The military has played a vital role on the Monterey Peninsula since 1770, when a small expedition led by Captain Gaspar de Portola took possession for Spain of what is now Central California.
In compliance with his orders "to erect a fort to occupy and defend the port from the atrocities of the Russians, who were about to invade us," his men constructed a presidio, or fort, at the southern end of the bay.
Portola's actions were spurred by the Spanish fear that other nations - particularly Russia - had designs upon her New World empire. Spain moved to occupy that portion of the western American coast which she previously neglected.
Monterey Bay, which has been visited a century and half before the Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino, was ripe for colonization and military fortification. There, Spain built one of four presidios and one of 21 missions in what is now California.
The original Presidio consisted of a square of adobe buildings located in the vicinity of what is now downtown Monterey. The fort's original mission, the Royal Presidio Chapel, has remained in constant use since it was founded in 1770 by Father Junipero Serra who arrived with Portola's party. The only direct relationship between the original site and the present Presidio is an earthwork at the latter location for cannons overlooking Monterey's harbor.
The fortunes of the Presidio rose and fell with the times. It was moved, abandoned and activated. At least three times it was submerged by the tide of history, only to reappear years later with a new face, a new master and a new mission - first under the Spanish, then the Mexicans, and ultimately, the Americans.
American control of the area began in 1846 during the war with Mexico, when Commodore John D. Sloat, commander of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Squadron, landed unopposed with a small force in Monterey and claimed the territory and the Presidio for the United States.
He left a small garrison of Marines who began improving defenses to better protect the town and the harbor. The new defenses were named Fort Mervine in honor of Captain William Mervine, who commanded one of the ships in Sloat's squadron.
Soldiers from Battery F, 3rd Artillery, later replaced the Marines and continued the construction. Two of the company's officers, Lieutenants Edward O.C. Ord and William Tecumseh Sherman, were to achieve fame as Union generals in the Civil War. Fort Mervine continued to be manned by a small garrison until the Mexican War ended and gold was discovered in California. Units of the fort were disbanded and most of the soldiers headed for the gold fields.
Army troops again occupied the fort for a few months at the end of the Civil War when it was known as Ord Barracks. From 1865 to 1902 the post was inactive. Not until after the Spanish-American War of 1898 was a force of significant size stationed there again. The 15th Infantry and the 9th Cavalry "Buffalo Soldiers" returned from duty in the Philippines, were sent there in 1902 and developed the fort further.
Presidio of Monterey
The post, which has been known at various times as Fort Halleck, Ord Barracks, Monterey Barracks and Fort Stockton, was officially redesignated the Presidio of Monterey in 1904 in honor of the original Spanish fort. From 1907 to 1913 the School of Musketry was operated on the post, forerunner of today's Infantry Center at Fort Benning, Georgia. Several units rotated through between 1902 and 1919. Between the two world wars the post was the home of the 11th Cavalry and the 2nd Battalion, 76th Field Artillery.
These units remained at the Presidio until 1940. In 1941, the Presidio of Monterey became a reception center for selectees, and for a while it housed III Corps headquarters. Declared inactive in 1944, the post was reactivated in 1945. For a few months the post was a staging area for civil affairs personnel preparing for the occupation of Japan.
On June 19, 1946 the installation became home to the Military Intelligence Service Language School. It was redesignated the Army Language School in 1947. In 1963, the Department of Defense established a joint service Defense Language Institute (DLI), headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Presidio of Monterey became the Defense Language Institute, West Coast Branch - the Presidio of Monterey, however, kept its name. In 1974 the DLI headquarters moved to the Presidio of Monterey. In 1976 the Defense Language Institute, West Coast Branch became the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC), the Defense Department’s primary center for foreign language instruction.
For much of its history, DLIFLC was a tenant activity on the Presidio of Monterey. The Presidio itself was a subinstallation of the nearby Fort Ord. On October 1, 1994 this situation changed when Fort Ord closed and the Presidio of Monterey became a separate installation again. Thus, DLIFLC became DLIFLC & POM.