Fort Indiantown Gap History
A great deal of history lies in the 19,000-acre post near Annville know as Fort Indiantown Gap. The name Indiantown was actually derived from the many Indian villages in the vicinity, and the name, Indiantown Gap comes from a separation in the Blue Mountains used by the neighboring Indians as a shortcut route to Shamokin.
In 1931, authorization was made to acquire land in Dauphin and Lebanon Counties when the Pennsylvania National Guard outgrew its training site at Mount Gretna. Fort Indiantown Gap was first established by the state in 1931 as the primary training base for the Pennsylvania National Guard. It is also home of the Pennsylvania Department of Military & Veterans Affairs, which oversees both the Army and Air National Guard and the state’s programs for serving the needs of Pennsylvania’s 1.3 million veterans. Fort Indiantown Gap was first used by the National Guard in 1933 for training maneuvers, with completion of the the reservation by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1940.
As World War II erupted and the United States prepared to enter the conflict, Pennsylvania agreed to lease its National Guard Post to the U.S. Army for a training base. A massive construction project got underway, as 13,000 workmen quickly prepared for the arrival of troops and supplies. Nearly 800 temporary barracks building were located in complete regimental areas with mess halls, recreation buildings and store rooms. Fort Indiantown Gap served as an important link in the chain of military camps as more than 150,000 troops in eight divisions assembled for an intensive period of military training.
When the war ended, the Gap became a separate center for officers and enlisted men returning from overseas. Over 450,000 men were demobilized here and returned to civilian life. the Army camp later became hometo 32,000 troops training for the Korean War between 1951 and 1953. It was used to shelter 20,000 Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees in 1975 and a similar number of Cuban refugees five years later.
Since 1940, most of its more than 19,000 acres have been leased to the federal government for military training purposes. During World War II, seven Army divisions trained at the Gap en route to overseas service. Its mission further expanded in recent years to include all active and reserve components, as well as selected civilian customers. In October 1998, following BRAC Commission recommendations, the U.S. Army garrison at the Gap closed and responsibility for day-to-day management of the post was transferred to the Pennsylvania National Guard.
The primary mission of Fort Indiantown Gap is military training for the active and reserve components of all the services. Civilian organizations with compatible interests and training needs are also accommodated whenever possible. On average, more than 100,000 individual students and trainees rotate through the installation every year.
Some 1,300 people work full-time on Fort Indiantown Gap. They include state and federal civilians; military technicians; members of the Active Guard and Reserve program; active-duty soldiers; and employees of contractors and non-DMVA tenants. This makes Fort Indiantown Gap the largest employer in Lebanon County. Annual economic impact exceeds $100 million.
Indiantown Gap National Cemetery (operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) and the Pennsylvania Veterans Memorial are adjacent to the base.