70 Years Ago – Black Jack foaled – January 19, 1947
“Black Jack” was the last of the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps issued horses, and the last to be branded with the Army’s “US” (left shoulder) and his serial number “2V56” (left side of his neck). “Black Jack” became well known as the caparisoned horse during the State Funeral for President John F. Kennedy, with reversed boots symbolizing a fallen warrior or leader.
He was foaled January 19, 1947, at Fort Reno, OK. and came to Fort Myer on November 22, 1952. He was named after General of the Armies General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing. He not only took part in President Kennedy’s funeral, but those of Herbert Hoover, Douglas MacArthur, Lyndon Johnson and thousands more in Arlington National Cemetery.
“Black Jack” ended his military career on June 1, 1973, after which he grazed and exercised at the Fort Myer stables. “Black Jack” died on February 6, 1976, at Fort Myer. He is buried at the corner of Summerall Field, the post parade ground, near the post headquarters.
On September 17, 1908, Orville Wright and U.S. Army First Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge launched the Wright Military Flyer at Fort Myer, VA. Over the previous two weeks, Orville had been conducting test flights. The Wright Brothers had signed a contract with the U.S. Army to purchase an airplane, but qualification tests were required to complete the sale. Orville had already set world records at Fort Myer in exceeding the endurance qualifications, but other requirements included those for a two-man crew.
First Lieutenant Frank Lahm described the event:
“Mr. Wright and Lieut. Selfridge took their places in the machine, and it started at 5:14, circling the field to the left as usual. It had been in the air four minutes and 18 seconds, had circled the field 4 1/2 times and had just crossed the aeroplane shed at the lower end of the field when I heard a report then saw a section of the propeller blade flutter to the ground. I judge the machine at the time was at a height of about 150 feet. It appeared to glide down for perhaps 75 feet advancing in the meantime about 200 feet. At this point it seemed to me to stop, turn so as to head up the field toward the hospital, rock like a ship in rough water, then drop straight to the ground the remaining 75 feet.”
Orville Wright suffered cuts, broken ribs, along with a broken hip and knee. Lt. Selfridge was found unconscious and rushed into surgery. He never regained consciousness and died that evening around 8:10. A full honor military funeral was held for Selfridge at Fort Myer, and then he was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery (Section 3, Grave 2158).
Selfridge Gate, which links Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall and Arlington National Cemetery was dedicated on September 3, 1958.
On August 2, 1909, years of work and effort paid off for the Wright Brothers at Fort Myer. The U.S. Army Signal Corps in 1907 offered to purchase an airplane that met speed, duration and passenger requirements. In 1908, Orville Wright brought their aircraft to Fort Myer and during testing, met with disastrous consequences. A crash resulted in Orville Wright being severely injured and Lt. Thomas Selfridge killed.
Both Wrights returned in 1909 to complete testing. They spent June and July conducting tests, flying around Arlington and using the parade field (part of present-day Summerall Field) as their launching and landing strip. At the end of July 1909, the requirements were met and surpassed. The Signal Corps offered a contract to the Wright Brothers for $30,000 on August 2, 1909, and changed the name of the “Wright Military Flyer” to “Signal Corps No. 1.” Today, the original Wright Military Flyer is displayed at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC.
On June 25, 1943, the 289th Military Police Company was first activated at Fort Custer, Michigan. When the 289th joined the Old Guard in 1994, it had decades of history associated with it. The 289th deployed in support of World War II, and later during the Korean War, earning battle streamers for both.
During the Korean War, the 289th deployed from Fort Sam Houston to Inchon, South Korea on Thanksgiving Day, 1950. From Inchon, they moved south of Pyongyang, North Korea. By January 1951 the unit moved to Seoul, South Korea. In Seoul, the 289th was tasked with assisting the Eighth Army during its withdrawal from Seoul, guarding the Han River pontoon bridge. The 289th guarded the crossing until January 4, 1951, when it was destroyed to keep the Chinese Communist Forces from advancing.
Later the 289th supported missions ranging from securing supply routes against guerrillas hostile to United Nations forces, providing security at POW camps, serving as Provost Marshal in several South Korean cities and serving as escort to the Neutral Nations Inspection Team after the armistice was signed.The 289th MP Company would be inactivated in South Korea on June 3, 1955. One year later, the 289th would be activated again in Japan for a two year period, remaining inactive until it joined the Old Guard in 1994.
CAMPAIGN PARTICIPATION CREDIT
World War II
European-African-Middle Eastern Theater, Streamer without inscription
On April 6, 1948, the 3d Infantry Regiment was re-activated on the Capitol Plaza in Washington, DC. What came to be known as the “Cold War” created a need for greater protection of the capital, national leaders, and public property. It was decided that The Old Guard, as the oldest active Infantry regiment, would be the ideal choice.
The flag used in the ceremony, which flew over the US Capitol at the time of Pearl Harbor, was later raised over the three defeated Axis capitals of Rome, Berlin, and Tokyo and then returned to the United States for use in appropriate ceremonies.
The mission to protect the capital had been performed by Military Policemen of the 703d and the 712th MP Battalions since the end of the World War II. The men of the 703rd were transferred to the 1st Battalion, 3d Infantry, and those in the 712th became the 2d Battalion, 3d Infantry, with a large number of recruit trainees from Fort Dix, New Jersey added to both battalions. The 1st Battalion was garrisoned at Fort Myer, VA and the 2d Battalion was garrisoned at newly-renamed Fort Lesley J. McNair, DC.
The Military District of Washington’s ceremonial mission had been performed since 1943 by the MDW Ceremonial Detachment. The Ceremonial Detachment first became Ceremonial Company, 1st Battalion, 3d Infantry Regiment. About a year later, Ceremonial Company became Company A of The Old Guard.
On February 23, 1960, the Old Guard Fife & Drum Corps was activated at Fort Myer, VA. The Corps was the result of the Commanding General of the Military District of Washington wishing to field “a fife, drum and bugle corps.” The fifty-member Corps was outfitted with instruments, uniforms, and accoutrements for just over $10,000. A memorandum of agreement with the U.S. Army Band provided for training for members of the Corps.
On April 23, 1960, just two months after activation, the Corps marched in its first parade (shown in photo). The Corps marched on Fort Myer’s South Drill Field (near present-day Bowling Center), wearing Class A Green Uniforms. Members of the Corps are wearing blue Infantry cords, as original members of the Fife and Drum Corps were selected from members of the 1st Battle Group, 3rd Infantry Regiment. Members did not necessarily have prior musical experience, but showed a willingness to learn.
See documents related to the founding and establishment of the Corps here: