Fort Benning Community
The Officers’ Club, now the Benning Club
The Fort Benning Officers’ Club on Morrison Avenue was organized in 1919, the year Camp Benning became Fort Benning and relocated from its first location off Macon Road in Columbus to its present site.
In 1931, (then) Lt. Col. George C. Marshall headed the Board of Governors and engaged a New York architect to design a clubhouse, which was built in the Spanish Mission Revival style like much of the post’s early construction. The club was completed in June 1934 at a cost of $150,000, mostly private funds. It was one of the most modern clubs in the Southeast, with an expansive gallery, separate lounges for men and women, a barbershop and a beauty shop, billiard room, gymnasium, kitchen and grill, guest quarters on the mezzanine level, servants’ quarters for round-the-clock service, a paging system and an in-house telephone system so guests could order from the grill anywhere in the club.
The club was often referred to as Dowdall’s Tavern, a reference to Capt. Harry G. Dowdall, who served as secretary and treasurer of the Board of Governors during the construction period. Dowdall was said to be a colorful character and known as the man who enlisted in the Army 35 times as a private. It seems Dowdall was serving on recruiting duty in 1920, when the Adjutant General sent him undercover to study recruiting practices throughout the Army. Impersonating a candidate, Dowdall enlisted 35 times in four months.
The first pool and formal gardens were added three years later, and the Supper Club in 1960. The Officers’ Club, or O Club, was featured briefly in “The Green Berets,” a movie starring John Wayne filmed at Fort Benning in 1967. The old O Club is now the Benning Club.
The arch was presented to the 15th US Infantry Regiment in 1925 by residents of villages near the port city of Tientsin. In the Chinese Civil War of 1924, the Soldiers of the 15th protected villagers from the warring Chinese armies. The arch is engraved with: “A remembrance of the golden deeds done by officers and men of the United States Armed Forces in China during the civil strife, 1924.” The 15th US Infantry Regiment was stationed in Tientsin from 1912 to 1938. When the unit returned to the United States, it presented the arch to the Infantry School at Fort Benning on March 24, 1938. It is on Morrison Avenue.
This monument was presented to Fort Benning by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in 1926. Anna Caroline Benning unveiled the monument, which honors her father and the post’s namesake, Gen. Henry Lewis Benning. The monument also bears a tablet marking the Federal Road, which was authorized by Congress in 1805 and served as a bridal path until it became a main traffic route for emigrants and settlers moving from the Atlantic coast to the Lower Mississippi Valley in 1811. To protect the frontier, Fort Mitchell was built on the Federal Road in 1813 across the Chattahoochee River.
The DAR monument also honors Gen. Marquis Lafayette, who walked on the Federal Road near what is now the junction of 1st Division and Lumpkin roads in 1825.
Original Officers’ Quarters, Kashita Town Marker
The three buildings that form a half circle beyond Honor Field on Richardson Circle were Bachelor Officers’ Quarters when they were built in 1934. Lewis, Greene and Collins halls are named for: Col. Evan Elias Lewis, one of the best-known military heroes of the day as well as a highly decorated veteran of World War I, who died Oct. 31, 1932; Maj. Gen. Henry A Greene, a WWI hero who died Aug. 19, 1921; and Maj. Gen. Edgar T. Collins, a former commandant of the Infantry School, who died Feb. 10, 1934.
A marker on Richardson Circle commemorates the Creek Indian village of Kashita (Kasita), which was on the land now designated as Main Post. The marker also names Col. John Tate, one of the last English agents sent to this area to muster up support for the Crown among the Lower Creeks during the Revolution. Tate married Sehoya, a Tuskegee Indian or “half Indian.” About 1780, Tate fell ill and “died deranged between Flint River and Chattahoochee” en route to Augusta with a party of Creeks, who brought him back to Kashita for burial. Historical documents say he was buried on Woolfolk’s Hill on what is now Riverside.
