Fort Bragg (Fort Liberty)

Written By Mathew Shaeffer

One of three training camps established in North Carolina to train soldiers during World War I, Camp Bragg was established on September 4, 1918 outside of Fayetteville and was the only camp of the three to continue operations after the war. The initial construction of the camp finished on February 1, 1919. 

In 2023, the Army renamed the base Fort Liberty. This was part of a broad renaming of bases that had been named for Confederate soldiers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Named after Confederate General Braxton Bragg, Camp Bragg was initially an artillery training ground for World War I troops. Although personnel from Camp McClellan, Alabama were transferred to Camp Bragg after the war, demobilization prompted the U.S. War Department to reduce the size of Camp Bragg.  In 1921 Camp Bragg was almost shut down but remained open due to the efforts of General Albert J. Bowley. He was instrumental in advocating the necessity of Camp Bragg to the U.S. War Department and civic organizations in Fayetteville. He convinced the U.S. War Department to rescind the abandonment order on September 16, 1921. Because Camp Bragg was the only military reservation in the United States with enough room to test the newest long-range artillery weaponry, the Army’s Field Artillery board was transferred to Bragg.  On September 30, 1922 Camp Bragg became Fort Bragg signifying Bragg’s role as a permanent military base.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s Fort Bragg served as an important location for testing field artillery. Using its environmental diversity – deep sand, heavy mud, swamps, streams, and forests—soldiers thoroughly tested artillery weapons for efficiency and effectiveness. To foster friendly relations with nearby residents, a new highway was constructed to connect Fort Bragg to the outside world, and Post Hospital was also built. Fort Bragg later became the headquarters of District A of the Civilian Conversation Corps and the training ground for the National Reserve Officer Training Corps, Officers Reserve Corps, and Citizen Military Training Corps.

With the onset of World War II in the 1940s, Fort Bragg underwent further renovations and was updated for modern warfare training. Paved runways were added, and in March 1942 the Army established the Airborne Command at Fort Bragg commanded by North Carolinian Brigadier General William C. Lee. In August 1942, Lee was promoted to Major General and given command of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division. Both the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were moved to Fort Bragg in late 1942. By the end of World War II, all five airborne divisions, the 82nd, 101st, 11th, 13th, and 17th divisions, all had a presence at Fort Bragg. Fort Bragg continued training soldiers in all capacities and also housed the 9th and 100th infantry divisions, and the 2nd Armored Division.  At the war’s end, the 82nd Airborne Division was permanently stationed at Fort Bragg, and the base became known as the “Home of Airborne.” 

In the 1950s Fort Bragg expanded once more. In 1952 Bragg became the home of the Army’s Psychological Warfare Center (now U.S. Army Special Operations Command) and became the headquarters for Special Forces Soldiers. During the Cold War Fort Bragg troops participated in U.S. operations, including those in the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Grenada, and the Caribbean. In the 1990s, Fort Bragg soldiers were instrumental in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. 

As direct military conflicts subsided, soldiers from Fort Bragg played an important role in humanitarian and peace-keeping efforts. These efforts included relief work after Hurricane Andrew and participation in Operation Restore Democracy in Haiti, Operation Safe Haven and Safe Passage for Cuban refugees, Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia, and Operations Allied Force/Joint Guardian/Rapid Guardian in Albania/Kosovo. These humanitarian missions continued into the 2000s; soldiers supported relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the earthquake in Haiti in 2010.  Bragg was also one of the primary military bases supporting military Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, and New Dawn.

In 2011 Fort Bragg became the home of U.S Army Forces Command and the U.S. Army Reserve command following their relocation after Fort Macpherson, Georgia, was closed under the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Legislation. Fort Bragg, now Fort Liberty, is the “Home of Airborne and Special Operations” and is one of the largest military complexes in the world. It includes Pope Army Airfield, which contains an Air Force unit.