MAJ McKay Memo
Click to return to History
Please feel free to provide feedback
Camp Croft, South Carolina
US Army Infantry Replacement Training Center

 

Postal First Day Cover signed by many of the persons responsible for supervising the building of

the camp and sent to the Constructing Quartermaster's wife, Mrs. McKay - Courtesy Don Epp

 

To:         Major Neal R. McKay, Constructing Quartermaster
From:     Thomas A. Boynton
Subject:  Review of the Construction of Camp Croft, as Reported
 

     CAMP CROFT, S.C. -- On the clear, cold morning of December 12, 1940, an operator lowered the leveling blade of his new, yellow bulldozer deep into the hard clay mound of Piedmont farmland that had been made by a share-croppers plow during the last planting season.  He threw the machine into gear and, in making a clear, clean cut into the soil, started construction on one of America's future bulwarks of defense -- the Spartanburg infantry replacement training center.

     One hundred and fifty-four days later, on May 15, it was all over.  In slightly more than five months there had grown from corn and cotton fields an army base that top war department officials had classified as one of the nation's finest, certainly the most handsome bit of preparedness construction in the South.  And on that date of completion, nearly 11,000 selectees, representing a cross-section of the county's population, a hodgepodge of humanity, were developing into fit additions to the 1941 army.

     The change that had taken place in the 18,000-acre Piedmont belt was all the more amazing because such progress had never been witnessed before in this section of the sleepy South.  It was the more admirable because but one workman had lost his life in the huge project a Negro who was crushed by a falling piece of timber while at work in a regimental area, because the public liability claims reached a total of but $5, because the costliest fire caused a loss of $25.  The change here proved America's answer to her challenge for defense; this was the way the nation could do a job.

     The job done was not accomplished without grief. Scores of farmers left homes that had belonged to their grandfathers, saw them raised (sic) or burned to the ground to make room for the new camp.  The land was taken after negotiations lagged under blanket declarations of taking; just now is being paid for as slow court procedure moves forward.  But who or what agency was to blame for retarded payment, it is hard to say.  Suffice to point out that the government put up the money it had agreed to pay for the properties -- some $450,000 for some 18,000 acres belong to 200-odd owners -- in the South Carolina courts, urged city and county officials to speed negotiations, put expediters in the field and made a strenuous effort to see that those most ardently concerned with the land deal did not suffer.  The Farm Security Administration provided many of the ousted landowners with new homes -- prefabricated buildings in nearby Pacolet until something better could be realized.

     Although construction of Camp Croft began in Washington on paper back in the last Roosevelt Thanksgiving days, the first big move to launch the project came with the awarding of the cost-plus-fixed-fee contract the three construction companies which merged efforts on the construction, the J.A. Jones Construction Company of Charlotte, N.C., the Fiske-Carter Construction Company of Spartanburg and the Boyle Construction Company of Sumter.

     Major Neil R. McKay, a reserve officer with the army corps of engineers, who had been an engineer with the Southern Natural Gas Company at Birmingham, Ala., was assigned to the Spartan army base as the constructing quartermaster and reported for duty on December 1. Selected as the executive officer was Captain Truman G. McMullan, Cavalry, Company Commander Civilian Conservation Corps, Camp 3-57, Aitch, Pa., who followed the major to Spartanburg on December 5.

     The staff of the constructing quartermaster was organized in the office of the Quartermaster General in Washington during November from reserve officers called to active duty and included men who, during the arduous process of construction, proved themselves capable and efficient masters of the jobs to which they were assigned.  Others on the major's staff follow;

     Captain John C. Heame, Cavalry, who had been the assistant manager of the Patton Lumber Company in Ashland, Ky.  Captain Heame arrived the same day as Captain McMullan.  As property officer, his was the duty of receiving and installing government equipment, purchasing supplies for the staff of Major McKay, supervising contract rates, provisions and executions of rental schedules for construction equipment which was necessary to rent for the project.

     First Lieut. Ralph E. Koch, Coast Artillery Corps, who had been an architect engineer with the great Owens-Illinois Glass Company at Alton, in., served as the assistant engineer officer.  In this capacity, it was up to the lieutenant to interpret plans and specifications and to inspect buildings during the various stages of construction.  He arrived on December 1, along with Major McKay.

     The navy department at Jacksonville, Fla., lost an efficient engineer when First Lieut.  James A. Kinghom, U.S.A., Inf, was called to duty in November to report to Croft on December 8 as the assistant to the executive officer and adjutant.  A big job was performed by this officer who in addition to handling general administrative work in the office of the constructing quartermaster, cared for the provision of communications and the adjustment of wage rates for the contractors personnel and commissioned personnel records.

