Named after Meriwether Lewis of the famed Lewis and Clark expedition, Fort Lewis was born out of World War I. In 1917, the Pierce County Electorate voted to bond themselves for $2,000 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. Construction began July 5, 1917.

In 90 days, about 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.

The 91st “Wild West” Division trained at Camp Lewis from September 1917 until it departed for France in June 1918. The 13th Infantry Division was in training when the Great 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 September 30, 1927, Camp Lewis was redesignated a fort. In 1938, the addition of an Army Air Corps field was approved at a 1,800-acre site north of Fort Lewis, which Pierce County transferred to the War Department. This facility, then part of Fort Lewis, was named McChord Field in 1940 in honor of Colonel William McChord, who had been killed in an aviation accident in 1937. McChord Field became independent of Fort Lewis in 1947 and was renamed McChord Air Force Base following the creation of the U.S. Air Force.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord — now simply known as JBLM — became one of 12 joint bases across the Department of Defense in 2010 when Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base merged: an outcome of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

Installation priorities are to train the joint force, sustain the base infrastructure, protect the installation and take care of service members and their families. Joint Base Lewis-McChord is a strategically-vital, joint force power projection platform. In other words, the almost 50 C-17 Globemaster III aircraft that give JBLM global airlift capability, coupled with multiple sea ports and a robust rail and road network, allow JBLM to project combat power anywhere in the world.

Today, JBLM encompasses 413,714 acres — 90,283 acres at the joint base, and 323,431 acres at the Yakima Training Center. Troops may train in a high desert environment at YTC, or in dense woods or conduct amphibious operations at JBLM. Both installations are key to service member readiness, allowing troops to maneuver in more than 50 training areas, fire at more than 90 ranges, or shoot artillery, mortars and other munitions into multiple impact areas.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord supports more than 40,000 service members, including active duty, National Guard and reserve members, approximately 14,000 full-time civilian employees — including Department of Defense contractors and other civilian employees — and more than 90,000 family members, veterans and retirees.

For a more detailed history of Fort Lewis from 1917 to 2010, click  here.

The  Lewis Army Museum collects, preserves, displays and interprets artifacts pertinent to the history of Camp Lewis, Fort Lewis and Army components of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the units which have served here and the role of the U.S. Army in the exploration, defense and development of the Pacific Northwest. The Museum features an outstanding collection of uniforms, weapons, military art and memorabilia.

The  McChord Air Museum is the official U.S. Air Force organization whose mission is to portray the history of McChord Field, the aircraft woven through that history and the people who made that history part of our heritage. That mission is accomplished by the exhibit of aircraft, scaled models, unit exhibits, extensive collection of armament, instruments, paintings and art from the USAF art collection, photographs, vintage uniforms and other memorabilia.

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