Fort Indiantown Gap has been a key installation for the Army and the Pennsylvania National Guard for 90 years.
The name “Indiantown Gap” was fashioned from the Native American presence and geography. “Indiantown” is derived from the Native American villages that once existed in the vicinity of present-day Fort Indiantown Gap, and "Gap" refers to the separation in the Blue Mountains through which the creek Indiantown Run flows.
In 1931, authorization was made to acquire land in Lebanon and Dauphin counties when the Pennsylvania National Guard outgrew its 120-acre training site at Mount Gretna, Lebanon County. Fort Indiantown Gap was first used by the National Guard in 1932 for training maneuvers, with completion of the military 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 as a training post. On September 30, 1940, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania leased the reservation to the federal government for $1. A massive construction project got underway, as 13,000 workmen quickly prepared for the arrival of troops and supplies, and the U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Indiantown Gap was born.
When the facility was completed, there were more than 1,400 buildings, including three fire stations, two guesthouses, a bus station, nine chapels, two service clubs, four huge theaters, a large sports arena and a 400-bed hospital. Nearly 800 temporary barracks buildings were located in complete regimental areas with mess halls, recreation buildings and store rooms. Muir Army Airfield was also constructed at that time.
Indiantown Gap was dedicated March 3, 1941, and was officially named Indiantown Gap Military Reservation. It was one of the nation’s busiest Army training camps, serving as the staging area for the New York Port of Embarkation. More than 150,000 troops in eight divisions were given final training at IGMR, prior to being shipped overseas. In addition to Pennsylvania’s own 28th Infantry Division, the 3rd and 5th Armored Divisions and the 1st, 5th, 37th, 77th and 95th Infantry Divisions also trained at IGMR. Once Allied Forces gained a foothold in Europe, IGMR also served as a German prisoner-of-war compound.
As World War II continued with ever increasing American involvement, a transportation corps training center was established for the purpose of educating Soldiers who would later be used in port battalions. Three dry landships: S.S. Manada, S.S. Swatara and the S.S. Indiantown were built at IGMR and used for Army stevedore training.
When the war ended, IGMR became a separation center for officers and enlisted men returning from overseas, mostly from Europe. More than 450,000 Soldiers were demobilized here and returned to civilian life. At its peak, the center processed more than 1,000 Soldiers per day.
Between the end of World War II and the beginning of the Korean War, IGMR was inactivated as a federal post, and control was turned back over to the Pennsylvania National Guard.
From 1951 to 1953, during the Korean War, IGMR’s strategic role again surfaced. It became the home of the 5th Infantry Division, whose mission was to train 32,000 troops as replacements for Soldiers in Korea.
On May 1, 1975, the Secretary of the Army announced an official name change from Indiantown Gap Military Reservation to Fort Indiantown Gap.
The installation was chosen on two separate occasions as a refugee resettlement camp. In 1975, more than 20,000 Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees were housed at the post until they were processed for sponsorship in the local area and across the United States. Five years later, in 1980, the post became a refugee camp again when more than 19,000 Cubans were brought to FTIG for processing and sponsorship.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, FTIG served as the Army’s largest Reserve Officer Training Corps summer camp. Many young officers receiving commissions at that time later served during the Vietnam conflict. In the 1980s and 1990s, various units of the military conducted and supported training at FTIG for military operations in Grenada, Panama, Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm, Bosnia and Kosovo.
On October 1, 1998, following Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommendations, the federal U.S. Army Garrison was closed, and control was returned to the Pennsylvania National Guard. Prior to the federal government returning control to the state, several dozen World War II-era wooden buildings were demolished or burned. Since then, they have been replaced by new facilities, including the 166th Regiment Regional Training Institute, the Mission Training Complex and a U.S. Army Reserve Center.
Now known as a National Guard Training Center, Fort Indiantown Gap today is home to the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and the headquarters of the Pennsylvania National Guard as well as several tenant organizations. It is the primary training site for the Pennsylvania National Guard, as well as units from other branches of the military, both active-duty and reserve-component; law-enforcement agencies; and other local, state and federal agencies. Major facilities include Muir Army Airfield, which is the second-busiest heliport in the U.S. Army; the Eastern Army National Guard Aviation Training Site, a state-of-the-art helicopter training center; the 166th Regiment, an educational complex for combat arms training; the Northeast Counterdrug Training Center; and the U.S. Army Reserve Center.
Fort Indiantown Gap is annually among the busiest National Guard Training Centers in the country, regularly hosting over 100,000 personnel per year for training. It was the busiest overall training center in 2015, 2016, 2018, 2020 and 2021 and has been in the top three every year since 2013.
For more information on the history of Fort Indiantown Gap and the Pennsylvania National Guard visit the Pennsylvania National Guard Military Museum located on the installation and open to the public.