The Creeks of this area descended from a nation that spanned what is now the Southeastern United States. They were one of the dominant tribes in the mid-south and became known as one of the Five Civilized Tribes. Kashita, meaning “peace town,” was one of six major Creek towns within the confines of what is now Georgia and Alabama. Creeks were known in their own language as Muskoke or Muskogee.
Built in 1931 in the popular Spanish Colonial style, Patch Hall (Building 7) is one of the post’s oldest and most historic structures. It was the installation’s first permanent school and known simply as “The Children’s School.” Patch Hall is on Baltzell Avenue.
The school was constructed by troops using $28,981 in private funds. It was built in a grove of trees, with the front section facing Baltzell Avenue and two sections extending to the rear in a traditional Spanish style “U” shape. The courtyard served as a playground until the free-standing auditorium was built.
In 1945, it was named Patch School and was dedicated to Capt. Alexander M. Patch Jr., who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in World War II while serving with the 315th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division. Patch was a West Point graduate who had attended school in Columbus while his father was stationed at Fort Benning. He and his wife, Virginia, met at Columbus High School. They returned to Columbus in 1943 and lived in Benning Hills until Patch was deployed. The 24-year-old company commander was leading an attack when he was fatally wounded by a direct hit from a German 75 mm antitank gun. He was buried in the American Cemetery in France.
As Patch School, and later Patch Preschool, it served many generations of military families. Now, after a thorough and careful renovation designed to maintain the building’s historical integrity, Patch Hall will be the center of Army Community Service at Fort Benning.
Riverside has been the home of Fort Benning commandants since 1919, when the home and surrounding farm were purchased from Arthur Bussey, a Columbus businessman who built it in 1909. The land upon which Bussey built his home was once inhabited by Creek Indians. John Woolfolk acquired about 5,000 acres of land along the Chattahoochee River after the 1827 lottery to distribute Creek lands. Woolfolk named his estate Cusseta Plantation after the Creek Indian village of Kashita.
After the Civil War, the plantation was divided into parcels and sold. Martha Hatcher purchased 1,780 acres in 1883 and sold them to Bussey in 1909. Bussey named the home Riverside. The kitchen at the back of the home was once a meeting house Bussey moved from Lumpkin Road using logs drawn by mules. The local newspaper heralded the move as an engineering feat, as not a single tree was damaged when the meeting house was pulled slowly through a forest where Patch Hall stands on the corner of Baltzell and Lumpkin avenues. Bussey built a two-story addition to the structure, including a parlor and wash-basin bath downstairs, bedrooms upstairs and porches on three sides. The home, originally constructed for summer use, was outfitted with three fireplaces. The farm was active year-round, producing cotton, corn and sugar cane. Bussey devised a method of pumping water into the house from a pond nearly a mile away, making Riverside one of the first homes in this area to have running water indoors. Riverside, known as Quarters 1, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.
Behind Riverside is a plaque marking the spot where a creamery built by Arthur Bussey in 1915 once stood. When the Army purchased Bussey’s home, the creamery was converted to the quartermaster’s office and post head-quarters until 1934. It was serving as the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate when it was destroyed by arson in 2009.
Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower lived at 206 Austin Loop from 1926 to 1927 when he was a major. As an additional duty, Eisenhower coached the Doughboy football team. Note the historical marker on Vibbert Avenue.
The Dutch Colonial style quarters on Austin Loop and Eames Avenue were built in 1923-24. Legend has it that the building plans were intended for a military installation in the North and the roofs were steeply pitched to prevent snow from piling up. A mix-up resulted in the installations receiving blueprints intended for the other. A 1933 post newspaper referred to Austin Loop as the neighborhood where “they built the made-to-shed-snow houses.”
These were the first permanent married officer housing for field grade officers. Like most of the post’s early construction, they reflect careful planning with consideration for aesthetics and community. The fronts of these houses, pictured here at the top of the page, faced the central courtyard, and the backs would today be considered the front, facing the paved road.
