Military District of Washington Shoulder Sleeve Insignia
|In use||1791 – present|
|Controlled by||United States of America|
Military District of Washington|
National Defense University
MG Jeffrey S. Buchanan, Commanding General, Military District of Washington|
Colonel Fern O. Sumpter, Garrison Commander, Fort Myer Military Community
Fort Lesley J. McNair is a United States Army post located on the tip of Greenleaf Point, the peninsula that lies at the confluence of the Potomac River and the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C. To the peninsula's west is the Washington Channel, while the Anacostia River is on its south side. The fort has been an army post for more than 200 years, third in length of service, after the United States Military Academy at West Point and the Carlisle Barracks.
History[edit | edit source]
The military reservation was established in 1791 on about 28 acres (110,000 m2) at the tip of Greenleaf Point. Major Pierre (Peter) Charles L'Enfant included it in his plans for Washington, the Federal City, as a major site for the defense of the capital.
An arsenal first occupied the site and defenses were built in 1794. The fortifications did not halt the invading British in 1814. Soldiers at the arsenal evacuated north with as much gunpowder as they could carry, hiding the rest in a well as the Redcoats came up the Potomac from burning the capitol. About 47 British soldiers found the powder magazines they'd come to destroy empty. Someone threw a match into the well and "a tremendous explosion ensued," a doctor at the scene reported, "whereby the officers and about 30 of the men were killed and the rest most shockingly mangled." The remaining soldiers destroyed the arsenal buildings, but the facilities were rebuilt after the war. Land was purchased north of the arsenal in 1826 for the first federal penitentiary. The conspirators accused of assassinating president Abraham Lincoln were imprisoned there and, after being found guilty, four were hanged and the rest received prison sentences. Among those hanged was Mary Surratt, the first woman ever executed under federal orders. A hospital was built next to the penitentiary in 1857, and Civil War wounded were treated at what then was called the Washington Arsenal. The arsenal was closed in 1881, and the post transferred to the Quartermaster Corps.
A general hospital, predecessor to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, was located at the post from 1898 until 1909. Maj. Walter Reed found the area's marshlands an excellent site for his research on malaria. Reed's work contributed to the discovery of the cause of yellow fever. The major died of peritonitis after an appendectomy at the post in 1902. The post dispensary and the visiting officers' quarters now occupy the buildings where Reed worked and died.
About 90 percent of the present buildings on the post's 100 acres (0.40 km2) were built, reconstructed or remodeled by 1908. In 1901, with the birth of the Army War College, the post, now called Washington Barracks, became the army's center for the education and training of senior officers to lead and direct large numbers of troops. Its first classes were conducted in 1904. The Army Industrial College was founded at McNair in 1924 to prepare officers for high level posts in Army supply organizations, and to study industrial mobilization. It evolved into the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. The post was renamed as Fort Humphreys in 1935 (a name previously assigned to today's Fort Belvoir, VA). The Army War College was reorganized as the Army-Navy Staff College in 1943, and became the National War College in 1946. The two colleges became the National Defense University in 1976. The post was renamed in 1948 to honor Lt. Gen. Lesley J. McNair, commander of army ground forces during World War II, who was headquartered at the post and was killed during Operation Cobra near Saint-Lô, France, 25 July 1944 in the infamous friendly fire incident. Fort McNair has been the headquarters of the U.S. Army Military District of Washington since 1966.
Current status[edit | edit source]
Fort McNair, a part of the Fort Myer Military Community, is the headquarters of the Army's Military District of Washington and home of the National Defense University, as well as the official residence of the US Army's vice chief of staff.
Tenants[edit | edit source]
National Defense University[edit | edit source]
The National Defense University represents a significant concentration of the defense community's intellectual resources. Originally established in 1976, the university includes the National War College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at Fort McNair, and the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia. These and other schools are separate entities, but their close affiliation enhances the exchange of faculty expertise and educational resources, promotes interaction among students and faculty, and reduces administrative costs. The National War College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces concentrate on preparing civilian and military professionals in areas of national security strategy, decision-making, joint and combined warfare and the resource component of national strategy. The Armed Forces Staff College, established under the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1946, prepares selected officers for joint and combined duty. In 1990, the Information Resources Management College was formed as the capstone institution for Defense Information Resource Management education. As such, it provides graduate-level courses in information resources management. The National Defense University also features a first-rate research capability through the Institute for National Strategic Studies. This institute, established in 1984, conducts independent policy analyses and develops policy and strategy alternatives. It also includes a War Gaming and Simulation Center and the NDU Press. The university has several other educational programs. These include the Capstone program, for general and flag officer selectees; the International Fellows program, which brings NDU almost 100 participants from 50 different countries; and the Reserve Components National Security Course, which offers military education to senior officers of the armed forces.
Inter-American Defense College[edit | edit source]
The Inter-American Defense College is an advanced-studies institute for senior officers of the 25-member nations of the Inter-American Defense Board. Up to three students of the rank of colonel or the equivalent may be sent to the college by each member nation. The students' backgrounds must qualify them to participate in the solution of hemispheric-defense problems. The officers study world alliances and the international situation; the inter-American system and its role; strategic concepts of war; and engage in a planning exercise for hemispheric defense. The college has been at Fort McNair since 1962.
United States Army Center of Military History[edit | edit source]
In September 1998, the United States Army Center of Military History moved from rented offices in Washington, D.C., to Fort McNair in historically preserved quarters remodeled from its previous use as a commissary and before that as Fort McNair's stables. The center dates from the creation of the Army General Staff historical branch in July 1943 and the gathering of a team of professional historians, translators, editors and cartographers to record the history of World War II. That effort led to a monumental 79-volume series known as the "Green Books." Today, the center operates through four divisions, the histories division being the one most involved in writing the histories and providing historical research support to the Army staff. The field program and historical services guides work done at various posts and installations, as well as the work done by deployed historical detachments for Army operations, ensures historical information is comprehensive and factual. Another division is responsible for overseeing the Army museum system and preservation of artifacts and artwork that are the army's historical treasure. One such museum, The Old Guard Museum, is located at Fort Myer. The center's publishing division generates finished publications and assures access to the center's work through such media as CD-ROM and the World Wide Web.
See also[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- L'Enfant identified himself as "Peter Charles L'Enfant" during most of his life, while residing in the United States. He wrote this name on his "Plan of the city intended for the permanent seat of the government of t(he) United States ...." (Washington, D.C.) and on other legal documents. However, during the early 1900s, a French ambassador to the U.S., Jean Jules Jusserand, popularized the use of L'Enfant's birth name, "Pierre Charles L'Enfant". (See: Bowling (2002).) The National Park Service identifies L'Enfant as Major Peter Charles L'Enfant and as Major Pierre (Peter) Charles L'Enfant on its website. The United States Code states in 40 U.S.C. 3309: "(a) In General.—The purposes of this chapter shall be carried out in the District of Columbia as nearly as may be practicable in harmony with the plan of Peter Charles L'Enfant."
- Decisions of the United States Geographic Board, Google Books
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fort Lesley J. McNair.|
- Army War College, Fort Lesley J. McNair, entrance on P Street between Third & Fourth Streets Southwest, Washington, District of Columbia, DC at the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS)
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