CELEBRATING 150 YEARS
Frontier of the Future
Since our founding in 1869, Fort Sill have been dedicated to supporting our nation and surrounding community. Now, as we celebrate our 150th anniversary, we have planned a year of festivities. Make plans to attend one of the many events we will have throughout 2019 as we celebrate our history, our community and our future.
150 years of history
Fort Sill is celebrating 150 years of service to the nation throughout the 2019 year. In July 1834, Col. Henry Dodge conferred with a group of Comanche’s along Cache Creek near present-day Fort Sill and later met with the Wichita’s to the west of the Wichita Mountains near Fort Sill. As a result of the meetings, the federal government signed treaties at Fort Gibson with Comanche’s in 1835 and Wichita’s in 1837 to end their raids into the territory of the Five Civilized Tribes to the east, and created a temporary, but an uneasy, peace to the territory until the mid-1860s This fort was founded as a cavalry fort in 1869 to control the South Plains Indians. It has been famous for generals such as William Sherman, Philip Sheridan, and George Custer. In 1911, the School for Field Artillery was established at Fort Sill and from a small beginning, it has since trained artillery men for World War I, World War II, The Korean Conflict, Vietnam, Persian Gulf War, and the War on Terrorism. Fort Sill is the Field Artillery training center for the free world, training officers and enlisted from more than 50 countries. Fort Sill was originally named Camp Wichita, but was later renamed for Joshua W. Sill, a Civil War general.
Following the Indian Wars in 1875, Cavalry troops from Fort Sill patrolled the great cattle trails which crossed Indian Territory to the markets in Kansas and the grass countries of the Northern Plains. Other Cavalry missions included the pursuit of horse thieves, cattle rustlers, and other bands of renegades which infested the boundary. Cavalry troops from Fort Sill also supervised the major land openings in Oklahoma, from the run of 1889 to the opening of the Kiowa-Comanche reservation to settlement in 1901. Many of the scouts that helped the Army find and establish Fort Sill were legends, to name a few “Wild Bill” Hickok and “Buffalo” Bill Cody were the main frontier scouts. The last Cavalry regiment to garrison the post, the 13th Cavalry, departed in June, 1907, to be replaced by the first Field Artillery Regiment. The first commander of Fort Sill was Maj. Gen. Phillip H. Sheridan in 1869. The cavalry itself later became known as the “Buffalo Soldiers.” They were established in 1866. The Red River war began soon after Sheridan took command. In 1875 while the war was raging on, the first telegraph line was completed between Fort Sill and Fort Richardson, Texas. Later, in 1879, the first actual telephone lines were installed at Fort Sill. This came only three years after the telephone was invented.
Brevet Maj. Gen. Benjamin Henry Grierson was the first post commander. As a child Grierson was kicked by a horse and hated horses but later became commander of the cavalry. In the 1870’s Grierson went on to command the 10th Cavalry, an all-black cavalry unit at Fort Sill and in 1871 President Ulysses Grant, declared Fort Sill a permanent addition to the US Army. As the Red River continued, many Apache prisoners of war’s, including Geronimo, arrived at Fort Sill in 1894. Fort Sill remains the only active Army installation of all the forts on the South Plains built during the Indian Wars.
The Reorganization Act in 1802 had reduced the number of field artillery regiments from two to one. This helped push the need for a large mass area to test and train Soldiers. In 1906, Brig. Gen. Arthur Murray became Chief of Artillery and served until June 1908. From 1916 to 1918, the School for Aerial Observers employed hot air balloons and fixed-wing aircraft to aid in locating enemy and targets. They were some of the first trained at the newly designated Fort Sill School of Field Artillery. The First Aero Squadron’s first assignment came in March of 1916, they left for Mexico on Gen. John Pershing’s Punitive Expedition against Pancho Villa.
Fort Sill is also the original home of tactical combat aviation and the Army’s original airfield. In 1915, the 1st Aero Squadron uncrated their new, unassembled airplanes and put them together. Unfortunately just two days after the planes had arrived, the installation had its first accident, resulting in one fatality. In November of 1915, the First Aero Squadron conducted its first cross- country flight when it took off from Fort Sill for Fort Sam Houston, Texas. In 1942, Fort Sill was to become the official “Birthplace of Modern Aviation”.
