Croft's First Year
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Camp Croft, South Carolina
US Army Infantry Replacement Training Center

copied from papers reproduced from the National Archives



Camp Croft, S.C.
Press Section

CAMP CROFT'S FIRST YEAR

     Camp Croft's first year was a fast moving drama, crowded with as many events, perhaps, as world history saw recorded.  The complacent America of a year ago, superficially and apparently safe from immediate war danger, could have been compared to the tranquil woodlands and farm fields on which now stands one of the most modem of infantry replacement training centers in the nation.

     Crackling rifles and machine guns disturb nature's quietude and marching soldiers trammel upon ground where cotton and tobacco once grew - but all of this activity represents Camp Croft and its powerful answer to Pearl Harbor and Singapore.

     A virtual city with a constantly migrating population larger than a typical American town, the modern camp rose and was in full operation within four months.  Turning out fighting men by training them in all phases of infantry combat is the major job of Camp Croft, which during its first year has seen four different permanent post commanders.

     Col. Louis A. Kunzig was the first to take the reins of the cantonment.  He was followed by Major Gen.  Oscar W. Griswold, who was succeeded in turn by Brig.  Gen.  Alexander M. Patch, Jr. In recent weeks another change came when Brig.  Gen.  Clarence R. Huebner became the new camp commander.

     Negotiations for the proposed project, first identified simply as "a site in Delmar about five miles south from Spartanburg," were finally completed in late November, 1940, after the War Department announced its intention of establishing a camp here.  The early days of December saw conferences of land titles and awarding of contracts, the principal ones of which went to Fiske-Carter Company of Spartanburg; J. A. Jones Company of Charlotte, N.C.; and Boyle Road and Bridge Company of Sumter.

     Ground-breaking ceremonies were held on Dec. 5, and within a week some 300 carpenters, electricians, laborers and brick masons were at work.

     Construction was under the direction of Major Neil McKay, who had been named by the War Department as camp construction quartermaster, to supervise all camp construction.

     In mid-December first thoughts on a name for the camp were heard.  Chief among them was the suggestion of Colonel Kunzig, who presented the name of Camp Croft, to honor the late Chief of Infantry Major General Edward Croft, a native of nearby Greenville, who died in 1938.  The name was approved immediately by the Spartanburg City Council, but official War Department approval did not come until a month later.

     Machinery of all sorts, shapes, and sizes roamed and rumbled over the new activity-filled area as a new city rose overnight.  By Christmas of 1940 more than 3,000 men were at work tearing down shacks, grading, building offices, installing wires, mixing cement, and laying bricks.

     Late in December and early in January pressing problems were faced by construction engineers.  Long sieges of rain, shortages of materials and labor, and a serious influenza epidemic balked the progress engineers had achieved early in their work.  The morning of Jan. 16 saw more than 2,000 workers fail to appear for the starting whistle.  Contractors met the problems with determination and within several weeks sunny skies and quick recovering workers put smiles on the once gloomy faces of foremen.  On Jan. 24 contractors estimated 12,000 were at work on the project.

     Statistics, figures, calculations, and estimates had reached astronomical numbers by mid-February.  With an additional $2,000,000 allotted for camp construction, the War Department announced its approval to build a $345,1000 laundry establishment.  Plans were announced for a 2,230,000 gallon water tower to rise in the headquarters area, while laborers were hard at work on a water-line to connect the cantonment and Spartanburg proper.  The line was to be a 14-inch pipe to be laid over a distance of some 19,000 feet.

     Sightseers from many miles around took sunny Sundays drives to the multimillion dollar project and resulting jam on Pacolet Highway led state highway officials to close the road.

     Late in February the cantonment was incomplete but ready for occupation, and on March 7 the first newly enlisted men arrived and were assigned to B and C companies of the 33rd Battalion.  The outfits became proud and boastful, and justly, for they were the first to be activated at Camp Croft.  Several weeks before their arrival, regular army troops, forming the camp's training cadre, had been assigned to the camp.  By the end of March the entire 33rd Battalion was activated and Camp Croft's training history began to be written.

