Beginning as Fort Whipple in 1863 as one of the Defenses of Washington, Fort Myer continues today in its original mission of defending Washington DC. Fort Marcy may have a sign on the George Washington Parkway… Fort Stevens has been partially reconstructed and preserved as is Fort Ward. But ONLY Fort Myer continues to defend with the celebrated Oldest Infantry Regiment in the US Army – the 3d — The Old Guard.
The acres have changed much in those century and a half. The drill field where hundreds of horses with mounted riders rode, kicking up dust or where the Wright Flyer flew overhead, the rustic trails where the troopers practiced their saber charge and trenches were dug to train for WW I and later where the Jeep from Bantam Car Company was tested and approved, are gone.
Where Rodney retired and a tribute to the US Army Remount Service was made with the movie “Keep ‘Em Rolling” – The first commercial movie filmed on Fort Myer, including the first instance of “caisson drag racing” on the drill field.
South Post – Fort Myer where during WW II nearly 2000 WACs (Women’s Army Corps) lived and a complement of Soldiers who worked in the newly built Pentagon. Also the site of the “Troop Chapel” dedicated by Chief of Staff George Marshall – and then was duplicated 500 times across the US Army. The Military Police school called South Post home from the beginning.
US Army units that have called Fort Myer home have included numerous Cavalry Regiments – Capped off by the 3d - “Brave Rifles” and squadrons of the 9th and 10th – The “Buffalo Soldiers”. Home to the Signal Corps School where General Albert J Myer continued the use of the acres after the Civil War was over to teach the wig-wag system of signaling as well as the heliograph. The National Weather Service was born and developed on these historic acres with the needs promoting the exploration into aerial flight.
Alexander Graham Bell’s invention saw its first use among the US Army Signal Corps as the first long distance line ran between Fort Myer and their headquarters across the Potomac in Washington.
The mark of Patton … among each of his tours on Fort Myer, General George S. Patton, Jr., he left an imprint that affected the US Army and or the Post, from the Society Circus, to the iconic “Old Post Chapel” – the design borrowed by the US Navy. Patton Hall, known to most as “the O Club” is a standing tribute recognizing his contributions to Fort Myer.
Even the US Navy left an imprint upon the acres when it erected the first radio towers, “The Three Sisters” which enabled communication with the fleet and capability to communicate with Europe and across the United States.
Fort Myer is home to the US Army Band “Pershing’s Own” since the 1940s. The other long time resident unit is the 3d Infantry Regiment, “The Old Guard”. Together. they form a partnership to perform all the ceremonial duties and events within the National Capital Region – the most honorable among those duties and events is the support for the final honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
Whipple, Myer, Patton, Marshall, Pershing are only a few of the names that are among those who over the years set their mark on the Arlington Heights acres.
Happy Birthday Fort Myer!
PS … You too can own an autographed copy of the book “Images of America – Fort Myer” … The First Book About this Historic US Army Post. It contains over 200 “timeless historic photographs” which chronicle the first 100 years of the Post.
The 3d Cavalry – the “Brave Rifles”
After WW I, Fort Myer was where the famed 3d Cavalry – Brave Rifles – were stationed until they relinquished their horses in 1942 and headed to Georgia to become mechanized. When this film was made, COL George S Patton Jr. was commander of Fort Myer and the 3d Cavalry.
Thanks to my extensive network, a video clip which was made in 1934 surfaced of these troopers exercising their mounts with sabers drawn on the drill field on Fort Myer. This joins the other three items that I’ve found that were filmed on Post:
- the 1909 flight of the Wright Flyer with Orville Wright & LT Frank Lahm
- the 1934 Movie “Keep ‘Em Rolling” that introduced the Caisson Song
- the 1957 segment of The Big Picture with TUSAB* & TOG** on Summerall Field
For your viewing pleasure, I present below to you the Brave Rifles on Fort Myer performing one of the last saber drills (one can see the “Three Sisters” in the background as the troopers head down the drill field)
You can learn more about the “Brave Rifles” and the historic Fort Myer where they were posted in the book “Images of America – Fort Myer”
* TUSAB = The US Army Band
**TOG = The Old Guard – 3d INFANTRY Regiment
In the 21 January 1933 issue of the Saturday Evening Post appeared a short story written by Leonard Hastings Nason entitled “Rodney” a retired horse from the Spanish American War that would spend the last of his days on Fort Myer in the care of the Soldier who took him into battle.
Escort to First Unknown Soldier
Display of Skills and Talents
The availability date JUNE 13, 2011, is quickly approaching for the book – “Images of America – Fort Myer” Virginia. The reaction from those who have previewed the book and the over 200 historic images within has been very gratifying and complimentary.
From a noted historian: “You’ve done yeoman work here in both research and composition”
From a previous member of The Old Guard: “Outstanding work, it really goes back in time to tell the story of a significant US Army Post.”
From a retired US Army Colonel: “Where did you ever find that note from Abraham Lincoln to General Totten? It’s priceless!”
