Fort Des Moines Provisional Army Officer Training School is located on Army Post Road in Des Moines, Iowa. Today, the base operates on 204 acres of land on the southern side of Des Moines. Fort Des Moines is most recognized for the advancement of African American men in the United States military forces and was the first training center for women in the Women's Army Corps. Because of these accomplishments, the fort was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974.
Due to racist government restrictions during WWI, there was no base where African American men could train to serve their country. The NAACP fought back at the ruling from the government and 1,000 black college graduates were selected to train at Fort Des Moines. The Government believed these cadets would fail and thought the east coast media would smear its name so they required the fort be far away from the east coast. Fort Des Moines was chosen for its location and the fact that it had been an abandoned base up until then.
In 1901 Fort Des Moines Provisional Army Officer Training School was built on 400 acres of land. By 1903 it housed cavalry, barracks, officer’s quarters, and other military facilities. The first black cadets began training in 1917. They were made up of college graduates, non-commissioned officers, 9th and 10th cavalry "Buffalo Soldiers" and the 24th and 25th infantry.
In Iowa, the 5,000 black townspeople were in awe and proud to have the well educated men training at Fort Des Moines. Race riots and violence were still happening all over the country but the cadets that trained at Fort Des Moines would be the spark of change and paved the way for future generations to come. Two notable officers that trained at Fort Des Moines were General Colin Powell and General "Chappie" James.
In 1918 the Fort was converted into a hospital to treat casualties of WWI. Between 1920-1930 the fort was again used for military units, some cavalry and some artillery. In 1933-34 Fort Des Moines became the Civilian Conservation Corps Camp and continued to be until 1942 when it was used for the Women’s Army Corps. It was the first base 72,000 women were trained at for the military. The base later housed veterans after WWll and in 1950 was turned over to the city.
Today, many portions of Fort Des Moines are delegated to different uses but a portion of the fort is still used for Army Reserves training. Blank Park Zoo stands on the grounds, apartment complexes, and the Fort Des Moines Museum and Education Center.
Fort Des Moines Project
The Fort Des Moines Project is a 40 million dollar renovation of old Army barracks and horse stables into low income housing. Construction began in July 2017. 142 apartments are being built for low-income individuals and families who make less than 35,000 dollars a year.