Wright Flyer at Fort Myer
It was late July 1909. The Wright Flyer had flown from Fort Myer Virginia to the edges of Old Town Alexandria, Virginia and back. The US Army Signal Corps’ Officers were pleased that the speed results exceeded the 40 MPH threshold. With the return of the Wright Brothers entry in response to their request for a heavier than air flying machine, the Army had a viable aircraft. It was now up to the Wright brothers to provide the training. But where? The small number of acres at Fort Myer were too confining. Besides, the public interest guaranteed that there was always a crowd of people ready to watch this new form of transportation when they held the trials at Fort Myer.
The US Army still used gas filled balloons then. LT Frank Lahm on a regular observation flight discovered a flat parcel of land some 10 to 12 miles to the Northeast. It was near the Baltimore and Ohio railroad tracks, which later would serve as competition for the air-land races that these new aviators would compete. So the US Army leased the land in August of 1909 and a new chapter… perhaps books of transportation began. It was here that the Wright brothers trained the first pilots: Frederic Humphreys and Frank Lahm. It would also be here that many familiar aviation companies began – among them Curtiss-Wright.
The War Department established the first military aviation school with Lieutenant Henry H. Arnold as one of the instructors. The airplane saw its first use in warfare in WWI as the US Army Air Corps was established in 1926 – they renamed the US Army Air Service. Arnold would later go on to lead the new United States Army Air Forces in 1942 which became the United States Air Force in 1947.
It would be at College Park, where civilian aviation began with the Rex Smith Aeroplane Company. Later another first, the building of the first aircraft by the Christmas Aeroplane Company in 1911. A year later, the company would deliver it’s next model craft to respond to the contract to deliver mail by air for the US Postal Service. In 1918, the first regular airmail delivery between College Park and both Philadelphia and New York City began lasting until 1921.
As more and more applications of aviation were discovered and used, the industry grew as did the number of airports across the United States and around the world. Though College Park, Maryland still holds the distinction of being the first. The saga continues at the airport and the adjacent College Park Aviation Museum which is worth the visit to see some of this history up close and personal.
The book, “Images of America – Fort Myer” holds a treasure of over 200 “timeless photographs” that deliver the first 100 years of this US Army Post.
On 13 JUN 2011 – a milestone groundbreaking book was published – HAPPY BIRTHDAY – IMAGES of AMERICA – FORT MYER!
From now until 30 JUN 2013 – Add an author autographed copy of the book to your library
Why? With over 200 timeless historic photographs, it features a note from Abraham Lincoln, first published in the book that highlights the connection between the 16th President and Major General Amiel Weeks Whipple
Select FREE SHIPPING and in days your “Personalized” book will be in your hands and the adventure will begin to provide you with the first one hundred years of this historic US Army Post with origins during the US Civil War when it began as Fort Whipple.
Learn about military aviation’s beginnings, the National Weather Service, and…
A portion of your purchase price will be donated to the Army Historical Foundation to help build the National Museum of the US Army.
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.
Albert J Myer was a medical doctor by training, yet his contributions went far beyond the realm of medicine. He was the first Chief Signal Officer of the US Army. To his credit, he is the reason there is a Fort Myer.
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!
We’re going to another re-printing of the book! To all of you who have bought and supported the work… it’s most appreciated! FREE SHIPPING will continue through 31 AUGUST 2012… It’ll also give you a chance to help build the National Museum of the US Army! Please share this post and tell all your friends … Thank you
For a limited time only, an autographed copy of “Images of America – Fort Myer” can be had … FREE SHIPPING and $1.00 of your purchase price is donated to the Army Historical Foundation - They’re building the National Museum of the US Army —
or to the clothing store on Fort Myer?
These are two of the new locations that will be carrying “Images of America – Fort Myer” or if you prefer to get your copy autographed or from online booksellers, you can purchase via the “Buy the Book” link above.
The book, the first ever about Fort Myer, has been selected by Virginia Festival of the Book 2012 as a featured item. On the 23rd of March it will be presented and discussed at this the largest book festival on the east coast of the United States – held annually in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Are you attending Virginia Festival of the Book?
When are you planning to visit Arlington National Cemetery?
DATELINE – Charlottesville Virginia: “Images of America – Fort Myer” has been selected as one of the books to be featured at this annual March 2012 event. From a field of nearly 1,000 books submitted, it was selected.
Author John Michael will be onsite to present and discuss his ground-breaking first book about this unique US Army Post with origins during the US Civil War as part of the Defenses of Washington, when it was named Fort Whipple
Fort Whipple was built in JUNE 1863 on Arlington Heights, Virginia within the acreage that was the Custis-Lee estate. It was in honor of General Amiel Weeks Whipple who was the commander of the Defenses of Washington’s southern fortifications, who used Arlington House as his headquarters.
The Post was later renamed Fort Myer to eliminate the confusion with the other Fort Whipple located in Arizona and to honor General Albert J. Myer, the US Army’s first Signal Officer who located the US Army’s Signal Corps School on the acres.
Home to the US Army’s two elite units: The US Army Band – “Pershing’s Own” and “The Old Guard – 3d Infantry Regiment of the US Army, Fort Myer continues to provide defense of Washington DC – the Capital of the United States of America.
