In 1918, the Chief of Field Artillery, General William J. Snow, seeking an area having suitable terrain, adequate water, rail facilities and a climate for year-round training, decided that the area now known as Fort Bragg met all of the desired criteria.
Consequently, Camp Bragg came into existence on Sept. 4, 1918. Camp Bragg was named for a native North Carolinian Gen. Braxton Bragg for his actions during the Mexican-American war. Prior to its establishment as a military reservation, the area was a desolate region. Huge forests of Longleaf and Loblolly pines covered the sandy area. About 1729 Highland Scots began cultivating the land in the Longstreet Presbyterian Church area in what was to become part of Fort Bragg.
At the beginning of World War I, only seven percent of the land was occupied. The population consisted of approximately 170 families. During the first year of its existence, $6 million was spent in purchasing land and erecting cantonments for six artillery brigades. Although cessation of hostilities came in November 1918, work was rapidly pushed to a conclusion, and Feb. 1, 1919 saw the completion of Camp Bragg. As soon as World War I was over, the artillery personnel and material from Camp McClellan, Alabama, were transferred to Camp Bragg in order accommodate testing the new long-range weapons developed during the war.
Because demobilization had begun, the War Department decided to reduce the size of Camp Bragg from the planned six to a two brigade cantonment to provide a garrison for Regular Army units and a training center for National Guard Artillery units. Military personnel then took over all of the work at the Camp, a large part of which had been done by wartime civilian employees.
The year 1920 saw little military training taking place. A large tract of land on the reservation had been set aside as a landing field to be used in connection with observation of Field Artillery firing. Here were stationed various aircraft and balloon detachments to photograph terrain for mapping, carry mail, spot for artillery and forest fires, and serve in support of the Field Artillery Board. On April 1, 1919, the War Department officially established Pope Field, naming the landing field in honor of First Lieutenant Harley H. Lieutenant Pope and his crewman, Sergeant Walter W. Flemming, were killed when their Curtiss JN-4 Jenny airplane crashed in the Cape Fear River Jan. 7, 1919 while mapping a U.S. airmail route between Emerson Field, Camp Jackson, South Carolina and Newport News, Virginia. Now one of the oldest installations serving the Air Force early pilots landing at Pope Field were instructed to make one or two low passes over the landing strip to clear it of wild deer.
Early in 1921, two Field Artillery units, the 13th and 17th Field Artillery Brigades, began training in the camp. However, due to postwar cutbacks, the War Department decided to abandon Camp Bragg on Aug. 23, 1921. This was averted by the determined efforts of General Albert J. Bowley, Commanding General of Camp Bragg, various civic organizations in the nearby city of Fayetteville, and a personal inspection by the Secretary of War. The abandonment order was rescinded on Sept. 16, 1921.
One year later, Sept. 30, 1922, Camp Bragg became Fort Bragg, a permanent Army post. Under the direction of General Bowley, development of the fort progressed rapidly. Parade grounds, training facilities, baseball diamonds and other athletic facilities were constructed to lend a permanent air to Camp Bragg. Because Camp Bragg was the only reservation in the United States with room enough to test the latest in Airborne Artillery long range artillery weapons, the Field Artillery Board was transferred here from Fort Sill, Okla., on Feb. 1, 1922. The Camp was redesignated as Fort Bragg, Sept. 30, 1922.
From 1923 to 1926, Field Artillery regiments made considerable progress in learning how to operate in deep sand, heavy mud, swamps, streams and forests. For each type of Field Artillery weapon there was an organization stationed at Fort Bragg armed with that particular weapon. This made Fort Bragg a Field Artillery Laboratory where every new item of Field Artillery equipment could be given a practical field test. Pope Field also served a role in the development of tactics that would prove critically important in shortening World War II.
From 1923 through 1927, permanent structures were erected on Fort Bragg. Four of the brick artillery barracks, fifty-three officers' quarters, forty noncommissioned officers quarters, magazines, motor and materiel sheds, streets and sidewalks were built. With the planting of lawns, shrubs and trees, Fort Bragg began to take on the appearance of one of the finest of all Army posts.
Ever aware of the need for friendly relations between the military personnel and the surrounding civilian population, a new highway was built connecting the center of the post with the limits of the reservation, the Fort more accessible to the outside world. 1932 saw the construction of the beautiful Post Hospital, as well as additional barracks. The additional barracks were needed due to the arrival of the 4th Field Artillery from Camp Robinson, Arkansas on June 9, 1931. Fort Bragg became the headquarters for District A of the Civilian Conservation Corps, which supervised the work and administration of approximately thirty-three camps in the two Carolinas during the Depression. Fort Bragg also served as a training site for units of the National Reserve Officers Training Corps, Officers Reserve Corps and Citizens Military Training Corps.
