Fort Bragg, North Carolina
In 1918 the Chief of Field Artillery, General William J. Snow, seeking an area having suitable terrain, adequate water, rail facilities, and a climate for year round training, decided that the area now known as Fort Bragg met all of the desired criteria. Consequently, Camp Bragg came into existence on 4 September 1918. Camp Bragg was named for a native North Carolinian, General Braxton Bragg.
Prior to its establishment as a military reservation, the area was a desolate region. Huge forests of long-leaf and loblolly pines covered the sandy area. About 1729 Highland Scots began cultivating the land in the Long Street area in what was to be the Main Post section of Camp Bragg. At the beginning of World War I only seven percent of the land was occupied and the population consisted of approximately 170 families.
During the first year of its existence, $6,000,000 was spent in purchasing land and erecting cantonments for six artillery brigades. Although cessation of hostilities came in November 1918, work was rapidly pushed to a conclusion and February 1, 1919, saw the completion of Camp Bragg.
As soon as World War I was over, the artillery personnel and materiel from Camp McClellan, Alabama were transferred to Camp Bragg in order accommodate testing the new long range weapons developed during the war. Because demobilization had begun, the War Department decided to reduce the size of Camp Bragg from the planned six to a two brigade cantonment to provide a garrison for Regular Army units and a training center for National Guard Artillery units. Military personnel then took over all of the work at the Camp, a large part of which had been done by wartime civilian employees. The year 1920 saw little military training taking place.
A large tract of land on the reservation had been set aside as a landing field to be used in connection with observation of Field Artillery firing. Here were stationed various aircraft and balloon detachments to serve the Field Artillery Board. On April 1, 1919, the landing field was named Pope Field in honor of First Lieutenant Harley H. Pope who was killed in an airplane accident near Fayetteville. Pilots landing at Pope Field were instructed to make one or two low passes over the landing strip to clear it of wild deer, so abundant were the herds of deer in the cantonment.
Early in 1921 two Field Artillery units, the 13th and 17th Field Artillery Brigades, began training in the camp. However, due to post-war cutbacks, the War Department decided to abandon Camp Bragg on August 23, 1921. This was averted by the determined efforts of General Albert J. Bowley, Commanding General of Camp Bragg, various civic organizations in the nearby city of Fayetteville, and a personal inspection by the Secretary of War. The abandonment order was rescinded on September 16, 1921.
One year later, September 30, 1922, Camp Bragg became Fort Bragg, a permanent Army post. Under the direction of General Bowley, development of the Fort progressed rapidly. Parade grounds, training facilities, baseball diamonds and other athletic facilities were constructed to lend a permanent air to Fort Bragg.
Because Fort Bragg was the only reservation in the United States with room enough to test the latest in long range artillery weapons, the Field Artillery Board was transferred here from Fort Sill, Oklahoma on February 1, 1922.
From 1923 to 1926 Field Artillery regiments made considerable progress in learning how to operate in deep sand, heavy mud, swamps, streams and forests. For each type of Field Artillery weapon there was an organization stationed at Fort Bragg armed with that particular weapon. This made Fort Bragg a Field Artillery Laboratory where every new item of Field Artillery equipment could be given a practical field test.
From 1923 through 1927 permanent structures were erected on Fort Bragg. Four of the brick artillery barracks, fifty-three officers housing quarters, forty non-commissioned officers housing quarters, magazines, motor and materiel sheds, streets and sidewalks were built. With the planting of lawns, shrubs and trees, Fort Bragg began to take on the appearance of one of the finest of all Army posts.
Ever aware of the need for friendly relations between the military personnel and the surrounding civilian population, a new highway was built connecting the center of the Post with the limits of the reservation, making the Fort more accessible to the outside world.
1932 saw the construction of the beautiful Post Hospital, as well as additional barracks. The additional barracks were needed due to the arrival of the 4 th Field Artillery from Camp Robinson, Arkansas on June 9, 1931. And Fort Bragg became the headquarters for District A of the Civilian Conservation Corps, which supervised the work and administration of approximately thirty-three camps in the two Carolinas during the Depression. Fort Bragg also served as a training site for units of the National Reserve Officers Training Corps, Officers Reserve Corps and Citizens Military Training Corps.
