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    History of Fort Benning Range dates back to 1920s and includes generals, actors & Olympians

    Fort Benning range building has rich history

    Photo By Maj. Michelle Lunato | The Round House was built in 1938 and has served as a hunting lodge, Officers’ Club...... read more read more



    Story by Maj. Michelle Lunato 

    U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit

    Written by Sgt. 1st Class JaJuan Broadnax and Michelle Lunato

    FORT BENNING, Ga. – What do U.S. Army Gen. George S. Patton, U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets and actor John Wayne have in common? They all spent time at Fort Benning’s Hook Range.

    Patton frequented the range for skeet shooting along with other general officers during the World War II era. Tibbets, the pilot who flew the Enola Gay, which dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, supervised the expansion of the range as a U.S. Army second lieutenant. And, John Wayne played Col. Kirby during the filming of The Green Berets in 1967 at this iconic Fort Benning range.

    To connect all these key figures, let’s go back to 1918, when Fort Benning was first established. Originally a camp, the Maneuver Center of Excellence, had the mission of training infantry troops for World War I and was named in honor of Confederate General Henry Lewis Benning, a Columbus, Georgia native and noted Civil War officer.

    With hunting a popular recreational activity and thousands of acres of land available, a small shotgun range was constructed in 1921.

    In 1938, under the supervision of the then 2nd Lt. Tibbets, the shotgun range was expanded. The range’s skeet field had the mission of training enlisted personnel to be aerial gunners. These Soldiers, who were to be assigned to combat air crews, were taught how to properly engage moving targets. Rather than shooting straight at a target, they were instructed how to lead the target, which turned out to be an inexpensive training method when compared to using .50 caliber machine guns.

    While this innovative training was being conducted on the range, the expansion project included the construction of an adjacent range office, The Round House, which is reported to have been an official annex to the Officers’ Club.

    Over the years, Hook Range and the Round House, saw several famous generals as the range became a common place for countless Sunday morning skeet competitions. In a 1999 letter, Tibbets recounts shooting often with the then Lt. Col. Patton. In a surviving 1941 photograph, General Omar Bradley and Courtney Hodges can be seen on Hook Range with Patton.

    During the Cold War era, President Dwight D. Eisenhower understood that domination in international shooting competitions was a valuable propaganda tool for the Soviet Union. So in 1956, he created the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit to win international marksmanship competitions, elevate the standards of marksmanship throughout the U.S. Army and conduct research on firearms and ammunition.

    The USAMU was quick to produce results and Soldiers began to train tirelessly. In 1960, the Shotgun Olympic Trials took place at Hook Range and resulted in one Gold and one Silver Medal at the Olympic Games in Rome.

    In 1967, the Fort Benning range received notable, popular recognition when it was used in a scene by actor John Wayne in the film The Green Berets. And the Round House was reported to be used by Wayne as a retreat during filming.

    On April 16, 1970, the range was officially named Hook Range, in honor of 1st Lt. Alfred Hook, who was killed in action against the German Army on Sept. 29, 1918 east of Ronnsoy, France. Later, Hook was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for heroism. His citation reads, "He exhibited great courage and gallantry in taping off the line of departure for his company under a heavy shell and machine-gun fire. Later in the attack this daring officer was killed at the head of his company.”

    With all this history behind it, Hook Range is not just a historical icon, it has continued to play a part in the history for both Fort Benning and the USAMU by being the home range for the USAMU Shotgun Team. Over the years, this Fort Benning range and the USAMU have produced 22 shotgun Olympians and eight medal winners including Olympic Champions Sgt. Donald Haldeman, Staff Sgt. Matt Dryke, Sgt. Vincent Hannock and Spc. Glen Eller.

    The Hook Range Complex includes both trap and skeet fields and the historic Round House, which are all used regularly outside of daily training for shotgun demonstrations, VIP visits to Fort Benning, and the annual Benning Shotgun Open.

    As Tibbets wrote in his 1999 letter, the Hook Range Complex is not just “an old WWII building,” it is an “icon to be preserved.” He continued to explain how the USAMU was a unique unit and urged the Home of Champions to “keep up the good work and strive to preserve history while making it.”

    And on February 6, 2020, the USAMU will do just that by honoring Hook Range with an official Historical Marker Ceremony.



    Date Taken: 02.05.2020
    Date Posted: 02.05.2020 16:37
    Story ID: 361896
    Location: FORT BENNING, GA, US 

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