Fort Benning Soldiers built this stadium as a memorial to comrades killed in World War I. It was funded by contributions from Soldiers around the world. Gen. John J. Pershing poured the first concrete during the 1924 ground-breaking ceremony. The towers were added in 1929 to house offices. In its heyday, the stadium also housed a barbershop, commissary, PX and more.
The word “Doughboy” was a slang term used for infantrymen during World War I. Some say the word was derived from “dough ball,” a type of button worn on infantry overcoats in the early 1800s. Others believe it was first used in the Mexican-American War, when U.S. infantrymen in Northern Mexico stirred up so much dust, they took on the look of the adobe buildings of that region. “Adobe boys” became “doughboys.” However it originated, the word was used fondly by the American population after World War I. When Fort Benning constructed a football stadium in 1925, it was dedicated to the infantrymen who died during World War I.
The dedication of Doughboy Stadium was celebrated on Oct. 17, 1925, with a game between the Blue Tide of Fort Benning and a team from Oglethorpe University before a crowd of 9,000. Fort Benning’s 27-6 victory foreshadowed a lengthy period of success for Fort Benning football. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who earned five stars before becoming president of the United States, helped coach the Doughboys to an all-Army championship the following year.
Fort Benning quickly earned a reputation as a contender among colleges throughout the Southeast. The Doughboys played teams from the universities of Florida, Georgia and Alabama. The 1946 Doughboys team, coached by Capt. Bill Meeks, outscored opponents 353 to 45 in six games and captured the Service Championship. Meeks went on to work with the Dallas Cowboys. Perhaps the greatest of all the Doughboy teams was the 1962 undefeated squad, led by Pat Dye, future coach of Auburn. Two years later, the Washington Touchdown Club named Dye the Army Player of the Year.
The success of the Doughboys waned when Fort Benning Soldiers were called to fight in Vietnam. Though the installation fielded post teams up until 1983, when the decision was made to disband the team in favor of a strong intramural program, the Doughboys never recaptured the glory they experience in their early years.
Gowdy Field was built with leftover funds donated for the construction of Doughboy Stadium. It is named in honor of Sgt. Harry “Hank” Gowdy, the first Major League Baseball player to enlist in World War I. He served in the 166th Infantry, 42nd “Rainbow” Division, and saw action in all the unit’s major battles.
Gowdy returned to the pros after the war and caught for the New York Giants, who beat the Washington Senators, 9-6, at Gowdy Field on March 31, 1925, as part of Gowdy Field dedication day activities.
Gowdy later returned to the Army at age 53 after Pearl Harbor was attacked. He received a commission and was sent to Fort Benning where he served as the Athletic Training Officer. By war’s end, he attained the rank of major. Jackie Robinson, Whitey Ford and Chuck Stobbs were among the many notables who played ball on Gowdy Field.
The Infantry Chapel and Field of the Four Chaplains
The chapel was built in 1934 to accommodate Catholic, Protestant and Jewish worship. Though it was originally called the Three Faiths Chapel, at one time it appeared in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not because it served five denominations.
The interior of the chapel, which seats 400, reflects that of an 18th century Episcopal church, with a vaulted ceiling, balconies and raised pulpit. The exterior was modeled after the First Presbyterian Church of Savannah. The design is noted for its understated elegance and 100-foot-tall steeple. The beauty of the Infantry Chapel makes it a popular place for weddings. In the 1950s, the chapel saw about 15 weddings per month.
In the belfry is a Liberty carillon presented to Fort Benning by Harvey Firestone Jr. as a tribute to American Soldiers who died in World War II. The inaugural playing of the carillon was during the Victory Day celebration Aug. 4, 1946. Folks from Columbus often drove to Fort Benning to hear the carillon’s 30-minute concert, which started at 5 p.m. each day. The carillon was silenced many years ago, at the directive of a post commander whose wife was gravely ill and easily disturbed by the music. Pigeons took up residence in the unused system, and as a result of that — and a lightning strike — they became inoperable after a time. In 2010, a new system was installed and the carillons now play every afternoon.
