In 1846, Colonel Alexander Doniphan led 1st Regiment of
Missouri mounted volunteers through El Paso del Norte, with victories
at the Battle of El Brazito and the Battle of the Sacramento. Then on 7 November 1848,
War Department General Order no. 58 ordered the establishment of a
post across from El Paso del Norte (now Ciudad Juárez). On 8 September
1849, the garrison party of several companies of the 3rd U.S.
Infantry, commanded by Major Jefferson Van Horne, found only four
small and scattered settlements on the north side of the Rio Grande.
The fort was first established at the site of Smith's
Ranch (now downtown El Paso) and, along with Fort Selden and other
Southwestern outposts, protected recently-won territory from harassing Apaches and Comanches. With
constant Indian raids, garrisons had to be moved frequently to meet
the shifting threats. In 1851, the two companies of troops stationed
in El Paso were moved 40 miles north to Fort Fillmore. For more than
two years, there was no garrison opposite El Paso del Norte.
In 1893 construction of the new post of Fort Bliss on
La Noria Mesa, five miles east of the town of El Paso, and on the east
side of the Franklin Mountains, was part of a consolidation of troops at the close of the Indian wars. The railroad and the telegraph
allowed the concentration of soldiers in fewer and larger
installations which could be more economically and efficiently
managed. The La Noria Mesa site is the sixth location of the post
since US troops first established a garrison “opposite El Paso” in
Today, Fort Bliss has about 1,700 square miles, and is
the Army's second-largest installation behind the adjacent White
Sands Missile Range. It is FORSCOM's largest installation, and has the
Army's largest Maneuver Area (992,000 maneuver acres for practicing military
maneuvers) behind the National Training Center.
Part of the post in El Paso
County, Texas, is a census-designated place; it had a population of
8,264 at the 2000 census. Fort Bliss also provides the largest
contiguous tract (1,500 sq mi,) of virtually
unrestricted airspace in the Continental United States; the airspace
is used for missile and artillery training and testing.
Fort Bliss is home to the 1st Armored Division, which
returned to US soil in 2011, after 40 years in Germany. The division
is supported by the 15th Sustainment Brigade. In addition to 1st AD,
the installation is also home to the 32nd Army Air & Missile Defense
Command, along with its subordinate 11th Air Defense Artillery
The headquarters for the El Paso Intelligence Center, a
federal tactical operational intelligence center, is hosted at Fort
Bliss, located at Biggs Army Airfield; its DoD counterpart, Joint
North is also at Biggs Field. Biggs Field is designated a military
power projection platform.
Fort Bliss National Cemetery is also located on the
post. The fort is named for Mexican-American War soldier William
Wallace Smith Bliss.
The Fort Bliss Museum and Old
Ironsides Museum is located in the Major General Terry De La Mesa
Allen Center. The historical area in front of the two museums displays
a variety of weapons dating from World War II to recent times. Inside
the building housing both museums are many artifacts relocated from
their previous locations.
The Fort Bliss Museum’s exhibits
interpret the history of Fort Bliss at various area sites beginning in
1849. Soldiers, soldier life, and the Army family are portrayed during
both war and peace times. Exhibits also feature the story of aviation
on the post and at Biggs Army Airfield.
The Old Ironsides Museum is dedicated to preserving the
history of the 1st Armored Division. The 1st
moved to Germany in 1971, replacing the 4th Armored
Division in the Bavarian City of Ansbach. The Division remained in Ansbach, with brigade units in the neighboring towns of Bamberg,
Illesheim, Nuremberg, Katterbach, Crailsheim, Erlangen, and Zirndorf
as part of American Forces committed to the NATO defense of Western
Europe from the Soviet Union. The Museum arrived at Fort Bliss from Baumholder, Germany in October, 2009.
I really enjoyed seeing the
Fort Bliss area again. It brought back some good memories of days gone
by. I was stationed at Bergstrom Air Force Base, Texas in the early
70s. I was part of a team that relocated some Jeeps from Bergstrom to
the Air Force unit at Fort Bliss. We drove down through Johnson
City, Texas enroute to El Paso. We camped out in the hills and
woke up the next morning with snow on the ground. Did I mention that
it was cold that morning!
I guess what made the trip
stick in my mind so much is that was the week that President Johnson
Monday - Saturday 9am to 4pm.
Closed on federal holidays.
Fort Bliss & Old Ironsides Museums
Building 1735 Marshall Road
Fort Bliss, Texas