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Cannons and colors: how artifacts represent the heritage of SDDC.


What do two Civil War cannons have to do with Surface Deployment and Distribution Command in the early 21st century? That question came to mind on Sept. 8, when two 1857 Napolean guns were installed in a place of honor outside SDDC's temporary headquarters at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

Recent history proves there is a link much more current than the distant struggle between the Union and the Confederacy. The cannons' previous location provides most of the answer. Before coming to Scott, the weapons were carefully moved from their setting at the front of SDDC's Operational headquarters at Fort Eustis, Va., where they had been since 2001. In 1997, the two guns had been removed from their previous place outside Gilbreath Hall (with one on each side of the entrance) at Oakland Army Base, Calif., the headquarters of Military Traffic Management Command (MTMC)'s Western Area from 1965 until it was inactivated along with the Eastern Area headquarters at Bayonne, N.J. in September 1998. Military Ocean Terminal Bayonne became the MTMC Eastern Area headquarters in a phased move from Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1974-75.

As SDDC people already know, just as the Eastern and Western headquarters were combined at Fort Eustis in 1998 by the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure commission, the Fort Eustis and former Alexandria, Va. headquarters will be collocated at Scott in 2010 due to the 2005 BRAC commission.

How did the Civil War cannons originally make it to the Northern California Bay Area? At the height of the war against the Confederacy, the United States acted firmly to defend the San Francisco Bay region by occupying and fortifying land first claimed by the federal government in a proclamation by President Millard Fillmore in December 1850. Worried about a possible attack by Confederate privateers, the Lincoln administration stationed troops at Fort Mason for the first time in 1863 and ringed San Francisco Bay with enormous cannons--much bigger than the relatively small and mobile guns later moved to Virginia and Illinois. A later park ranger used contemporary photos of the large guns to locate one and return it to the later Oakland Army Base which dated from Dec. 8, 1941. The smaller Napoleons were a mainstay of the Army of the Potomac and were placed outside Western Area Headquarters years before the inactivation.


So, by moving the Napoleon guns rather than any of the huge cannons in 1997, MTMC chose to preserve a manageable reminder of Oakland in its new southern Virginia setting. Framed flags have been a similar way to remember both Western and Eastern Areas. SDDC Fort Eustis boasts framed unit flags from Bayonne, Oakland, and the short-lived (1998-2001) MTMC Deployment Support Command. A special dual "shadow box" display at Fort Eustis includes the last United States flags to fly over the former regional command headquarters. A replica of the last flag to fly over Bayonne is displayed in the Command Group at Scott. Two MTMC flags, one from the 1970's or early 1980's and another from the late 1990's, overlook the main foyer of Building 1990 at Scott.

Artifacts seek to convey legacies as well as recall past locations. Naming SDDC headquarters at Fort Eustis for Maj. Gen. Henry R. Del Mar and capturing the "rededication" of the building in 2001 salutes MTMC/SDDC's longest serving commander and recommends his record of achievement for those who serve in a later time.

Similarly, Fort Eustis named its Operations conference room for Lt. Gen. Edward Honor in 2001, recognizing his leadership in several key MTMC posts (including commanding general). Coincidentally, for its own worthy reasons, U. S. Transportation Command, named its new main conference room in Building 1900 at Scott for Lt. Gen. Honor in September 2007.

Photos of the Oakland Army Terminal and its counterpart at Bayonne across the Hudson River from New York City are also prominent at Fort Eustis and Scott.

Like MTMC in 1997, SDDC in 2008 has transported Civil War cannons to carry part of its own past into the future. The latest move of artifacts from Virginia to Illinois in 2008 is a down payment on what probably also will come to Scott in 2010 when SDDC occupies its long-term headquarters. Cannons, flags and photos recall the past but hopefully also inspire our efforts to answer today's challenges in a way worthy of our predecessors.

from the archives 40 years ago

"An Air Force Reserve aeromedical evacuation group will be formed at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. ... The first of its kind, the 932nd Aeromedical Airlift Group will utilize the C-9 Nightingale 'flying hospital ward'...."

Transportation Proceeding, January 1969

30 years ago

"... as the [MTMC] command team goes into its 15th year, it does so with pride in past accomplishments and with confidence that it can continue to serve commanders and the individual servicemembers...."

Maj. Gen. H.R. Del Mar, TRANSLOG, February 1979

20 years ago

"The Department of Defense will begin using state-of-the-art technology to electronically track high-risk munitions shipments ... starting in January 1989. The system will be called the Defense Transportation Tracking System or DTTS."

TRANSLOG, December, 1988

10 years ago

MTMC's Joint Traffic Management duced the first side-loading cargo containers, designed by the JTMO to make transporting aviation ordnance quicker and more effective. The initial contract produced 3,200 side-loading containers.

TRANSLOG, Issue 1, 1999

By Dr. Kent Beck

SDDC Command Historian
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Author:Beck, Kent
Date:Sep 22, 2008
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