Provided courtesy of Sandhillsnc.com
In 1918, Congress established Camp Bragg, an Army field artillery site named for the Confederate General Braxton Bragg, and Fort Bragg history began. An aviation landing field named after 1st Lt. Harley H. Pope, whose JN-4 Jenny crashed in the Cape Fear River, was added a year later. After five years, Camp Bragg became a permanent Army post renamed Fort Bragg. Today, Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base comprise one of the world’s largest military installations.
“Camp Bragg” was established in 1918 when the Army needed to expand its field artillery training facilities in preparation for World War I. They chose this location because it met the major criteria: a climate suitable for year-round training, close proximity to a port and rail transportation, large usable tracts of land and many bodies of water. The post came into existence in 1918, when 127,000 acres of desolate sand, hills and pine trees were designated as a U.S. Army installation. Although it was named for Confederate General Braxton Bragg, Camp Bragg became Fort Bragg, after Congress decided all artillery sites east of the Mississippi River should become permanent posts. The camp was re-designated as Fort Bragg, Sept. 30, 1922.
Fort Bragg history in regards to “airborne” tradition was launched in 1934 with the first military parachute jump, which used artillery observation balloons as platforms. However, it wasn’t until two decades later that the post became an airborne training site.
The fort grew slowly, reaching a total of 5,400 soldiers by the summer of 1940. With the threat of World War II and passage of the Selective Service Act, a reception station was built here and Fort Bragg exploded to a population of 67,000 soldiers within a year.
The XVIII Airborne Corps, with Headquarters at Fort Bragg, was originally activated as the II Armored Corps at Camp Polk, Louisiana, January 17, 1942. It was designated XVIII Corps October 9, 1943, at the Presidio of Monterey, California. In 1942, the first airborne units trained here in preparation for combat. The Corps celebrates it’s birthday August 25, 1944, when the blue airborne tab was added at Orbourne, St. George, England. On this same day, the XVIII Airborne Corps assumed command of the 82d and 101st Airborne Divisions. Within a month, Major General Matthew B. Ridgway, the first Corps Commander, sent his men into action in Operation Market Garden, the allied invasion of the Netherlands during World War II.
All five World War II airborne divisions the 82nd, 101st, 11th, 13th and 17th, trained in the Fort Bragg-Camp Mackall area. The 82nd Airborne Division was assigned here in 1946, upon its return from Europe. In 1951, XVIII Airborne Corps was reactivated here and Fort Bragg became widely known as the “home of the airborne.”
The Psychological Warfare Center (now U.S. Army Special Operations Command) was established here in 1952 and Fort Bragg became headquarters for Special Forces soldiers.
More than 200,000 young men underwent basic combat training here during1966-70. At the peak of the Vietnam War in 1968, Fort Bragg’s military population rose to 57,840. July 1, 1973, Fort Bragg came under the U.S. Army Forces Command headquartered at Fort McPherson, Georgia.
Today the XVIII Airborne Corps – the Army’s largest war fighting organization – is the only airborne corps in the defense establishment of the United States and exercises control over approximately 88,000 thousand soldiers assigned to the 3d Infantry Division (Mechanized), Fort Stewart, Georgia; 10th Mountain (Light), Fort Drum, New York, 82d Airborne Division, Fort Bragg; 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Kentucky; XVIII Airborne Corps Artillery; 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Polk, Louisiana; 108th Air Defense Artillery, Fort Bliss, Texas; 18th Aviation Brigade; 229th Aviation Regiment; 20th Engineer Brigade; 525th Military Intelligence Brigade; 16th Military Police Brigade; 35th Signal Brigade; 1st Corps Support Command; 44th Medical Brigade; 18th Finance Group; 18th Personnel Group; and Dragon Brigade, all located at Fort Bragg.
The Corps capability for rapid deployment and reputation as the premier power projection force continues to be tested. Its operational tempo remains the highest in the Army and it’s resolve as a quick reaction force has been the key to success in numerous crisis situations throughout Fort Bragg history.