COLUMBUS, Ga. (June 4, 2018) – In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Fort Benning, the Columbus Museum in Columbus, Georgia, opened a new historic exhibition May 31 during a reception event.
The exhibition, “Fort Benning at 100,” covers the history of Fort Benning from when citizens of Columbus petitioned the War Department for a military post to be established in the Columbus area, thus bringing Camp Benning into existence in 1918.
Maj. Gen. Gary M. Brito, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning, spoke at the museum.
“This is a very special year for Fort Benning, the military and the broader community,” said Brito. “This last 100 years has entailed an incredibly close integration, relationship and collaboration going all the way back to 1918.”
The story of Fort Benning began shortly after the U.S. entered World War I. A committee of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce went to Washington to have an Army camp placed at Columbus. The “Encampment Committee” returned in seeming defeat to Columbus in 1918, but, unbeknownst to the committee, Columbus was chosen as a prospective site for the Infantry School of Arms. Infantry School staff and Soldiers from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, arrived Oct. 1, an 84-acre farm on Macon Road was chosen as the site, a detachment arrived Oct. 7, and the new site was named Camp Benning Oct. 19.
To help expand the new camp, the War Department purchased the 1,800-acre Bussey Plantation and an additional 115,000 acres, and the Secretary of War approved funding for new facilities and infrastructure to accommodate the Infantry School of Arms.
Then, Nov. 11, 1918, World War I ended, and Jan. 7, 1919, the War Department stopped funding and abandoned new construction. Citizens from Columbus and military leaders lobbied the U.S. Senate to keep the Infantry School at Benning on a permanent basis.
Brito drew the distinction between Fort Benning and Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and other Army posts established during the time period. Many of the posts were established for tactical reasons. The War Department founded Fort Benning because of a desire by the community.
“Fort Benning was established because of the vision of community leaders,” he said. “And from that vision and leadership of men – civilian and military alike – Fort Benning grew to be one of the most important posts in the United States Army.”
The lobbying efforts of the civilian and military leaders during the years immediately following World War I were not in vain. In 1922 the War Department issued General Order No. 1, establishing Fort Benning as a permanent Army location.
“This post became permanent in 1922, and shortly thereafter, Fort Benning began to spearhead innovation in tactics and weapons,” said Brito. “And that is a premier part of our mission today.”
The “Fort Benning at 100” exhibition displays Fort Benning-related military objects and artifacts – including uniforms and photographs – that take the visitor chronologically through Fort Benning’s history to the present day.
Brito talked about many of the innovations and changes the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning continues to lead, including the work with robotics, the development of the next-generation combat vehicle and the activation of the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade. These innovations the center accomplishes in addition to their missions of training and leadership development.
“As a Maneuver Center of Excellence, we send to the Army highly trained Infantry and Armor Soldiers and leaders,” said Brito.
Brito concluded his remarks by telling the reception attendees he was “looking forward to starting the next 100 years.”
Opening at the same time as the Fort Benning centennial exhibition was the “From Swords to Plowshares” exhibition, which featured the art of soldiers and civilians during the First World War.
To learn more about Fort Benning’s centennial, visit “Fort Benning Centennial” in the “Related Links” section on this page.
To learn more about the Columbus Museum, visit “Columbus Museum” in the “Related Links” section on this page.
For more photos from the event, visit “PHOTO ALBUM: Fort Benning at 100” in the “Related Links” section on this page.