By Retired Col. Kenneth O. McCreedy, Senior Director, Division of Cyber and Aerospace, Maryland Department of Commerce
On April 6, 1917, the United States formally declared war on Germany and entered World War I.
On battlefields where a million men on each side had grappled with each other for three bloody years, the United States Army consisted of 133,000 men. The immediate problem was to access the needed number of men, form fighting units, train and equip them, and then deploy them across the Atlantic to the battlefields of France.
Congress turned to a draft as the most efficient mechanism for mobilization. An ambitious plan was formed to create eight National Guard divisions and eight National Army divisions made up solely of draftees.
In order to train these units, the Army had to identify cantonment areas quickly. A delegation led by Maryland Rep. J. Charles Linthicum lobbied the War Department to build one of the cantonment areas at a rural site in western Anne Arundel County, centrally located between Baltimore and Washington and blessed with railheads for three railroads to bring troops and supplies.
The area, known as Annapolis Junction, was composed of small truck farms raising fruits and vegetables for markets in the city.
On June 14, 1917, the secretary of War announced that Maryland had won its bid for the camp at the Annapolis Junction site. There, selectees from Pennsylvania, Maryland and the District of Columbia would organize into a National Army Division and train to go to the battlefields of France.
By June 19, leases were secured on 7,000 acres of land (the current post, for reference, encompasses 5,500 acres).
Families whose lands made up Camp Meade are remembered today in the 16 family cemeteries on post, in road names all around the area, and in very passionate descendants! Names like Disney, Friedhofer, Harmon, Clark and Downs.
On June 24, the Army awarded a contract to a New York City firm, and construction began on the Annapolis Junction site on July 2.
On July 18, the War Department announced that the Maryland camp would be named for the hero of Gettysburg, Philadelphian George G. Meade.
By Aug. 1, over 5,500 full-time construction workers were engaged in building Camp Meade.
On Sept. 15, the initial construction phase was deemed complete and the cantonment was ready to receive troops. The first of 40,000 men began pouring into the camp on Sept. 20 to form the 79th Division.
It had taken 10 weeks at a cost of $16 million to go from orchards to a military installation capable of housing, supporting and training a division.
By the end of November, when construction was declared to be complete, Camp Meade was the second largest city in Maryland.
In total, 450 million linear feet of lumber had been used to build 1,200 barracks, headquarters, warehouses and hospital facilities. In addition, 52 miles of wooden sewer pipe were laid and 50 miles of wooden water pipes distributed 3 million gallons of water daily to the troops.
This is the heritage of Fort Meade. We have stood for 100 years to answer the nation’s call to service. We have sent men to fight in every war from World War I and on. We have fought at the front lines of the Cold War and are engaged daily in a new domain of warfare in cyberspace.
We invite all of you to join us this year in a series of events remembering our past, honoring our present and steeling ourselves for what lies unknown in our future.
Here are some key dates:
- June 17: Centennial Gala at Club Meade
- June 30: Red, White and Blue Festival
- Sept. 9: Descendants Picnic at Burba Lake Park
- Take some time to learn about the role that Fort Meade has played in the history of our nation.
Honor the memories and sacrifices of those who have come before and reflect on how what you are doing today will be remembered and honored 100 years from now.
Editor’s note: Retired Col. Kenneth O. McCreedy served as garrison commander from 2005 to 2008, during Fort Meade’s 90th anniversary.