In 1917, Western Anne Arundel County was characterized by small farms that grew crops for Baltimore and Washington markets. Basically, it was just a sleepy corner of Maryland.
That changed dramatically as a result of Congress’ Declaration of War against the Central Powers in April 1917. A few days later, it passed the Selective Service Act of 1917, implementing a draft to gather the manpower needed to create a national army, and authorizing 16 cantonment areas at which these men would muster and units could form, train and equip for deployment.
As planners looked at central locations for these new cantonments, their eyes were drawn to the sparsely populated railroad junction at Admiral, Md., advantageously close to the Port of Baltimore, as well as the nation’s capital. With support from the governor, a decision quickly was made to place one of the 16 cantonments in the vicinity of Admiral.
In June, construction began on what was called “Camp Meade.” In a miracle of planning, hard work, innovation and determination, by October the camp was the second largest city in Maryland.
Nearly 100 years later, Fort George G. Meade continues to serve the nation and state. As the home of the U.S. CyberCommand, the Defense Information Systems Agency and the National Security Agency, the post stands at the epicenter of the battle for cyberspace, information and intelligence. As one of the state’s largest employers, the post is critical to the economic health of the region as well, spurring the development of a whole new industry around cybersecurity and cyberoperations.
To mark the centennial of Fort Meade, the Fort Meade Community Covenant Council has formed a committee to plan, prepare and execute an appropriate year-long observance of the post’s founding through a schedule of programs, activities and symposia that raise public awareness of the history and importance of the installation to the community, state and nation.
The committee has set three goals: first, to commemorate the centennial. Working with the installation staff, the committee will identify, fund and implement a project (or projects) that will serve as a fitting, proper, lasting and meaningful commemoration of this important milestone in the post’s history. It also wishes to recognize the sacrifice of the citizens, whose land formed the basis for the establishment of Camp Meade.
The committee’s second goal is to educate the community about Fort Meade’s role in the First World War. Working with historical associations and academia, it will develop and execute a series of historical symposia to examine various aspects of the founding of Camp Meade, America’s mobilization for World War I and Maryland’s response to mobilization. At the same time, the committee wants to work with local public schools to create opportunities for students to learn about World War I, especially as it impacted their community.
The committee’s final goal is simply to celebrate the creation and continued relevance of Fort Meade. It plans to stage a major community kickoff event for celebration of the centennial and leverage regularly scheduled events on the community and post calendars to celebrate various aspects of Fort Meade’s history.
As the committee prepares to accomplish these goals, it needs the community’s help — in helping to educate the public about World War I, abroad, nationally and in Maryland; and in celebrating the founding of a critical component of the state today.
If you are interested in assisting in the commemoration of Fort Meade’s centennial, contact Col. (Ret.) Ken McCreedy at [email protected].