Did you know that President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Gen. George S. Patton were armor commanders in the Tank Corps at Fort Meade during World War I? Or that the only remaining tank that saw combat during that conflict, the Renault FT-17, is displayed on post?
Or, for that matter, that famed bandleader Glenn Miller was also stationed at Fort Meade during the second World War?
More information about those questions — and answers to many other queries — reside within the walls of a somewhat nondescript-looking building on the post’s west side, the Fort Meade Museum.
It’s not hard to find; just keep an eye out for the tanks and the helicopter in front of the building, which sits on Fort Meade’s west side. On its grounds, visitors can see historic military equipment, such as a World War II Sherman tank, armored personnel carriers, a Nike “Ajax” missile and a Huey helicopter, all of which rest on the front lawn; inside, visitors can discover a wealth of historic artifacts, photographs and paintings, among other media, including an actual life-sized likeness of Gen. George G. Meade (see Ken McCreedy’s article about Meade’s career in this section).
The entrance of the museum offers not only two murals painted by Tech Sgt. Clarence McWilliams that each cover one side of the ceiling, but exhibits that nod to various galvanizing events in the U.S. Army’s history that feature the recent war in Iraq and current war in Afghanistan. Director Robert Johnson pointed out that two wings of the museum shine the spotlight on Meade and the post, which was initially known as Camp Meade.
Of note in the south end of the museum is the wax figure of Meade standing next to a cannon that was employed during the Civil War (and was used as a salute gun in Vietnam, to boot), and the photo gallery that features images that were captured during WWI, including some of Eisenhower and Patton.
On its north side, key attractions include wax figures of that duo; the aforementioned tank; an exhibit about German prisoners of war who were held at Fort Meade during World War II; the huge Mark VIII tank, which was the first production model tank of the U.S. Army; and an exhibit on the “Hello Girls,” the phone operators who served as the first female employees of the Army during World War I.
“What’s particularly interesting about our museum is that a visitor can come here and get a good idea of the history of and the development of armor [tanks] in the U.S. military,” said Johnson, who has been on the job for more than a quarter-century. “The most common reaction we get, even from career military people, is that they had no idea about how rich the history of Fort Meade is.”
To find the museum, enter the post at the Visitor’s Information Center at the Reece Road entrance on Route 175. Check in; then take Reece about a mile to MacArthur Road (the first traffic light) and make a left; take MacArthur through two traffic lights to where it dead ends at Mapes Road.
Then, take a right; then proceed (just watch out for deer in the late afternoon) about a half-mile. Take a left at Griffin Avenue or Leonard Wood Road.
Then look for the tanks and the helicopter — and start absorbing and enjoying the history of one of the largest and most famous military bases in the country. For more information, call 301-677-6966 or visit www.ftmeade.army.mil/museum.