Part of our in-depth series exploring the forts of Comancheria
Fort D.A. Russell is the name of an American military installation near Marfa, Texas that was active from 1911 to 1946.
Established in 1911 as Camp Albert, it was a base for cavalry and air reconnaissance units sent to protect West Texas from Mexican bandits after the Pancho Villa raid.
The base was expanded and renamed Camp Marfa during World War I. In the interwar years, the base became the headquarters for the Marfa Command, which had replaced the Big Bend District. In 1924, a patrol called the Mounted Watchmen was established to deter aliens from crossing the Rio Grande River.
In 1930, the base was renamed Fort D.A. Russell. The name had been used on a previous military base in Wyoming, but the name became available when that post was renamed Fort Francis E. Warren.
The base was briefly abandoned during the Great Depression. On January 2, 1933 the Army closed the post, but it was reactivated in 1935 as the home base of the Seventy-seventh Field Artillery.
During World War II, the post was expanded and used as an air base, a base for a WAC unit, a training facility for Chemical mortar battalions, and a base for troops guarding the U.S.-Mexican border. The Marfa Army Air Field was constructed nearby and was used as pilot training facility. German prisoners of war were also housed in a camp on the base.
In 1945, shortly after the end of World War II, the fort was closed during America's demobilization. On October 23, 1946, the base was transferred to the Corps of Engineers. The Texas National Guard assumed control of the base shortly afterward. In 1949, most of the base's land was divided up and sold to local citizens.
Several buildings still exist from the original compound. The area has became a local attraction in recent years due to interest in the Marfa Lights.