The Field of the Four Chaplains is dedicated to the memory of the four U.S. chaplains who, in World War II, gave their life preservers to fellow passengers after their troop ship was torpedoed on Feb. 3, 1943. This field is the site of the post’s annual Christmas Tree and Menorah Lighting Ceremony each December.
Building 1836, Railroad Station
From 1921 until 1946, Fort Benning had its own narrow gauge railroad, known as the Dinky Line but also called the Chattahoochee Choo-Choo and Old Fuss and Feathers. At the height of its use, there were more than 18 locomotives and 27 miles of track on the post. The locomotives were originally built for use in World War I by the Davenport Locomotive Works of Iowa. After the war, it was shipped to Camp Benning to help meet the new post’s transportation needs.
Aside from hauling logs and bricks for construction around the post, the railroad was also used to transport officer candidates to classrooms in the field. It was noted at the time for being the world’s longest narrow-gauge railroad. It had 32 coaches, 53 flat cars, 105 gondolas, four tank cars, 10 locomotives and a special observation car built in 1935 for visiting dignitaries.
The post newspaper reported in 1927 that Pvt. Joseph Wiggins saved the life of Sgt. Frank Lavender’s 18-month-old baby, who had ventured through a hole in the screen door of the family home and wandered onto the train tracks.
“Wiggins, at the throttle of the post’s narrow gauge train, noticed an infant crawling on the tracks ahead and immediately applied the brakes,” the article said. “Because of the angle of the grade, the train would not stop. Wiggins jumped out and ran ahead of the train to snatch the baby just in the nick of time.”
Lavender tried to talk to Wiggins, who hopped back on the train. The private later explained, “I didn’t have time to answer any dee fool questions. I had to get that load of sand and gravel out where I was going.”
The tracks and spurs were removed in 1946 and turned over to Army Engineers for disposal. The railroad system was sold and moved by a contractor to Cuba for use on a sugar plantation.
Engine No. 1902 and the VIP car are displayed at the National Infantry Museum.
The cornerstone to Building 358 commemorates the 1928 dedication of the post’s first fitness center, which included, at one point, an indoor skating rink. Access to Building 358 is now restricted as it serves the Network Enterprise Center.
At Russ Park, you will find two bodies of water, Russ Pool and Russ Pond, which were formed in 1919 when a dam was built to create a swimming hole. By 1926, there was a beach and concrete stands with seating for 400. A bathhouse was added soon after. This was a favorite spot for enlisted personnel and their Columbus visitors. Although the bathhouse is gone and the pool closed, the site remains a popular recreation spot. It is on the north side of Main Post off Clark Road, near the Lumpkin Road entrance.
Main Post Cemetery
Dating to 1922, the Main Post Cemetery is notable for its beauty, simplicity and symmetry. Tombstones are all the same size and style, without regard to rank or position.
Three Medal of Honor recipients have been laid to rest here: Col. Robert Nett (1922-2008), Col. Edward R. Schowalter (1927-2003) and Spc4 Donald Johnston (1947-1969), who was awarded the medal posthumously after he was killed in Vietnam. Johnston is buried near the foot of the flagpole. The cemetery is also the final resting place of seven Italian and 44 German prisoners of war who died in captivity at Fort Benning during World War II. Julia Moore, the wife of retired Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, was buried here in 2004. She is considered the mother of the modern day family readiness group.
The Betjeman Bridge was dedicated in 1937 and served as the main bridge into Fort Benning for many years. Prior to Fort Benning’s existence and for several years after, a long wooden bridge was nearby, extending access from Lumpkin Road in Columbus to the Main Post area across the Upatoi Creek.
The Ben H. Hardaway Company built the bridge, a combination highway/railroad/foot traffic bridge for $223,000, an allotment from the National Recovery Administration to the installation in 1933.
John Betjeman was a Columbus businessman who was an ambassador to Washington in 1918, campaigning relentlessly for the military encampment to be in Columbus.
After much consideration, on Aug. 27, 1918, the War Department gave him the nod, and Betjeman returned to Columbus to share the good news. He was feted at a banquet and presented a silver loving cup and a check for $2,500.
