Fort Bliss is an Army installation in western Texas and eastern New Mexico. It is different from most Army installations in that the main post is located in the metropolitan city of El Paso, Texas and 90% of training lands and several base camps are located in New Mexico. Another way Fort Bliss is unique is the large proportion of military housing that is located off-post. This can bring both benefits and challenges to the Soldiers. At Fort Bliss Soldiers are prepared for their missions, encouraged to take care of troops and their families, and be a positive part of our community.
El Paso, where the installation is located, consistently scores in the top five of the safest cities in the U.S. however; its neighbor on the other side of the border, Juarez is currently off-limits for all military personnel and civilians are strongly discouraged from visiting. El Paso is the third fastest growing city in the nation, and the 22nd largest in population. The population is majority Hispanic, and according to a 2007 survey, 74% of El Paso residents speak Spanish at home, even if they speak English as well. The weather mild to hot weather year-round, a low crime rate, an economical cost of living, a community college and a university, excellent medical facilities, an international airport, and a wealth of cultural, recreational and entertainment opportunities.
Fort Bliss’s 1890 to 1940 history can be divided into several significant periods; a chapter is devoted to each period. At the end of each chapter, a section is devoted to historically important questions relating to that chapter’s subject matter. The bibliographic essays that follow each chapter review both the published secondary sources on Fort Bliss history and the primary manuscript sources that merit further analysis. In the 50 years between the post’s relocation at its present site and World War 11, Fort Bliss gained regional and national significance. Fort Bliss became a great horse cavalry post and the most important U.S. military installation on the border. The horse cavalry era ended with the removal of the 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Bliss in 1943. Fort Bliss was the nation’s last military base with a strategic mission as a horse cavalry post. Fort Bliss’s rise to prominence is intertwined with a series of historical events. Chapter I relates the first of these, the ending of the Indian wars in the late 1880s. Because fewer troops were needed in the country’s interior, military forces could be moved to border garrisons.
The first crucial decision in the history of modern Fort Bliss dates to this important shift in the army’s strategic mission. Fort Selden, New Mexico, then rivaled Fort Bliss as a candidate for the region’s most important post. However, impressed by Fort Bliss’s strategic border location and its proximity to El Paso’s railroads, the military decided to expand Fort Bliss in 1890. Crowded by railroad construction at Hart’s Mill, the fort was moved to La Noria Mesa, its present location. The final appearance of the original post on La Noria Mesa largely was the work of the Quartermaster Officer Captain George Ruhlen. The first buildings were completed in 1893. They were first garrisoned in October, 1893; the rest of the decade passed quietly at the fort. Fort Bliss’s contributions to military efforts during the Spanish-American War (1898) and the Philippine Insurrection (1898-1902) are discussed in Chapter II. Fort Bliss’s role was small but, for a four-infantry company post, significant. The fort’s involvement demonstrated that it deserved consideration in future military planning.
Chapter III describes the first decade of the early New Army period, the first decade of the twentieth century at Fort Bliss. During the New Army period, the U.S. Army was reorganized and modernized. Although Fort Bliss remained a small, isolated infantry post during this period, it soon would expand and increase in strategic significance. The Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) shaped Fort Bliss’s development until World War II. This era is examined in Chapter IV. The revolution drew national attention to the border and to the strategic importance of Fort Bliss. In 1910, Fort Bliss was a remote, small, infantry post. By the end of the Mexican Revolution, it was a large cavalry installation that served a vital strategic mission. At the same time, Fort Bliss made significant contributions to the American effort in World War I by providing training camps.
The Mexican Revolution made Fort Bliss a cavalry post. When the Punitive (Pershing) Expedition returned from Mexico, five cavalry units were stationed at Fort Bliss and its vicinity. On January 30, 1917, Colonel Robert L. Michie submitted a written proposal to the army chief of staff that Fort Bliss be made a major, permanent cavalry post. By 1921, Michie’s recommendation was accepted and the 1st Cavalry Division was activated at Fort Bliss. Fort Bliss thus became a major cavalry post even after battlefield experience in World War I had cast doubts upon the future of horse cavalry. Fort Bliss’s World War I history and its conversion to a major cavalry post in the years immediately following the war are summarized in chapters V and VI.
Chapter VII deals with 1920s Fort Bliss. Although a decade of isolationism and conservative fiscal policies, the 1920s brought remarkable growth to Fort Bliss. The post grew because of its strategic location, its importance as a rail and air communication center, and its large expanses of land suitable for cavalry and field artillery training. In the 1930s, the military’s problems were compounded by the Great Depression, yet Fort Bliss continued to expand. This expansion is the subject of Chapter VIII. Quarters for non commissioned officers and their families were constructed at a rapid pace. Using unspent 1920s funds, the post also gained a considerable amount of land in the early 1930s.
The World War II era falls outside the scope of this study. An appendix, however, is included that describes Fort Bliss during the war and the early postwar period. On the eve of World War Ii, only two great cavalry posts remained in the United States-Fort Riley, Kansas, and Fort Bliss. In 1943, Fort Bliss was stripped of this role. The 1st Cavalry Division, associated with Fort Bliss since its inception in 1921, was sent to the Pacific Theater and its horses and horse equipment were left behind, ending a chapter of American military history. As one veteran put it, “An era ended-the horse was gone.”
One of DoD’s flagship installations comprised of state-of-the-art training areas, ranges, and facilities; led by adaptive, innovative, and warrior focused professionals concentrated on individual and unit readiness, leaders development, deployment, security, and the well-being of Team Bliss.
Team Bliss trains, sustains, mobilizes, and deploys members of the joint team to conduct global, full spectrum operations in support of the national military strategy, while providing for the well-being of the regional military community.
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