Military installations all have a distinct history of service to nation. Fort Meade is no exception.
Originally called Camp Meade, the base was authorized by an Act of Congress in May 1917 as one of 16 cantonments built for troops drafted for World War 1. Camp Meade was named in honor of 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 present Maryland site was selected June 23, 1917, because of its proximity to three railroads, Baltimore’s ports and Washington, D.C. More than 15,000 men were involved in the construction of 1,200 wooden buildings that accommodated the more than 400,000 men who deployed through the camp during the course of the war, en route to France. In addition to processing troops, Camp Meade included a remount station, which held 12,000 horses, mules and a blacksmith school.
The people who have, and are, serving at the post have carved a deep-seated place in the military and community history for Maryland and the United States. This year provides an opportunity to remember and recognize the significant contributions to the United States military that have come from the personal and professional endeavors of people who lived, worked and played at what is now known as Fort Meade.
This article looks back and captures again the beginnings and progress of the post. This look back also affords the opportunity to look to the future of what has become known as the “Nation’s Center for Information, Intelligence and Cyber Operations.”
Camp Meade 1917
On April 6, 1917, the United States formally declared war on Germany and entered World War I.
On battlefields where a million men — on each side — had grappled with each other for three bloody years, the United States Army consisted of 133,000 men. The immediate problem was to access the needed number of men, form fighting units, train and equip them, and then deploy them across the Atlantic Ocean to the battlefields of France.
Congress turned to a draft as the most efficient mechanism for mobilization. An ambitious plan was formed to create eight National Guard divisions and eight National Army divisions, composed solely of draftees.
In order to train these units, the Army had to quickly identify cantonment areas. A delegation led by Maryland Rep. Charles Linthicum lobbied the War Department to build one of the cantonment areas at a rural site in western Anne Arundel County, centrally located between Baltimore and Washington and blessed with railheads for three railroads to bring troops and supplies. The area, known as Annapolis Junction, was composed of small truck farms raising fruits and vegetables for markets in the city.
• On June 14, the secretary of war announced that Maryland had won its bid for the camp at the Annapolis Junction site. There, selectees from Pennsylvania, Maryland and the District of Columbia would organize into a National Army Division and train to go to the battlefields of France.
• By June 19, leases were secured on 7,000 acres of land (the current post, for reference, encompasses 5,500 acres).
• On June 24, the Army awarded a contract to a New York City firm, and construction began on the Annapolis Junction site on July 2.
• On July 18, the War Department announced that the Maryland camp would be named for the hero of Gettysburg, Philadelphian George G. Meade.
• By Aug. 1, more than 5,500 full-time construction workers were engaged in building Camp Meade.
• On Sept. 15, the initial construction phase was deemed complete and the cantonment was ready to receive troops. The first of 40,000 men began pouring into the camp on Sept. 20 to form the 79th Division.
It had taken 10 weeks, at a cost of $16 million, to go from orchards to a military installation capable of housing, supporting and training a division. By the end of November, when construction was declared to be complete, Camp Meade was the second largest city in Maryland.
In total, 450 million linear feet of lumber had been used to build 1,200 barracks, headquarters, warehouses and hospital facilities. In addition, 52 miles of wooden sewer pipe were laid and 50 miles of wooden water pipes distributed 3 million gallons of water daily to the troops.
From its significant contributions to victory in World War I through Fort Meade units’ engagements during succeeding conflicts — such as World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the War on Terrorism, the Gulf Wars and others, as well as being the home of cavalry units, America’s Tank Corp and more recently becoming the Nation’s Center for Information, Intelligence and Cyber Operations — Fort Meade has demonstrated the resilience and readiness to serve as an able platform for America’s defense.
Fort Meade 2017
Fort Meade’s current primary mission is to provide a variety of services, including the required infrastructure to ensure a safe and secure environment to more than 119 partner organizations from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, as well as numerous federal agencies, including U.S. CyberCommand, the National Security Agency, Environmental Protection Agency, Defense Media Activity, Defense Information Systems Agency and the Defense Courier Service.
The installation lies approximately five miles east of Interstate 95 and one-half mile east of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, between Maryland state Routes 175 and 32, and adjacent to Route 198, and near the communities of Odenton, Laurel, Columbia and Jessup. It is home to more than 56,000 military and civilian employees.
In addition, more than 11,000 service members and their family members reside on post. Fort Meade is Maryland’s largest employer and has the third largest workforce of any Army installation in the U.S.
There are a series of events scheduled to remember and celebrate Fort Meade’s 100 years of service. The 100th Year Gala, scheduled for the evening of June 17 on post at Club Meade, will give proper recognition to the installation’s past, honor its present and demonstrate readiness for future service to the nation.
This article was provided by the Fort Meade Public Affairs Office. Portions of its content are taken from an opinion column written by Ret. Col. Kenneth McCreedy, senior director, division of cyber and aerospace, Maryland Department of Commerce, for the Fort Meade SoundOff! newspaper.