Betjeman died at age 44 in 1923 and was buried in Linwood Cemetery in Columbus. Fourteen years later, the bridge was dedicated to him.
Campbell King Horse Bowl
The Campbell King Horse Show Bowl hosted its first show in May 1930. The bowl, named for Brig. Gen. Campbell King, the post commandant who did the most to promote horsemanship and post beautification during his tenure from 1929 to 1933, had two rings set in an amphitheater surrounded by shade trees.
The horse bowl, on the northwestern edge of Main Post near the Chattahoochee River, was primarily used for horse shows and polo matches but was also the site of many concerts and Easter sunrise services, attracting as many as 10,000 people throughout the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s.
Gen. George S. Patton used the arena on many occasions in the ’40s. One of the last great activities at the horse bowl was a concert performed by the Columbus-Phenix City-Fort Benning Bicentennial Band in 1976.
The road to the horse bowl has become inaccessible, and the bowl itself has fallen into disrepair, though Boy Scouts and civic-minded Soldiers have taken it upon themselves to groom it from time to time. Overgrowth and the potential for snakes makes viewing the Campbell King Horse Bowl unadvisable.
The large U-shaped buildings are known as “Cuartels,” the Spanish word for barracks. The design and construction of these buildings was directed by Gen. Briant H. Wells, who commanded Fort Benning from 1923 to 1926.
Construction began in 1925 and, though the project, which covers three blocks, was not completed until 1939 at a cost of $1.3 million. The continuous building, known as Olson Hall, housed the historic 29th Infantry Regiment for many years. The Cuartels also housed the 24th Infantry Regiment, various unit headquarters, offices, student billeting and more.
The courtyard of the middle block was once a parade field slightly larger than 16 acres. In 1941, the one building which opens onto Edwards Street was listed in Ripley’s Believe It or Not for having the world’s longest continuous front porch. The building is nearly a mile long.
The Cuartels are being renovated as part of a campus to house students attending Officer Candidate School, Basic Officer Leader Course and the NCO Academy. The historic warehouse district on the north side of Vibbert Avenue will be included in the campus and used for classrooms. The Cuartels were the post’s first permanent barracks and they remain the only barracks of the earliest construction era still in use.
Building 72, Theater/Playhouse
This playhouse at the corner of Wold and Anderson streets was built with Public Works funding in 1933 to serve as an entertainment center for black troops of the 24th Infantry Regiment. It showed silent films first, before becoming one of the first military installations to offer talking pictures. It also served as the community playhouse for many on-post productions.
Building 72 is now Nett Hall, named in honor of the late Col. Robert Nett, who earned the Medal of Honor in World War II.
Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame
Omar Bradley established Officer Candidate School (OCS) soon after he took command of Fort Benning in 1941, though the idea had been proposed three years prior. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall described the new course as a means “to provide additional officer personnel, to offer a fair opportunity to the man in the ranks and, most important of all, to utilize a rare opportunity for securing outstanding leaders.”
OCS was a daring gamble. Young men, many with little or no formal education or military experience, were turned into junior officers in just 13 weeks. They were commonly referred to as “90-day wonders.” OCS graduated 280,000 officers during World War II. They “came out too cocky,” said one officer, but one colonel — a West Point grad — noted in 1943 that OCS graduates were “the best I’ve seen in the Army … They are well-grounded, interested in their job, industrious and on the ball 24 hours a day.”
The Army has operated OCS continuously since 1941, though it was not always at Fort Benning. From 1947 to 1951, OCS was conducted at Fort Riley, Kansas, as part of the Ground General School. A shortage of officers during the Korean War resulted in the re-establishment of OCS at Fort Benning and several other Army installations. Since OCS for female candidates at Fort McClellan, Alabama, was merged with OCS at Fort Benning in 1976, the Fort Benning school has been the Army’s only OCS.
