Shoulder sleeve insignia of the 3rd Infantry Division
1941 – 1945|
1950 – present
|Garrison||3rd Infantry Division|
Fort Stewart is a census-designated place and United States Army post primarily in Liberty County and Bryan County, but also extending into smaller portions of Evans, Long, and Tattnall Counties in the U.S. state of Georgia. The population was 11,205 at the 2000 census. The nearby principal city of Hinesville and Fort Stewart together comprise the Hinesville-Fort Stewart metropolitan statistical area which comprises all of Liberty County. Fort Stewart's main residents are members of the 3rd Infantry Division.
The Fort Stewart Military Reservation includes approximately 280,000 acres (1,100 km2), making it the largest military installation in the Eastern United States.
This includes land that was formerly the town of Clyde, Georgia.
Geography[edit | edit source]
Fort Stewart is located along the Canoochee River.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the portion of the base occupied by housing has a total area of 6.6 square miles (17.1 km²), all of it land.
Demographics[edit | edit source]
As of the census of 2000, there were 11,205 people, 1,849 households, and 1,791 families residing in the base. The population density was 1,697.1 people per square mile (655.5/km²). There were 1,936 housing units at an average density of 293.2 per square mile (113.3/km²). The racial makeup of the base was 50.00% White, 36.75% African American, 0.72% Native American, 1.91% Asian, 0.41% Pacific Islander, 6.75% from other races, and 3.45% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 12.12% of the population.
There were 1,849 households out of which 81.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 88.0% were married couples living together, 7.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 3.1% were non-families. 2.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 0.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.65 and the average family size was 3.68.
The age distribution is: 27.3% under the age of 18, 39.9% from 18 to 24, 31.6% from 25 to 44, 1.1% from 45 to 64, and 0.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 22 years. For every 100 females there were 197.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 251.8 males. All these statistics are consistent with Fort Stewart's military status.
The median income for a base household is $30,441, and the median income for a family was $29,507. Males had a median income of $18,514 versus $17,250 for females. The per capita income for the base was $11,594. About 9.7% of families and 11.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.0% of those under age 18 and none of those age 65 or over.
History[edit | edit source]
Fort Stewart is the largest Army installation east of the Mississippi River. It covers 280,000 acres (1,100 km2), which include parts of Liberty, Long, Bryan, Evans and Tattnall Counties. The reservation is about 39 miles (63 km) across from east to west, and 19 miles (31 km) from north to south. During World War II, the camp had billeting space for 2,705 officers, and 37,267 enlisted men. It is close to the East Coast, and two deep water ports: Savannah, Georgia (42 mi), and Charleston, South Carolina (142 mi). Tank, field artillery, helicopter gunnery, and small arms ranges operate simultaneously throughout the year with little time lost to bad weather.
Anti-Aircraft Artillery Center[edit | edit source]
In June 1940, Congress authorized funding for the purchase of property in coastal Georgia for the purpose of building an anti-aircraft artillery training center. It was to be located just outside of Hinesville, Georgia, some 40 miles (64 km) southwest of Savannah.
On 1 July 1940 the first 5,000 acres (20 km²) were bought and subsequent purchases followed. Eventually the reservation would include over 280,000 acres (1100 km²) and stretch over five counties. The large expanse of property was required for the firing ranges and impact areas which an anti-aircraft artillery training center would need for live-fire training.
In November 1940, the Anti-Aircraft Artillery Training Center was officially designated as Camp Stewart, in honor of General Daniel Stewart, a native of Liberty County, who had fought with Francis Marion during the American Revolution, and who became one of the county’s military heroes. An announcement of the new post’s name was made in January 1941.
During the early months, training was done on wooden mock-ups, since real anti-aircraft guns were in short supply. Live-firing exercises were conducted on the beaches of St. Augustine and Amelia Island, Florida, since the necessary ranges and impact areas had not been completed at Camp Stewart. This live-fire training over the ocean continued until September 1941, while at Camp Stewart practice firing and searchlight training progressed.
In fall of 1941, the Carolina Maneuvers were held, and all the anti-aircraft units from Camp Stewart participated. As these maneuvers drew to a close, a feeling of restless anticipation pervaded the ranks of the National Guard soldiers who were looking toward their impending release from active duty, after completion of their year of training. However, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7 ended these dreams. Now the U.S. was in the war, and Camp Stewart set about accomplishing the mission it was intended for.
Savannah's First Bryan Baptist Church had a special service for soldiers from the Savannah Air Base and Camp Stewart December 21, 1941. Reverend Terrill wrote a letter to Asa H. Gordon, director of the Colored SSSS, extending the invitation to the soldiers. Church members took at least one soldier home from the service for Sunday dinner. Reverend Terrill, at the special service for soldiers, preached on "The Negro's Place in National Defence." Thelma Lee Stevens gave the welcome address. Scout Westley W. Law was master of ceremonies (source: page 71, Dr. Charles J. Elmore, "First Bryan 1788–2001 The Oldest Continuous Black Baptist Church in America.")
