Fort Riley – Fort Riley, Kansas
The long history of the fort began when it was named for Major General Bennett C. Riley. Founded in 1853, the Post was originally established to protect settlers on the Oregon and Santa Fe trails. The fort is active as an Army base although the history of the fort encompasses a long history of use from protecting the emmegrants going to the west from the east and being a location that housed conferate soldiers captured during the Civil War.
Following the end of the Civil War in 1865 the troops were used to protect the railroad. Evidence of this occurred in the summer and fall of 1866 when the 7th Cavalry Regiment was mustered-in at Riley and the Union Pacific Railroad reached the fort. Brevet Major General George A. Custer arrived in December to take charge of the new regiment.
The following spring, Custer and the 7th left Fort Riley to participate in a campaign on the high plains of western Kansas and eastern Colorado.
The campaign proved inconclusive but resulted in Custer’s court martial and suspension from the Army for one year — in part — for returning to Fort Riley to see his wife without permission.
When many of the other forts in the area were closed when the hostilities with the Indians lessened Fort Riley was saved by being named the "Cavalry Headquarters of the Army."
The 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments — the famed "Buffalo Soldiers" — have been stationed at Fort Riley several times during their history. Shortly after their formation in 1866, the 9th Cavalry passed through here enroute to permanent stations in the southwest. They returned during the early 1880s and the early part of this century before being permanently assigned as troop cadre for the Cavalry School during the 1920 and 30s.
The 10th Cavalry was stationed here in 1868 and 1913.
On the eve of World War II, the 9th and 10th Cavalry became a part of the Second Cavalry Division which was briefly stationed there.
America’s entry into World War I resulted in many changes at Fort Riley. Facilities were greatly expanded, and a cantonment named Camp Funston was built five miles east of the permanent post during the summer and fall of 1917. This training site was one of 16 across the country and could accommodate from 30,00 to 50,000 men.
The first division to train at Camp Funston, the 89th, sailed for France in the spring of 1918. The 10th Division also received training at Funston but the armistice came before the unit was sent overseas.
Gathering war clouds in Europe and Asia during the late 1930s caused some military planners to prepare for possible U. S. involvement. This led to several important developments at Fort Riley. The first was the rebuilding of Camp Funston and the stationing of the 2nd Cavalry Division there in December 1940. Barracks were built in the area known as Republican Flats and renamed Camp Forsyth. In addition, 32,000 acres were added to the post for training purposes. These efforts were brought into sharp focus with America’s entry into World War II.
Over the next four years, approximately 125,000 soldiers were trained at these facilities. Notable trainees included heavyweight boxing champion, Joe Louis, and motion picture stars such as Mickey Rooney. The post also received a presidential visit by Franklin Roosevelt on Easter Sunday 1943.
The 9th Armored Division was organized here in July 1942 and after its deployment, Camp Funston was used as a prisoner of war camp.
The arrival of victory in Europe and Japan during the spring and summer of 1945, were joyous occasions. But they also spelled new realities and directions for the Army and Fort Riley.
In the aftermath of World War II, the fort experienced a period of transition. The Cavalry School ceased operation in November 1946 and the last tactical horse unit inactivated the following March. Replacing the Cavalry School was the Ground General School, which trained newly commissioned officers in basic military subjects. An officer’s candidate course was conducted along with training officers and enlisted men in intelligence techniques and methods. The 10th Infantry Division, one of ten Army training divisions, was activated at Camp Funston in August 1948. The sixteen-week basic military program conducted by this division prepared soldiers for infantry combat and duty with other infantry units.
The invasion of South Korea by North Korean forces in June 1950, once again brought attention to Fort Riley as an important training facility. Over the next few years, recruits from all over the United States came to Fort Riley and received basic training.
As a result of the Cold War An additional 50,000 acres were acquired in 1966, which enabled the Army to have an adequate training area for the division’s two brigades.
During the Viet Nam Conflict the fort was used for training of companies getting ready for deployment to the region.
In August 1990, Iraq invaded its neighbor, Kuwait. The resulting international outcry led to the largest U. S. troop build-up and deployment overseas since the Vietnam War. In the fall of that year, Fort Riley was notified to begin mobilization of troops and equipment for deployment to the Persian Gulf. Between November 1990 and January 1991, men and equipment were deployed overseas.
With the world being as it is the fate of Ft. Riley to continue to be needed as a training center for the military seems assured.
Fort Riley is located west of Topeka. There are museums on the grounds which are discussed in other listings on the site.
Location I-70 Exit 301, Fort Riley, KS 66441
Phone: (785) 239-3410