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History of Fort Knox

Many may not know this, but the history of Fort Knox stems all the way back to World War I, making them a veteran in the world of gun safes. Back in April 1918, The War Department searched in Westpoint, Kentucky to build an artillery camp, and on April 6, 1918, the first field artillery units arrived from Camp Zachary Taylor in Louisville. With the amount of troops arriving, additional space was going to be necessary. The constructing quartermaster at Fort Knox, Major W. H. Radcliffe, ordered the construction of new buildings in August of 1918. While construction occurred in Stithton, the “temporary” camp would have to remain.

Shortly after, the Army took over the land at Stithton, while more land was acquired by Meade and Bullit counties. Several of the houses of Stithton were mostly used for the Army’s purposes, while St. Catholic’s church was used as a church and many other purposes. The army had warehouses and Barracks built to accommodate the growing population of soldiers arriving by train. Keep in mind, horse drawn equipment was still commonly used at this time. The new post was named in honor of General Henry Knox, Chief of Artillery in the Revolutionary War, for his selfless tributes to the country.

November 11, 1918, America celebrated the end of World War I, slowing construction at Stithton down tremendously. By the end of December, most of the troops that originated from West Point transferred to the permanent camp at Stithton, bringing the maximum number of troops on a post to 9,000. However in the early 1920’s, the Army’s force was dramatically reduced, causing the post to be closed for permanent installation in 1922. Camp Knox still remained an active training center for the Army, Reserve officer training, The National Guard, as well as The Citizen’s Training Camps.

In 1931, Camp Knox was selected to be the new headquarters for the Mechanized Cavalry, based on the size and terrain. On January 1, 1932 Camp Knox became known as Fort Knox, after once again becoming a permanent installation. This meant that Fort Knox was put in charge of constructing housing and support facilities. The 1930’s was a busy time for Camp Knox, which was also used during this time as an induction center for the Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees. With young men arriving from several states, Fort Knox was rapidly growing in demand. For about two weeks, these men received their required shots, necessary clothing, and of course training. After the training period, men were shipped off to camps all over the country by train. As Fort Knox continued to grow, they received help from another work relief program, the WPA (Works Progress Administration.)

In the summer of 1940, World War II began in Europe, and the American Army began building armored force at Fort Knox. Fort Knox played a tremendous role in preparation for the war, making it possible for doctrine, training, and armored formations to partake. The United States went to war on December 7, 1941, and the following day they experienced an unfortunate casualty. The main parade ground was named after PFC. Robert Brooks, in honor of his legacy and tributes as the 192nd Tank Battalion. In April 1942, essential testing went on at Fort Knox for the Navy. During this time naval architects tracked airflow and tested ventilation systems proficient enough to remove poisonous gases created by vehicles enclosed and running tanks in the well deck. The testing was a success, finding a solution and allowing constructors to assemble Landing Ship Tanks. More than 1,050 vessels were constructed during the war, playing a huge part in the war itself.

Significant advancements in armor were made during World War II, through the development of new tanks, training, and organization. The Armored Board and Armored Medical Research Laboratory found benefits for both equipment and soldiers during this time. In 1943, The Armored Force Replacement Training Center made the official transition to The Armored Replacement Training Center (ARTC). A 17-week course of training was given to soldiers that incorporated instruction in various arms, tank driving, tank guns, maintenance, chemical welfare, etc. The soldiers were introduced to hills “Misery”, “Agony”, and “Heartbreak” before graduation. Shortly after, some were sent to specific divisions or additional schooling, while others were sent straight out to battle in the war.

Through February 1944 to June 1946, Fort Knox was site of a key Prisoner Of War camp, the first of which were Italian. May of 1944 an opportunity was given to volunteer for special service units to aid the American Army, and being still classified as POW’s, they were given even more advantages. June 1944, German POW’s arrived and had a routine schedule including work, structure, and activity. The relationship between civilians and prisoners was often a pleasant one, establishing friendships through the work field. Today, the POW camp at Fort Knox no longer exists due to demolishment. The only remaining feature of that camp is the former camp soccer field, which students now use for American football.

At the conclusion of World War II there were approximately 65 tank battalions and 16 combat tested armored divisions. Armored units played a role in each and every key theater of operations Americans participated in. Although the Armored center was inactivated in October of 1945, it only took a year to get it reestablished. In 1947 the arrival of Army recruits from UMT occurred for participation in a short-lived experimental program that had much to offer. The program included extended basic training combined with civilian supervision and discipline. Another event that year was the reactivation of the 3rd Armored Division at Fort Knox, which assumed command of the ARTC. More than 300,000 soldiers would be trained during their time at Knox.

Armor and Calvary later united under the Army Organization Act of 1950, forming the Armor Branch. In 1955 the third Armored Division was shipped to Europe and training was resumed at the ARTC. When The Cold War began, the Armor Branch continued to generate highly trained armor personnel, and by the late 1960’s more than one million trainees had completed training in the Fort Knox Training Center. In 1981 the Armor Center contributed to the expansion of the Army’s Airland Battle doctrine, taking advantage of new weaponry to be used in Central Europe. In the early 1990s guidelines made up in this doctrine were useful during the Gulf War. On October 11, 1993 Arthur Hill went on a shooting rampage, leading to three deaths and two injuries, before attempting suicide and severely wounding himself. The shooting took place at Fort Knox’s Training Support Center, where his coworkers claimed to be terrified of his unstable behavior. On October 21st, Arthur died from his self-inflicted wound.

In 2005, The Armor Center and School began relocating to Fort Benning to merge with the infantry Center, forming the Maneuver Center of Excellence. On April 3rd, 2013 a civilian employee was shot and killed in a parking lot on post. The victim was an employee of the United States Army Human Resources Command and was pronounced deceased at the Ireland Army Community Hospital. A temporary lockdown was placed in effect due to the shooting, but was quickly removed. On April 4th, Marquinta E. Jacobs, a soldier stationed at Fort Knox, was charged with the murder.

Today, there are speculations on what is hiding inside of Fort Knox. Depending on who you ask, you might be told there are 5,000 metric tons of gold, or you might be told it is completely empty. In 1953, The U.S. Department of the Treasury and General Accounting Office constructed a full audit of the gold at Fort Knox. Only five percent of the gold was randomly assayed, before being resealed. Despite the speculation, there’s no doubting that Fort Knox has served an essential role in the history of America, making the Brand a top seller.

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