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JBLM centennial: You can be part of history

Joint Base Lewis-McChord Public Affairs Officer

Published: 03:21PM July 27th, 2017

Three weeks from today, you will have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of Pacific Northwest history.

History will be made Aug. 18 at 4 p.m. when a large formation of Soldiers and Airmen will assemble on Lewis-Main’s Watkins Field to celebrate the centennial of Camp Lewis and Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The ceremony is open to Department of Defense ID cardholders and their guests. It is not open to the general public.

Whether you’ve been affiliated with JBLM for years, or new to the base, you are invited to take a seat in the bleachers to witness history-in-the-making.

In the meantime, here’s a tad bit of Camp Lewis and JBLM early history:

• July 28, 1914 — One month after Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and his wife were killed by a Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo, Austria-Hungary, declared war on Serbia, thus beginning World War I in Europe. Although this war lasted for almost four-and-a-half years, the U.S. didn’t enter the war on the side of its Allies — Britain, France and Russia — until April 6, 1917. The war ended Nov. 11, 1918.

• January 1917 — Three months before the U.S. entered the war, Pierce County bonded itself for $2 million to buy 70,000 acres of land near American Lake to donate to the Federal government for military use.

• April 1917 — An Army-engineer company surveyed the site for use as a military camp and construction started building the camp in mid-June 1917.

• June to September 1917 -- 1,757 buildings and 422 other structures were built to support an eventual 44,685 Soldiers. The camp was built in record time and at the lowest cost (about $7 million) of 16 national Army camps.

• July 18, 1917 — the War Department named the site Camp Lewis in honor of Captain Meriwether Lewis of the Corps of Discovery, Lewis and Clark expedition.

• Aug. 17, 1917 — Officers began to arrive at Camp Lewis to form the 91st Division. By Aug. 31, construction was complete and Camp Lewis was ready for troops.

• Sept. 5, 1917 — The first drafted recruits arrived for training at Camp Lewis. The new Soldiers trained with the 91st Division, then served in France during World War I.

By the way, we actually know the name of the first conscript Soldier who arrived at Camp Lewis Sept. 5, 1917, ahead of all the other recruits, but you’ll need to come to the ceremony on Aug. 18 to learn his name.

Beginning Aug. 18 at 3 p.m. historic vehicles, military displays and more will be on 3rd Street (adjacent to Watkins Field) for you and your family to enjoy.

Ahead of the 4 p.m. centennial ceremony you’ll hear America’s First Corps Army Band playing period music to set the stage as we get ready to look back over JBLM’s first 100 years.

The centennial ceremony will feature hundreds of Soldiers and Airmen in formation on Watkins Field — a fabulous sight alone — as well as a P-51 Mustang ceremonial flyover, a salute battery rendering honors with 75 mm Pack Howitzers, and remarks by key military and state officials.

At the end of August we’ll place photos and other mementos from the centennial ceremony in a time capsule that will be placed in the Lewis Army Museum. This capsule will be opened at JBLM’s bicentennial in 2117.

This is your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to say, “I was there.”