The list of defense installations marked for closing in the name of cost-efficiency is a roll call of America's colorful military history - a catalog of the names and places where the Army and Navy first put down their roots and where millions of draftees met the pain and indignities of life in uniform.
There was no allowance for nostalgia in the report of the 12-member Commission on Base Realignments and Closures, which chose its victims with an eye on the bottom line rather than their legendary place in history.If Congress goes along and closes the Presidio in San Francisco, for example, military activity will cease in what has been a fortified area since King Charles III of Spain first stationed troops there in 1776.
The commission also marked for extinction the New York Naval Station in Brooklyn, site of the first U.S. shipyard in 1801, and Utah's Fort Douglas, built in 1862 to protect the Overland Mail route but now enclosed by the University of Utah campus.
Illinois' Fort Sheridan - named after himself in 1888 by Civil War cavalryman Philip H. Sheridan, who was U.S. commanding general at the time and personally signed the order - was on the panel's hit list, too. It has been a home for some of the Army's most famous names through the years, including a young second lieutenant named George S. Patton Jr. in 1909 and other heroes of World War II.
Less pleasant memories are associated with other bases on the list, however. Kansas' Chanute Air Force Base, when it processed 200,000 men through technical training in World War II, was known as "Cardboard City" and "Splinterville" because of its substandard housing. A recent military guide said that there was a short wait even today for "inadequate quarters."
Fort Dix, N.J., recommended for semi-active status, is the major Army base in the northeastern part of the country where raw recruits were sent for basic training. It too is likely to generate little nostalgia.
"It was absolutely dreadful," recalls one Fort Dix survivor who trained there in the 1950s. "There was no heat in the barracks and no hot water, and nearly everybody got sick."
In the bloodless rhetoric of the Commission on Base Realignments and Closures, the installations on its list are expendable.
"The Presidio has no excess administrative-space capacity," the report said. "The net cost of closure and relocation will be paid back within two years. The Commission expects annual savings to be $74.1 million."
Though the 1,400-acre Presidio is a federally registered landmark and has about 300 historically important buildings, San Francisco residents have expressed concern that real estate developers would grab the green hillside tract for high-rise development if the Army ever gave up the post.
The wooded area of 1,400 acres overlooking the Golden Gate bridge is the largest U.S. military reservation within city limits. After Spanish troops left, the Presidio saw the buckskin-clad men of explorer and warrior John Charles Fremont and became a tent city to house survivors of the San Francisco earthquake and fire in 1906.
An officers' club at the Presidio is the only building left of the tile-roofed adobe structures built by the Spanish in the 18th century. A cemetery with 16,000 graves - including many Indian fighters and a woman who served as a spy for the Union in the Civil War - presumably will be turned over to the Veterans Administration for upkeep.
Fort Sheridan - a 700-acre facility along Lake Michigan amidst some of Chicago's most expensive suburban real estate - today has a resort-like atmosphere in summer months. Beaches with picnic tables and barbecue pits are situated below picturesque bluffs, and the fort boasts an 18-hole golf course and a skeet range.
"The Commission recommends Fort Sheridan for closure primarily because it is located in a heavily urbanized, high-cost area with minimum potential for future growth," the report said. "Its mission and tenants can be relocated. . . . The commission expects annual savings to be $40.8 million."
Though several of the bases targeted for closure have colorful history, others cannot even claim that distinction as a reason for survival.
In discussing the Philadelphia Naval Hospital, for instance, the panel said that its facilities were unsafe and inadequate for modern health care even though it was constructed just before World War II.
The commission also pointed out that many wooden buildings erected during World War II had deteriorated.