|History of Fort McClellan 1917-1999|
|Fort McClellan has a proud and fascinating history which dates back to the Spanish-American War. The seeds of military life were fostered during the first World War and raised to maturity during World War II.
The Choccolocco foothills, part of the Appalachian Mountain chain, surrounds the post. A spur ridge of the Choccolocco foothills crosses the main post from north to south. The ridge first attracted military interest during the Spanish-American War, when the mountains were discovered to form an excellent background for artillery firing.
The War Department formally established Camp McClellan on July 18, 1917. The camp was named in honor of Major General George B. McClellan, General-in-Chief of the U.S. Army from 1861 to 1862. McClellan was also the Governor of New Jersey from 1878-1881. Although it is unusual for a Southern fort to be named for a Northern general, there are strong indications that McClellan's name was a logical choice. Camp McClellan was a mobilization camp used to quickly train men for WWII. General McClellan is credited with the quick training and mobilization of the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War. Most of the first soldiers arriving at the camp were from the North. In fact, the first group to train at Camp McClellan were from McClellan's home state of New Jersey.
The newly activated 29th National Guard Division from the Mid-Atlantic states, commanded by Major General Charles G. Morton, arrived in August 1917. Two months later there were more than 27,000 men training at the camp. The 29th went to France in June 1918 and suffered almost 6,000 casualties in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. Morton Road, near Baker Gate, is named in honor of MG Morton.
Camp McClellan was redesignated Fort McClellan, a permanent post, on July 1, 1929. New construction began immediately and the post grew rapidly. The 27th Division arrived from New York during October 1940. One of the first units to depart for combat in WWII, the 27th had orders to report overseas 12 days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The Division fought in the Marshall and Gilbert islands, Saipan, Guam and the Philippines, and was later on occupational duty in Japan. A reunion took place here in the summer of 1980, bringing many old soldiers back to where they first smelled gun powder and heard taps.
A 3,000 capacity Prison Internment Camp for prisoners of war was built during 1943 when Fort McClellan became the temporary home for many captured enemy soldiers. Their artistry talents are preserved in Remington Hall, formerly the Fort McClellan Officers Club. While held here, many POWs painted murals on the walls of Remington Hall, depicting memories of their homeland. A memorial cemetery located near the western corner of the post is the final resting place for 26 German and 3 Italian prisoners of war who died during captivity.
Nearly 500,000 men were trained at Fort McClellan during WWII, including a company of Japanese-Americans who helped familiarize American troops with methods used by Japanese soldiers. Many individuals and units trained here received the highest military honors and decorations during the war.
During 1943, the Branch Immaterial Replacement Training Center at Fort McClellan was replaced by the Infantry Replacement Training Center, which trained recruits in basic soldiering skills. When the war ended, the center trained soldiers for occupation duty until November 1946, when the fort became a recruit training center. The Recruit Training Center was inactivated and the number of soldiers on post dwindled rapidly after the war. The installation was placed on inactive status on June 30, 1947. Only a small maintenance crew remained on the post. Plans were made during 1950 to again use the area for National Guard training. The replacement training center for the Chemical Corps was activated during 1951, with Fort McClellan as its permanent home. In 1962, the name of the activity was changed from the Chemical Corps School to the U.S. Army Chemical Center and School, until it was disestablished in 1973. The Women's Army Corps School was founded at Fort McClellan on September 25, 1952. Approximately two years later, official ceremonies were conducted to establish the post as the first permanent home of the U.S. Women's Army Corps Center. Fort McClellan remained its home until the Corps was disestablished and its flag retired in 1977. Participating in the final ceremony was Major General Mary E. Clarke, the last director of the Women's Army Corps and destined to later become the Commanding General of Fort McClellan, the first female officer ever to command a major Army installation. Another activity, the U.S. Army Combat Developments Command Chemical Biological-Radiological Agency, moved to Fort McClellan in 1962. It was later disestablished along with the Chemical School in 1973. To meet the requirement for the Vietnam War, an Advanced Individual Training Infantry Brigade was activated in 1966. With the mission change, the fort was renamed the U.S. Army School/Training Center and Fort McClellan. Due to continued force reductions in Vietnam, the brigade was deactivated in April 1970, after training more than 30,000 men. Official ceremonies were held July 11, 1975, marking the move of the U.S. Army Military Police School from Fort Gordon, Georgia. A