The history of Fort Bragg

Piasecki H-21 helicopters at Fort Bragg (1950s) | Photo via NC State Archives

In honor of Veterans Day, we want to honor all of our local veterans + active military families with a trip down memory lane. We thank you for your service.

Located ~1.5 hours from downtown Raleigh, near Southern Pines and Fayetteville, Fort Bragg is the Triangle’s nearest military base — and one of the largest military facilities in the world.

US Army soldiers and officers at Fort Bragg (1920s) | Photo via NC State Archives

Some quick facts:
📐 250+ square miles (roughly the same size as Raleigh and Durham combined)
🏘️ 29,000+ residents (similar density to the town of Morrisville)
🧑‍🤝‍🧑 57,000 personnel (about 3x the capacity of PNC Arena)
✈️ 2 airfields + the Air Force Combat Control School

Fort Bragg serves as the headquarters and primary training facility for several military divisions, including airborne and special operations such as:

The Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps
The Army’s 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne)
The Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment

First established in 1918, “Camp Bragg” served as a year-round artillery training ground during WWI, and was redesignated as a permanent military base — today’s Fort Bragg — in 1922. The base is one of 10 US Army forts named for a Confederate officer; critics have recently called for a name change.  

During WWII, Fort Bragg was identified as a strategic location for East Coast military operations and became the operational home to several infantry, airborne, and armored divisions. The base’s population peaked at ~160,000 personnel between 1940 and 1945.

Bomber aircraft (c. 1939) | Photo via NC State Archives

DYK: Fort Bragg was home to the first fully integrated army unit — in 1946, the all-Black 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion merged with the white regiments of the 82nd Airborne Division.

During the Cold War, Fort Bragg became the headquarters for the uniquely strategic Psychological Warfare Center — now known as the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, which emphasizes unconventional warfare tactics, including covert and guerilla operations. In 1961, President Kennedy visited the center and authorized the official use of green berets as part of the Special Forces uniform.

In modern history, Fort Bragg units have been commended for leadership in various military campaigns and philanthropic missions overseas, including:

Operation Power Pack (Dominican Republic, 1965)
Operation Urgent Fury (Grenada, 1983)
Operation Hawkeye (US Virgin Islands, 1989)
Operation Vigilant Warrior (Kuwait, 1994)
Operation Joint Endeavor (Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1995)
Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan, 2007)
Operation Inherent Resolve (Iraq and Syria, 2020)