Within the book there are presented many different influences that shaped and molded Fort Myer. With origins during the US Civil War as Fort Whipple – one of the 70 fortifications which protected Washington DC – this US Army Post has contributed much to the United States through the efforts of :
- US Army Signal Corps
- US Army Cavalry
- US Army Field Artillery
- US Army – Women’s Army Corps
- US Army Band – “Pershing’s Own”
- US Army 3d Infantry Regiment – “The Old Guard”
From inception of military aviation, national weather service, implementation of communications, standardization of affordable transportation and… Fort Myer is a gem among military installations and the book “Images of America – Fort Myer” provides a history spanning the first 100 years.
Organized at Fort Hunt Virginia
Known as “Pershing’s Own” – The US Army Band was organized at Fort Hunt, Virginia on 25 JAN 1922 as The Army Band and later moved to the District of Columbia’s oldest military installation Fort Lesley J McNair (The fort began as arsenal in the 1790s with defenses built in 1794). Fort McNair is also the third oldest US Army post – only West Point and Carlisle Barracks are older.
When the 3d Cavalry, which had been at Fort Myer from after WW I until the beginnings of WW II moved from Fort Myer, their “mounted band” went with the regiment. There was a need for ceremonial support within Arlington National Cemetery and the US Army Band was called upon to provide it.
Ceremonial Band Needed at Arlington National Cemetery
Initially, musicians were transported to and from Fort Myer from Fort McNair and eventually a “funeral band’ was organized on Fort Myer as an extension of the US Army Band. It was during WW II – June 1943, the band at Fort McNair was deployed to both North Africa and Europe. Upon its return from the War, Fort Myer became its home ever since. For its efforts while deployed, it received a campaign streamer.
Among the over 200 historic photographs within the book “Images of America – Fort Myer” the US Army Band is presented among other units, people, and events which helped to mold Fort Myer into the active duty US Army Post it has become… Home of “Pershing’s Own” and “The Old Guard”
It was after the US Civil War, the nation was undergoing a period of healing from the “brother against brother” conflict. Fort Whipple, one of the original fortifications among the Defenses of Washington had continued on after all the other nearly 70 fortifications were abandoned. The first Chief Signal Officer, General Albert J. Myer had brought his Signal Corps School to Arlington Heights. It was 1880 when the name changed to Fort Myer in his honor.
In August 1886 the US Congress designated Fort Myer a military station and the Signal Corps School vacated.
With a vision in mind of turning Fort Myer into a Cavalry Show Case, LTG Phillip H Sheridan requested that it become a cavalry post. It was nearly a year later in July 1887, when Troop B of the 6th Cavalry from Fort Lewis, Colorado and Troop B of the 4th Cavalry from Fort Hauchuca, Arizona arrived. Major James Biddle of the 6th as commanding officer.
The cavalry had arrived and would spur a growth in permanent buildings including troop barracks, a riding arena, new stables. For several decades, the cavalry would provide the defense of the US Capital and ceremonial support in and around Washington, DC including final honors support at Arlington National Cemetery. In time the US Army would establish the Remount Service and nearly 1,500 horses would occupy the acres of Fort Myer.
Over 200 Historical photographs from the 1860s to the 1960s are within the book “Images of America – Fort Myer” that chronicle the emergence of this historic unique US Army Post.
The Legacy of George S Patton Jr.
George S Patton Jr. was stationed at Fort Myer four times during his early career. From the first time, he would have an impact on the Post and the US Army that would carry on until today. He truly left his mark.
Patton Hall, once the Post Headquarters, now known by most as “The Officers’ Club” or “The O Club” is named for this great icon in US Army, military and world history. A fitting tribute to one who has contributed much to the post and to the US Army. The most visible contribution to all who visit Fort Myer is the Old Post Chapel, which was dedicated in 1935.
Competing in the Olympics
Patton’s original postings once he graduated from West Point wa at Fort Sheridan, IL with the 15th Cavalry. He was then transferred to Fort Myer among his four tours of duty to the post include: The first from 1911 to 1913 when he was selected to compete in the 1912 Olympics in Europe representing the United States in the pentathlon, the second from 1920 to 1922, the third from 1932 to 1935, and the fourth from 1938 to 1940, when he was both post Commander and commander of the 3rd Cavalry – “The Brave Rifles” George S Patton enjoyed Fort Myer. He had his own personal horses stabled there and often went riding with his daughter.
The book, “Images of America – Fort Myer” presents over 200 historic photographs and within that set of images which chronicles the first one hundred years of the post back when it was known as Fort Whipple. The images tell the lasting impact of George S Patton, Jr.
Title: Arlington Reads – Images of America – Fort Myer Virginia
Location: Arlington Central Library – Arlington VA
Description: John Michael will discuss his new book about this unique US Army Post which has its origins in the US Civil War –
The book is from Arcadia Publishing and provides a comprehensive view in historical photographs from the 1860s to 1960s.
1015 N Quincy Street
Start Time: 19:00