North Carolina, technically, has two Army bases – Ft. Bragg in Fayetteville and Camp MacKall that borders on the west side of Ft. Bragg. In reality, Camp MacKall is considered an important auxiliary of Ft. Bragg; more on this symbiotic relationship to come.
Ft. Bragg was originally known as Camp Bragg. In 1918, General William J. Snow, the Chief of Field Artillery was looking for an area that would be good for year-round training; a place that could be used to continue developing and test new long range weapons. He was looking for a place with decent climate for year round efficient functioning of the camp as well as good access to water, enough land mass for testing and training, and access to rail. Except for some land that some Highland Scot families had been cultivating since 1729, this area was a desolate, pinewood. It was scouted out and found to meet all the criteria – thus Camp Bragg was established September 4, 1918.
During its first year, six million dollars was spent on Camp Bragg’s development, purchasing land and erecting buildings for six artillery brigades. Work continued to complete this phase of the camp, even after WWI ended in November of 1918. Cano Bragg was completed February 1, 1919.
At this time, artillery personnel from McClellan, Alabama were posted at Camp Bragg to begin testing of the long range weapons that had been developed during the war. As a result of demobilization, Camp Bragg’s role began to evolve. Instead of having six artillery brigades, they would be reduced to four; making room for units of regular army as well as National Guard Artillery. At this time, the continued construction of Camp Bragg was done by military personnel as opposed to wartime civilian personnel.
Pope Airfield was established April 1, 1919 on some land that was being used by various aircraft, including balloons. The purposes of these aircraft included spotting for artillery fire, carrying mail, photographing and mapping terrain and watching for forest fires.
Because of cut-backs in military spending after World War I, the War Department decided to close Camp Bragg. However, Commanding General Albert J. Bowley saw the potential for the camp and did all he could to keep it up and running; even to the extent of getting the attention of the Secretary of War – who visited the camp. Along with local civic organizations’ input – as well as the Secretary’s – the Abandonment Order was recalled on September 16, 1921. On September 20, 1922, Camp Bragg became Fort Bragg – a permanent Army Post.
Growth on the post continued. 1942 saw the Airborne Command created. The auxiliary Camp Hoffman construction began on the west side of Ft. Bragg – with their air field completed in early 1943. February 3, 1943, Camp Hoffman was renamed Camp MacKall to honor the first paratrooper killed in combat during a parachute drop in Algiers November 1942. Camp MacKall has 65 miles of paved roads, a 1200 bed hospital, movie theaters, beer gardens, over 1000 buildings and a complete all weather airfield – all built in four months’ time.
Since then, Ft. Bragg has become the “Home of the Airborne and Special Forces”. Thirty military organization are represented here. Camp MacKall is the where the primary training for Special Forces (Green Berets and Delta Force) takes place.
Fort Bragg is a city in and of itself. It has housing, medical facilities, schools, shopping, banking, recreational facilities all within its borders. The post is situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Appalachian Mountains, allowing for recreational opportunities from snow skiing to beach combing.
Besides the dedicated personnel that work tirelessly to protect this country’s people and values as well as those of our allies, this is also the home of the endangered Saint Francis’ Satyr butterfly that is found only in Ft. Braggs’ wetland habitat.
Fort Bragg is not only an asset to the United States Army, but it provides a great economic boost to the surrounding communities. Ft. Bragg’s positive influence is local and worldwide.