Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ft. Chewbaca

Of the handful of military installations we’ve stayed at (Davis Monthan in Tucson; Lewis McChord in Tacoma; Nellis in Las Vegas; and Mountain Home in Mountain Home, Idaho) the one we’re at right now -- Ft. Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Arizona -- is the most historically interesting to us.  Only I’ve had a heck of a time getting the pronunciation correct.  It’s Wah-chew-ka.

Tuesday we went to a great museum here on base to learn the base's history (and because museum's are even greater places to visit when it's 30 degrees outside.) A few things we discovered:

--The Ft. Huachuca Army post was founded in 1877 and named a permanent fort by the War Department in 1882 because it’s location was situated along Apache escape routes to Mexico.  

--Ft. Huachuca was the headquarters of 4th cavalry patrols that, as a museum brochure states, “hounded” Geronimo in 1886 and resulted in his surrender.  

--The post was a staging ground for the 10th Cavalry’s march into Mexico in 1916. Led by Brig. General John J. Pershing, the “Punitive Expedition” crossed the border to catch Pancho Villa who had killed 16 US citizens aboard a train in Mexico and then crossed the border and killed 18 US citizens in Columbus, New Mexico.  They didn't catch Pancho Villa but the expedition was a proving ground for technologies the military would need in WWI, especially motor transport and aerial  reconnaissance.

--In World War II, two African American infantry divisions -- called “Buffalo Soldiers” -- trained here (and also trained other soldiers) before they went to the Pacific and northern Italy.  

--From 1947 to 1950 the post was closed, given to the state of Arizona, and there were plans to turn it into a resort/spa (complete with buffalo herds and there is still a small herd here).  The Korean War changed all that.

Jim and I also found out that two of our ancestors spent time at Ft. Huachuca.  I’m distantly related to World War I Army General John J. Pershing (called “Black Jack” because he was a supporter of the Buffalo Soldiers) and Jim is related to military leader George Marshall (who was Secretary of State and later Secretary of Defense under Truman).  Pershing was at Ft. Huachuca when the expedition mentioned above started and paid his last visit to the base in 1924. Marshall was at one time stationed here.
Bev posing in front of the Ft. Huachuca Museum and simultaneously telling Jim to hurry up so I can get inside where it's warm.
"Buffalo Soldier" has become the common name used for African American troops who served in the military from 1866 from 1941.
A snow drift in front of the museum and near the original part of the post.  The base is at an elevation of 4,800 feet (higher than where we live in Salt Lake City) so the weather is cooler here in the winter than in most of southern and central Arizona.  During the summer it normally does not get much hotter than the mid 90s.


  1. It is such a small world. I, too, have an ancestor who was at Fort Huachuca! Private Amos Wagoner (my mother’s side) spent 12 weeks in the post’s brig, and was soon thereafter dishonorably discharged. Something about making a politically incorrect, smart-alecky remark to some general. I believe that this trait has been successfully expunged from the family’s DNA.

  2. You've got my Mom reading your comments now, Carl. The pressure is on.