     The excellent safety record that was made during the entire Croft construction might well be traced to the safety rulings and careful supervision of First Lieut. Tolbert L. Stallings who came here November 30, 1940, to be the safety and transportation officer of the Spartan base.  Prior to his assignment he had been an engineer with the U.S. Department of Interior at Bryson City, N.C. From dispatching and maintaining cars used in connection with the project, to seeing that hazardous conditions that might cause injury to workmen, (sic) it was Captain Stallings that strove toward and achieved safety results.

     Burner of the mid-night oil, a shadow to Major McKay, a walking and complete directory of all that took place on the Croft reservation has been William M. Wallerstein, administrative officer for the project.  Prior to coming to Spartanburg, he had set up a complete operating system, clearing the way for the big job at hand.  Mr. Wallerstein employed civilian personnel handled fiscal matters, allotments, funds, reports and statistics prepared cost and financial reports on the project (sic).

     First to get married at the camp was Captain James B. Menmuir whose genial bride took over secretarial duties in the engineers' office at the camp.  A silent but hard worker, a fact-finder and a thoroughly experienced man who had served as an engineer for the City of Detroit, Mich., before coming here, Captain Menmuir served as technical officer for Major McKay. Among the first to arrive, he was among the first to depart, leaving April 1 for new duties at Fort Wayne, Inc.

     Captain George W. Stewart who had been an engineer for the National Park Service, in Camden, Maine, was the assistant engineer officer, remained at the Spartan cantonment until April 6 when he went to Washington to join the staff of the Quartermaster General in the war department.

     From the Works Projects Administration in Tallahassee, Fla., came First Lieut. Ferris F. Bames who in charge of plumbing, heating and various mechanical equipment.  He submitted equipment requirements to the office of the Procurement and Expediting section of the Quartermaster General's office and then helped expedite such material so that it would arrive on schedule.  He also obtained the kitchen equipment, blending his efforts into those of the architect-engineer, general contractor and sub-contractors.

     Of the many qualifications of Edward Anthony Smith, civilian engineer on Major McKay's staff, his ability to produce and immediately solve difficult engineering problems was perhaps the outstanding one in his bank of talents that made him of utmost value to the Camp Croft project.  Supervising the design and construction of camp utilities including water distribution, sewage collection, electrical wiring, street paving, roadway and landscape designing and grading were but a few of the numerous duties performed by Mr. Smith.

     As construction of Camp Croft neared its finish, it was First Lieut. James T. Fitten, Jr., ex-paving superintendent for the McDougald Construction company in Atlanta, Ga., who, as the camp's assistant engineer officer, dispatched the "roving crew" of repairmen that made certain construction was in top order before passing into government hands.  Prior to this, he aided the architect-engineer contractor in preparing specifications for the vast systems of storm drainage and road treatment at the camp.  It was this officer that supervised road treatment work to make certain it was completed according to plan.

     Also on the staff of Major McKay was First Lieut. James O. Butler, Q.M.C., who, prior to reporting for duty December 14, and at camp January 17, was the superintendent of the Chapman Construction company at Wichita, Kan.  As the assistant property officer, he assisted Captain Heame and worked in close coordination with his efforts, personal and general.

     It was a successful staff, well experienced, well formed, congenial (sic) that Camp Croft went down as a leader in construction, weathered lumber and labor shortages, an influenza epidemic that one time (sic) out over 1,000 workmen off the rolls, fought rolling terrain and other difficulties to win record distinction was in no small part due to the personnel of the C.Q.M. office.

     Nor was record construction due to lack of effort by the constructors themselves.  It was a highly-geared organization throughout, well-suited to the job, capable and earnest in its efforts to produce a military reservation at as small a cost as possible while keeping up a schedule that, to observers, seemed overwhelming in speed.  A glance at the outstanding accomplishments of the past five months, illustrates the progress that was made.

     Where, a scant two seasons ago, there had stood the widely scattered modest farm buildings that characterize this section of the country, now stand 635 well-built, gray-asbestos-sided, red-roof buildings, a utilities system that could well be the pride of any small American city, a 2,230,000 gallon water standpipe (the largest in all South Carolina), a city as modern as tomorrow.  It was done according to a carefully mapped plan and, indeed, had not an order come through to slow progress, completion could have been effected more than a month before the final date of May 15.

     Among the Croft facilities are: A hospital of 720 beds with steam heated wards, occupying 4.8 acres of floor space; a bakery sized to supply the needs of from 15,000 to 25,000 men; a laundry designed for 10,000 to 20,000 men; a cold storage building with 57,750 cubic feet capacity.

     There is a ten-ton capacity incinerator, a post office; a telephone office with over 250 extension lines; a radio station; a guest house; a service club for enlisted men, boasting one of the best dance floors in the Piedmont a full-sized cafeteria and a 5,000-volume library, three fire stations; three theaters; each large enough to seat 1,038 persons; 15 warehouses, totaling 3.2 acres of floor space.

