In 1846, Colonel Alexander Doniphan led 1st Regiment of Missouri mounted volunteers through
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 1849.
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 Brigade.
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 Task Force 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 died.
Monday - Saturday 9am to 4pm
Closed on federal holidays
Fort Bliss & Old Ironsides Museums
Building 1735 Marshall Road
Fort Bliss, Texas