By 1940 the Post had a population of 5,400, and had settled down into a normal peacetime army routine. However, events in Europe, notably the defeat of France and the subjugation of most of Europe by the Germans led to an increased need for security in the United States. Accordingly, the first peacetime conscription for military service was instituted.
To handle the influx of new recruits, Fort Bragg undertook an expanded construction program in August starting with a new Recruit Reception Center. Completed in just seventy-five days, the Reception Center, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Earle C. Ewert, was ready to process 1,000 men daily. This rapid rate construction would turn Fort Bragg into one of the largest military installations in the United States within nine months. The troops stationed here would increase from 5,400 to 67,000 by the summer of 1941.
More than 31,544 men were employed on Fort Bragg during this construction period. 700 lumber mills throughout North and South Carolina worked overtime to furnish the daily lumber requirements. Payroll figures for one day topped out at $174,000.00 or at a rate of $140.00 per minute! The final cost of this expansion period was $44,681,309.00.
Seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, these thousands of men, most of whom lived within a radius of ninety miles, worked diligently to complete each phase on or ahead of schedule. The two railroads that serviced the Post, the Cape Fear and the Atlantic Coast Line, delivered an average of 65 carloads of supplies daily.
For nine months workmen, interspersed crazily with soldiers in training, pushed roads through pine forests, and erected buildings at a rate of one every 32 minutes. This chaos was successfully orchestrated by Commanding General Jacob L. Devers, and by August 1941, 2,739 new buildings were in use and the Field Artillery Replacement Center had grown to be the largest in the country.
Rivaling the Replacement Center project was the construction of the cantonment for the Ninth Infantry Division, the largest unit at Fort Bragg at that time. Covering approximately 500 acres, the Division area was completed in exactly 107 days, and housed the entire division in 623 buildings.
In support of this hospitals, chapels, libraries, exchanges and service clubs were all built during this period. Fort Bragg contained two laundries, a bakery with production capacity of 40,000 pounds of bread daily, a Post Office building and three large cold storage units. Communication facilities were established and miles of road were built. Sewage lines and water mains were established. Power lines and filtration plants were built.
Among units training at Fort Bragg were the 9th Infantry Division; 2d Armored Division, 82d Airborne Division; 100th Infantry Division; the 13th, 22nd and 34th Artillery Brigades; and various field artillery groups of the 13th, and 22nd Corps.
Fort Bragg was the first installation at which paratroopers were taught the all-around defense of objectives seized by them, including bridgeheads, airfields and other strategic points.
The population of the post during the war years reached a peak of 159,000 personnel, requiring 10,000 pounds of food each month. By direction of President Roosevelt in April 1942, Fort Bragg was chosen as the site for the newly activated Airborne Ground Forces under the command of Colonel William C. Lee. Stationed at Fort Bragg at this time were tank units, air corps, parachute infantry, ordnance, quartermaster, and engineers.
On March 25, 1942, the 82d Infantry Division was reactivated at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, with Brigadier General Omar Bradley as commanding general and Brigadier General Matthew B. Ridgway as assistant commander. On August 15, 1942, with Major General Matthew B. Ridgway commanding, the 82d Infantry Division, which had moved to Fort Bragg, was designated the 82d Airborne Division.
The 101st Airborne Division was reactivated at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana on August 16, 1942 and half of the personnel of the 82d Airborne Division became the nucleus of the new 101st Airborne Division when it moved to Fort Bragg in October.
The first WAAC unit came to Fort Bragg on January 24, 1943. The 37th Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps took up duties in numerous offices throughout the post, releasing many men holding non-combatant duties for field service.
A milestone in the progress of Airborne tactics was reached at Fort Bragg in early April 1943, when the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, commanded by Colonel James M. Gavin, made the first complete regimental jump in United States history. Over 2,000 men participated in the achievement. Among those jumping was Major General Matthew B. Ridgway, 82d Division Commander.
