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Fort Lewis (WA) (Images of America) Paperback – April 22, 2002
About the Author
Alan H. Archambault works at Fort Lewis, where he is the museum curator and director. He is a military historian and an author and illustrator of several historical sketchbooks.
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The first American soldiers to visit the Northwest were Captain Meriwether Lewis and Captain William Clark on their 1804 expedition. They spent a wet winter on the Oregon coast near what is today the town of Astoria.
In 1904 the US Army and Washington National Guard held maneuvers by the shores of American Lake in what is today Lakewood Washington (just south of Tacoma). In 1917, with America's entry into WWI fast approaching, the federal government bought the land on which Fort Lewis is located from Pierce county.
Construction began on the camp on July 5, 1917 less than three months after the United States declared war on the Central powers in WWI. At an astonishing cost of just over $7 million 1,757 buildings and 422 other structures were erected in just 90 days. Many generations of soldiers would learn to become soldiers under the shadow of Mount Rainier.
The 91st Division, known as the "Wild West Division," trained at Fort Lewis prior to being sent "over there" to fight in Europe. The 91st was drawn mainly from soldiers from Western states. In spite of the segregation of the US Army at that time many ethnic groups did train at Fort Lewis. Squa De Lah, for example, was a native American who trained at Fort Lewis and was killed on Christmas day 1917 on the Western Front.
After WWI the site was allowed to languish becoming effectively a "ghost town". During the 1930s the pace of military activity picked up significantly at Fort Lewis.
From November 1940 to June 1941 Lt. Colonel Dwight Eisenhower served as chief of staff of the IX Army corps based at Fort Lewis. He was regarded as "amiable and efficient". Ike would, of course, become the leader of Operation Overlord -- the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe and, later, President.
A hotel built by the Salvation army was later transformed into the Fort Lewis Military Museum ([...]) which now houses two floors of military artifacts and displays.
Today the JBLM (Joint Base Lewis McChord) is home to over 25,000 military from the US Army and US Air Force. Visitors to the JBLM require a day pass which can be obtained with presentation of a valid driver's license, registration and proof of insurance at the visitor's center.
Christopher Kelly, author, with Stuart Laycock of America Invades: How We've Invaded or been Militarily Involved with almost Every Country on Earth and Italy Invades and An Adventure in 1914: An American Family's Journey on the Brink of WWI