When you are poking around in America's attic, it's amazing what sometimes just drops into your lap. It's only been around since 1863 when it was known as Fort Whipple - though the constant on Fort Myer is change. It began as one of then nearly 70 forts during the US Civil War as part of the Defenses of Washington. Unlike the other forts, it is the only remaining and still doing what it was designed to do - Defend the Capital City!
The map above shows what is in the present time. At one point in the post's history it was referred to as "North Post" since in the 1940s up until the mid 1970s there was a "South Post" Fort Myer that was originally established to provide housing for the WACS and Soldiers who worked in the Pentagon and other agencies in downtown Washington DC. It also provided housing for the women who also worked downtown. By the 1980s, South Post was a faint memory. It's barracks and other buildings - PX, HQs, Chapel, Gymnasium, Pool and more were gone. Its acres became part of Arlington National Cemetery as the cemetery needed to expand.
Explore and enjoy this 1972 tour of Fort Myer. What follows below are some historic and 1972 era photos found while doing further research...
The photo above shows when the post primarily consisted of wooden buildings. The building in center of the photo is the post hospital and access to it was via the bridge seen in the foreground. The bridge is long gone as are the other buildings in the photo. Around the turn of the 19th century, a concerted building project resulted in a new set of buildings primarily constructed of brick.
In the above photograph, the view down Grant Avenue looking to the North shows some of the "Generals Row" homes. Quarters One, home to the Chief of Staff of the US Army is at the end of this street. To the right side of the photograph would be Whipple Field where the original Fort Whipple stood during the US Civil War.
Building #246, back in 1972 was headquarters of the 3d Infantry - "The Old Guard" The regiment would eventually relocate from this building and it would become barracks for one of the operating companies of the regiment.
This building was a puzzle when first found, but upon further research it was learned that this was Bachelor Officer Quarters (BOQ) that was placed nearby to Wainwright Hall on Fort Myer.
BUY THE BOOK
If 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 II
Reactions Are Important - Chief Ones Are VERY Important!
A creative work whether it be a photo, a painting, a sculpture or in this case a book -hangs in the balance of whether someone likes it or not. Getting a chief response, is unexpected! Each time it's put out there, there is a resulting response of like or not like.
When I began the work to produce what has now become the FIRST book ever about Fort Myer, I wanted it to be the best. After many months of extensive research, field trips to libraries, history offices, The Library of Congress, the National Archives in College Park, MD and more, the pile of "stuff" appeared intimidating. How to mold it into something that people would read. AND like. I had learned that it was more than a US Army Post that was named after General Albert J Myer. More than the home of the US Army Band (TUSAB) - "Pershing's Own" more than the home of the 3d Infantry Regiment - "The Old Guard" It was history that needed to be chronicled and told to the public.
The Beginnings were a Challenge
Along the way, my best friend from high school, who was career US Army, was my sounding board. He didn't see the "stuff" but was given ongoing "sit-reps" that often began "Did you know what I found yesterday?" After which he patiently listened as my latest find was being held up to the phone - he couldn't see it, but my words and excitement conveyed the import. The cover photo was long ago chosen and set, the back of the book proclaimed the work that I'd done for over a dozen years that prepped me for this event. I was fortunate to find a striking image of the 15th Cavalry - the same unit that George S Patton, Jr was initially attached to and brought him to Fort Myer for the first time in 1912. He competed in the Stockholm Olympics.
When the book finally released on 13 JUN 2011, my friend promptly purchased two copies, one for himself, the other for his son who was currently serving in the US Army, attached to the 10th Cavalry - one of the original "Buffalo Soldiers" regiments. It was several weeks before I heard from him. He normally calls early in the evening. This time it was later than usual.
He began the call by saying "I read your book and..."
I waited for the reaction.
He went on: "I expected it to be good. But no, it's not good, it's great. Over the months while you were gathering and composing, sifting and sorting, and finalizing, I concluded that you were doing your darnedest to make a good book. Well you ultimately set the bar high with this. And not only did you set the bar high, you jumped OVER the bar. Congratulations!"
FOUND A NOTE WORTHY ITEM
One of the nuggets in the book is a note from President Abraham Lincoln which opened up doors to the Whipple family (It's amazing what one family's role has been in the foundation and building of the United States of America!) Finding that first note (there's a second one that I'm still casually looking to locate) was a result of "God sitting on my shoulder..." Since it was not where it was supposed to be.
"...loves me like a rock...."
One of my special forces brothers - He's actually "the second older brother I never had." - invited me to exhibit and participate in the bi-annual conference of The Rocks, Inc., a great association. It provides mentoring to active duty and retired military, primarily the US Army. The conference was held at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. One of the the guest speakers for the conference was the current Chief of Staff of the US Army GEN Raymond T Odierno. It was after his fantastic speech that I awarded him a copy of "images of America - Fort Myer" (He lives there in " Quarters One" Home to the Chief of Staff since 1906, when MG J Franklin Bell first occupied what was supposed to be the quarters of the post commander. It was built in 1899. It's historic too, since 1973, it's been on the National Historic Register)
The General thanked me for the surprise gift and was on his way to his next event / meeting / encounter. I didn't think much more about it. At least he got a copy of it.
Surprise from The Chief
I went to my post office box and there among the mail was a monarch sized envelope neatly addressed to me with the return address that showed it was from the Pentagon - the Office of the Chief of Staff -
I opened it immediately. Wanting to know just what was written inside. I beamed with joy when I read his words -How he liked the book and about My work at Arlington National Cemetery. And he's awaiting my next book too!
Begun as the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) in MAY 1942, it became a branch of the US Army in 1943 then known as the Women's Army Corps (WAC). During WW II some 150,000 women served in the Army and Fort Myer had its share. Colonel Oveta Culp Hobby was the first director from 1942 to 1945. At Fort Myer, South Post, they were about 1,900 in number and housed in barracks at what was that time South Post of Fort Myer.
They were the first women to serve in the Army other than nurses. "Images of America - Fort Myer" includes several historical photographs which provide a glimpse of the past service of these women who lived on South Post. The WAC would continue on as a branch of the US Army until 1978, when those who were serving, were included into the Army based on their military occupational specialty (MOS)
Their history is rich and legacy long. More accounting of their contributions, including a top-secret mission during World War II is found in the book by MAJ Elna Grahn In the Company of Wacs. They shared South Post Fort Myer with the civilian women who worked in Washington, DC and other Soldiers from what was Headquarters Company of the US Army.
South Post was the location of many events while it existed that are milestones in the US Army's history. These are chronicled in the book Images of America - Fort Myer.
OVER 200 HISTORICAL IMAGES, MAPS and ILLUSTRATIONS
The book was released on 13 JUN 2011 and chronicles the first one hundred years of this Civil War era US Army Post when it was first called Fort Whipple in honor of General Amiel Weeks Whipple. He commanded the Defenses of Washington using Arlington House as his headquarters. An autographed copy of the book "Images of America - Fort Myer" can be had on the page BUY THE BOOK. Alternative choices of purchase are also offered.