Fort Rucker is a U.S. Army post located mostly in Dale County, Alabama, United States. It was named for a Civil War officer, Confederate General Edmund Rucker. The post is the primary flight training base for Army Aviation and is home to the United States Army Aviation Center of Excellence (USAACE) and the United States Army Aviation Museum. Small sections of the post also lie in Coffee, Geneva, and Houston counties. Part of the Dale County section of the base is a census-designated place; its population was 4,636 at the 2010 census.
The main post has entrances from three bordering cities, Daleville, Ozark and Enterprise. In the years before the September 11, 2001 attacks, the main post (except airfields and other restricted areas) was an open post with unmanned gates allowing civilians to drive through. Following the attacks, this policy was changed, and the post is now closed to unauthorized traffic and visitors.
The original name of the post was Ozark Triangular Division Camp, but before the camp was officially opened on 1 May 1942, the War Department named it Camp Rucker. The post was named in honor of Colonel Edmund W. Rucker, a Civil War Confederate officer, who was given the honorary title of “General,” and who became an industrial leader in Birmingham after the war. Fort Rucker (situated on of sub-marginal farmland, and formerly a wildlife refuge) was opened 1 May in 1942 as "Camp Rucker", and had quarters for 3,280 Officers and 39,461 Enlisted Personnel.
In September 1942, 1,259 additional acres south of Daleville were acquired for the construction of an airfield to support the training camp. It was known as Ozark Army Airfield until January 1959, when the name was changed to Cairns Army Airfield. The first troops to train at Camp Rucker were those of the 81st Infantry Division; the 81st Division left Rucker for action in the Pacific Theater in March 1943. Three other infantry divisions received training at Camp Rucker during the Second World War—the 35th, the 98th, and the 66th. The 66th (Panther) Division left for the European Theater in October 1944.
Camp Rucker was also used to train dozens of units of less than division size; these included tank, infantry replacement, and Women’s Army Corps units. During the latter part of the Second World War, several hundred German and a few Italian prisoners-of-war were housed in stockades near the railroad east of the warehouse area, on the southern edge of the post.
Camp Rucker was inactive from March 1946 until August 1950. It was reopened during the Korean War. The Minnesota Army National Guard's 47th Infantry Division was mobilized and sent to Camp Rucker in the fall of 1950, the division provided cadre that would conduct basic training of soldiers, who would later on be sent as replacements to units in Korea. The 47th Infantry Division would remain at Camp Rucker throughout the war. After another short deactivation, it was again reopened and expanded when it became a helicopter training base. The name was changed to "Fort Rucker" in October 1955.
The Hanchey Army Heliport became the home of the Department of Rotary Wing Training of the Army Aviation School on 5 October 1959, marking the first time the Department was centralized.
The 81st Division (Wild Cat) was the first unit activated at Camp Rucker on 15 June 1942. The 81st received equipment, personnel and trained here before shipping out to the Pacific Theater of Operations (PTO) Other units passed through and called Camp Rucker home before shipping overseas, these included the 35th, 66th and 98th Infantry Divisions. The 91st and 94th Infantry Divisions were inactivated at Camp Rucker.