WHAT WAS IN the area of Fort George G. Meade before the Army base? A colonial forge along the Patuxent River, for one thing. Also, a rural village called Admiral.
These are just two factoids that may surprise even old-time Marylanders who visit the base's newly expanded museum in the old Post Telephone Exchange at 4674 Griffin Avenue.
First established in the 1960s, the museum offers a fascinating overview of the development of the U.S. military over the past two centuries. No wonder cars with out-of-state license plates can often be seen on the museum's parking lot, near a collection of vintage tanks and artillery pieces.
Fort Meade was established in western Anne Arundel by Congress 80 years ago this May. During World War I, more than 100,000 men rotated through its training programs. When World War II arrived more than two decades later, Fort Meade became a beehive of more than 200 units, training 3.5 million men and women. About 3,800 prisoners of war -- mostly German and Italian -- also were held there.
Among military heroes who served at Fort Meade were George S. Patton and Dwight D. Eisenhower. They are honored with life-sized mannequins at the museum.
Then there was Old Joe, the only tank-riding dog the U.S. Army has ever had.
When Joe died in August 1937, after 14 years of service, it merited a prominent news story. "A procession of tanks and military trucks escorted Joe's body, placed in a flower-covered casket on the back seat of an old automobile in which he rode many miles, to a temporary grave near one of the fort's tank parks," The Sun reported with all solemnity. "There, while the entire 66th Infantry -- both officers and enlisted men -- stood in military formation in a driving rain, Joe was buried."
About 20,000 people toured the Fort Meade museum last year, which is open free of charge 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays.
The additional exhibit space ought to make the facility even more popular. The museum's exhibits range from the American Revolution to the Civil War to more recent conflicts, including punji sticks from Viet Cong booby traps. It is well worth a visit.
Pub Date: 2/06/97