Base Life | History
Fort Lewis was born out of World War I. In 1917, the Pierce County Electorate voted to bond themselves for $2,000,000 to purchase 70,000 acres for donation to the Federal Government for use as a military base. Camp Lewis was the first military installation to be created as the result of an outright gift of land by the citizens themselves. Camp Lewis received its name from Captain Meriwether Lewis from the Lewis and Clark Expedition of the 1804 - 1806 Corps of Discovery exploration for a "Northwest Passage" to the Pacific Ocean.
Construction began on 5 July 1917. In 90 days some 10,000 men built 1,757 buildings and 422 other structures, lighted, plumbed, and heated. Streets, roads, and railroad spurs were underway. When the buildings were completed, the workers subscribed $4,000 to build the main gate, which is still standing, however, moved from its original location due to construction of Interstate 5 highway during the 1950's.
The 91st "Wild West" Division trained at Camp Lewis from September 1917 until it departed from France in June 1918. The 13th Infantry Division was in training when the war ended.
With peace, military appropriations were sharply reduced and Camp Lewis fell into neglect. Tacoma civic groups and newspapers demanded that the War Department return the land. In march 1926 Congress passed a 10-year building plan to revitalize several Army posts, to include Camp Lewis. The post was to have a new lease on life. On 30 September 1927 Camp Lewis was redesignated a Fort.
As World War II loomed in the future, Fort Lewis became more active. Between May 1939 and March 1941, the post population grew from 5,000 to 37,000 troops. To house the new soldiers, a 2000-acre North Fort Lewis complex was completed by August 1941.
The bombing of Pearl Harbor sent a tremor of fear through the West Coast. Troops from Fort Lewis helped secure McChord Field, Camp Murray, and Fort Lewis itself. As time went on, the nervousness eased, and the post got down to wartime business. Before the end of World War II the post had trained the 3rd, 33rd, 40th, 41st, 44th and 96th Infantry Divisions, plus many brigades and smaller size units. A camp for prisoners of war was established in July 1943 and was continued for 3 years.
In 1943, action was taken to enlarge the installation's training space. Over 18,000 acres south of the Nisqually River became known as Rainier Training Area. At war's end, Fort Lewis became home to the 2nd Infantry Division. In 1950 the 2nd became the first American division to leave the U.S. for fighting in Korea.
By the fall of 1950, thousands of recalled reservists, draftees, and many units were arriving at Fort Lewis, and once again the housing situation became acute. Construction began on two new regimental areas east of Gray Army Airfield in January 1952. At the end of the Korean conflict, Fort Lewis became home to the 4th Division.
The 4th Division departed for Vietnam in 1966. Fort Lewis became an Army Training Center for recruits, and a personnel center for processing soldiers to and from the Pacific. Those functions had processed over 2 1/2 million soldiers, and trained over 300,000 men by the time they were closed in the summer of 1972, when Fort Lewis became the home of the 9th Infantry Division.
In 1981, Fort Lewis also became home to I Corps. This senior headquarters is involved in the operation and training of active, reserve, and National Guard units from Alaska to Alabama, and from Pennsylvania to Puerto Rico.
The 1st Special Forces Group was activated in 1984, and the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade was activated in 1985, both on North Fort Lewis. Ground was broken for a new Madigan Armwy Medical Center on January 18, 1985. Two more units were ativated in 1987, the 66th Aviation Brigade and the 201st Military Intelligence Brigade.
During 1989-1990, Much change was being made due to the ending of the "cold war" and national budgetary problems. While most of the army was being downsized, it had been noted that Fort Lewis was ideally located to to act as a point of mobilization and power projections into the Pacific region. As a result, Fort Lewis began to grow, unlike the rest of the Army.
In 1990, the 1st Personnel Group was activated at Fort Lewis and the Groups commander was also appointed to the position of I Corps Adjutant General. 1990 also marked the beginning of Operation Desert Shield, during which Fort Lewis sent 34 active and 25 reserve component units to Saudi Arabia. In 1992 Fort Lewis welcomed the activation of two more units: the 555th Engineer Group and the 210th Field Artillery Brigade, both of which had come to Fort Lewis from Europe.
In 1994, Fort Lewis completed an Environmental Impact statement, allowing up to two heavy brigades to be stationed there, in addition to the 9th Regiment. By the end of the year, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Mechanized) resided on the post.
In 1999, General Eric K. Sinseki, Chief of Staff, Army, announced the acceleration of Army transformation. Two medium-weight, Initial Brigade Combat Teams would be created at Fort Lewis, Washington. The 3d Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division was named to transform first, with the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division following shortly after. This concept entailed that the brigades would use new technologies and strategies to create a new combat power. The brigades would be deployable anywhere in the world within 96 hours of initial notification. This new concept required reorganizing, re-equipping, and retraining the two existing Fort Lewis brigades. In the long term, this transformation process would serve as a model for change in the U.S. Army.
2010 JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD
Joint Base Lewis-McChord was established by The Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission in 2005 recommended the transfer of installation support functions of McChord AFB to Fort Lewis and establish Joint Base Lewis-McChord. It was one of twelve joint bases established from 26 military installations. The recommendation became law in November, 2005. Fort Lewis and McChord AFB leaders and planners have been preparing for joint basing since 2006. Joint Base Lewis-McChord is scheduled to begin initial operational capability (IOC) on 31 January 2010 and achieve full operational capability (FOC) by 30 September 2010 when the transfer of all property, operating funds, and installation support civilian employees from the Air Force is complete. The BRAC designated a military service to operate each joint base and provide installation support services. At Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the Army has the responsibility of managing and providing services to Air Force units. As the military service component responsible for operating the base, the Army will assign a joint base commander and the Air Force will assign a deputy joint base commander. The base commander and deputy base commander will have assigned military and civilian personnel for supporting the base, but will not command any of the Army and Air Force units on the base. Those units will remain under the command and control of their military service. Joint basing is expected to preserve or enhance our ability to support military missions. On Joint Base Lewis McChord, Air Force units will to continue their combat airlift and mission readiness while receiving installation support from a blended structure that will provide new support opportunities. Command of Airmen and Air Force units will be exercised by their appropriate unit commanders; however some Airmen may perform tasks to support the joint base. Air Force units, and all other units on the joint base, will continue to report to their respective service chains of command. The Air Force will control and operate the airfield now on McChord AFB. On all other areas of the joint base, the joint base commander will be responsible for managing and providing installation support services.