The National Guard units departed and new units came in for training. Facilities were expanded and improved. Anti-aircraft artillery training was upgraded and soon a detachment of Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP’s) arrived at the air facility on post, Liberty Field, to fly planes to tow targets for the live-fire exercises. Eventually radio-controlled airplane targets came into use as a more effective and safer means of live-fire practice.
As the war progressed, Camp Stewart’s training programs continued expanding to keep pace with the needs placed upon it. Units were shipped out promptly upon completion of their training, and new units received in their place. The camp provided well-trained soldiers for duty in the European, the Mediterranean, the North African, and the Pacific Theaters.
POW camp[edit | edit source]
By late 1943, Camp Stewart assumed a new responsibility as one of many holding areas designated in this country for German and Italian prisoners of war (POWs), who had fallen into Allied hands during fighting in North Africa. These men were held in two separate POW facilities on post, and they were used as a labor force for base operations, construction projects, and for area farming.
Beside its initial purposes as an anti-aircraft artillery training center, Camp Stewart also served as a Cooks' and Bakers' School, and as a staging area for a number of Army postal units. By spring 1944, the camp was bulging at its seams as more than 55,000 soldiers occupied the facility during the build-up for the D-Day invasion. However, almost overnight, the post was virtually empty as these units shipped out for England. With the D-Day invasion and Allied control of the air over Europe, the need for anti-aircraft units diminished, and in response the anti-aircraft training at Camp Stewart was phased out. By Jan. 1945 only the POW camp was still functioning.
Post World War II[edit | edit source]
With the end of the war, Camp Stewart came to life briefly as a separation center for redeployed soldiers, but on 30 September 1945, the post was inactivated. Only 2 officers, 10 enlisted men, and 50 civilian employees maintained the facilities, and the Georgia National Guard only did training during summer months. It seemed as if Camp Stewart had served its purpose.
Korean War[edit | edit source]
With the outbreak of hostilities in Korea in June 1950, the U.S. once again found itself with the need to update training and to prepare new soldiers to meet the crisis in Korea. Camp Stewart was reopened on 9 August 1950, its facilities repaired, and National Guard troops brought in for training. On 28 December 1950, Camp Stewart was redesignated as the 3rd Army Anti-Aircraft Artillery Training Center. Intensive training of soldiers destined for service in Korea began. Since control of the air in Korea wasn’t seriously challenged by the Communist forces, in late 1953 Camp Stewart’s role changed from solely anti-aircraft training to include armor and tank firing as well.
When the Korean War eventually cooled down, it was recognized that the U.S. would be required to maintain a ready and able military force to deal with any potential threat to itself and its allies. Camp Stewart would have a role to play in that mission. The decision was made that the post would no longer be viewed as a temporary installation. On 21 March 1956, it was redesignated as Fort Stewart. Its role would continue to evolve in response to specific needs and world events.
In 1959, Fort Stewart was redesignated as an Armor and Artillery Firing Center, since its old anti-aircraft ranges and impact areas were better suited for this purpose in the new age of missiles. By 1961, there was a feeling that Fort Stewart may have served its usefulness, and there was movement afoot to deactivate the post again. However, the age of missiles brought with it new threats and a new mission for Fort Stewart.
Cuban Missile Crisis[edit | edit source]
As a result of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, the 1st Armored Division was ordered to Fort Stewart for staging, and in the short span of two weeks the population of the fort rose from 3,500 personnel to over 30,000.
The country prepared for the worst, but in the end a compromise was reached, and the crisis passed. Shortly after, word was received at Fort Stewart that a VIP would be visiting the post and that the post conference room wasn’t worthy of a person of this stature. Thus, preparations were rapidly made to convert this conference room into a more suitable one. The command group at Fort Stewart quickly discerned that this VIP would be none other than Commander in Chief, President John F. Kennedy. He arrived at Hunter Field on 26 Nov. 1962 and flew to Donovan Parade Field at Fort Stewart, where he reviewed the entire 1st Armored Division. From there he was taken to the new conference room where he was briefed on armed forces readiness to respond to the Cuban missile crisis, and then he visited troops in nearby training areas.
Vietnam War[edit | edit source]
After the Cuban missile crisis had passed, the Cold War situation kept Fort Stewart in an active training role. During the late 1960s, another developing situation would bring about yet another change in Fort Stewart’s mission. With tensions growing in the divided country of Vietnam, the U.S. found itself becoming increasingly involved in that conflict.
