Fort Bliss – Picture Parade of Fort Bliss, Texas (PDF)



History of Fort Bliss ……. Fort Bliss, near the famed Rio Grande, bordering our Mexican neighbors to the south, has long been one of America’s most colorful posts and bears the scars of many passing armies. Spanish troops under Cabeza de Vaca first visited the region as early as 1536, but the earliest American soldiers to bivouac here were with General Doniphan more than 300 years later, in 1846. The War Department officially created “El Paso Post” on September 14, 1849; then in 1854 changed the name to “Fort Bliss” in honor of Brevet Major William Wallace Smith Bliss, who had been an extremely capable soldier and secretary under Zachary Taylor. The Post was occupied at various times by both Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. On its present site, however, Fort Bliss was first completed in 1893 and placed under the command of Col. H. M. Lazelle. Little of military significance occurred until the border troubles of 1914 caused a huge expansion. These also uncovered a brilliant military leader here, John J. Pershing, who was later to become General of the Armies. In World War I days, the Post reached a peak of 60,000 men being sprawled for miles along the jagged slopes of Mt. Franklin. Fort Bliss became the home of the 1st Cavalry Division on August 31, 1921, and was soon famed throughout the world for its glamorous, booted “men of the saddle.” The Division was converted this year into a speedy, hard-hitting mechanized force, and has been praised by authorities as the “best damned soldiers that ever trod the face of the earth.” At the present time, however, Fort Bliss has expanded far beyond the Cavalry. It now has one of the world’s largest Antiaircraft Artillery Training Centers, a Reception Center, and field forces of the Third Army. Units trained at Fort Bliss have already been in action on Bataan (the famous New Mexico 200th Coast Artillery), at Dutch Harbor and Milne Bay, in Tunisia and Sicily, and in far-off Burma. Other units form part of the defenses on our east and west coasts, and of the European, North African, East Indian, Southwest Pacific and Alaskan Defense Commands. Attached to the large Fort Bliss Station Hospital are “General Hospital” staffs which get their training for overseas work as a function of the Army Service Forces. Another Army Service Forces unit on the Post is the Ordnance Service Command Shop No. 7, a mammoth repair and maintenance organization for Servicing military vehicles from outlying posts all over the surrounding area. Fort Bliss dovetails into El Paso, a thriving, prosperous city of 140,000 which combines the bustle of modern business with the picturesque simplicity of Latin America. Close by is William Beaumont General Hospital, Army Service Forces installation to which soldier-patients come from every section of America for prolonged hospitalization and special medical care. In 1942, the Training Center here took over from the Air Corps the popular radio-directed target plane. These planes are flown, serviced and completely maintained by Antiaircraft personnel. From this AAATC station, groups, including Naval officers and men, have been trained and sent to their respective stations where they, in turn, have broadened the use of the radio-directed target plane to their own purposes. Airborne Antiaircraft units, which have given a splendid account of themselves on every one of our battle fronts to date, were initially activated at the AAATC, Fort Bliss, in 1942. The activation of Airborne units at the Training Center has continued to expand greatly in the past calendar year. One of America’s largest and most important posts today. Fort Bliss is now commanded by Colonel John K. Brown, a snappy West Pointer who served here originally in the rollicking pre-war era and established himself as one of America’s greatest polo players, as well as becoming an authority on horse shows and horse judging. It is particularly fitting that in the grim seriousness of the present fight-to-a-finish, one of the old Cavalry’s most famed horsemen has been brought back to assume command, the boots and the riding crop closeted temporarily away, but the quaint charm and traditions of an earlier Fort Bliss still lurking indelibly above and beyond the rush of emergent training.