Fort Meade became an active Army installation in 1917. Authorized by an Act of Congress in May 1917, it was one of 16 cantonments built for troops drafted for the war with the Central Powers in Europe. The present Maryland site was selected June 23, 1917 because of its close proximity to the railroad, Baltimore port and Washington D.C. The cost for construction was $18 million and the land sold for $37 per acre in 1917. The Post was originally named Camp Meade for Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade, whose victory at the Battle of Gettysburg proved a major factor in turning the tide of the Civil War in favor of the North.
World War I During World War I, more than 400,000 Soldiers passed through Fort Meade, a training site for three infantry divisions, three training battalions and one depot brigade. During World War I, the Post remount station collected over 22,000 horses and mules. Major Peter F. Meade, a nephew of General Meade, was the officer in charge of the remount station. The "Hello Girls" were an important part of Fort Meade history. The women served as bilingual telephone-switchboard operators in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. In 1928, the Post was redesignated Fort Leonard Wood, but Pennsylvania congressmen, angry at removing the name of native son George Meade, held up Army appropriations until the Army agreed to name the new permanent installation Fort George G. Meade on March 5, 1929.
Tank Corps Joe Around 1923, the famed tank riding dog, Old Joe, befriended the Soldiers who manned the infantry's light tanks. Joe became the Sixty-Sixth Infantry's official pet by order of the commanding officer of Fort Meade and acquired fame by becoming the Army's only tank-riding dog. Joe died in 1937 in the post hospital. The entire Sixty-Sixth Infantry honored Joe with a military formation and a procession of tanks and military trucks escorted Joe to a grave near one of the tank parks.
World War II Fort Meade became a training center during World War II, its ranges and other facilities used by more than 200 units and approximately 3,500,000 men between 1942 and 1946. The wartime peak-military personnel figure at Fort Meade was reached in March, 1945 70,000. Fort Meade was home to many services. The Cooks and Bakers School supplied bread for the entire Post (approximately 20,000 people including families of married men). In 1942, the Third Service Command opened the Special Services Unit Training Center where Soldiers were trained in all phases of the entertainment field. Entertainers, musicians, and others involved in the entertainment industry, including swing-band leader, Glenn Miller, served in Special Services. Fort Meade was home to a number of German and Italian prisoners of war. In September 1943, the first shipment of 1,632 Italian and 58 German prisoners arrived at Fort Meade. Some of those prisoners, including a highly decorated German submarine commander named Werner Henke, died during their captivity and were buried at Fort Meade. Over 150,000 American women served in the Women's Army Corps (WAC) during World War II. Members of the WAC were the first women other than nurses to serve within the ranks of the United States Army.
The Cold War With the conclusion of World War II, Fort Meade reverted to routine peacetime activities. One key post-World War II event at Fort Meade was the transfer from Baltimore, on June 15, 1947, of the Second U.S. Army Headquarters. This transfer brought an acceleration of post activity, because Second Army Headquarters exercised command over Army units throughout a seven-state area. A second important development occurred on January 1, 1966, when the Second U.S. Army merged with the First U.S. Army. The consolidated headquarters moved from Fort Jay, N.Y. to Fort Meade to administer activities of Army installations in a 15-state area.
The Modern Era In August 1990, Fort Meade began processing Army Reserve and National Guard units from several states for the presidential call-up in support of Operation Desert Shield. In addition to processing reserve and guard units, Fort Meade sent two of its own active duty units the 85th Medical Battalion and the 519th Military Police Battalion to Saudi Arabia. In all, approximately 2,700 personnel from 42 units deployed from Fort Meade during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.