major reorganization of the post began in the fall of 1976 and was completed on May 13, 1977, when the colors of the Women's Army Corps Center and School were retired during ceremonies on Marshall Parade Field. After reestablishment in December, 1979, the U.S. Army Chemical School relocated here from Aberdeen, Maryland, and joined the Military Police School and the Training Brigade to make Fort McClellan the only military installation in the United States with three major missions. Fort McClellan has been 'home' for an average military population of about 10,000 people, including about 5,000 who are permanently assigned and employed about 1,500 civilians. In 1995 the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission voted to permanently close Fort McClellan. The official closing ceremony ending Fort McClellan's illustrious past was held on 20 May, 1999. At the time of closure, Fort McClellan was home to the U.S. Army Chemical School, the U.S. Army Military Police School, the Training Brigade, and the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute. The Chemical School, Military Police School, and the Training Brigade relocated to Fort Leonardwood, Missouri, integrating with their Engineer School to form the U.S. Army Maneuver Support Center (MANSCEN). The DoD Polygraph Institute relocated to Fort Jackson, South Carolina. The history of Fort McClellan extends beyond this military presence. Prior to the Army's arrival, farmers and tenants, shopkeepers and manufacturers shaped the landscape on this stretch of the north Alabama hillside. Their legacy is still present on the post and witnessed by historic cemeteries, old home sites, the remains of iron furnaces, and other tangible pieces of the past.
Major General George B. McClellan
While Anniston's candidacy for a military installation predates 1917, the events of that year compelled the construction of a National Guard Camp. Charles L. Dulin was the Constructing Quartermaster placed in charge of Camp McClellan. Dulin arrived in June of 1917 under orders to build a machine gun camp to accommodate six machine gun companies. In July, his orders changed. A telegram from the Officer in Charge of Cantonment Construction informed Dulin that Anniston had been selected as a National Guard Camp. Dulin immediately informed the Anniston Chamber of Commerce that the government wanted immediate ownership of a large portion of land, changing the original purchase agreement which had allowed the many farmers to cultivate their land throughout the year. Lost crops were valued at $136,000. This debt would not be cleared until 1934 through diligent efforts by the community.
After survey, Dulin chose the site for the new camp. Three major roads traversed the camp site. Leaving Anniston, Rocky Hollow Road crossed Blue Mountain and intersected with Bain Gap Road in the center of the camp. Bain Gap ran eastward over the Choccolocco Mountains. An unidentified road leading to Jacksonville, later to become State Highway 21, crossed the northwestern sector of the site. Cane Creek and its tributaries, Cave and Carrot Creeks, coursed through the site, flowing in a south, east and southeasterly direction. Land use was mostly agricultural, and no small villages or towns were displaced by the new camp.
|The 29th Infantry Division was the first unit to be trained at Camp McClellan. This division was comprised of troops from New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and District of Columbia. The first troops arrived in late August, 1917, and they and their commander, Major-General Charles G. Morton received a formal welcome to Anniston. Community relations were forged with the election of a special town representative, W. P. Acker, assigned to deal with the military.
By November, all officers and enlisted men of the division, totaling over 27,000 individuals, had arrived. Draftees arrived later. In Morton's own words, it took "a generous stretch of the imagination to see in this beginning the magnificent fighting unit which was to later form". The history of the 29th Division indicates that the training at the camp was hard. A network of trenches, dugouts, and command posts had been built to further the soldier's training. Stories indicate that fire call and temporary moves from one place in the camp to another to prepare the troops for what might be ahead in Europe were legion, usually occurring at night. The 29th Division remained at Camp McClellan until June 1918, when orders arrived sending the troops to France. The troops took heavy casualties in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, returning stateside in May of 1919. It was deactivated later that month.
Other troops were also trained at the camp during World War I. In October of 1917, 190 officers and men from the 1st Separate Negro Company of Maryland arrived at the camp from Pittsburgh. At the outset, the 1st Separate Negro Company was assigned to the Horsed Section of the Ammunition Train, and then later transferred to the Auxiliary Remount Depot near Anniston. Later they were sent to Camp Stuart in Newport News, Virginia, to become a part of the 372nd Infantry. In addition to this group, the 6th Division, 157th Depot Brigade, 11th and 12th Training Battalions, and the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Development Regiments were all trained at Camp McClellan during World War I.
