Fort Knox Military Installation

Fort Knox Military Installation

 

Fort Knox, the Home of the Armor and Cavalry - has served as a U.S. military reservation since 1918. During this time it has played a key role in the development of military tactics, doctrine and equipment, and has been an integral part of the training establishment for both the active Army and Reserve Components.

Fort Knox, KYThe fort's history involves not only the military reservation but also the surrounding area. The land which today makes up Fort Knox was originally part of three Kentucky counties: Hardin, Meade and Bullitt.

In 1918 one-twelfth of Hardin County was transferred to the U.S. Government to establish Camp Knox. 61,000 acres are now occupied by Fort Knox.

American soldiers occupied the Fort Knox area as early as the Civil War. In 1862, the 9th  Michigan Infantry constructed fortifications and bridges north of the present reservation boundaries. Fort Hill, overlooking the town of West Point, was the site of one of these positions. Units of both the Union and Confederate Armies operated in this area during the Civil War. Union troops under the command of General Don Carlos Buell and General William Tecumseh Sherman occupied the hills overlooking the Ohio River. The brilliant Confederate cavalry leader from Lexington, John Hunt Morgan, raided the area with the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry in 1862, capturing several hundred federal troops. At present day Brandenburg in Meade County, west of Fort Knox, Morgan crossed his troops over the Ohio River for his famous raid into Indiana and Ohio.

The government had considered this area as a site for a military post as early as 1903. The Army, that sameFort Knox, KY year, held large - scale maneuvers in the area, particularly in and around the small agricultural villages of Stithton and West Point. The headquarters for this maneuver area was called Camp Young.

What was once the center of Stithton is today the area around the traffic circle on Chaffee Avenue. Despite this early interest in the area, it was not until the United States entered World War I that the government acted. Congress initially leased 10,000 acres in the vicinity of Stithton and, in January 1918, established Camp Henry Knox as a field artillery training center. The camp was named for Major General Henry Knox, Chief of Artillery for the Continental Army during the American Revolution and later the nation's first Secretary of War.

On June 25, 1918, Congress allocated $1.6 million to purchase 40,000 acres. Construction of the camp facilities began in July 1918, but was subsequently curtailed, first by the armistice in November 1918, then by the Army strength reductions in 1921-1922. The post was closed as a permanent installation in 1922, but continued to serve until 1932 as a training center for the 5th Corps area, for Reserve Officer training, Citizen's Military Training Camps and for the National Guard. In 1925, the post received the designation "Camp Henry Knox National Forest", which it kept until 1928, when two Infantry companies were assigned to the post.

Fort Kno, KYIn 1918, in the midst of its vast buildup in France, the American Expeditionary Force established a Tank Corps to support it in battle against the German trench lines. In the beginning, the American tankers used British and French armored vehicles and took their tactics from the British, the pioneers of tank warfare. One of the first American soldiers to distinguish himself in this revolutionary form of warfare was a 33-year-old Captain of cavalry named George S. Patton, Jr.

Congress designated Camp Knox as a permanent garrison on January 1, 1932, and changed the name to Fort Knox. January 16, 1933 brought the 1st Cavalry Regiment, the oldest mounted regiment in the U.S. Army, to its new home where it would trade its horses, oats and hay for combat cars, gasoline and lubricating oil. The new 1st Cavalry Regiment (Mechanized) was joined in 1936 by the 13th Cavalry Regiment, which in turn traded its horses for tanks. Together they comprised the 7th Cavalry Brigade (Mechanized).

The pace of activity at Fort Knox picked up quickly in the late 1930's. The post served as the center for cavalry mechanization and developed much of the tactics and doctrine which the Armored Force would use upon establishment.

Also, in 1936, the U.S. Treasury Department began construction of what is now another enduring symbol of Fort Knox, the U.S. Bullion Depository. The Gold Vault was first opened in January 1937, and was just receiving its first shipments of the nation's gold reserves when the 7th Cavalry Brigade (Mechanized) rode to the aid of the beleaguered city of Louisville, struck by a major flood on the Ohio River. Fort Knox troops patrolled the city and established several refugee centers for Louisville residents and for residents of several other flooded communities along the Ohio River between Louisville and the post.

The Armored Force was born on July 10, 1940, with the Headquarters, I Armored Corps established at Fort Fort Knox, KYKnox. On July 15, 1940, the 7th Cavalry Brigade (Mechanized) became the 1st Armored Division; the 6th Provisional Tank Brigade, and infantry tank unit at Fort Benning, became the 2nd Armored Division. The 70th Tank Battalion was established at Fort Meade, Maryland, and an Armored Force Board (later the U.S. Army Armor and Engineer Board), and a small Armored Force School were also established at Fort Knox.

The Armored Force School and the Armored Force Replacement Center were officially established at Fort Knox on December 1, 1940. The school trained armored force soldiers in military fundamentals and in specific areas such as tank gunnery, armor tactics, communications and maintenance. As the armored force grew and the U.S. entered World War II, the school expanded proportionately. From an initial cadre of 155 officers and 1,458 enlisted men in October 1940, the school grew to more than 700 officers and 3,500 enlisted men by May 1943. The school alone used more than 500 buildings, many of them "temporary" wooden structures built to meet the expansion of the post. Many of these "temporary" buildings are still in use today!

The Armored Force School, at the peak of its operation during the war, operated on two daily shifts to satisfy the demand for qualified armor soldiers. The training reflected the rapid evolution of armored warfare doctrine, which changed constantly in the face of battle experience and in the alterations to the force structure and its tables of organization and equipment. Some of the buildings used by the school reflected these new doctrines and techniques. Building 1538, just off First Avenue (now Eisenhower Avenue), was built in the shape of a Landing Ship Tank (LST) to train soldiers how to load and unload armored vehicles for transport at sea. The building still stands today and is used by the Patton Museum for storing historical armored vehicles. By 1943, Fort Knox had expanded to 106,861 acres and had 3,820 buildings, compared to 864 buildings in 1940.

The original land purchase for Fort Knox, around 1918, involved approximately 477 separate parcels ranging in size from less than \ΒΌ acre to several hundred acres. Included in these purchases were towns, homes, farms, schools, churches, train depots, businesses, cemeteries, roads, and bridges. In the early 1940's, expansion of Fort Knox resulted in the purchase of
over 1200 additional parcels of land ranging from a fraction of an acre to hundreds of acres in size.

During World War II the U.S. Bullion Depository continued to operate at Fort Knox, receiving more and more shipments of the country's gold reserves. The Gold Vault was also used to store and to safeguard the English Crown Jewels, the Magna Carta, and the gold reserves of several of the countries of occupied Europe. On December 36, 1941, the Gold Vault also received the
original documents of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence for safekeeping. These historic documents left Fort Knox on October 1, 1944 and were returned to Washington, D.C. for public display.

Fort Knox also sees nearly 400,000 visitors annually at the showcase of the armor force and Fort Knox history: the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor.


 

Gallery:

  • Fort Knox Army Replacement Center #1
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  • Fort Knox Army Replacement Center #9

 

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