How Fort Bragg, the largest military base in the United States today, came into being a century ago


While looking for a place to start a new artillery training camp in June 1918, Colonel Edward P. King stopped in a small North Carolina town called Fayetteville. He and his partner, a US Forest Service official, have stopped their search.

It is not really known why the two men chose the site to establish what was then known as Camp Bragg, but it quickly became an important part in the development of the US military. Today, Fort Bragg is the largest military installation in the United States.

Back in the days when King was walking around looking for a little piece of the United States to detonate with artillery trainees, the United States was more of a third-rate military power. The entry of the United States into World War I began to change that.

In 1917, the United States began a military surge that changed the fortunes of the Triple Entente powers during the Great War that raged across Europe. In 1918, the American Doughboys were being led “out there” by the thousands. The US military, which needed a place to train them, began building new camps across the country.

In North Carolina alone, three camps have been established, Camp Bragg, Camp Greene and Camp Polk. The only requirements water supplies, good soil, rail transport and weather conditions were needed which could facilitate a year round training cycle.

The Army Field Artillery Commander, General William J. Snow, dispatched King to find a location that met those requirements, and he didn’t care what condition he was in. In an age with no freeways, few reliable roads, let alone maps, King and geologist T. Wayland Vaughan headed south to Washington with a compass.

After stopping for a Coke on the fourth day of their trip, the two began looking for a place to rest for a night. A trader directed them to the town of Fayetteville. It was a place King had never even heard of.

The neighboring land was a “desolate” area, filled with pine forests and occupied by just over 1,700 Scottish immigrants. On September 4, 1918, the camp was established. Its founders named it in honor of General Braxton Bragg, a native of North Carolina, for his distinguished service in the United States’ war with Mexico, overlooking his Civil War service in Confederacy.

By the time the camp was operational in 1919, World War I was over, but the military, having spent over $ 105 million today to build it, kept it open. He moved long-range artillery test resources from Alabama to his new home in North Carolina.

Even though the army began to reduce its size considerably, Camp Bragg was only reduced by a third. It became the home of the North Carolina National Guard training center and began leading detachments of airplanes and balloons to facilitate artillery training. Pope Field was established inside Camp Bragg to accommodate the new air units.

On September 30, 1922, Camp Bragg became Fort Bragg, a permanent military installation. With its new status, it began to develop rapidly, building the permanent facilities of any permanent base at the time: brick barracks, officer and enlisted quarters, cobbled streets and sidewalks, among others.

By the time World War II broke out, Fort Bragg was an essential training center for newly enlisted and drafted recruits ready to return to war in Europe. After the war, Fort Bragg became the permanent residence of the 82nd Airborne Division, and in 1951 the XVIII Airborne Corps was reactivated and placed there.

41st Engineer Regiment on the parade ground at Fort Bragg in March 1942. (Library of Congress)

This is how Fort Bragg became the “home of the airborne”.

The base later became the headquarters of the Psychological Warfare Center (now US Army Special Operations Command) and US Army Special Forces. Today, the fort is known as “the home of airborne and special operations” and is home to 57,000 military personnel, 11,000 civilians and 23,000 dependents.

Fort Bragg is not only the largest military installation in the country; it is one of the most important in the world.

– Blake Stilwell can be reached at [email protected] It can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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