More information about the event and times and locations within Charlottesville is at Virginia Festival of the Book 2012
On 21 OCT 1817 in Concord, Massachusetts, Amiel Weeks Whipple was born to David Whipple, an innkeeper in Concord and Abigail Pepper, the daughter of Joseph Pepper, a Lieutenant in the American Revolution.
Whipple’s education included attending Concord’s schools and in 1836 entered Amherst College, then appointed to the US Military Academy at West Point where he graduated fifth in his class in JUN 1841. Initially assigned to the First Artillery after his commissioning, he was transferred to the Topographical Engineers with assignments at Patapaco River, Maryland then New Orleans, Louisiana and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Various other assignments including the mapping of the route of the transcontinental railroad in western United States followed. When the southern states began their secession, he was ordered to Washington DC where he would then map the densely wooded Northern Virginia countryside. His next assignment would be Chief Topographical Engineer for General McDowell. His use of various methods of reconnaissance including the balloons promoted by Doctor Thaddeus K. Lowe was forward thinking.
For most of 1862, then General Whipple commanded a division of the First Army Corps using Arlington House, the former residence of General Robert E. Lee as his headquarters. It was then that the friendship of President Lincoln and the General continued to strengthen as Lincoln would drive over to Arlington House in the Presidential carriage and lunch with Whipple and afterwards as Lincoln wrapped his arms around Whipple’s two sons, would get the briefing from the General.
Looking to contribute more to the war effort, General Whipple applied for a combat role and was put in command of the 3d Division of III Army Corps participating in the battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862. Later, in May 1863 he continued to command at the battle of Chancellorsville, when on 4 MAY he was mortally wounded by a sharpshooter.
Lincoln would later attend the funeral of General Whipple not as the President, but as a friend and would later write the note on 13 MAY 1863 to General Totten appointing William Whipple, the older son to West Point. An image of the note, which was never seen before or even known about until it was discovered by John Michael is published and appears for the first time in the book “Images of America – Fort Myer”
As the Defenses of Washington continued to be augmented with additional forts, one would be named for General Whipple – on Arlington Heights in the vicinity where he ordered a balloon aloft to gather intelligence. That location, named Fort Whipple, would evolve and grow into present-day Fort Myer.
With the remount depots already established in Montana – Fort Keogh and Oklahoma – Fort Reno, the US Army cast its eyes to the East and sought out a place for the third remount depot authorized by Congress. The choice was Virginia, but rather than on an established military installation, the depot was built from the ground up.
On August 30, 1911 in Front Royal, Virginia, the East Coast remount depot of the US Army opened for operation. The Army had acquired 5,000 acres near the Appalachian / Blue Ridge Mountains combining several farms and erecting a complex of buildings. The third remount depot of the US Army’s Remount Service was the only one constructed as a depot. Others had been carved out of existing US Army Posts across the country (Fort Keogh, Montana – Fort Reno, Oklahoma - Fort Robinson, Nebraska.) and one established in the 1940s was donated – Pomona, California.
As the Army’s Remount Service evolved and matured, other sub-depots would be set up around the country to accommodate the ranches, universities and other locations which would join in to contribute to the operations.
In a series of field trips to the location, it was great to walk among the acres and observe the complex of buildings nestled among the acres imagining the fields full of horses. Heading to the ridge where once was a track where races were held on the weekends, a wonderful building known as the stallion barn was to the east. The Army acquired a select collection of stallions to begin the process of improving the available horses to provision the cavalry and field artillery.
Reaching the ridge and heading to the north-side of the track, the horse cemetery that I had been informed about was near a stone wall. The headstones looked very familiar, but something was not completely clicking. Then I realized that they were Quartermaster issued stones… the same ones that are used in Arlington National Cemetery and all the rest of the National Cemeteries across the US. The only difference was instead of burying them half-way as they do in ANC, these were up on pedestals.
It was pointed out to me that the open space between the stones is where Kidron & Jeff – General John “Blackjack” Pershing’s horses were buried. Their headstones were removed and are somewhere among the acres that was Fort Robinson in Nebraska. When the remount depot at Fort Keogh in Montana was closed, Fort Robinson was established as its replacement and became the largest of the remount depots within the US Army Remount Service. No further information was available why they ended up there. Of peculiar interest is one headstone – it peaks just like the stones that surround the Confederate Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery.
The remount depot at Front Royal, Virginia was near the railroad that would eventually transport the horses to Fort Myer via Alexandria providing fresh mounts for the cavalry and the field artillery caissons. Additionally, the remount service also provided fresh mules and especially during WW II, dogs.
When the remount service was deactivated in 1948, all the remount depots reverted to the US Department of Agriculture. The Smithsonian later acquired the Front Royal remount depot’s main acreage of 4,200 acres. It became The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) which facilitates and promotes conservation biology programs at the National Zoo. Currently closed to the public, the facility does open one weekend a year – the first weekend in October. For more information you can go to the Smithsonian’s website and SCBI’s page.
The book “Images of America – Fort Myer” contains over 200 historical photographs which include the US Army’s Remount Service along with a historical chronology in photographs of the first one hundred years of this unique US Army Post with origins during the US Civil War when it was known as Fort Whipple.
After months of anticipation, the book “Images of America – Fort Myer” is in the market. Thank all of you who pre-ordered the AUTOGRAPHED copy of the book. Your author autographed book ships TODAY!
NOTE: You can still get an author autographed copy of the book… and it’ll ship immediately! Just go to “BUY THE BOOK” and click on the link.