The OCS Hall of Fame contains photographs and displays of inductees, including Medal of Honor recipients, OCS graduates who attained the rank of colonel and greater, graduates who served in elected or appointed state or federal offices and the distinguished Infantry graduate who receives the Patterson Award each year.
In 1946, Walter Benning, a grandnephew of Gen. Henry Lewis Benning, became the sixth member of his family to receive a commission at OCS.
Eubanks Field is named in honor of Sgt. Ray E. Eubanks, who was killed on Noemfoor Island in 1944 and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Eubanks, 22, single-handedly assaulted an enemy position with a Browning automatic rifle. Although he was wounded and his rifle disabled during his approach, he charged the position, using his gun as a club to kill several Japanese soldiers until he was killed.
The 1st Battalion (Airborne), 507th Infantry, uses Eubanks Field to train volunteers in the art of military parachuting. The field’s most notable feature, arguably Fort Benning’s most notable landmark, is the trio of 250-foot-tall jump towers that have stood on the field since 1941. They are designed to acquaint students with the sensation of descending under a canopy.
These towers were loosely modeled from a 115-foot-tall tower built by Stanley Switlik and George Putnam, Amelia Earhart’s husband, on Switlik’s farm in New Jersey, now the site of Six Flags. The first public jump from that tower was made by Earhart on June 2, 1935. Switlik then partnered with retired Naval Commander James H. Strong to design larger towers inspired by the primitive wooden towers used by the Soviets to train paratroopers in the 1920s. In 1936, Strong patented a safer version which included eight guide wires in a circle surrounding the parachute. He built several test platforms at his home in Highstown, New Jersey, and there the Army’s original Airborne Test Platoon conducted its earliest training. Strong sold military versions of the tower to the Army, and others were used as amusement rides for the public, including the iconic Parachute Jump at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, which was first used at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
The Safe Parachute Company installed four towers at Fort Benning. One was toppled in a 1954 tornado. These towers have served as a backdrop in several Hollywood movies, including “Jumping Jacks,” featuring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, in 1951; “The Green Berets,” starring John Wayne, in 1968; and “We Were Soldiers,” starring Mel Gibson, in 2002.
Staff Sgt. Thomas E. Love modeled for this statue, a replica of a statue that stands in Berlin. It was unveiled at Fort Benning as a memorial to the American infantryman in 1958. The six stones the infantryman stands on are from a railroad bridge that spanned the Rhine River at Remagen. The bridge was captured by U.S. troops on March 7, 1945.
The Airborne Walk was dedicated April 17, 1986, by then- Secretary of the Army John S. Marsh Jr. It serves as a tribute to the Airborne Soldier and a memorial to paratroopers who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to this country. The walk is configured in the shape of the basic airborne wings. There are 28 monuments dedicated to airborne units. The center monument bears the names of the original test platoon members.
Biglerville Officers’ Mess
Building 229, Crain Hall, on Ingersoll Avenue, was built in 1921 and served as the Infantry Student Officers’ Mess Hall. It is now the oldest remaining major building built on post by the Army. Here, Patton received his brigadier general’s star in 1940.
The Ranger Memorial Foundation Inc., was established in January 1992 to build a granite memorial honoring the spirit and accomplishments of U.S. Army Rangers. The monument, which was dedicated in 1994, features a 24-foot-tall bronze commando knife designed and constructed by Steve Dickey. The knife symbolizes Ranger strike operations.
Along with the granite monuments honoring various associations, cut and polished Georgia granite stones, etched with the names of Rangers past and present, make up the Ranger Memorial Walk. To purchase a stone on the walkway, to donate to the foundation or apply for an educational scholarship, go to www.rangermemorial.org.