     On the 2,000-acre cantonment area, there are scores of barracks; mess halls, storage houses, officers quarters, classrooms, infirmaries, many recreation and administration buildings, dental clinics and complete water and sewage pumping stations.  Troops and vehicles move over 19.5 miles of roadways, 50 and 34 feet wide, most of which are paved and all of which are designed for adequate usage.  In the reservation are nearly two miles of stone-ballasted single track, providing facility for handling at any one time 20 passenger coaches, 35 freight cars and 25 coal cars.

     Nearly 2,000,000 cubic yards of earth were moved in the massive grading process, and many miles of open channels and nearly five miles of pipeline were established for adequate storm drainage on the reservation.  Throughout the cantonment lies a network of 27.6 miles of water lines, designed to supply water at the rates of 100 gallons per man per day from the massive water tank which is filled by electric pumps which are augmented by a gas driven pump in case of power failure.

     A rapid system of sewage disposal has been established at the camp by sending, through a modem pumping station, the waste to Spartanburg.  Lighting the camp are 26.3 miles of electric lines with power coming from the sub-station the local utility monopoly, the Duke Power Company, has established on the camp proper.

     Back in the "on paper" days, it was believed that Camp Croft would cost $7,584,695 overall to build.  This to include the engineers' (The Harwood Beebe Company of Spartanburg) costs, those of the constructing quartermaster, general construction et als.  Actually, it cost about $10,324,000; some $171,000 less that the final estimate on its identical mate, Camp Wheeler at Macon, Ga.  This differential in cost estimate is best seen from the wide variation between estimate and cost in grading-a jump from $25,100 to $389,546.  But when it is noticed that a good many buildings that weren't called for in the original contract went up and that 31,619,000 board feet instead of the estimated 22,000,000 board feet of lumber went into construction, the differential can be more readily understood.  Too,  it is believed that when sub-allotments are made by other camps that received left over materials, the final Croft estimate will go down.

     In understanding the cost advance, it is also noted that back in the mid-January to mid-February days when all efforts were strained toward completing the camp by March 15, labor was a considerable item.  On the project in those days were about 12,000 workmen, all of whom received time and a half for overtime labor.  On Sundays carpenters and other skilled artisans drew double pay.  The payrolls soared to the half million mark weekly.  Total payrolls on the project were listed at about $3,700,1000.

     Partly because of this rising cost and partly because the war department found it unnecessary to fill the camp at an early date, the order came through to spare everything for economy, to delay the projects end to May 15.  After having fought an influenza epidemic and lumber shortages which threw the project behind schedule almost a fortnight to bring it up to the minute in early February, the contractors fell in fine without outward joy with this order for curtailment.  But the money had been spent for speed, how much was saved by paring down the schedule is uncalculated.

     To get labor for the camp, the South, then the East was combed.  Common labor was hard to get at the prevailing wage scale, 30 cents an hour, and skilled labor was hard to get at any price.  But the labor was found and proved itself excellent.  Only on one occasion was there a halt in procedure, then for a matter of hours.  The wage rate on truck drivers was curbed in Washington, but was boosted again the next morning by the constructing quartermaster who had the authority to take the stand.

     Among the difficulties experienced was that of lumber shortage.  It was necessary to dispatch expediters into the field who visited the lumber brokers to either speed deliveries or cancel contracts.  Actually, the contracts for several million board feet were killed and placed with other firms.  Lumber came from various sections of the south and east, most of it excellent, some wet.  It was necessary to have the wet wood dry out before use and this caused some delay.

     But these delays were overcome in every respect as the contractor met them With barriers that seemed sometimes most difficult to handle, certainly nature kept stand as partner to the contractors during the entire project.  Rain did not fall but a few days in early January and then only on a scattered-shower basis for the rest of the period.  Old Sol stayed on the Croft job.

     Brig. Gen. Oscar W. Griswold, past commander of the Spartanburg infantry replacement training center which was named Camp Croft in honor the Late Major General Edward Croft of Greenville, S.C., who served for several years as the chief of Infantry, has anticipated the assuming of full station strength in June.  Troop housing for this strength, 18,000 men, is complete and station facilities are reported as "ready." Being pushed to completion are the training aids, the ranges, most of which are, now in use, the drill grounds and classroom a visual aide (sic). By May 15, a complete training scheduled was already being followed.

     Just authorized for Camp Croft, now that the main construction building is finished, is well over a half million dollars in new construction that will round out the station facilities on the infantry base to include adequate ordnance requirements, recreation centers for Negro troops, chapels, new hospital buildings, motor repair shops, warehouses and other essentials that will point toward efficient operation.  Asked of the Works Project Administration is a $250,000 landscape project to cut down the mud and dust that have long proved a menace here, and to beautify the large cantonment area.

     Authorities at headquarters point to the fact that construction at Croft has not ended, just one phase of it has.  The real accomplishment in construction here will be the building of 65,000 soldiers a year out of Selective Service conscripts; the manufacture of troops out of civilians; the Production of defense for America

-30-

copied from papers reproduced from the National Archives