By February, 1919, 1,534 buildings had been constructed at Camp McClellan. The base hospital alone included 118 buildings. Mess halls dominated as a building type, with showers without heaters and latrines following in that order. Latrines were the most impermanent of the early structures. By 1919, 374 latrines had been replaced with "lavatories". "Kitchen incinerators" were also quickly replaced with more efficient technology.
The year of 1920 witnessed strong debate within the federal government as to the propriety of some of the decisions made as to how military construction should be conducted and under which department's direction. The Corps of Engineers, the Construction Division of the Army, and the Quartermasters Corps were all viable candidates. In June 1920, the Quartermaster Corps was chosen as the most proper supervisory authority. The authors of the history of the Corps of Engineers called the 1920s "the lean years". The future of the military posts of World War I rested in the hands of Secretary of War John W. Weeks. Weeks placed nine of the World War I camps, including Camp McClellan, on caretaker status. The stringency of the cutbacks was appropriate to the mood of the twenties. The war was over, and with it, the need for a standing army. Camp McClellan, like many other military post, fell into disrepair.
|Military Community and World War II Fort|
|The mid-twenties ushered in a changed attitude toward military post construction and upkeep. Major General B. Frank Cheathem, the Quartermaster General, defined military post development under the new Housing Program of the Army. In his words, the new posts would be a "deviation from the set type of military post." His approach was to assemble a group of noted architects to develop plans for the permanent buildings for military installations. These men were able to produce designs that could be cast in the regional styles appropriate to the venue in which they were to be built. Thus the Georgian and Federal styles were considered appropriate for installations on the Atlantic seaboard. French Provincial for Louisiana posts, and Spanish mission for the Southeast and Southwest.
Fort McClellan, no longer Camp McClellan by authority of a 1929 War Department Order, was part of the new wave in military post development. The site was now considered a permanent installation. General Charles P. Summerall, head of the Citadel in Charleston and Chief of Staff of the Army between 1926-1930, officiated at the ceremonies. Summerall had a special rapport with the camp, having negotiated its purchase in 1917. The order spelled out that Fort McClellan would be a Regular Army post for one regiment of Infantry (1,500 officers and enlisted men) and would also have a standard layout for a summer camp with a capacity for 6,400 civilian trainees.
Fort McClellan entered into the post improvement program in 1929, two years behind it's regional counterparts, partly due to its delayed selection as a permanent post. The experience gained from the improvement projects at the other regional forts benefited Fort McClellan's overall layout. Although General Summerall was not post commander, he had a previous relationship with the camp and was in a position to comment on the chosen design. Hence he was a leading force in the plan for the improvements made to the fort in the 1930s.
Fort McClellan Headquarters BuildingWhile initial permanent construction focused on housing, the projects undertaken during the 1930s ran the gamut from quarters to a coal trestle. Specifically, the building projects included both officers' and non-commissioned officers quarters, and enlisted men's barracks, a fire station and guard house, a truck park, and a repair shop. In 1936 and 1937, the assembly hall auditorium (Hutchinson Hall or Post Theater No. 1), the main post exchange, the officers' club (now called Remington Hall), Silver Chapel, stables, wagon sheds, the regimental garage and vehicle shop, a bakery, three additional warehouses, the Quartermaster utility shop and office buildings, ordinance magazines, a railroad spur, coal trestle and yard, the gasoline storage system, a sewage disposal plant, a concrete reservoir and booster station, new primary and secondary roads, street lighting, a perimeter fence, a target range, and other public utilities. An estimated $1,370,000 dollars was expended for new construction during that two year period. An additional $425,000 was spent on street improvements, additional buildings, the construction of Reilly Field, a golf course and landscaping in 1938.
