Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Traveling Tuesday: Fort George G. Meade

Traveling Tuesday: Fort George G. Meade

Library of Congress
After college, my mom got a job at Fort George G. Meade working with departing servicemen to fill out their DD-214s. She talked often about the men she met and her admiration for them, so when it came time to select a military base associated with my upcoming release, Estelle’s Endeavor, I knew where to go.

Located between Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, DC, Fort Meade is about a twenty-minute drive from the state capital of Annapolis. Originally an army installation, the base is now home to all five branches of military service as well as government agencies and organizations (over 115!) such as the National Security Agency, Defense Information Systems Agency, and United States Cyber Command. Over 186 miles of roads crisscross the eight square miles that comprise the base.

Fort Meade was authorized by an act of Congress in May 1917 as one of sixteen camps constructed for troops drafted for The Great War (as WWI was known at the time). The site was selected because of its proximity to the nation’s capital, Baltimore ports, and the railroad. Built at the staggering cost of $18 million, the post was named for Major General George Gordon Meade whose victory at the Battle of Gettysburg was a turning point in the American Civil War.

Meade was the eighth of eleven children born into a Pennsylvanian Irish-Catholic family. His father
was a well-to-do merchant stationed in Spain as a naval agent at the time of Meade’s birth. However, the family lost most of their wealth because of his father’s support of Spain in the Peninsular War. They returned to the U.S. in 1817. Interestingly, his older brother became a naval officer and several of his sisters married military men. In 1831 he entered West Point and graduated 19th out of 56 cadets four years later, commissioned as a brevet second lieutenant.

After fighting the Seminole Indians in Florida, he resigned his commission and worked a variety of civilian jobs. Unfortunately, steady work was hard to find so he re-entered the army in 1842 where he would remain for the rest of his life.

The Fort named in his honor saw more than 400,000 soldiers pass through its gates – a training site for three infantry divisions, three training battalions, and one depot brigade. It was also a remount station that collected over 22,000 horses and mules. Meade’s nephew, Major Peter F. Meade as in charge of the remount station. Additionally, the “Hello Girls,” bilingual telephone-switchboard operators of the U.S. Army Signal corps were stationed here. In 1928, the base was redesignated Fort Leonard Wood, but one report indicates a Pennsylvania congressman held up appropriations until the name reverted permanently to Fort George G. Meade on March 5, 1929. (Who says money doesn’t talk??)

Like many other bases around the nation, Fort Meade saw heavy activity during WWII. As a training center, the base was used by more than 200 united and was home to more than 3.5 million men between 1942 and 1946. Over 150,000 women in the Women’s Army Corp (WAC) also passed through. The wartime peak of 70,000 men and women was reached in March, 1945. In addition to serving as a troop installation, Fort Meade was home to German and Italian prisoners-of-war. The first shipment of 1,632 Italian and 58 German prisoners arrived in September 1943. One of the more highly decorated Germans was submarine commander Werner Henke.

An important base, Fort Meade is Maryland’s largest employer and has the third largest workforce of any Army installation in the continental United States.

Estelle's Endeavor

Will a world at war destroy a second chance at love?

Estelle Johnson promised to wait for Aubry DeLuca, but then she receives word of his debilitating injuries. Does she have the strength to stand by him in his hour of need?

Aubry DeLuca storms the beaches at Normandy, then wakes up in the hospital, his eyes bandaged. Will he regain his sight? Will the only woman he’s ever loved welcome him home or is he destined to go through life blind and alone?

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