HISTORY OF FORT RUCKER
The original name of the post was Ozark Triangular Division Camp, but before the camp was officially opened on 1 May 1942, the War Department named it Camp Rucker. The post was named in honor of Colonel Edmund W. Rucker, a Civil War Confederate officer, who was given the honorary title of “General,” and who became an industrial leader in Birmingham after the war. Fort Rucker (situated on 58,000 acres (235 km2) of sub-marginal farmland, and formerly a wildlife refuge) was opened on 1 May 1942 as “Camp Rucker”. It had quarters for 3,280 officers and 39,461 enlisted personnel.
In September 1942, 1,259 additional acres south of Daleville were acquired for the construction of an airfield to support the training camp. It was known as Ozark Army Airfield until January 1959, when the name was changed to Cairns Army Airfield. The first troops to train at Camp Rucker were those of the 81st Infantry Division; the 81st Division left Rucker for action in the Pacific Theater in March 1943. Three other infantry divisions received training at Camp Rucker during the Second World War—the 35th, the 98th, and the 66th. The 66th (Panther) Division left for the European Theater in October 1944.
Camp Rucker was also used to train dozens of units of less than division size; these included tank, infantry replacement, and Women’s Army Corps units. During the latter part of the Second World War, several hundred German and a few Italian prisoners-of-war were housed in stockades near the railroad east of the warehouse area, on the southern edge of the post. The 91st Infantry Division was sent to Camp Rucker at the end of the war, being deactivated in December 1945.
Camp Rucker was inactive from March 1946 until August 1950. It was reopened during the Korean War. The Minnesota Army National Guard’s 47th Infantry Division was mobilized and sent to Camp Rucker in the fall of 1950, the division provided cadre that would conduct basic training of soldiers, who would later on be sent as replacements to units in Korea. The 47th Infantry Division would remain at Camp Rucker throughout the war. After another short deactivation, it was again reopened and expanded when it became a helicopter training base. The name was changed to “Fort Rucker” in October 1955.
The Hanchey Army Airfield became the home of the Department of Rotary Wing Training of the Army Aviation School on 5 October 1959, marking the first time the department was centralized.
Fort Rucker suffered damage from three significant tornadoes within two years in 1972 and 1973. The first, rated F2, struck on 13 January 1972. It damaged buildings and helicopters on the post and devastated two nearby trailer parks, killing 4 people and injuring 88, all of them army dependents. An F3 tornado struck the post on 29 December 1973, causing minor damage to residences and striking a tank storage area. A second F3 tornado hit a day later, heavily damaging 30 government and residential buildings at Fort Rucker, 5 of which were completely destroyed.