"The Gazebo"The finished construction gave Fort McClellan one of the most beautiful headquarters and officers housing areas within the Department of Army organization. A tree-lined horseshoe drive (Buckner Circle) was adorned with numerous officer housing units overlooking a large parade field. The post headquarters building was place on one end of the horseshoe. At the other end the officer's club (Remington Hall) was placed. A view from Remington Hall framed the Headquarters Building with the 'trademark' gazebo which sits in the middle of the headquarters parade grounds.
The 1940s witnessed a second boom period for Fort McClellan directly related to world affairs as Japan expanded, France fell to Germany, and Great Britain became increasingly vulnerable to attack. Delays in beginning mobilization ended as Roosevelt began taking steps to prepare for war. An outlay of $175 million was allocated for the construction of coastal defense works, updating arsenals, expanding existing military installations, and creating new posts. The Selective Service Bill of 1940 was passed on the condition that the draft would commence once proper arrangements for housing, sanitation, and medical care were made for the draftees. Thus the need to house men, particularly draftees, was foremost.
Fort McClellan, with functional areas already in place, need minimal construction to become ready for training new soldiers. A "Civilian Village" was added between 1937 and 1946, and this residential zone was laid out similar to the post command area. A traffic circle was added near the firehouse, joining "Middle Gate Road" (now Baltzell), 15th Street, 20th Street, "South Gate Road", and Post Headquarters Road. Both permanent and temporary construction took place at Fort McClellan in the 40s to accommodate the 27th Division . This phase of construction was accomplished with $6.5 million in federal funding. This generation of buildings was constructed during the tenure of Commanding Officer Colonel John L. Jenkins. Overall, the improvements included 47 miles of paved roads, 27 miles of unpaved roads, 27 warehouses, 12 shops and a small foundry, school buildings, a cold storage facility able to meet the needs of 40,000 individuals, sewage facilities for 50,000, a general hospital, new cantonments, three dormitories for civilian workers, four swimming pools, two libraries, service clubs, guest houses, 200 dayrooms, three bowling alleys, five theaters, and an amphitheater with a 12,000-person seating capacity.
As the 27th Division began to settle into the local environment, they and the City of Anniston began a close and harmonious relationship. Articles published in the Anniston Star in 1941, for example, herald the return of the 27th from maneuvers and announce a public dance in their honor on Main Street, exclaiming happily "A Yankee army will invade Anniston tonight." Not to be outshone, the Anniston Chamber of Commerce sent individual invitations to Anniston women; cars were hired to ferry women from Birmingham-Southern College and Jacksonville State Teacher's College to the gala (Anniston Star, October 8, 1941).
This harmonious relationship was interrupted after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The 27th Division was ordered to an 'unknown destination' on December 19, 1941. They arrived in Hawaii on May 21, 1942. The 27th fought in the Pacific theater of war until 1945, and participated in the occupation of Japan.
After the 27th Division left, Fort McClellan had the distinction of acting as the headquarters for the 92nd Division, the Army's second African-American division, activated on October, 1942. At least 6,500 men from the 92nd were trained at Fort McClellan. The 92nd was deactivated in 1945.
Other groups housed at Fort McClellan included the station complement which tripled in number during World War II. In addition, the post complement included two detachments of Women's Army Corps (WAC). The women in these detachments acted in administrative and clerical roles at the Post Headquarters, handled the post motor pool, and worked in the bakeries, service clubs, mess and supply. Women in the corps were afforded housing considered "separate but better" than that given to male soldiers. The essential WAC barrack was known as the converted Theater of War barrack. The early housing for the WACs was replaced in 1955 as Fort McClellan became the center for all WAC training and the first permanent home of the WAC since the group's organization in 1942.
Thirty POW camps were built in 1942 to house the onslaught of captured enemy soldiers. McClellan's POW camp was completed in 1943. By mid-1944, German POWs had become a significant part of the labor pool at Fort McClellan. In their off hours and in jobs assigned to them on post, POWs created a substantial legacy at Fort McClellan in masonry and art as well as more invisible improvements. Two hundred prisoners were detailed daily for excavation, drainage, and clearing operations on the main post; 170 were involved with food preparation; and others worked on vehicles on post. POW labor is responsible for numerous examples of stonework on Fort McClellan, including stone walls, chimneys, a patio built behind the old Recreation Center, drainage ditches, and landscaping. The carved bar at the Officer's Club (Remington Hall) and the exceptional murals which dress the club's wall are also credited to POWs. The camp at Fort McClellan not only acted as the processing center for all prisoners interned in the Alabama camps, but was the last camp to be deactivated on April 10, 1946.