Large numbers of German POWs came to Fort Bragg when a camp was established in May, 1944. A small number had come as early as 1942, but had been transferred out. The prisoners were put to work in jobs similar to their civilian skills and were paid 80 cents a day.
Throughout the war years, Pope Army Air Field at Fort Bragg was used primarily as a troop carrier training establishment. Extensive glider training and large scale paratroop maneuvers were the major operations. During the war, Pope became one of the few bases in the Army Air Corps to have contact with the enemy off our own shores. A squadron of A-20s from Pope located and sank the first German submarine off the shores of the United States.
Following WW II, Fort Bragg was again under scrutiny by the United States government for retention as a permanent post. In a study conducted by the War Department, it was reported that since July, 1940 the cost of Fort Bragg, including land and construction totaled $55,807,000. The study concluded that Fort Bragg was quite satisfactory for post war retention, and on January 19, 1946, the 82d Airborne Division returned from Europe and took up its station at Fort Bragg. This would be the first time an airborne unit was permanently stationed here.
From 1946 until the outbreak of the Korean Conflict in 1950, the 82d Airborne Division was the only large unit on the post. Much of the post would remain in mothballs with the troops only occupying a small portion.
Headquarters, V United States Army Corps came to Fort Bragg in 1946. During the summer months V Corps and the 82d Airborne Division furnished training and instruction to personnel of the National Guard’s 30th Infantry Division.
From 1946 to 1951, housing was extremely scarce in the Fort Bragg-Fayetteville area. Because of this, many of the unused barracks and hospital wards were converted into temporary family quarters. Family quarters were also found in the Smoke Bomb Hill area, and the Butner Hospital area. A large trailer court was established on Reilly Road near Pope Air Force Base. Due to the shortage of housing in the area, reenlistment on the post sank to a very low level. Under the Wherry Act, commercial enterprise built a large housing area in 1950 and 1951 in what is now known as Corregidor Courts and Anzio Acres. This considerably relieved the housing shortage.
When hostilities erupted in Korea in June, 1950, Fort Bragg again assumed an outstanding role in the National Defense Program. Thousands of inductees, and members of the National Guard and Army Reserve, were called to active duty and trained at Fort Bragg.
In July 1951, Headquarters, V Corps was transferred to Germany. The XVIII Airborne Corps under Lieutenant General John W. Leonard was reactivated at Fort Bragg on May 21, 1951. With the headquarters of the XVIII Airborne Corps and the 82d Airborne Division and other units stationed here, Fort Bragg became widely known as the home of the airborne.
The Lee Field House was dedicated on May 14, 1951 in honor of Major General William C. Lee, who was known as the Father of the Airborne, and who was a former commander of the 101st Airborne Division.
In October 1951, the 11th Airborne Division was attached to the XVIII Airborne Corps. The Division was commanded by Major General L.L. Lemnitzer.
Lieutenant General John W. Leonard, XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg Commander, retired in January 1952. Major General Thomas F. Hickey assumed command, becoming the first Airborne officer to command Fort Bragg.
The Psychological Warfare Center was established at Fort Bragg on April 10, 1952. Its mission was to conduct individual training and to supervise unit training in psychological warfare and Special Forces operations.
The 10th Special Forces Group, the Army’s first unconventional warfare unit, was activated on June 20, 1952, here at Fort Bragg.
Also in 1952, Fort Bragg established its own airfield. Air traffic around post had increased to the point where Pope Field was overtaxed. The 406th Engineer Brigade was called upon to construct the airfield. The field was formally named in 1955 for Warrant Officer Herbert W. Simmons, Jr.
Womack Army Hospital was constructed at the post during the 1957-58 period. The new hospital consisted of 500 beds with an expansion capability to 1,000. The hospital was named after a medical corpsman from North Carolina who gave his life in the Korean Conflict to protect the lives of wounded soldiers in his care.
Additional construction at the post during the 1950s included an entirely new division-sized barracks area, two drive-in restaurants, a bank, an NCO club for the 82d Airborne, four new elementary schools, two football stadiums, and several swimming pools. Capehart type construction during the mid-1950s added many more housing units to the post and it became possible to close up the converted barracks quarters.
