Fort Lee Marks 100 Years of Service

July 10, 2017 / Current News

The Progress-Index

FORT LEE — Fort Lee will be hosting a series of events today and tomorrow to celebrate its birth 100 years ago.

The majority of events will occur on Monday, including a Centennial Celebration at 11 a.m. at Williams Stadium. The event, which is free and open to the public, will feature the Black Daggers parachute demonstration team, Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps and the final mile of a 100-mile run through local communities.

But while the celebration is now, the history of Fort Lee stretches back a century. In 1917, in order to prepare soldiers for World War I, the Army turned what was largely vacant land into Camp Lee. It was one of just 32 camps that was build to train soldiers for World War I.

Construction of Camp Lee began in June 1917 on what had been farmland. Within just three months there were 1,500 buildings on post with a network of 15 miles of roads. The training camp was built in a horseshoe shape that was about two miles from tip to tip.

Soon after, members of the 80th “Blue Ridge” Division were on site training.

By November of the following year, “the great war” had ended and more than 60,000 soldiers had trained on the installation. Following the war, Camp Lee served as an outprocessing center for soldiers until the early 1920s.

After the war the land was turned into a game preserve. The buildings constructed as part of the effort were demolished.

Little remains of that time on Fort Lee, but training trenches are preserved in certain areas of the post not open to visitors. Another structure, that was on the land before the construction of the post — the Davis House — was also left standing and remains on post to this day.

In October 1940, the land was once again returned to military service in the buildup to World War II.

The Army post was busier than in the first global war, with more 300,000 soldiers trained on Fort Lee during World War II.

Even before the first barracks were constructed, raw recruits for the Quartermaster Replacement Training Center moved into tents in the heart of Camp Lee to begin training.

In October 1941 (two months before Pearl Harbor) the Quartermaster School moved from Philadelphia to Camp Lee to begin training officers and noncommissioned officers in the art of military supply and service.

Since that time Fort Lee has remained the home of Quartermaster training.

Also during the war, the camp served as a German Prisoner of War Camp. In total, about 1,000 German Prisoners of War would be interred at Fort Lee. Today there is no evidence where the prison camp stood.

Most of the structures built for World War II were meant to be temporary structures, though a few still exist on post and are still being used. One of the first permanent structures was built just after the war in 1948, the post theater.

In April 1950, Camp Lee was granted permanent status as it became Fort Lee. The post also picked up another training school when riggers — soldiers that pack parachutes — moved from Fort Benning, Ga. to Fort Lee.

It wasn’t long after that when the post became a hub of activity again as the Korean War began in June of the same year. Following the Korean War in 1953 throughout the 1960s the post worked on modernization and most of the temporary World War II structures were replaced by more permanent brick and mortar buildings.

The rapid logistics buildup in Vietnam after 1965 signaled an urgent need for many more Quartermaster soldiers and Fort Lee responded by going into overdrive, maintaining three shifts and round-the-clock training for a period of time.

As Vietnam wound down in the early- to mid-1970s, the Army went through a period of reorganization, also introduced new doctrine, weapons and equipment, and unveiled new training and leader development techniques.

The installation has never stopped adapting as new tenant organizations have moved on post, grown or otherwise changed.

In 2005, some of the biggest changes ever to come to the post were announced with the approval of the Base Realignment and Closure Act law by then President George W. Bush.

Fort Lee also became the new home to commands. In addition to the Combined Arms Support Command, Fort Lee now consists of the Army Logistics University, the U.S. Army Ordnance School, the U.S. Army Quartermaster School and the U.S. Army Transportation School

Over the course of four years, from the first groundbreaking in 2007 to the official conclusion of BRAC related growth on post in September 2011 with the last ribbon cutting event, approximately $1.2 billion was spent on 56 new buildings, four building renovations and more.

The expansion nearly doubled the footprint of the post with 4.7 million square feet of new building space. In February 2013, the largest single-building lodging facility in the Army officially opens. The $120 million building has 1,000 rooms, and is operated as a privatized hotel.

The expansion transformed Fort Lee into the home of Army Logistics. Currently, Fort Lee trains about 70,000 troops each year, making it the third largest training site in the Army. The daily population of Fort Lee now averages more than 27,000 and includes members from all branches of the military service, their families, government civilians and contractors.