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.
The date 06 APRIL is a significant milestone in Fort Myer history, for it was on that day in 1948 that one of the most historic and oldest infantry regiments within the US Army would be re-activated after World War II and call this historic US Army Post home. The regiment, like many after World War II, was inactivated, however there was a major need for a unit to provide for the defense of the National Capital of Washington DC while also providing ceremonial support. Military District of Washington did have a cermonial company to provide for ceremonial company that did ceremonies. So when the US Army’s 3d Infantry Regiment was reactivated, they were included within the regiment.
The 3d Infanry of the US Army, also known as The Old Guard, a name given to them by General Winfield Scott can trace its beginnings to the United States revolution with the date of its origination of JUNE 1784. From the start, the regiment has served and fought valiantly to protect and defend the United States.
Since its beginnings, the 3d has fought in
- War of 1812
- Mexican-American War
- American Civil War
- Indian Wars
- Spanish-American War
- Philippine-American War
- World War II
- Iraq War
So it was 06 APR 1948 when the US Army 3d Infantry Regiment was reactivated on the steps of the US Capitol and then took up home at Fort Myer. Known also as “The Escort to the President” – The Old Guard is the primaryunit within Presidential Inaugurations and state funerals.
The video below, courtesy of the US Army, provides an historic look back in time to about 1955. Accompanied by the US Army Band – “Pershing’s Own”, it shows the dual mission which the Old Guard continues until today.
Within Arlington National Cemetery, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded day and night all year round by Sentinels who are carefully selected and trained as Tomb Guards from this regiment. Over the years, the regiment has added several distinguished specialty platoons / companies to address the ceremonial needs of the Military District of Washington and the US Army. These include:
- The Presidential Salute Battery
- The Caisson Platoon
- The Continental Color Guard
- The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps
- The US Army Drill Team
- The Commander-in-Chief’s Guard
In the book “Images of America – Fort Myer” many historic photographs of the 3d Infantry Regiment are displayed along with many more about Fort Myer.
Note: 06 APRIL was officially designated as Army Day by Congress. The last one that was celebrated nationally was in 1949.
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After the Civil War, the US Army’s Signal Corps School moved to Fort Whipple on Arlington Heights overlooking the valley which included the US Capital. General Albert J. Myer, who would later become the US Army’s First Signal Officer as a result of his visionary contributions, considered it an outstanding location from where the skills of signaling could be easily taught. From a view of 5 to 30 miles, it also had the space to conduct lasting experiments of alternate signaling methods.
The two crossed flags in the branch insignia are the two variations of the flag used in the wig-wag system developed by General Myer. The torch provided illumination at night.
Fort Whipple would later be re-named Fort Myer in honor of General Myer.
In the book “Images of America – Fort Myer” these and other accomplishments, milestones and people who contributed are highlighted marking the first one hundred years of this historic US Army Post which is still in operation.
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.
Before the horseless carriage began its domination and surrendered horse travel to more recreational rather than neccessity, many cities across the United States had an ever growing network of trolleys.
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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