|Fort McClellan--Post World War II|
|With the cessation of war with Japan, the number of trainees at Fort McClellan diminished and a corresponding reduction took place within the post complement. The WAC detachments were deactivated in 1945 and early 1946. The lean years following World War I were repeated after the Second World War as well, when a $2 billion budget cut was applied to Army appropriations. In response to the cuts, Fort McClellan was placed on inactive status and remained so despite immense pressure Alabama politicians tried to apply to Washington. Alabama's Congressional delegation even went so far as to invite Dwight D. Eisenhower, then Chief of Staff of the Army, to review the situation. On his visit, Eisenhower would admit that McClellan was a "jewel among Army installations," but he firmly supported the cut, noting that "sometimes a jewel must go when bread and meat are necessary".
The picture changed in 1950, as Fort McClellan was restored to active status under leadership of Brigadier General Theodore R. Wessels. The initial idea was to use the fort for National Guard training once again; to that end, the 44th Engineer Construction Battalion was ordered to McClellan to begin preparations. With the onset of the war in Korea, the 44th was ordered to the Far East Command before completing the mission at Fort McClellan. General Wessels remained dedicated to Fort McClellan. With $10 million in funding, he tackled the refurbishment with enthusiasm, restoring the parade grounds, ranges and lawns, thereby earning him the name "Father of the New Fort McClellan."
While political persuasion was useless in 1947, the situation was reversed in 1951, when the Army reactivated the fort to operate the Chemical Corps School, later the U.S. Army Chemical Center and School. Funding was appropriated to build new facilities for the school and construction was completed in 1954. The new Center offered eight weeks of basic training, followed by a similar stretch devoted to chemical training involving the operation of smoke grenades, flame throwers, decontamination procedures, and chemical warfare protection.
Fort McClellan's hospital was also refurbished to focus on the care of chest diseases, becoming known as the Specialized Treatment Center of the Third Army Area. The health facility functioned until 1955, when it was closed and the patients transferred. Another newcomer, the Women's Army Corps Center, was established in 1954. The WAC center acted as a receiving, processing and training center for all female inductees to the Army. Civilian summer training was also practiced at the fort in the early 1950s.
Another activity, the U.S. Army Combat Developments Command Chemical Biological-Radiological Agency, moved to Fort McClellan in 1962. It was later disestablished along with the Chemical School in 1973. To meet the requirement for the Vietnam War, an Advanced Individual Training Infantry Brigade was activated in 1966. With the mission change, the fort was renamed the U.S. Army School/Training Center and Fort McClellan. Due to continued force reductions in Vietnam, the brigade was deactivated in April 1970, after training more than 30,000 men.
Official ceremonies were held July 11, 1975, marking the move of the U.S. Army Military Police School from Fort Gordon, Georgia. A major reorganization of the post began in the fall of 1976 and was completed on May 13, 1977, when the colors of the Women's Army Corps Center and School were retired during ceremonies on Marshall Parade Field.
After reestablishment in December, 1979, the U.S. Army Chemical School relocated here from Aberdeen, Maryland, and joined the Military Police School and the Training Brigade to make Fort McClellan the only military installation in the United States with three major missions. Fort McClellan became 'home' for an average military population of about 10,000 people, including about 5,000 who are permanently assigned and employed about 1,500 civilians.
|The End of an Illustrious Career|
|Fort McClellan thrived during the 1970's and 1980's as a major training facility for military and civilians. The Department of Defense's (DoD) decision to consolidate training for all branches of the service brought U.S. Army, Navy, Marine, and Air Force chemical officers and non-commissioned officers, Military Police, civilian law officers, and various Government agencies to the post for training. The addition of the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute resulted in Fort McClellan evolving into an important hub for all aspects of Law Enforcement/Criminology training. The U.S. Army Chemical School continued to make important advances in chemical warfare, camouflage tactics, chemical detection, decontamination, and protection.
