FORT MEADE HISTORY
Named for Civil War hero
Authorized by an Act of Congress in May 1917, Fort Meade was one of 16 cantonments built for troops drafted for World War 1. The present Maryland site was selected June 23, 1917 because of its close proximity to the railroad, Baltimore port and Washington, D.C. The cost for construction was $18 million and the land sold for $37 per acre in 1917. The post was originally named Camp Meade for Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade, whose victory at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 proved a major factor in turning the tide of the Civil War in favor of the North. The 5,400 acres of land on which Fort Meade sits was originally owned by Maj. Samuel Snowden, a Revolutionary War hero.
World War I
During World War I, more than 400,000 soldiers passed through Fort Meade, a training site for three infantry divisions, three training battalions and one depot brigade. The post remount station collected more than 22,000 horses and mules during this time. Maj. Peter F. Meade, a nephew of General Meade, was the officer in charge of the remount station. The “Hello Girls”—women who served as bilingual telephone-switchboard operators in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War I—were also an important part of Fort Meade history. In 1928, the post was designated Fort Leonard Wood, but Pennsylvania congressmen, angry at having the name of native son George Meade removed, held up Army appropriations until the Army agreed to name the new permanent installation Fort George G. Meade, which it did on March 5, 1929.
Tank Corps Joe
Around 1923, the famed tank-riding dog Old Joe befriended Soldiers who manned the 66th Infantry’s lighttanks. Joe became the 66th Infantry’s official pet by order of the commanding officer of Fort Meade and acquired fame by becoming the Army’s only tank-riding dog. Joe died in 1937 at the post hospital. The entire 66th Infantry honored Joe with a military formation and a procession of tanks. Military trucks escorted Joe to a grave near one of the tank parks.
World War II
Fort Meade became a training center during World War II, and its ranges and other facilities were used by more than 200 units and approximately 3.5 million Soldiers between 1942 and 1946. The wartime peak of military personnel at Fort Meade was 70,000 in March 1945.
Fort Meade was home to many services. The Cooks and Bakers School supplied bread for the entire post—approximately 20,000 people, including families. In 1942, the Third Service Command opened the Special Services Unit Training Center, where Soldiers were trained in all phases of the entertainment field. Entertainers, musicians and others involved in the entertainment industry, including swing-band leader Glenn Miller, served in Special Services.
Fort Meade was also home to a number of German and Italian prisoners of war. In September 1943, a group of 1,632 Italian and 58 German prisoners arrived at Fort Meade. Some of those prisoners died during captivity and were buried on the installation.
The Cold War
With the conclusion of World War II, Fort Meade reverted to peacetime activities. One key post-World War II event at Fort Meade was the transfer from Baltimore, on June 15, 1947, of the Second U.S. Army Headquarters. This transfer brought an acceleration of post activity because Second Army Headquarters exercised command over Army units throughout a seven-state area. A second important development occurred Jan. 1, 1966, when the Second U.S. Army merged with First U.S. Army. The consolidated headquarters moved from Fort Jay, N.Y., to Fort Meade to administer activities of Army installations in a 15-state area.
In August 1990, Fort Meade began processing Army Reserve and National Guard units from several states for the presidential call-up in support of Operation Desert Shield. In addition to processing Reserve and Guard units, Fort Meade sent two of its own active-duty units—the 85th Medical Battalion and the 519th Military Police Battalion—to Saudi Arabia. In all, approximately 2,700 personnel from 42 units deployed from Fort Meade during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.
More recently, as a result of the 2005 Base Realignment & Closure Act, three major activities have relocated to Fort Meade, the Defense Information System Agency, the co-location of Defense/Military Adjudication Activities and Defense Media Activity. Growth has also continued at Fort Meade with the standup of U.S. Cyber Command in 2010 and the expansion of the Defense Information School that will add an additional 100,000 square feet to the facility in 2015.