Map of Fort Myer

A 1972 TOUR OF FORT MYER – PART II

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.
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Quarters 6 on Generals' Row - Grant Avenue
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
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Building #59 - Post HQ previously the Post Hospital
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.
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Caisson Platoon Stables - McKinney Stables
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.
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Comny Hall - Once the Riding Hall
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.
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The original commissary buildings in 1972
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 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 III Or a look back at A 1972 Tour of Fort Myer - Part i            
College Park Airport

On To College Park, Maryland!

Military Aviation School at College Park MarylandBecause of the US Army Signal Corps and the aviation success at Fort Myer, College Park, Maryland became the site of the longest continual operational airport in the world.

Wright Flyer at Fort Myer

It was late July 1909. The Wright Flyer had flown from Fort Myer Virginia to the edges of Old Town Alexandria, Virginia and back. The US Army Signal Corps' Officers were pleased that the speed results exceeded the 40 MPH threshold.  With the return of the Wright Brothers entry in response  to their request for a heavier than air flying machine, the Army had a viable aircraft.   It was now up to the Wright brothers to provide the training.  But where?   The small number of acres at Fort Myer were too confining.   Besides, the public interest guaranteed that there was always a crowd of people ready to watch this new form of transportation when they held the trials at Fort Myer. The US Army still used gas filled balloons then.  LT Frank Lahm on a regular observation flight discovered a flat parcel of land some 10 to 12 miles to the Northeast. It was near the Baltimore and Ohio railroad tracks, which later would serve as competition for the air-land races that these new aviators would compete.  So the US Army leased the land in August of 1909 and a new chapter... perhaps books of transportation began.  It was here that the Wright brothers trained the first pilots:  Frederic Humphreys and Frank Lahm.  It would also be here that many familiar aviation companies began -  among them Curtiss-Wright. The War Department established the first military aviation school with Lieutenant Henry H. Arnold as one of the instructors.  The airplane saw its first use in warfare in WWI as the US Army Air Corps was established in 1926 - they renamed the US Army Air Service. Arnold college_park_airport_2would later go on to lead the new United States Army Air Forces in 1942 which became the United States Air Force in 1947. It would be at College Park, where civilian aviation began with the Rex Smith Aeroplane Company.   Later another first, the building of the first aircraft by the Christmas Aeroplane Company in 1911.  A year later, the company would deliver it's next model craft to respond to the contract to deliver mail by air for the  US Postal Service.  In 1918, the first regular airmail delivery between College Park and both Philadelphia and New York City began lasting until 1921. As more and more applications of aviation were  discovered and used, the industry grew as did the number of  airports across the United States and around the world.  Though College Park, Maryland still  holds the distinction of being the first.  The saga continues at the airport and the adjacent College Park Aviation Museum which is worth the visit to see some of this history up close and personal. The book,  "Images of America - Fort Myer"  holds a treasure of over 200 "timeless photographs" that deliver the first 100 years of this US Army Post.  
Brave Rifles - 3d US Cavalry Distinguished Unit Insignia

3d US Cavalry Saber Drill on Fort Myer

Brave Rifles - 3d US Cavalry Distinguished Unit Insignia
3d US Cavalry

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 DRILL

For 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
Wright Flyer on Fort Myer Drill Field in 1909

The Return of the Wright Brothers

Wright Flyer on Fort Myer Drill Field in 1909

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.
Orville Wright and passenger on Fort Myer drill field

The Dawn of Military Aviation

Orville Wright and passenger on Fort Myer drill field
Orville Wright and passenger on Fort Myer drill field
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.