In 1961, one of the major events of the early sixties occurred with the activation of the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne). This unit was given the mission of training personnel in counterinsurgency for deployment in Southeast Asia in the Republic of South Vietnam. Thus Fort Bragg was in the forefront of the US involvement in the war in Vietnam.
September 23, 1961 saw the sculptress, Mrs. Leah Hiebert, wife of a former deputy post chaplain, dedicate her statue of "Iron Mike" the airborne soldier. The fifteen-foot bronze statue, mounted upon a twelve-foot pyramid, would guard the southern entrance to Fort Bragg at the intersection of Knox Street and Bragg Boulevard.
On July 11, 1963, Major General William C. Westmoreland arrived to take command of Fort Bragg. Shortly after his arrival, he received his third star. He replaced Lieutenant General Hamilton H. Howze, who had been the Army’s top commander in Korea.
In November 1963, Mrs. John F. Kennedy requested Special Forces soldiers for participation in her husband’s funeral. Forty-six Special Forces soldiers from Fort Bragg were dispatched to Washington, DC to help bury the President.
The Third US Army Intelligence School, located at Fort Bragg, concluded its 16th year of operation in August. The 519th Military Intelligence Battalion administered the school.
On March 2, 1964, Lieutenant General J.W. Bowen replaced LG William C. Westmoreland as Commander of XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg. General Westmoreland became Deputy chief and later Chief of US Forces in Vietnam.
Also in 1964, Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, announced that the Special Warfare Center had been officially named for the late President, John F. Kennedy.
In December 1964, Captain Hugh Donlon, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), became the first American Soldier to be awarded the Medal of Honor for Vietnam. President Lyndon B. Johnson presented the medal to Captain Donlon.
The 82d Airborne Divison remembered one of its Medal of Honor recipients, Sergeant Alvin C. York, when 103 All American soldiers were airlifted from Fort Bragg to help bury this World War I hero who passed away on September 2, 1964.
1965 was the largest year of construction at Fort Bragg since the mid-fifties. $14,877,409 in construction contracts were let and much of it went into the new Special Warfare Complex. The headquarters and academic building were completed in early 1965 and dedicated by Senator Robert F. Kennedy on May 29, 1965. And, perhaps the most visible representation of the Special Forces, the bronze statue of a Special Forces Soldier, would be erected on Ardennes Street in 1968.
In March 1967, Lieutenant General John L. Throckmorton became Commander of Fort Bragg, replacing Lieutenant General Bruce Palmer, Jr. In August General Throckmorton became Commanding General of the Third US Army, and was replaced as the Fort Bragg Commander by Lieutenant General Robert H. York.
In August 1967, the 82d Airborne Division celebrated its 25th Anniversary as an Airborne Division, and its 50th Anniversary as an Infantry Division.
1967 also saw ground broken for the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Memorial, while troops from Fort Bragg were dispatched to Detroit to suppress riots and the Congo to help rescue civilians being held hostage.
Thus the sixties era would draw to a close with Fort Bragg living up to a quote from President John F. Kennedy: "We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty".
The seventies era would find Fort Bragg drawing down the number of troops being sent to the waning Vietnam War. 1972 marked the end of the draft and the beginning of the Volunteer Army.
Fort Bragg became home to the 1st Corps Support Command (COSCOM) in June of 1972 when it assumed the role of the deactivated 12th Support Brigade. COSCOM also willingly inherited the 12th Support Brigade's mascot, Blackjack, the mule. Blackjack frequently received callers at his quarters in the Fort Bragg Riding stables.
To accommodate the "volunteer" soldiers and their families, new construction would be earmarked for family housing and community support. The Main Post Commissary was constructed in 1974 while the Ardennes, Biazza Ridge and Bataan Family Housing areas were built in 1975. And trips between Fort Bragg and downtown Fayetteville became easier with the opening of the All American Expressway.
Fort Bragg was also becoming a fun place for a kid to live with the Youth Activities Center, the Main Post Bowling Lanes, the Cleland Ice Skating Rink and an outdoor pool on Ardennes Street.
