In the beginning, it seemed unlikely that Camp Benning would become the base that it is today. After World War I, the camp did not have a future, but military leaders and citizens of Columbus hoped for a permanent base to be established. Congress, realizing the need for a location to train infantrymen, granted military leaders' permission to establish a camp in Columbus, Georgia. The original site of the camp, located on Macon Road, was established October 7, 1918. Twelve days later, the camp would be christened Camp Benning, after Brigadier General Henry Lewis. However, this location would be abandoned after it became apparent the area was not large enough to house the infantry school. A new area was scouted out and the camp moved to its current location, the Bussey Plantation. February 8, 1922, Camp Benning would be redesignated as Fort Benning .
The 24th Infantry had already made its place in history before arriving at Camp Benning in 1920. From 1869 to its arrival at Camp Benning, the unit served in the West, the Philippines and Cuba. In 1917, soldiers in the third battalion would be involved in the Houston Race Riot. The regiment over the years would see many changes in structure, but the infantrymen of Fort Benning became the men essential to the creation of the permanent facility. Men assigned to the, "Infantry School Detachment (Colored)," would be assigned as laborers throughout the 1920s .
While the 24th was essential to the development of Fort Benning, segregation kept the 24th from using the facilities they helped construct. When the Main Theatre opened in 1926, the 24th was permitted to attend the “white only,” theatre for one night because of their contribution to the construction of the building .
Master Sergeant Richard Collins recalls...
“After I joined the regiment in 1923, members of the 24th performed various labor duties for the building of several parts of the Post. For example, during the day some of us were used in road building and at night we hauled concrete, by wheelbarrows, for the construction of the Doughboy Stadium (the football stadium). Once the concrete pouring began, we could not stop until the sections that were being built were completed. We worked in three shifts because the work continued all night. If not otherwise needed, our Band was detailed to play during our working to keep up our morale ”
Despite working as laborers, the 24th Infantry was able to excel in other areas. Members of the band and orchestra are still recognized to this day. The group famously played ceremonial, concert, and jazz music throughout the South. In January 2020, the 24th Regiment’s band leader, Chief Warrant Officer Robert B. Tresville, was honored when building 285 was named after him. The Regimental band played for both black audiences and white audiences, even though events were segregated during this time. The popularity of the band demanded an increase in the number of band members and Tresville saw to it that members were taught the history of music, composition, and theory .
In April of 1942, the regiment was sent to the South Pacific. They would be the first black regiment sent overseas during World War II. The 24th Infantry would not be disbanded until 1951. The disbandment of the 24th Infantry was shadowed by the military stating the regiment did not perform as well as other units during its time in Korea. This criticism is still largely debated today, but veterans and historians of that time can both agree that such criticisms stemmed from racial prejudices and the lack of training and leadership the army failed to give the soldiers .
The Fort Benning and Lawson Field brochure from the 1950s informs soldiers about life at Fort Benning. Soldiers can find detailed information about living on the base, from finding the library to knowing exactly how to make a phone call. This brochure gives readers a glimpse of the segregation that occurred on base. Soldiers of color could find the "Colored Armed Services YMCA" at 841 5th Street (seen below) or the guest houses for soldiers of color on Loughlin Road. President Truman’s Executive Order 9981 was a step in abolishing segregation in the military, but it would take years before the military would be fully desegrated.
Private Felix Hall
Horace, M. (2021, August 3). 2021 08 03 Pvt. Felix Hall Historic Marker Unveiling Ceremony .
“Seventy-five years after Hall’s life was cut short, Americans are wrestling again with questions about the value placed on the lives of young black men and the ability of the criminal justice system to transcend its historic double standard. Hall’s case may be cold, but it still resonates .”
On March 28, 1941, 19-year-old Private Felix Hall was found murdered. Private Hall is the only known lynching on a military base, and the case remains unsolved.
Originally from Alabama, Hall joined the Army in 1940 and was assigned to the, "24th Infantry Regiment (Colored)." Hall disappeared on February 12, 1941, on his way to the post exchange after leaving his job at the sawmill. Weeks after his disappearance and no trace of Hall, he was declared a deserter. There are no records of Hall’s disappearance being investigated during this time, and his body would be found on Fort Benning by a group of military engineers out training.
The public outcry surrounding his death led to an investigation by the FBI. It was determined his death was a homicide and committed by more than one perpetrator. A list of names was compiled, but a suspect was never named. Criticism surrounds the case, and many feel the investigation was poorly conducted. There is no report that any of the leads given by black soldiers were ever followed up.
In August of 2021, Fort Benning unveiled a Historical Marker in honor of Pvt. Felix Hall. Military leaders hope the marker will serve as a reminder of how far the military has come. New generations of soldiers will look at the historical marker and learn about past atrocities. From here, they can collectively grow as a unit and stand against acts occurring to both soldiers and civilians .
United States Department of Defense. Department of the Air Force. (1945). Photograph - Operation Fire Fly .
The 24th Infantry Regiment was not the only segregated unit leaving Fort Benning. The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion were the first black paratroopers stationed at Fort Benning. Their nickname, Triple Nickles, stemmed from their numerical designation and some members having served in the 92nd Infantry Division, also known as the Buffalo Division. Activated in 1943, this was a test group of all black soldiers, including officers. Officers of all-Black units had historically been all white.
At the start of World War II, the paratroopers were sent to the west coast to train with the U.S. Forest Service. Here they became smokejumpers during Operation Firefly. Their goal was to find and dispose of Japanese incendiary bombs and put out any fires these bombs may have caused. The only casualties on the mainland during World War II were caused when such a balloon exploded, killing the woman and children who found it .
The 555th Parachute Infantry was deactivated in 1947. On February 29, 2020, the Triple Nickels were awarded the Buffalo Soldiers Medal of Valor .
 U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence. (2021). Fort Benning. Fort Benning | Fort Benning Historic Trail. https://www.benning.army.mil/MCoE/Historic-Trail/43_CWO_Robert_B._Tresville_Hall_(Bldg_285).html.</a>
 Bowers, W. T., Hammond, W. M., MacGarrigle, G. L. (1996). Black soldier, white army: The 24th infantry regiment in Korea. United States Army Center of Military History. https://history.army.mil/html/books/070/70-65/CMH_Pub_70-65.pdf
 Mills, A. (2016, September 2). A lynching kept out of sight. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/national/2016/09/02/the-story-of-the-only-known-lynching-on-a-u-s-military-base/
 Pvt. Felix Hall Historic Marker Unveiling Ceremony. [Photograph]. Digital Archive of Fort Benning and the Maneuver Center of Excellence.(2021, August 3). https://fortbenning.smugmug.com/Ceremonies-and-Events/Historic-or-Significant-Events/2021-08-03-Pvt-Felix-Hall-Historic-Marker-Unveiling-Ceremony/i-gX9ptjb
 United States Department of the Air Force & Department of Defense. (1945, September 26). Photograph - Operation Fire Fly. [Photograph]. National Archives Catalog. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/148728170
 Poole, S. (2020, November 4). Triple nickles: All-black paratrooper battalion broke barriers. The Atlanta Journal Constitution . https://www.ajc.com/news/triple-nickles-all-black-paratrooper-battalion-broke-barriers/X3SCADB5TJHGHGBE2WMINIB45Q/.