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. In 1940, paved runways replaced dirt, open fields although much of the parking ramp space remained unpaved until after Word War II. In March 1942, the Army created the Airborne Command at Fort Bragg with native North Carolinian then Brigadier General William C. Lee as commanding general. In 1940, he had been assigned by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to develop airborne forces at Fort Benning. His efforts there had resulted in the first tactical parachute battalion and it was based on his recommendations that the Army decided to create airborne divisions as units of more than 10,000 Soldiers complete with artillery, engineers and support elements. In August 1942, Lee was promoted to Major General and given command of the 101st Airborne Division. Both the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions moved to Fort Bragg in the fall of 1942. Fort Bragg served as the airborne training center for these first airborne units. General George C. Marshall, then Chief of Staff of the Army, visited Fort Bragg to review training and the troops. In 1944, the Marshalls bought a cottage in Pinehurst that they called Liscombe Lodge. They often spent the winter at their Pinehurst home and it was here that they later retired. Camp Mackall
To augment Fort Bragg, the Army began construction in the spring of 1942 at Camp Hoffman and by early 1943 an airfield was complete along with 1,750 buildings. The camp was renamed Camp Mackall in honor of Private John Thomas Mackall who was one of the first paratroopers killed in combat during a parachute assault on Algiers in North Africa in November 1942.
Before the war's end all five World War II airborne divisions—the 82nd, 101st, 11th, 13th and 17th—along with a host of independent units, including the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, the Army's first black parachute unit trained at the fort filled Fort Bragg air with parachutes, troop transports and gliders.
In addition to airborne training, the Fort Bragg complex, whose population exceeded 100,000 personnel by mid-1943, continued to grow as new inductees were received by the thousands throughout the war years. Tens of thousands of artillerymen were trained on the post's extensive ranges. The 9th and 100th Infantry Divisions trained at Fort Bragg, as did the famous 2nd Armored Division.
Upon its return from Europe, the 82nd Airborne Division was permanently assigned to Fort Bragg. 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 during 1966-70. In April 1965, 82nd Airborne Division elements deployed to the Dominican Republic in support of Operation Power Pack. In 1966, division elements deployed to Vietnam. 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 newly established U.S. Army Forces Command headquartered at Fort McPherson, Georgia.
In 1983, the 82nd Airborne Division successfully supported the no-notice deployment of two brigade-sized elements to Grenada. Fort Bragg was instrumental in rescuing American citizens and defeating Communist aggression in the Caribbean.
The 5th Special Forces group departed Fort Bragg for Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in 1986, while the 7th Special Forces Group moved into new quarters off Yadkin Road in 1989.
By 1989, Fort Bragg would employ 40,000 Soldiers and more than 8,000 civilians on its 140,618 acres. It is during this era that Fort Bragg earned its reputation as one of the Army's premier power projection platforms.
With so many of its troops on constant deployment, the post would not be idle. Fort Bragg would pick up the pace of construction to make the Soldiers and their families proud to be stationed here. In December 1989, Fort Bragg once again threw itself whole heartedly into deploying the 82d Airborne Division to Panama for Operation Just Cause. It was with justifiable pride that the post learned of the division's successful combat jump into Panama—its first since World War II.
The last decade of the 20th century found Fort Bragg engaged in repeated power projection efforts. To counter Iraqi aggression in Southwest Asia, Fort Bragg worked around the clock to deploy XVIII Airborne Corps. The August 1990 success of speeding Corps troops to Saudi Arabia to "draw the line in the sand" in support of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm was bittersweet as Fort Bragg assumed an eerie ghost town appearance with minimum personnel left behind.
Fort Bragg would devote all of its efforts in the waning years of the 1990s to smoothing the transition to the twenty-first century. Fort Bragg Soldiers deployed to provide humanitarian support for Hurricane Andrew, Operation Restore Democracy in Haiti, Operations Safe Haven and Safe Passage to safeguard Cuban refugees, Operation Joint Endeavor support in Bosnia, and Operations Allied Force/Joint Guardian/Rapid Guardian in Albania/Kosovo. With the changing mission of the United States Army the post eagerly concentrated on improving the quality of life for its Soldiers and Families, serving as an environmental steward for its increased acreage and serving as the premier power projection platform of America's elite Soldiers.
Fort Bragg underwent significant change in the 1990s. From the removal of wooden barracks to building construction/renovation through expansion of training areas into the newly purchased Overhills site, Fort Bragg greeted the new century with a fresh appearance.
Since 2000, Fort Bragg Soldiers have participated in combat and humanitarian operations in countries around the world. Fort Bragg responded to provide support to those impacted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. They are always ready to fight or lend a helping hand. Fort Bragg serves a vital role in the war on terror, deploying and supporting more troops than any other post, in support of Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.
Fort Bragg continues to invest to modernize and expand facilities. The 82nd Airborne Division's 1955 barracks complex was replaced with modern buildings. Office buildings and barracks have also been constructed for units recently added to the division.
A new headquarters building was constructed on Knox and Randolph Streets for the U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) and the U.S. Army Reserve Command. These two major commands moved to Fort Bragg in 2011 when Fort Macpherson, Georgia, was closed under the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) legislation. BRAC moves also resulted in the 7th Special Forces Group completing their relocation from Fort Bragg to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
Today Fort Bragg, "the Home of the Airborne and Special Operations," with approximately 57,000 military personnel, 11,000 civilian employees and 23,000 family members is one of the largest military complexes in the world.