First, do you know who this dashing, yet serious, gentleman to the right is?
Yes, you’ve recognized him — that’s then-Maj. Dwight Eisenhower. Where was he when this photo was taken? At Fort George G. Meade, then called Camp Meade, where he was posted and living at the time. Having graduated West Point in 1915, he first arrived at Camp Meade in November 1918 to organize the 1st Battalion, Heavy Tank Service, of the 65th Engineer Regiment.
This particular photo was taken between 1920 and 1922, when Eisenhower was second-in-command of the 305th Tank Brigade. His long friendship with Maj. George S. Patton, commander of the 304th Tank Brigade, stems from that period, when Patton also served at Camp Meade.
And the sweater? Eisenhower contributed to Camp Meade life by also serving as football coach to the Tank Corps football team.
The glamorous Hollywood star? Pictured to the immediate right at Fort Meade is …
Yes, it’s Marlene Dietrich. During World War II, the Third Service Command opened a Special Services Unit Training Center at Fort Meade in 1942 to train soldiers 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, and many Hollywood entertainers, including Dietrich, visited the post.
The famous singer made two overseas USO tours (in 1944 and 1945) and later received the Medal of Freedom. During her first tour to North Africa and Italy, she became the first entertainer to reach rescued soldiers at Anzio. During her second tour, lasting 11 months, she entertained troops near the front in France and Germany. In a note to a friend, Dietrich remarked about being cold; in fact, she developed frostbite that winter.
The third photo is of the “Hello Girls,” the Army’s first female combat unit.
They were recruited to fill a call from General John Pershing for bilingual operators to run switchboards at the American Expeditionary Forces headquarters, in France. The recruits came to Camp Franklin, adjacent to Camp Meade, for military training and radio and switchboard operator school in 1917.
The training must have moved quickly, as many of the Hello Girls had been recruited from the American Telephone & Telegraph Co. Upon graduating, they used their own funds to purchase uniforms, were issued dog tags and gas masks, and stood ready to serve.
In March 1918, the first contingent of the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit arrived in France. The women served in numerous locations throughout the war, including First U.S. Army headquarters — just behind the front lines. During the St. Mihiel Offensive in September 1918, a small group of six “Hello Girls” worked in trenches, under artillery fire, for eight days around the clock, handling communications on eight lines.
Do you want to learn more about the history of Fort Meade and the many who have served there and passed through its gates? And the strategic purpose of its current mission? Join the team working with garrison staff at Fort Meade to plan a year-long celebration of the installation’s Century of Excellence.
The Community Covenant Council’s Centennial Planning group would welcome volunteers to join in planning for Meade’s 100th anniversary in 2017. For more information, contact Linda Greene at [email protected].