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Your copy of the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register with all the pilots' signatures and helpful cross-references to pilots and their aircraft is available at the link. Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author. ISBN 978-0-9843074-0-1.


http://www.cafepress.com/content/global/img/spacer.gifThe Congress of Ghosts is an anniversary celebration for 2010.  It is an historical biography, that celebrates the 5th year online of www.dmairfield.org and the 10th year of effort on the project dedicated to analyze and exhibit the history embodied in the Register of the Davis-Monthan Airfield, Tucson, AZ. This book includes over thirty people, aircraft and events that swirled through Tucson between 1925 and 1936. It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders. Order your copy at the link, or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author.  ISBN 978-0-9843074-4-9.


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D.S. MacMahan, U.S.N.A. Yearbook, 1923 (Source: Woodling)
D.S. MacMahan, U.S.N.A. Yearbook, 1923 (Source: Woodling)


Donald MacMahan landed once at Tucson, Monday, August 19, 1929. He landed solo in an unidentified Boeing F2B. Based at San Diego, CA aboard the U.S.S. Saratoga, he arrived amidst nineteen other naval aviators, each signed into the Register on the middle third of page 112. Other than the first six who signed their own names, the rest were entered by an unknown hand all at once. Please direct your browser to the link and review page 112. There you'll see that signers Chourre through Wick comprise the group of twenty. They all remained overnight at Tucson, departing the morning of the 20th for El Paso, TX. Photograph and blurb, left, from his U.S. Naval Academy (U.S.N.A.) year book. Billy Sunday (November 19, 1862-November 6, 1935) was an evangelist who operated during the early 20th century.

What were twenty Navy pilots doing at Tucson all at once? They were on a grand cross-country flight headed from San Diego to Cleveland, OH and back to participate in the National Air Races (NAR) held August 24th-September 2nd at Cleveland that year. Lt. Cdr. Homer Wick was commanding officer of Squadron No. 1 based on the Saratoga.

Wick brought his entire squadron through Tucson on behalf of the NAR. During the 1920s and 1930s, the Navy ordered numerous activities by its personnel, ships and airplanes to build confidence in the naval force among the U.S. citizenry, to provide real-life training for personnel, as well as to encourage recruitment.

MacMahan's job in the group was to participate in event No. 21 of the NAR, the Navy Pursuit Race. It took place on August 30th and covered 100 miles in ten, 10-mile laps. According to the Aircraft Yearbook for 1930, sixteen navy pilots competed, but MacMahan was disqualified because of fouled pylons. Please direct your browser to Wick's page to see a tabulation and identification of all the men in his squadron.

His duty stations from graduation to 1940 are as follows:

D.S. MacMahan Duty Stations, 1925-1940 (Source: Woodling)

1925 USS West Virginia
1926 USS Kane
1927 Naval Air Station, Pensacola (instruction)
1928-29 V.J. Squadron 1, Battle Fleet
1930 Naval Air Station, Pensacola
1931-32 Naval Academy
1933-34 Naval Air Station, Anacostia
1935-36 V.O. Squadron 2-B
1937 V.P. Squadron 12-F
1938 Patrol Squadron 2, F.A.B., Coco Solo, C.Z.
1939 Commanding Fighting Squadron 7
1940 Commanding Fighting Squadron 7 (USS Wasp)

Apparently, as with the Army, promotions came regularly during the interbellum. He was a lieutenant (jg?) in 1929 when he visited Tucson, and became a Lt. Commander eight years later. That's two, perhaps three grades in eight years. Below, from The New York Times of April 3, 1937, is a list of naval officers promoted to Lieutenant and Lieutenant Commander. While MacMahan is among those promoted to Lieutenant Commander, an interesting finding is that five fellow Register signers are also cited. Among them Frederick Trapnell, Charles F. Greber, Joseph L. Kane, A.P. Storrs and Curtis S. Smiley.

The New York Times, April 3, 1937 (Source: NYT)
The New York Times, April 3, 1937 (Source: NYT)

MacMahan's Web presence is very sparse, and I have no information about his service during WWII and beyond. As a Captain, he commanded the U.S.S. Saratoga for just short of two months, from June 2, 1946 to July 25, 1946. If you have information about his duties and accomplishments during WWII and beyond, please let me KNOW.

Below, from the Times of August 1, 1949, is a description of MacMahan's role as the head of the Navy Board in the investigation of a mid-air crash between a navy fighter and an Eastern Air Lines DC-3. He was based at Mustin Field at Philadelphia at the time. Similar coverage appeared in the Milwaukee Journal of August 1st, and in the European Stars and Stripes, Tuesday, August 2, 1949. The latter states, "MacMahan inspected the wreckage yesterday with Joseph O. Fluet of the CAB [Civil Aeronautics Board] and Capt. E. H. Parker of Eastern Airlines. The No. 1 witness was George W. Humphries, of Fairhaven, N.J., an airport operator, who said his little plane was buzzed by the Navy
fighter just before the airliner was hit." Humphries owned the Piper Cub referred to in the article below.

The New York Times, August 1, 1949 (Source: NYT)
The New York Times, August 1, 1949 (Source: NYT)

MacMahan retired from the Navy in 1953 as a Captain, two grades above where he was in 1937. He was born Oct 8, 1900 and, according to the Orange County Register, Santa Ana, CA, of August 20, 1992, he died at age 91. He was survived by his wife, Anne; sister, Verna Osborne; one grandchild; and three great-grandchildren.



The Register

I'm looking for information and photographs of pilot MacMahan to include on this page. If you have some you'd like to share, please click this FORM to contact me.

Thanks to site visitor Bob Woodling for help researching this page.


Military Aircraft of the Davis Monthan Register, 1925-1936 is available at the link. This book describes and illustrates with black & white photographs the majority of military aircraft that landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield between 1925 and 1936. The book includes biographies of some of the pilots who flew the aircraft to Tucson as well as extensive listings of all the pilots and airplanes. Use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author. ISBN 978-0-9843074-2-5.


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