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Rediscovering Fort Knox

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By 1927: Army officer with installation namesake commands Knox ROTC
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The camp officers of the Reserve Officers Training Camp were photographed at Camp Knox in 1927.

Commanding the ROTC Camp was Maj. Lesley J. McNair, a professor of military science at Purdue University. The artillery officer was a U.S. Military Academy graduate and had served in World War I, achieving the wartime rank of brigadier general at the age of 35.

During the 1930s, McNair served as assistant commander of the U.S. Army Field Artillery School, the Civilian Conservation Corps,
2nd Field Artillery, and closed the decade out as commandant of the Command and General Staff College. From July 1940 to March 1942, he served as chief of staff of General Headquarters, U.S. Army. He became Commanding General, Army Ground Forces in March 1942 and during that time visited Fort Knox on a number of occasions.

In the accompanying photograph, McNair is seen with Kentucky Governor Keen Johnson and Fort Knox Commander Maj. Gen. Jacob L. Devers during one of those visits.

McNair’s last visit to post was two months before his accidental death near Saint-Lô, France, July 25, 1944, when his foxhole received a direct hit from an Allied bomber. He was one of the four highest-ranking American Soldiers to die during World War II. He was promoted posthumously to general in 1954 by an act of Congress.