Once known as Infantry Hall, this building was built in 1963 at a cost of $10 million to house the headquarters of the U.S. Army Infantry Center. It is six stories high, covers 12 acres and contains more than a half-million square feet of floor space. The circular drive was named Constitution Loop in 1987, when a time capsule with Fort Benning, Columbus and Phenix City memorabilia was buried near the building during a ceremony commemorating the signing of the U.S. Constitution. Upon completion of renovations in 2011, it was rededicated McGinnis-Wickam Hall. The two-phase project, which cost $172 million, included renovations of the center, six-story “tower,” where the Maneuver Center commander and the commanders of the Infantry and Armor schools are based, followed by the classroom wings on either side of the tower. Eighty percent of the materials removed from the original building were recycled, helping this facility earn a LEED Gold certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). The Follow Me Statue is joined by a replica of the historic Trooper of the Plains in front of the building. The two symbols honor the Infantry and Armor.
Follow Me Statue
In October 1944, the American Army landed on the beach of Leyte Island, which was fortified with large numbers of Japanese forces occupying camouflaged pillboxes. Elements of the 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, were immediately pinned down by heavy machine gunfire. The regimental commander, Col. Aubrey Newman, arrived on the beach, quickly assessed the situation and shouted to his men, “Get up and get moving! Follow me!”
Today, “Follow Me” is the motto of the American infantry. It was not, however, the name of the statue that now stands in front of Building 4 when Fort Benning’s Maj. Gen. Paul Freeman commissioned the statue in 1959. He called it The Infantryman.
The 12-foot-tall figure was sculpted by Spc. Karl Von Krog and Spc. Manfred Bass and modeled after officer candidate Eugene Wyles (1932-2010). Freeman studied a number of potential models before choosing the likeness of the 26-year-old Korean War veteran from Louisiana.
The statue, which depicts a Soldier wearing equipment worn by the American infantryman in World War II and Korea, stood on Eubanks Field until 1964, when it was moved to a place of honor in front of Building 4, which was then known as Infantry Hall. During the move, the statue was dropped and his left elbow was chipped. Spc. Manfred Bass flew in from New Jersey to repair and re-bronze the statue.
President Gerald Ford referred to the statue as “the Follow Me Statue” during a visit to Fort Benning in 1973, and the name stuck. He is often mistakenly referred to as Iron Mike.
The statue was originally made of fiberglass and bronze-impregnated epoxy, which eventually showed signs of age. It was recast in bronze in 2004 and a duplicate was made at that time. The “vintage” statue now stands at the National Infantry Museum.
Lavoie Community Center
This building was originally a farmhouse before the Army purchased the land for Fort Benning. In the early days of the post, it served as a range house, where the noncommissioned “range officer” lived. He served as a game warden, of sorts, riding the post on horseback to make sure nobody trespassed, hunted or harvested trees illegally. Aside from Riverside, the old farmhouse is the only other building on Fort Benning that predates the post’s existence.
The area that is now Lawson Army Airfield was home to many Lower Creek Indians until the signing of the Federal Indian Removal Act of 1830. The Native Americans gathered at Fort Mitchell, directly across the river, and were relocated to Oklahoma along a route now known as the Trail of Tears. The airfield was constructed about 1920 as a balloon landing field for the 32nd Balloon Company. It was known simply as the Fort Benning Airstrip. In August 1931, it was dedicated to a decorated World War I veteran, Capt. Walter Lawson, a Georgia native who was killed in an airplane crash in 1923.
The airfield was “modernized” with the paving of runways in 1941. Today, the airfield complex includes two runways, one more than 8,200-feet long, with an instrument landing system and ground controlled approach radar.
Federal Road Crossing
For several years in the late 1820s, before they were removed from this area, the Lower Creek Indians operated a ferry system where the Federal Road crossed the Chattahoochee River. This was the site of the first Army floating bridge which consisted of planks placed over animal skin airbags procured from the local Native Americans. This site is still used for Army floating bridge training.
Blue and French Fields
Today, these fields are used for various youth sporting events, but they were originally used for polo. French Field was dedicated in 1926 in memory of 1st Lt. Harry W. French, a popular polo player, who died April 14, 1926, after his horse stumbled during a game and rolled over him.
Blue Field was dedicated in 1934 to Capt. John W. Blue, who was fatally injured when he was knocked from his pony during a polo game in November of that year. Blue was noted as being one of the South’s foremost horsemen, and he had won various international awards. At the time of his death, he was the only man ever to have won the Clark Machine Gun Trophy twice. Blue also earned many honors in tennis and golf.