The Vietnamese terrain and the type of war being fought there demanded an increased aviation capability through the use of helicopters and light, fixed-wing aircraft. This brought about a need for more aviators. In response to this need, an element of the U.S. Army Aviation School at Fort Rucker, Alabama, was transferred to Fort Stewart in 1966. Helicopter pilot training and helicopter gunnery courses became Fort Stewart’s new mission. In an ironic twist, now instead of training soldiers to shoot down aircraft, Fort Stewart was training soldiers to fly them.
Hunter Army Airfield[edit | edit source]
When the U.S. Air Force closed its base at Hunter Field in Savannah in 1967, the Army promptly assumed control and in conjunction with the flight training being conducted at Fort Stewart, the U.S. Army Flight Training Center came into being. The helicopter pilot training was rapidly accelerated and pilots were trained and soon sent to duty all over the world, with a large percentage seeing active duty in Vietnam.
The Army established the first dedicated attack helicopter training school at Hunter in July 1967. The Attack Helicopter Training Department (AHTD) trained Army, Marine and a few foreign officers (principally Spanish Navy)in the AH-1G Cobra attack helicopter.
Hunter Army Airfield, covers about 5,400 acres (22 km2) and is also the home of the U.S. Coast Guard Station, Savannah – the largest helicopter unit in the Coast Guard. It provides Savannah and the Southeast United States with round-the-clock search-and-rescue coverage of its coastal areas.
In 1969 President Nixon planned to reduce American involvement in Vietnam by training the Vietnamese military to take over the war. In conjunction with this, helicopter flight training for Vietnamese pilots began at the Training Center in 1970 and continued until 1972.
Gradually America’s involvement in Vietnam dwindled and by mid-1972 the flight training aspect of Fort Stewart’s mission was terminated, and both Hunter Field and Fort Stewart reverted to garrison status. The following year Hunter Field was closed entirely and Fort Stewart sat idle, with the exception of the National Guard training which continued to be conducted at the installation.
Post-Vietnam era[edit | edit source]
On 1 July 1974, the soon-to-be reactivated 1st Battalion, 75th Infantry Regiment (Ranger), parachuted into Fort Stewart. The Battalion was formally reactivated the following month. It was the first Army Ranger unit activated since the Second World War. Hunter Army Airfield was reopened to support the training and activities of the Rangers.
In October 1974, Headquarters, 24th Infantry Division was activated at Fort Stewart. This historic unit, which had seen active and arduous service in the Pacific during WW II and in the Korean War, and served as an element of NATO forces defending western Europe, had been inactive since 1970. The "Victory" Division, as it was known, was going to make Fort Stewart its home. It was perhaps fitting that the "V" shaped layout of the main post itself represented the "V" for the Victory Division. The 24th Infantry Division would make Fort Stewart uniquely its own.
With the reactivation of the 24th Infantry Division, the post entered a new phase in its history. Facilities were upgraded, and new permanent structures replaced many of the old World War II-era wooden buildings from the days of Camp Stewart. On 1 October 1980, the 24th Infantry Division was designated a mechanized infantry division, and assigned as the heavy division of the XVIII Airborne Corps, the core element of the newly organized Rapid Deployment Force. This designation was the fruition of that potential first realized by those who served at the post during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The 24th Infantry Division began intensive training over the expanse of piney woods and lowlands of the post, and conducted live-fire exercises on many of the old Camp Stewart anti-aircraft ranges. Additional deployment training and exercises took Division units from Georgia's woodlands to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, as well as to other areas of the world such as Egypt and Turkey. The Division was regularly seen in REFORGER exercises in Germany and BRIGHT STAR in Egypt. Its training was continuous. The mission of the Rapid Deployment Force was to be prepared to deploy to practically any point on the globe at a moment’s notice, to deal with whatever threat might be discerned.
In August 1990, Iraq invaded and overran neighboring Kuwait, and threatened to do the same to Saudi Arabia. The Port of Savannah worked around the clock to load and ship the Division’s heavy equipment, while aircraft shuttles from Hunter Field flew the Division’s personnel to Saudi Arabia. Within a month, the entire Division had been reassembled in Saudi Arabia to face the possible invasion of that country by Iraqi forces. Fort Stewart saw a growing influx of National Guard and Reserve units who were being mobilized to support the operations in Saudi Arabia and to assume the tasks at the post which had formerly been accomplished by 24th Infantry Division personnel. In many ways, Fort Stewart appeared to be almost a ghost town, as never before had the entire Division been deployed from the post at one time. Within eight months, the crisis at the Persian Gulf had concluded, and the 24th Infantry Division triumphantly returned to its home in coastal Georgia.
The post-Cold War drawdown of forces in Europe resulted in many storied units coming home to the US. On 25 April 1996, "ownership" of Fort Stewart passed as the 24th Infantry Division was inactivated and the 3rd Infantry Division was reactivated. Thus began a new chapter in the history of Fort Stewart.
See also[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
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