In August of 1917, a small contingent of French officers with combat experience in World War 1 reported to the School of Fire for Field Artillery to serve as instructors. As the demand for the Field Artillery grew, an $11 million construction plan was sent to the War Department in 1931 for new quarters and a permanent administration building. In 1946, the Field Artillery school conducted its first postwar Artillery Officer Advanced Course for officers with 5-12 years of experience. The course taught field artillery and antiaircraft artillery subjects. In 1933 the Civilian Conservation corps was established under U.S. Army Management with Fort Sill being one of the headquarters. Over the next two years, the commanding general of Fort Sill managed CCC companies in Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, and Wyoming. The CCC companies are responsible for many projects across Fort Sill and Southwest Oklahoma still standing today. May of 1953, Soldiers from Fort Sill fired the world’s first atomic artillery round at Frenchman’s Flat in Nevada, from a 280-mm. gun, known as Atomic Annie. In 1954 the Artillery School officially opened at Snow Hall to replace McNair Hall which was built in the 1930s. Also in 1954, the first Honest John rocket (the first nuclear-capable surface-to-surface rocket in the United States arsenal) arrived at Fort Sill to usher the artillery school into the nuclear age.
Later in 1956 the first guided missile battalion to be assigned to Fort Sill arrived from Fort Bliss, Texas. In 1965, the 173rd Airborne Brigade with its supporting field artillery, the 3-319th Airborne Field Artillery, departed for Vietnam, becoming the first Army combat unit in the country. In September 1985, a Fort Sill report on the Army and Air Force Joint Tactical Missile System program reaffirmed the Army’s intention to develop a short-range, ground-launched missile armed with terminal-guided sub munitions. This missile system evolved into the Army Tactical Missile System. With the Gulf War ending in February 1991, the American field artillery fired 57,168 rounds. Of that total the Americans shot 32 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles. In April ’91, Brig. Gen. Frank Miller Jr., commanding general of III Corps Artillery at Fort Sill, emphasized improvisation governed mobilization for Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. In May of ‘91, the commanding general of Fort Sill, Maj. Gen. Raphael Hallada, and the 75th Field Artillery Brigade praised the 6-27th Field Artillery for its performance in Operation Desert Storm when it fired six Army Tactical Missile Systems missiles to destroy surface to air missile sites Jan. 18, 1991.
By September 2005, A Battery, 3-13th Field Artillery fired six Guided MLRS rockets to destroy the Mish’al Bridge and to prevent its use by insurgent forces in the Al Anbar province in West Iraq. In May of 2007 the 1st Armored Division artillery inactivated as the last division artillery in the Army because of the creation of fires brigades and brigade combat teams as a part of the Transformation of the Army. In August of 2008, a ceremony at Fort Sill marked the arrival of the 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade from its home in Fort Bliss, Texas, to its new location at the post in southwest Oklahoma. The brigade’s red-and-yellow-guidon was uncased to symbolize the move, which is part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act, or BRAC, which directed the collocation of the ADA School and FA School at Fort Sill
Extra Facts: The first patch worn by the 45th Infantry Division strongly resembled what we now know as the Swastika In 1911, the indigenous people still inhabited the Fort Sill area and a Fort Sill captian wrote to the war department complaining about their presence because this would limit the range for the proposed school, thus impacting the main goal of the School of Field Artillery. 1932 Fort Sill artillery branch’s Lt. Richard Mayo won the bronze medal in the Pentathlon. That year the Olympics were held in Los Angeles. In 1933, Maj. Wilbur Nye began his research into the Indian raids while he was stationed at Fort Sill. He went on to write “Carbine and Lance: The Story of Old Fort Sill,” an still used today at Fort Sill. There are 48 designated historical sites on Fort sill today. The Fort Sill museum is the largest in the US Army. Fort Sill is 27 miles from East to West. The Air Defense Artillery branch’s insignia that is worn today, the crossed field guns with missile, was authorized to be worn by the branch on December 1968.