Calculator was Fort Benning’s most famous dog. A mutt, Calculator, earned his name for the distinctive manner in which he walked. It was said he “walked on three and carried one.” The leg he carried was a matter of whim, and on long walks, he would occasionally change midstride. On Aug. 29, 1923, Calculator died of strychnine poisoning. The mystery of his murder — or accidental death — was never solved. More than 1,000 quarters (and 16 pesos and eight gold pieces) came in from across the country to erect a granite memorial, said to be the first monument erected on Fort Benning, inscribed with the words, “Calculator-Born? Died Aug. 29, 1923/He Made Better Dogs of Us All.”
Furlough was a Dachshund who served as the mascot for the 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion from December 1942 to December 1944, when he went missing in action in Belgium. En route from Fort Benning to Panama in December 1942, the Solders of the 551st stole the short-haired black and tan puppy from the port commander at Camp Patrick Henry in Virginia. Furlough narrowly escaped death in 1943, when he was discovered aboard the ship carrying the 551st back to the states and ordered overboard by the ship’s master-at-arms. The battalion commander risked court martial to save the dog. Sadly, Furlough was lost in transit as the unit maneuvered through Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge.
Construction on the Station Hospital on Baltzell Avenue, across from Sacrifice Field, began in 1923. The hospital opened in 1925, replacing the original post infirmary. During the post buildup between 1940 and 1942, the field across the street was covered in buildings that were used as clinics and offices.
After Martin Army Community Hospital opened in 1958, the old complex was an outpatient clinic until 1975 and, on July 1, 1977, the main building became home to the National Infantry Museum. The building is named Bradley Hall in honor of Ret. Gen. Omar Bradley who was the last of only nine people to hold a five-star rank in the armed forces. The Old Station Hospital served as the National Infantry Museum until 2008. The current museum opened in 2009.
Martin Army Community Hospital was named in honor of the late Maj. Gen. Joseph I. Martin, a 1928 graduate of the Infantry School’s advanced course, who served 36 years and saw action in three wars. The first baby born at MACH was named Martin Brown in honor of the hospital’s namesake.
A new hospital was opened in 2015. The original Station Hospital is now home to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.
The quarters at 601 Baltzell were occupied for a short time by Col. George S. and Beatrice Patton when he was stationed here as the commander of the 2nd Armored Division in 1940. Patton and his wife were independently wealthy, both being the children of successful businessmen. Patton, who was referred to as “the richest officer in the Army,” always gave his Army pay to the Army Relief agency to help Soldiers.
In 1941, Patton, built a house on Sand Hill, so he could be closer to the 2nd Armored Division, which he commanded. It was on Sand Hill that Patton earned his nickname, “Old Blood and Guts,” because of his graphic, macabre descriptions of war. Upon their departure from Fort Benning in 1942, the Pattons gave the house to the post, and it served as an officers’ club until it burned down on Dec. 22, 1960.
Ridgway Hall, Building 35
Built in 1935 by Depression-era publics works programs at a cost of $556,000, this building was said to be the largest federal office in the Southeast upon its completion. The building was painted olive drab at first, but the supervising architect ordered it repainted immediately. It served as the U.S. Army Infantry School and post headquarters until 1964, when Building 4 was completed.
The School of the Americas moved to Fort Benning in 1984 and used the building as its headquarters until Dec. 15, 2000. The School of the Americas became the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in January 2001 and remained headquartered in Building 35 until 2008, when it was relocated. At that time, Building 35 became post headquarters once more for the duration of Building 4 renovations. In 2015, was set to house in-processing services for the post.
Building 35, which was dedicated as Ridgway Hall in 1994 in honor of Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway for his outstanding work in Latin America, is built of reinforced concrete covered in stucco, decorated with Indiana limestone and topped with a distinctive tile roof. The three-story facility had floor space equal to that of a 10-story building.