Marine Corps Base Quantico -- On May 14, 1917, Marine Corps Barracks, Quantico, Virginia was born following the appointment of Maj. Chandler Campbell to the position of base commander. But the base 99 years ago was a bit different than it is today.
So why was Quantico selected to house a base? In the years before American entrance to the First World War, the Marine Corps was beginning to run out of space to train its forces. As the Navy expanded to meet its need, the portions of naval bases which the Marine Corps historically used to train new recruits were needed by the Navy to train theirs instead. Following the declaration of war against Germany on April 6, 1917, the Marine Corps became even more focused on gaining its own base free of Navy activities so they could focus on training and not the possibility of naval requirements overrunning their training spaces.
Prior to its renting (and later purchase) by the Marine Corps, Quantico had been a fairly quiet place, its only claim to fame being Confederate naval batteries located on the heights of the base to blockade Union shipping to Washington D.C. during the Civil War. Minor industry and tourism also took place on the land that the Quantico Company owned, but nothing of significant enough value so as to make it worth developing the land. On April 16, 1917, Quantico was visited by a board of senior officers for inspection of the terrain for the possible base. The terrain and proximity to Washington D.C. were all key factors in the selection of Quantico for the proposed base. Led by the Brig. Gen. John A. Lejeune, the now mainside portion of the base was selected and in short order rented from the Quantico Company.
These initial 5,300 acres were used to train those bound for Europe to fight Germany in the trenches of the Western Front. The forerunners of multiple schools, including both Officer Candidates School and The Basic School, can also be dated to these early days of the base. Thousands would receive training in the hills of Quantico on their way to Europe, from infantry and artillery, to engineering and other occupational specialties that are still recognizable to us today. Training trenches dug during the war can even still be found today, primarily located near the back nine of the Medal of Honor Golf Course.
When Quantico first opened, it was envisioned that only 3,500 Marines would be based here. As the requirements of the First World War changed the supply and demand of troops for Europe, this number grew to upwards of 7-8,000 being in training on the base at any given time during the height of American involvement in the war. By the time of the Armistice with Germany on November 11, 1918, Quantico had trained 30,000 Marines to fight in the trenches of Europe.
Having proven its value as a base, four weeks after the Armistice, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels authorized the full purchase of the base from the Quantico Company (who had also been threatening to sell the base out from under the Marine Corps in order to get rid of it) for $475,000 dollars. With that purchase, Quantico began to become the crossroads we all know today. Long term plans for schools and housing were constructed, a new hospital planned, and units permanently based or assigned here. While not there yet, Quantico was well on its way to becoming the base we all know now.