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U.S. Military Posts on the Mexico Border

Where to experience military posts on the border
U.S. Military Posts on the Mexico Border

Where to experience military posts on the border

Several museums in the Santa Cruz Valley provide insight into the area’s military history. Nineteenth-century forts, military life, and Apache campaigns are interpreted at the Arizona Historical Society Museum on Second Street, the Fort Lowell Museum, and the Museum of the Horse Soldier in Tucson, and the Pimería Alta Historical Society in Nogales. A roadside sign on Highway 82 between Sonoita and Patagonia marks and interprets the site of Fort Crittenden.

One of the largest aircraft museums in the United States, the Challenger Space Learning Center, and the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame are at the Pima Air and Space Museum. There you can see exhibits of the most famous aircraft, from the Wright Flyer to the latest combat planes. Escorted tours of the AMARC Storage Site (the "Aircraft Boneyard") are also available.


The Titan Missile Museum in Sahuarita is the only one of its kind in the world, and this National Historic Landmark is an accurate exhibit of a Cold War missile silo. Aerospace and Arizona Days is held annually at Davis Monthan Air Force Base. It features a display of historic and modern aircraft, civilian acrobatics flying, military precision demonstration teams, and parachute jumping.  
Click here for more military history day trips!

Check out our Heritage Experiences map to see where else you can experience military posts on the border. 

U.S. Military Posts on the Mexico Border
The first U.S. Army post was established here in 1856, soon after the region was acquired from Mexico. The post’s first duty was to protect ranches and mines from Apache attacks, which escalated just before troops were withdrawn at the beginning of the Civil War to be redeployed back East. For a few months in 1862, the Confederate flag flew over the region until Union troops arrived from California and recaptured it following the westernmost skirmishes of the Civil War. In 1865, American soldiers were moved closer to the border to defend it against French troops that had invaded Mexico and occupied Sonora. Between 1866 and 1886, several new posts were established, and this region was the frontline of major campaigns to pacify the Apaches.

A new post was established on the border in 1910, when the Mexican Revolution threatened to spill across into the United States. In 1916, this region was a staging area for the Punitive Expedition that crossed into Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa after he attacked a town in southern New Mexico. Until the beginning of the United States’ involvement in the First World War, the military presence was increased by National Guard units mobilized from western states to protect the border. From 1918 to 1933, the border was guarded by African-American cavalry and infantry regiments known as "Buffalo Soldiers."

During the Second World War, airfields established in the region were important training bases. Because of the area's dry climate, thousands of decommissioned aircraft have been stored here since 1945. Bomber groups and intercontinental missiles deployed here were critical parts of the national defense during the Cold War. Today, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base continues to play an important part in supporting and training U.S. forces and participating in the local economy.

Read about the U.S. Military Posts on the Mexico Border theme in the feasibility study.  


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