Fort McClellan became home to the Chemical Decontamination Training Facility (CDTF), where chemical soldiers worked with live nerve agents under controlled conditions. This facility, being the only one of it's kind in the free world, provided confidence training to chemical soldiers in proper chemical decontamination techniques. The quality and depth of training provided by the Chemical School proved to be a formidable deterrent to the use of chemical warfare by Saddam Hussein and his forces during Operation Desert Storm. The CDTF operated for almost a decade, training thousands of U. S. soldiers, and hundreds of chemical soldiers from various allied countries, with a flawless safety record.
The 1980s ushered in a 'new era' for the Department of Defense and America's war machine. Shrinking defense budgets and escalating costs for weapons and machinery forced the Defense Department to make some harsh decisions concerning the future of the U. S. Army. The Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) was formed for the purpose of evaluating U. S. military installations worldwide. Their task was to determine how to shrink the military and DoD civilian population, close and/or realign unnecessary and redundant bases, while maintaining the current quality of military readiness required for the defense of the United States.
The first round of BRAC recommendations were released in 1989. Fort McClellan was placed on the list of military bases to be closed. Due to Congressional objections, the BRAC recommendations were not acted upon. It was agreed to delay any BRAC actions until 1991, which saw Fort McClellan again on the BRAC closure list. Fort McClellan's presence on the BRAC list created intense debate for and against closure. Our country still had vivid memories of the chemical warfare threat presented in Operation Desert Storm, and many experts spoke out against the move of Fort McClellan's Chemical School to a new location. Many agreed that the disruption of the Chemical School's training mission to prepare for a major move would set back chemical training for 5 to 10 years. Other experts argued that the move could be carried out smoothly and a transition to a new location would cause no disruption in training and military readiness. Another point of contention was the Chemical Decontamination Training Facility's unique mission. Local community leaders argued that the economic impact of closure of one of the areas larger employers would devastate the local economy. When the final vote was taken, Fort McClellan survived.
A new round of BRAC came in 1993. Once again, Fort McClellan was placed on the closure list. But many of the arguments from the 1991 BRAC resurfaced in debates during the 1993 sessions. Again, Fort McClellan survived. 1995 saw Fort McClellan again on the list for closure. Many of the same arguments from the 91 and 93 debates were brought into the discussions of the 1995 sessions. The Department of Army's Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) had a well conceived plan for the consolidation of Fort McClellan's missions into Fort Leonard Wood's existing training. TRADOC presented the concept of a Maneuver Support Center, integrating the Chemical School, Military Police School and Fort Leonard Wood's Engineer School, all with closely related missions, which would enhance DoD's vision for moving into the 21st century. After much deliberation and debate for and against closure, the BRAC commission voted to close Fort McClellan. The vote was not unanimous and one commission member went as far as to lodge an official protest, calling for further consideration of the closure. It was evident that Fort McClellan's importance was a matter which should not be taken lightly by the BRAC Commission, the Department of Defense, or the nation as a whole.
The vote for closure stood, and the Fort McClellan military and civilian population prepared for closure in 1999. Fort McClellan began the arduous task of packing up and moving a major Army installation. The official closing ceremony was held on May 20, 1999. As closure neared, civilian employees were forced to seek employment elsewhere. This task was made easier through the many programs in place to aid displaced employees find new employment. The military population was moved to other installations to continue their dedicated service to the nation.
At the official closing ceremony, Major General Ralph G. Wooten, Commanding General and Chemical School Commandant, conveyed a heartfelt thanks from the Department of the Army to Fort McClellan and the surrounding communities for more than 81 years of dedicated service to our nation's defense. General Wooten's tribute to the dedication and quality of service and training conducted by the thousands of military and civilians throughout the years at Fort McClellan will forever echo throughout the hills of northeast Alabama.
His words rang sad but true; the long illustrious career of a battle-hardened warrior had reached its end.
"For more than 81 years, Fort McClellan set the standard of excellence in training America's sons and daughters to defend freedom in two world wars and a myriad of conflicts and operations. In the last generation, we were singularly responsible for providing our Army with the world's finest military police and chemical soldiers. Our pride is justified by our spectacular success!" (Major General Ralph G. Wooten, 20 May, 1999, Fort McClellan Closing Ceremony)
|Commanders of Fort McClellan|
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