Fort Bragg, like any other Army post of the time, was forced to deal with problems created by the Vietnam War. Foremost of these was the prevalence of drug use among the returning troops. LTG Henry Everett Emerson, nicknamed "Gunfighter", stringently complied with the Army policy of scheduled and random drug screenings. General Emerson even went a step farther and instituted the TIP (Turn-in-a-Pusher) Program. General Emerson also worked hard on whipping the Fort Bragg volunteers into better physical shape with a rigorous PT program.
Lieutenant General Volney Warner closed the decade with his personal attention to giving a fair hearing to all the residents of Fort Bragg. He created the Lady Mayors of Fort Bragg, initiated the Dial-6 BOSS program, and set up voting districts for the military and wives to be elected rather than appointed to the Board of Education. Due to an unfortunate incident of vandalism, General Warner also ordered the removal of the Iron Mike statue from the intersection of Knox Street and Bragg Boulevard to its present location on main post.
The last decade of the 20th century found Fort Bragg engaged in repeated power projection efforts. To counter Iraqi aggression in Southwest Asia, Fort Bragg worked around the clock to deploy XVIII Airborne Corps. The August 1990 success of speeding Corps troops to Saudi Arabia to "draw the line in the sand" was bittersweet as Fort Bragg assumed an eerie ghost town appearance with minimum personnel left behind.
The Post had hardly had time to enjoy the victory in the desert when a natural disaster galvanized the community in helping Corps soldiers help the world. In August 1992, Hurricane Andrew struck southern Florida and Fort Bragg helped rush Corps troops to the scene to provide humanitarian assistance.
Tragedy would draw Fort Bragg even closer to Fayetteville and the surrounding civilian communities. On March 23, 1994, while attempting to land at Pope Air Force Base, an F-16 fighter collided in mid-air with a C-130 cargo plane forcing the pilot and passenger to eject. The fighter then went on to collide with a C-141 on the tarmac. The resulting explosion and fireball killed twenty-four soldiers and wounded one hundred others as they waited at Green Ramp to board planes for a training jump. Fort Bragg immediately went into high gear to treat the wounded and notify the families. Fayetteville also extended a generous helping hand to the shocked and grieving soldiers and their families.
Fort Bragg helped launch the largest airborne operation since World War II in September 1994. 3,800 paratroopers from the 82d Airborne Division were deployed to Haiti to reinstate the duly elected President, Jean Aristide. In deference to the fierce fighting reputation of the All Americans, the de facto government agreed to terms rather than be on the receiving end of the air drop.
The heightened OPTEMPO of the nineties exposed certain inefficiencies in the way Fort Bragg conducted business. This was corrected in 1996 with a major reorganization of the Garrison into five Business Centers. By 1997 the Readiness Business Center, the Installation Business Office, the Information Technology Business Center, the Community Activities and Services Business Center, the Public Works Business Center and the Public Safety Business Center were fully operational and ready to meet the challenge of housing and deploying America's contingency force.
The Fort Bragg would devote all of its efforts in the waning years of the 1990s to smoothing the transition to the twenty-first century. With the changing mission of the United States Army the Post eagerly concentrated on improving the quality of life for its soldiers and families, serving as an environmental steward for its increased acreage and serving as the premier power projection platform of America's elite soldiers.
Many veterans returning to Fort Bragg during this era were dismayed to find most of their World War II wooden barracks gone. In an effort to improve the quality of life for the twenty-first century soldier, Fort Bragg aggressively pursued a barracks construction/renovation program.
The modernization of Fort Bragg began quietly in 1990 with a new Main Post Exchange and would accelerate throughout the decade to include the Devers Elementary School and the Prager and Cook Child Development Centers in 1994. The Post became more accessible in 1997 with the All American Expressway expansion from Reilly to Longstreet. And for those readers on Post, the opening of the new Throckmorton Library was also a welcome event.
For those living on Fort Bragg during 1998, it was hard to find one area of Post that wasn't undergoing change. From the removal of wooden barracks to building construction/renovation through expansion of training areas into the newly purchased Overhills site, Fort Bragg would close out this century with a fresh appearance and a firm resolve to meet the next century with equal drive.