1942 - 3 Jun 1943
  • 6th Bombardment Group, 14 Jan - 1 Nov 1943
  • Sixth Air Force Base Command
20th Troop Carrier Squadron, 9 Jun 1943-Sep 1948
18th Troop Carrier Squadron, 1 Aug 1948-1 Mar 1949
  • 24th Composite Wing, 8 Nov 1967 - 3 Jan 1968
  • 830th Air Division, 1 Jan 1976-15 Aug 1977; 1 Mar 1989-15 Feb 1991

History

After World War I, it became apparent to military planners that air power, especially naval air power, constituted a serious threat to the safety of the Panama Canal. The one existing airfield (France Field) was too small, had a poor landing surface, offered no room for expansion, and provided little defense for the Pacific entrance to the Canal. Construction for an air base at Albrook Field was authorized by Congress in 1928, and $1.9 million was appropriated. Actual construction began in 1930 and most was completed in 1932. Albrook Army Airfield was commissioned in April 1932 as an active air field.

The original construction program at Albrook left out several buildings necessary for efficient flight operations, including a headquarters building. As money could be secured throughout the 1930s, seven buildings were added to the base. In addition, the runways were unsuitable for all-weather flying and had to be improved.

By the mid-1930s, advances in naval aviation (primarily aircraft carriers) and increasingly long-range bombers had again made plain the inadequacies of Canal air defense. Plans to significantly expand Air Corps strength had been around since 1934, essentially proposing a system of outlying bases supported by pursuit and bombardment aircraft. It was 1939, however, before these plans began to be realized. Congressional authorization and $50 million in funding were forthcoming that year for improving Canal defenses. Since a large part of the expansion program was a vast increase in manpower, much of the new construction involved housing at existing bases. In addition, a new airfield (Howard Field) was authorized for the west bank of the Pacific entrance to the Canal. The majority of the expansion program construction was completed by early 1942.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the number of troops in Panama was sharply increased. The newly established Caribbean Defense Command carried out its mission of Canal defense through a widespread net of naval and air reconnaissance, with the greatest threat coming from German U-boats. By April 1943, the threat to the Canal was diminishing, defense status was downgraded, and a reduction in troop strength began.

Albrook Field became Albrook Air Force Base on March 26, 1948, by the Department of the Air Force General Order Number 10.

AAFES operated an "Albrook Mall" in various buildings that was one of the primary shopping areas available to US troops stationed there (not just Air Force). In 1966, elements of the famed 4080th SRW, home of the Lockheed U2 aircraft performed atmospheric sampling as the French detonated a nuclear device in the South Pacific.

In 1975 the facilty was downgraded to Albrook Air Force Station when the control tower was closed and Air Force aircraft and units moved to Howard Air Force Base. The airstrip and adjacent hangars and buildings (Albrook Army Airfield) was transferred to the government of Panama on October 1, 1979, along with the adjacent the PAD (Panama Air Depot) Area.

The base saw action again during the 1989 United States invasion of Panama, including an extended firefight at its front gate. The station was turned over to the Government of Panama on 30 September 1997 as a result of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties and was subsequently closed as a military facility.

Post USAF use

After the base was turned over to Panama and the domestic/commercial Marcos A. Gelabert airport was relocated to Albrook from Punta Paitilla (across Panama City) in January 1999 after refurbishing the former Air Force Base and constructing an operations/control tower and a passenger terminal (near Building 446, the hangar that previously housed the former Air Force Post Office). Airport is under Panama's Civil Aeronautics Authority (Autoridad de Aeronautica Civil—previously named Civil Aviation Directorate).

A number of shops, markets and government agencies (Panamanian Red Cross, International Maritime University of Panama) operate out of some of the old buildings and hangars, and most of the officers quarters are now private homes.

References

PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.
  • Mauer, Mauer (1969), Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II, Air Force Historical Studies Office, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. ISBN 0892010975

External links

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