July 14 was Army Appreciation Day
Alaska has three major Army installations. Each named after military men who had interesting and inspiring stories.
By now we all know that Friday June 14th was Flag Day. But did you know that it was also Army Appreciation Day and marks the formation of the very first professional army in the United States—which if you think of it had to have actually formed before the United States was a country. Or how else were the colonists able to fight the British for freedom?
The Continental Army consisted of troops from all 13 colonies and on June 14, 1775, a year before the signing of the Declaration
of Independence, the Second Continental Congress formally established the Continental Army for purposes of common defense.
Here in Alaska, more than 230 years later, Governor Sean Parnell signed a declaration of his own establishing June 14 as Army Appreciation Day.
Alaska has three major Army installations: Fort Richardson which is now part of a combined base with the former Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage. Fort Greely is about 100 south of Fairbanks, and Fort Wainwright is in Fairbanks.
Fort Wainwright was named for the man who was responsible for
resisting the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in World War II. Major General Mayhew Wainwright IV was senior field commander of Filipino and U.S. forces under General Douglas MacAuthur when Allied forces defended the entrance to Manila Bay on January 19, 1942.
Fort Greely was named for Aldolphus Washington Greely, a Polar explorer whose ship ventured into areas near Greenland. Even though Greely’s explorations were on the other side of North America, there’s an interesting Alaska connection.
The Revenue Cutter Bear—which is the Coast Guard says is probably its most famous ship—patrolled and was responsible for many famous rescues in Alaska. The rescue part was where the Bear and Greely connect.
Despite having made many historical discoveries on his Greenland expedition, Greely had no arctic experience and when the ship’s supplie
s didn’t show up his crew had to be rescued by the Cutter Bear, which one assumes was on patrol in the Atlantic at the time.
Unfortunately, according to Wikipedia, by the time the Bear and two other ships arrived on June 22, 1884, to rescue the expedition, nineteen of Greely’s 25-man crew had perished from starvation, drowning, hypothermia, and, in one case, gunshot wounds from an execution ordered by Greely.
And finally, Fort Richardson was named for Wilds Preston Richardson who was a notable explorer and geographer in Alaska in the early 1900s. He lead the Polar Bear Expedition as part of the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War as an effort to help the Czechoslovak Legions secure munitions and arms in Russian ports and to re-establish the Eastern Front.
Governor Sean Parnell’s Declaration of Alaska Army Appreciation Day
Fort Richardson (Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson)