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.
“Images of America – Fort Myer” became a reality on 13 JUN 2011, one day before the US Army’s birthday – very appropriately mind you. As the FIRST BOOK ever about this historic US Army Post with origins back to the US Civil War when it was known as Fort Whipple and part of the nearly 70 forts which surrounded and defended the US Capital – “The Defenses of Washington”. Fort Myer continues that duty uninterrupted until today from the heights of Arlington. What’s on the acres has changed. There’s no more drill field where the thundering hooves of the nearly 1,500 horses carried their Cavalry troopers or pulled their cassions with field artillery. There’s no more trolley line. Instead it’s the home of the elite units of the US Army.
The reason I wrote the book? Besides breaking new ground, which has become my hallmark, especially within the last decade, it needed to be done. This fort has been the site of many events which have molded or changed the world around us, and no one is aware of it and those milestones and contributions, until now. With over two years of research based on a foundation of working and walking among the US military since 2000, the result is over 200 historical photographs which cover from the 1860s to the 1960s. The book also fills a void in the US Army story and as one of those who bought the book said “You set the bar high and you jumped over it.” – a nice critique for a first work.
Thanks to General Albert J. Myer and his visionary initiatives, the fort continued to be used after the War Between the States as the home for the Signal Corps School. It was later General of the Army Philip H. Sheridan upon a petition to the US Congress turned it into a military reservation and showcase for the US Cavalry – The Remount Service begun in 1909 and the Front Royal Depot from 1911 provided Fort Myer with a fresh source of horses to keep the Army moving. The US Army Remount Service also had depots at Fort Keogh in Montana, Fort Reno in Oklahoma and later Fort Robinson in Nebraska which was the largest – 22,000 acres!
THE Key item in the book is a note from Abraham Lincoln which I discovered during my research. Until I found it at the National Archives sandwiched between two photographs, no one, not even the Fort Myer historian knew of its existence. It opens up another branch of the Lincoln Legacy Tree and published for the first time in my book.
Highlights of some of the milestones at Fort Myer include:
- Birthplace of military aviation,
- Birthplace of the National Weather Service,
- Home of the US Army Signal Corps School,
- The JEEP was tested and approved on Fort Myer,
- Home of the US Army Band since 1942,
- Home of The Old Guard since 1948
- Society Circus (which I believe evolved into “Spirit of America”)
The impact that General George S. Patton had with his four tours on Post is amazing. The book helps remember South Post Fort Myer which served strongly as where the WACS and 12th Infantry were located during World War II. South Post also is where the MP School was established and a chapel was built that would be replicated over 500 times across the US Army (many of which are still providing a place of worship for the Soldiers, their family and friends.)
(*The Soldiers of the US Army’s 3d Infantry Regiment who’s dual mission includes defending the Capital and performing the ceremonial work in Arlington National Cemetery and around the Capital region including White House, Pentagon, Andrews AFB, etc.)
The real treat are the over 200 historical photographs which chronicle over time the first one hundred years of this historic US Army Post. Many of which have never been seen before or published.
“Preserving the memories so others will remember…” ™
Military Aviation – A New Way To Travel
When the US Army asked the Wright brothers to return to Fort Myer in 1909, it was the beginning of a new era in travel.
In spite of the crash on September 17, 1908, where a propeller shattered and the airplane along with its two occupants – Orville Wright and Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge – fell from the sky. They were at approximately 100 feet. (The crash injured both of them – Orville had broken bones in his leg and ribs while Lieutenant Selfridge suffered a concussion resulting in him passing a few hours later).
Wright Brothers Return to Fort Myer
Orville had healed from his injuries and was ready to fly again. Tests resumed in July of 1909 with a newer version of the Wright Flyer and the trials were well attended on the drill field of Fort Myer. On July 30, 1909, Lieutenant Benjamin D. Foulois as the passenger and Orville at the controls flew from Fort Myer to Alexandria, Virginia and return at a speed in excess of 42 miles an hour and covering 10 miles. This concluded the final tests.
On August 2, 1909, the Signal Corps accepted the Wright Flyer as the world’s first military aircraft, naming it Signal Corps Airplane No. 1. It was onto College Park, Maryland for training.
More in the Book
Images of America – Fort Myer chronicles the first one hundred years of this historic US Army Post with a combination of telling narrative and over 200 historical photographs. As One of the nearly seventy forts constructed during the US Civil War – The Defenses of Washington – when then it was known as Fort Whipple, Fort Myer continues its mission of defending the US Capital of Washington DC. It’s also home to The US Army Band (TUSAB) – “Pershing’s Own” and the 3d US Infantry – “The Old Guard” which are two elite ceremonial units of the US Army.
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.
Dayton, Ohio – Kitty Hawk, North Carolina were two places where the Wright Brothers – Orville and Wilbur tested their Wright Flyer in the early 1900s. Yet it was in September 1908 that Orville in response to the US Army’s request for a “heavier than air” flying machine brought his invention to Arlington Heights. And the drill field of Fort Myer is the location where military aviation began.
The drill field is long gone, replaced by buildings and parking lots, but the tests in 1908 were so successful that the Army requested that the Wrights return in 1909 for further testing and acceptance. This was despite the crash from nearly 100 feet that ultimately marked the first military aviation fatality when LT Thomas Selfridge experienced a concussion during the crash and passed hours later.
In the book “Images of America – Fort Myer” there are several historical photographs of the Wright Flyer and these events. This is among over 200 photographs found in the book.
It sits on Arlington Heights overlooking Washington DC and has seen its share of firsts since 1863 when it was first built as Fort Whipple. It was among the 70 fortifications surrounding the National Capital during the US Civil War, but unlike the rest which fell into disrepair and were abandoned, Fort Myer continues until this day (though they’ve hidden the name slightly – it’ll always be Fort Myer because of its significance and contributions.)
Some of the early firsts that this US Army Post holds are:
- First home of the US Signal Corps School
- First home of the National Weather Service (1870)
- First US Army Cavalry Showcase
- First military aviation flight (1908)
- First military aviation fatality (1908)
- First ROTC training
Over time, the significance of Fort Myer has grown. With it’s elite troops within, it continues to stand ready to defend the Nation’s Capital while providing an outstanding place to receive and honor visiting dignitaries.
The book “Images of America – Fort Myer” highlights these and others in a combination of historical photographs and revealing captions. The outstanding nugget is a first-time published note from Abraham Lincoln which no one knew existed.