History of Fort Benjamin Harrison
In 1901, Russell Harrison, the son of former U.S. president Benjamin Harrison, facilitated the sale of a U.S. Arsenal near downtown Indianapolis. The U.S. Army used the proceeds to buy land in 1903 in a more remote area, where the fort is located today. Secretary of War Elihu Root named the post for President Benjamin Harrison in honor of his hometown.
Fort Benjamin Harrison saw its highest levels of activity during World War I and World War II. The Fort Benjamin Harrison Reception Center (for inducting draftees) opened in 1941 and by 1943 was the largest reception center in the United States.
Within Fort Harrison was Camp Glenn, named in honor of Major General Edwin Forbes Glenn, who had served as Fort Harrison's commandant from 1912 to 1913, and who had commanded the officer training that began at his camps in 1916. Camp Glenn was a Citizens Military Training Camp (CMTC) that was also used to house Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) workers. When the United States reestablished the Military Police Corps in 1941, an MP school was established at Camp Glenn and was in operation by early 1942. The area was also used to detain Italian and German prisoners of war in 1944 and 1945.
In 1947, the Army declared Fort Harrison to be surplus property, but declined to completely close it due to a lack of adequate training space for the Indiana National Guard. From 1948 to 1950, the post functioned as Benjamin Harrison Air Force Base. The Tenth Air Force was moved from Omaha, Nebraska, and headquartered at both Schoen Field on Fort Harrison and Stout Army Air Field in Indianapolis. Overcrowding and inadequate facilities soon forced the 10th Air Force to move to Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan, and the Army reacquired control of Fort Benjamin Harrison.
It became the home of the United States Army Adjutant General School in March 1951. In 1957, the school moved into the new Gates-Lord Hall along with the United States Army Finance School. At the time, this 300,000-square-foot (28,000 m2) building was the third largest owned by the Department of Defense. The Adjutant General School remained there until the Base Realignment resulted in its move to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, starting in 1991. By 1995, the Adjutant General School had completely vacated Fort Benjamin Harrison. The Finance School also moved to Fort Jackson in 1995.
The Interservice Postal School was located at Fort Benjamin Harrison in the 1970s under the US Army Institute of Administration (USAIA), and was staffed by instructors from all four services. It also moved to Fort Jackson in 1995.
Beginning in 1965, Fort Harrison was also the home of the Defense Information School (DINFOS). This was staffed by enlisted personnel and officers from all branches of the US military along with members of allied military personnel. DINFOS trained service members and Department of Defense employees to become journalists in print, radio, television, and photography, as well as training them in advanced supervisory roles in editing, public affairs, and media and community relations. In 1995, DINFOS moved to Fort Meade, Maryland.
Remaining military presence
Fort Benjamin Harrison was closed as part of the 1991 Base Realignment and Closure Commission. The site of the base has since been redeveloped, and includes residential neighborhoods, a golf course, and is the site of Fort Harrison State Park.
Although the base has officially been inactivated, there is still a very significant military presence in the area. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service—Indianapolis, several United States Army Reserve, two United States Marine Corps Reserve detachments, United States Navy Reserve, Indiana National Guard units, the United States Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS), and a post exchange and commissary are still located at the former post.
Since 1999, the American Legion has had its John H. Geiger Operations Center located at Fort Harrison. The center houses the Membership Services staff who maintain the organization's membership database and provide direct-marketing services for membership renewal and new-member acquisition. It also houses the Emblem Sales Division which provides Legion merchandise, and the Fundraising Division which draws support for both national and department-level programs.
On May 29, 2009, the Indiana National Guard held a ground-breaking ceremony for a new facility, the Lawrence Readiness Training Center, which opened in 2011. The facility houses four units, including the 76th Brigade Combat Team headquarters.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars maintains its headquarters for the Department of Indiana on the site at 9555 E. 59th Street.