Alvin Charles Welling – Major General, United States Army

Alvin C. Welling, 98, a retired Major General in the Army Corps of Engineers who was a member of the District of Columbia's governing commission for three years, died December 4, 2008, of kidney failure at his home at Goodwin House West in Falls Church, Virginia.


General Welling spent 32 years in the Army after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1933. He received a master's degree in civil engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1938 and held many key positions with the Army Corps of Engineers.

In 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed him to the position of Engineer Commissioner of the District. The assignment, traditionally awarded to a high-ranking officer of the Corps of Engineers, gave General Welling a seat on the three-member commission that governed the District of Columbia in the years before home rule.

General Welling served as chairman of the zoning commission, the metropolitan traffic council, the regional sanitation board and the National Capital Planning Commission.

Among his accomplishments during his tenure were new regional water-quality standards, a Southwest Washington urban renewal project, rezoning for the District and the early stages of designing RFK Stadium.

Earlier in his career as a military engineer, General Welling was based in Alaska from 1939 to 1943. He supervised navigation and flood control projects and organized the first ROTC unit at the University of Alaska. He was instrumental in designing a U.S. air base near Fairbanks and had a major role in the construction of the southern sector of the Alcan Highway, an overland route from British Columbia to Fairbanks.

Based in New Delhi from 1943 to 1946, General Welling helped build airfields and highways in the China-Burma-India theater of World War II. He had assignments in Africa and Europe and at Corps of Engineers headquarters in Washington before taking his seat on the D.C. commission.

In 1960, General Welling was assigned to the Corps of Engineers' Ballistic Missile Construction Office in California and helped build underground silos for the intercontinental missile program.

He completed his military service in Atlanta, where he helped design launch and support facilities for the NASA program at Cape Canaveral, Florida. His unit's most notable achievements included construction of the vehicle assembly building — the world's fourth-largest building, measured by interior volume — and a railway to move rockets to the launching pad.

By the time he retired from the Corps of Engineers in 1965, General Welling had received the Distinguished Service Medal from both the Army and the Air Force, as well as three awards of the Legion of Merit.

Alvin Charles Welling was born October 18, 1910, in Covington, Kentucky. After his military career, he held executive roles with BASF Corp. and a predecessor company. He retired from the private sector in 1973.

He lived in Arlington County for many years and was a member of St. John's Episcopal Church at Lafayette Square and the Army Navy Country Club. He was active in the West Point alumni association and enjoyed sports and opera.

His wife of 42 years, Nancy Crawford Welling, died in 1990.

Survivors include two sons, Peter A. Welling of Melrose, Massachusetts, and Brent C. Welling of Lafayette, California; a stepdaughter, Mary W. Schaller of Burke; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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