     Newly drafted men continued to pour in during April, and with Spring in full swing, eight battalions, the 32nd through the 40th, were filled and actively at their grim work.  During this period the 50th Battalion, comprising negro soldiers only, had also been activated.

     Simultaneous with the ever-increasing arrival of men, the construction quartermaster announced that approximately $500,000 in additional construction would soon get underway.  The construction program would include an officers' club, chapels, and several other buildings.

     With the "new" city rapidly importing its population, Spartanburg, its nearby "old" city, became active in its interest in Camp Croft.  Religious, social political and welfare organizations intensified their efforts to make the strangers at Croft "at home." Recreation programs of all sorts were planned and with it strict enforcement of vice laws was urged.  Post headquarters announced the appointment of Mrs. D. B. Fletcher, 14-year Spartanburg resident as Camp Croft's senior hostess.  Early April also saw the appointment of Miss Lucille Davis as junior hostess.

     A blanket declaration in the acquisition of the range area -- nearly 16,000 acres of Piedmont farmlands -- also majored in the developments of April.  The filing of this document gave the "go" signal to Major James Barksdale, then camp engineer, in the important work of providing drill grounds, rifle, bayonet, and landscape miniature anti-aircraft courses, and ranges for machine gun and 60 and 81 millimeter mortars and hand grenades.

     Four major events occurred in May as Camp Croft continued in its progress.  On May 5 the first public parade saw the 33rd and 34th Training Battalions impressively march in review.  The Service Club was dedicated on May 10 and seven days later all construction under the original contracts was declared "completed." Plans were announced on May 22 for a $250,000 beautification program.  The landscaping included 1,000 acres of Bermuda grass.  And so what five months before had been a barren stretch of land became in the month of May 1941, a military camp with a perpetual busy hum of activity.

     A highlight of June was a gigantic farewell parade in honor of Colonel Kunzig, who was then camp executive officer.  The entire camp personnel took part.  Camp Croft's first commander had been assigned to command Camp Blanding, Fla.  Less than a week after the departure of Colonel Kunzig the first graduates of the 13-week basic training course departed from the 33rd Battalion for the 28th Division in Indiantown Gap, Pa.  June also saw the opening of a USO drive in Spartanburg.

     The ensuing months saw increased training activities, added USO entertainment features for the soldiers, and special programs to make the average soldier's brief stay at Camp Croft a happy one.

     Taking the limelight for September was a 4,500-man parade which marched in review before Mrs. Maribel Williams Croft wife of the late General Croft.

     Not to be outdone in sports Camp Croftites organized a top-notch football team.  Known as the "Croft Crusaders" and under the able direction of First Lieut. Joseph Katalinis, former Georgetown University star, the team played nine games, winning six, losing two, and tying one.  With the aid of Stanley Krivik, former Fordham gridder, the Crusaders scored 144 points to their opponents' 32.  Boxing and basketball also were participated in commendably by Croft soldiers during the winter.

     A religious activity long to be remembered at Camp Croft was the solemn Pontifical Mass celebrated on Oct. 5 on the parade ground by the Most Rev.  Amleto Giovanni Cicognani, Apostolic Delegate to the United States.  More than 8,000 persons, soldiers and civilians, attended the mass, which was a feature of the three-day 12th annual conference of the Charleston Diocesan Council of the National Council of Catholic Women.  On Oct. 27 special ceremonies were held as six Camp Croft chapels were dedicated.

     Dances, plays, games, fun -- all entertainment -- coupled with hard infantry training makes Camp Croft for any about-to-be-drafted man a place to long for --- and for any about-to-leave soldier a memorable experience.

     And so the camp goes on -- turning out fighting men to fill Uncle Sam's infantry divisions in the nation's all-out war effort against the Axis.  The history-making  pages of this cosmopolitan camp-the crossroads of the nation-continue and look forward-forward to history.

J.D.S.