APG 100: Remembering the past, sharing for the future

The staff of "The Big Gun," a historical yearbook written in 1918 and published in 1919, chronicles the first year at the newly established Aberdeen Proving Ground. "When we undertook the task of editing and publishing THE BIG GUN we hardly realized what we had to face," the men recalled. "We have worked early and late. We have faced and surmounted numerous difficulties. Our aim has been to please; but we knew from the first that we could not please every one. Consequently we are prepared for criticism. We have done the best we could under existing circumstances, and we submit the volume with a clear conscience. Use it as you will." | U.S. Army photo

It is human nature to recall the past, to recount the legends of those who came before us and to tell our stories to those who will live on after us.

Nearly 100 years ago, the enlisted men who arrived at the newly established Aberdeen Proving Ground felt this same compulsion, in hopes to one day spark memories long forgotten and share their experiences with the next generation.

In “The Big Gun” published in 1919, these men wrote “In the official files at Washington, when the final records have been written, he who seeks may find in unromantic figures the tale of Aberdeen.

“Here, within the covers of this book, as time travels on his way and the youth of today climbs the hill of life and then drifts slowly to the shadows, ever fresh as on the afternoon he mounted the stand up at the Parade Ground, he can see himself in the midst of the men who shared the long year with him.

“Here, caught by the camera as it stood in the last month of the war, will unfold before him the panorama of the Proving Ground; the guns along the front, the company streets, some grotesque but business-like tank, the spread of the Handley-Page that crept droning over-head as he went about his duties at the Main Proof Battery or in the orderly room of his company.

“Here the older man of a score of years from now can read the names of his bunkies and refresh in memory, by association with the pictured faces of his comrades.”

It is this same sentiment that drives the men and women planning numerous events in 2017, honoring Aberdeen Proving Ground’s 100th anniversary and the countless individuals who lived, worked, or were connected to APG.

Through this publication, and countless articles to be published in the APG News throughout 2017, we hope to honor the legacy of the men and women featured in the stories that filled the pages of our predecessors “The Big Gun,” “Rapid Fire,” “The Flaming Bomb,” “The Flamethrower,” “The Groundhog,” and the more than 50-year history of the APG News.

As Team APG celebrates its centennial with the local community, the APG News aims to spark the memory of “the older man of a score of years” and remind former Soldiers, civilians and family members of times at the proving ground. We also hope to show “the youth of today, climbing the hill of life,” about the accomplishments of those who came before them.

Today, we ask you to share your memories of APG. Reach out to us by phone at 410-278-1148, email us or connect with us on Facebook, and share your photos and recollections of Aberdeen Proving Ground, or those of your parents or grandparents.

Historical books and newspaper pages only document a segment of the human experience, and we are always seeking new stories— your stories— to share with our readers today and those in the future who will wonder what life was like at APG many years ago.

In 1918, the “Big Gun” authors wrote, “We are proud of the Proving Ground, with somewhat of the pride that one takes in the thing he has created. The Post as it stands today is the handiwork of every one of us whose name appears upon the roster of APG’s personnel.”

As the Army’s oldest active proving ground, APG’s history and its future are entirely the result of the men and women dedicated to serving their country in or out of uniform. We are confident that countless men and women who have worked at APG in the last century have felt this same pride— as do the Soldiers, civilians and contract employees, who today, continue to forge APG’s legacy of innovation and support the service members who secure our nation’s freedoms.

As our counterparts said nearly 100 years ago, “If, in years to come, The Big Gun [or the APG News and this keepsake publication] brings back to us the sentiment we keep within our hearts today, it shall have fulfilled its purpose.”

Story by Amanda Rominiecki, APG News