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.
It was late April of 1935, Easter Sunday was on the 21st and the dedication of the Post Chapel that would bring a formal place of worship to Fort Myer. The project was begun and carefully watched over by then MAJ George S. Patton, Jr., another of his legacies to this historic US Army Post.
In an OCT 1933 report to then Post Commander, COL Kenyon Joyce, Patton outlined the specifics of building a principal chapel and nixed the idea of a separate mortuary chapel on Fort Myer. His conclusions were drawn after a field trip to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington DC where he surveyed the chapels on the grounds.
Highlighted within the book “Images of America – Fort Myer” among the other historical photographs and images are images of the chapel and Patton Hall which was first used as a chapel before the “Old Post Chapel” was built. Ground-breaking for the construction of the chapel began on 04 FEB 1934 and then cornerstone was placed both of which without much fanfare or ceremony.
Over time, this one building would become the iconic representation when one thought about Fort Myer. It was the focal point proudly occupying the center of the garrison’s insignia. In addition to providing a place for worship for the Fort Myer Military community, it hosted many weddings and also provided the starting place for many of the final honors which would end in adjacent Arlington National Cemetery.
It is also known for it’s unique stained glass windows.
Few people know the early contributions of General George S. Patton, Jr. He’s known for his robust accomplishments in World War I commanding the US Army’s Light Tank Corps and in World War II commanding the 3d Army.
While at Fort Myer, Patton left his mark on the US Army and the post with some of his contributions continuing until today. Few people know about his involvement in the construction of the Old Post Chapel – the icon of the installation, the tennis courts. But then there’s the “Society Circus” – a concept that began as a way for the Soldiers to continue to hone their skills, demonstrate their talents while raising money for the Army Relief Fund.
It began during the “between the wars” period when Patton returned from his successes in Europe in the US Army Tank Corps. He once again returned to his beloved cavalry where he had earlier distinguished himself by designing “The Patton Sword” – M1913 which was produced by the Springfield Arsenal – some 34,000 swords were produced and the cavalry outfitted. However this time it was “The Society Circus” which some say has evolved into today’s “Spirit of America” which still is produced and performed by Soldiers from Fort Myer as they take the show “on the road”
Back then, for ten weekends during the late Spring and all Summer, the horsemanship skills of the cavalry along with vignettes depicting events or places in history were presented.
This augmented the ceremonial duties which the Soldiers executed which included final honor support at Arlington National Cemetery.
Several historic photographs within the book “Images of America – Fort Myer” provide a small glimpse of this segment of history on this unique US Army Post with origins during the US Civil War when it was known as Fort Whipple. An autographed copy of the book can be purchased here on the website.
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.
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, most visible to all who visit Fort Myer is the Old Post Chapel, which was dedicated in 1935.
Patton’s postings at Fort Myer 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”
The book, “Images of America – Fort Myer” presents over 200 historic photographs and within that set of images, the lasting impact of George S. Patton, Jr is told.
When most people hear the name Fort Myer, they don’t think Virginia, but a place much further south in the United States.
The other location is an attractive place for tourism and nearby beaches with palm trees on the Gulf of Mexico. This other location WAS an US Army Fort built in 1850 as a military fort in response to Seminole Indians that were in conflict with the area’s few settlers.
So the confusion continues… perhaps once people begin reading the book “Images of America – Fort Myer” they’ll get a better understanding that Fort Myer is in Virginia (first named Fort Whipple during the US Civil War) and is home to the US Army Band – “Pershing’s Own”, the US Army’s 3d Infantry Regiment – “The Old Guard”. The fort is located right next to Arlington National Cemetery. It was named after General Albert J. Myer, the US Army’s first Signal Officer, the inventor of the wig-wag signaling method (the insignia of the US Army Signal Corps are a pair of crossed Wig-Wag Flags), who also started the National Weather Service.
Today, Fort Myer, Virginia with over a century of service to the United States of America is as an outstanding US Army Post, defending the Nation’s Capital – Washington, DC with origins during the US Civil War. Many more events and people who were stationed there have had major influences on the United States and the world.
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