Those of you who have lived and walked and worked the acres of Fort Myer know all the gates to this historic US Army Post ... Hatfield, Henry, Memorial, Selfridge, Old Post Chapel and WRIGHT...
Historic Flights Originated on Fort MyerOn 02 August 1909 another military aviation milestone was reached. It was when the US Army Signal Corps secured the Wright Flyer from the Wright Brothers. For the sum of $30,000.00 of which $5,000.00 was a bonus for exceeding the requirements of speed of flight, - They flew from the Fort Myer to Alexandria Virginia and back at the speed of 42.5 mph. It marked the Future of Aviation as the United States was now the first country in the world to own an aircraft. The saga began in September 1908 when the first military flights began on Fort Myer - circling the drill field with Arlington National Cemetery as the backdrop to history being made on this US Army Post. Orville Wright had appeared with his Wright Flyer prepared to answer the US Army Signal Corps' request for a heavier than air flying machine. He successfully demonstrated the capability of the Wright Flyer. Despite the crash caused by a shattered propeller that dropped Orville and LT Thomas Selfridge from the sky at about one hundred feet. Orville suffered broken bones in his leg and broken ribs. Selfridge fared worse with a concussion that later resulted in him passing. He then became the first military aviation fatality. Section 3 in Arlington National Cemetery is where he is at rest.
Wright Brothers Return in 1909When the US Army agreed to a return appearance, the Wright brothers, both Orville and WIlbur returned in June 1909 with a brand newly built airplane designated the "Military Flyer". It was then flown several times for both duration of flight and speed. After the second speed test flight which included Orville flying from Fort Myer to Alexandria Virginia and return, the US Army was convinced of the value of what the Wright brothers produced. The US Army bought the future of aviation with the acceptance of the Military Flyer. Later in August, after a balloon reconnaissance by Lt Frank Lahm, land in College Park, Maryland was leased to become the first US Army Signal Corps Airport. The airport continues until today thus holding the distinction of the oldest airport in the world. An aviation museum sits alongside the runway where the Wright brothers trained the first US Army pilots. Later other aviation companies would get there start among those acres.
OVER 200 Historical Images"images of America - Fort Myer" chronicles the first one hundred years of this historic US Army Post from when it was built in the 1860s and known then as Fort Whipple until the 1960s when among the 3d Infantry regiment appeared the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps. An autographed by the author copy of the book is avail able at BUY THE BOOK.
SELECT PHOTOGRAPHS FROM 1972 DISCOVERED (continued)In Part I of this 1972 Tour of Fort Myer, several newly discovered images were presented. Here in Part II, several more of that cache of photographs from 1972 are presented below. As mentioned in Part I, when exploring America's attic, the findings can sometimes be surprising. One of the several homes on Grant Avenue, also known as "Generals' Row" It once was the quarters of General George S. Patton Jr. Whipple Field is not too too far away (it's across the street!) That's where the Civil War era fortification "Fort Whipple" was located. One of two of the nearly 70 fortifications located within the acres of present day Historic Fort Myer - the other was Fort Cass which were part of the Defenses of Washington Some nearly turn of the century building that contained the Post hospital (It was where Orville Wright and Lieutenant Selfridge were taken in SEP 1908 after the Wright Flyer crashed during a test flight on Fort Myer) In later years, the hospital was closed and the building became Post Headquarters where the command staff is located. At one period of time, Fort Myer was a showcase for the US Cavalry. With about 1,500 horses which were serving the field artillery and the cavalry, there were many more stables on post. That all changed in February 1942 when the 3d Cavalry - "The Brave Rifles" relinquished their mounts and were shipped south to get mechanized. The Army's Remount Service only lasted until 1948 when all the depots, including the one at Front Royal, Virginia were turned over to the US Department of Agriculture. Many of the stables on post were re-purposed or in the case of those used by the field artillery units, were torn down - their gun sheds also were scrapped. The stable in the photo is the McKinney Stable where the Old Guard's Caisson Platoon spends most of their waking hours tending to the horses that provide the transport of the veterans in Arlington National Cemetery. Other stables to the north of this one have been repurposed - one is the home of the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps. Down below Whipple Field are several other stables which were used by the Buffalo Soldiers while they were stationed at Fort Myer. Both the 9th and 10th Cavalry were stationed at the Post. Comny Hall, named for COL Joseph B. Conmy Jr. who commanded the 3d Infantry - "The Old Guard" in 1962. Back in the day, when Fort Myer was a Cavalry Showcase, this was the riding arena where the troopers kept their skills sharp during the winter months. The hall, with it's floor of ground also provided the location where the Society Circus was held to entertain those from the city of Washington and surrounds. After the cavalry left in 1942, the building was repurposed and over time became the location where ceremonies would be held - retirements, changes of command / responsibility and even events such as Twilight Tattoo, Prelude to Taps and even Spirit of America. Since 1948 when the 3d Infantry was re-activated and the regiment became a "permanent resident" of the Post, their soldiers in concert with the US Army Band - "Pershing's Own" provided all the ceremonial troops for the events. COMMISSARY - these buildings back in 1972 is where the Soldiers and their families came to shop for their provisions. It was before the current commissary was built near the southwest corner of the Post. These buildings are now used for other purposes such as the Post thrift shop.
BUY THE BOOKIf you've enjoyed this small glimpse of Fort Myer, then perhaps you should BUY THE BOOK. An author autographed copy is available here on this website. Coming next A 1972 Tour of Fort Myer - Part III Or a look back at A 1972 Tour of Fort Myer - Part i
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
SABER DRILLFor 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
Military Aviation - A New Way To TravelWhen 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 MyerOrville 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 BookImages 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.
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.