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Camp Croft, South Carolina
US Army Infantry Replacement Training Center
CPT Russell H Moll
Wm. H McGuire
THE BEGINNINGS (1940-1941)
In June 1940, the United States Army quickened its mobilization activities to train personnel in response to the situation in Europe. In the fall of 1939, Army personnel numbered a little more than 200,000 men. By November 1944, the Army had facilities to house and train six million troops in the continental United States. This drastic increase necessitated the construction of numerous mobilization training camps known as Replacement Training Centers (RTC), Camp Croft being one of four camps intended for the instruction of Infantry replacements. By March 1941, twelve RTCs were set up to provide Infantry, Field Artillery, Coast Artillery, Cavalry, and Armor.
SC Senator James F. Byrnes, having resided in nearby Spartanburg since 1924, was instrumental in bringing the training camp to the area. War Department negotiations for a proposed site in Delmar, five miles south of Spartanburg, were completed in late 1940 and ground breaking ceremonies were held on December 5, 1940. Construction began within a week and by January of the following year over 12,000 contracted employees were at work, converting the tobacco and cotton fields into a cantonment area of 167 acres. By April 16,929 acres would be acquired to provide for training, firing and impact areas. The name of the camp, approved in January, honored Greenville, SC native Major General Edward Croft, the US Army Chief of Infantry who died in 1938.
The 263 families living in the area had to be moved before construction began and by March 1941, 109 of them had relocated on their own. Another 55 had arrangement to move while 99 others were unable to find a new home. To expedite the removal of these remaining families, 20 new pre-fabricated relocation houses were built at West Farm, about a mile from Pacolet. A crew of eight men could assemble one of the houses in just one day at a cost of less than $1000.
The construction of the new camp proved
be the largest building project in the history of the area. Originally
estimated at $7.5 million to complete, the final cost was found to be
$10.3 million, still a bit cheaper than it's identical counterpart,
Camp Wheeler nearby in
Georgia. The project stayed on schedule despite an influenza outbreak,
shortages, poor weather, and a truck driver strike. In late February
cantonment area was still under construction but ready for occupation,
on March 7th the first trainees arrived and were assigned to B and C
of the 33rd Battalion. Several weeks before their arrival, regular army
forming the camp's training cadre, had been assigned to the camp. By
end of March the entire 33rd Battalion was activated and Camp Croft's
as an Infantry Replacement Training Center (IRTC) began.
Other IRTC sites:
NYC Mayor Ed Koch
|ACTIVE DUTY (1941-1946)
The camp consisted of two general areas: a troop housing (cantonment) area with attached administrative quarters and a series of training, firing, and impact ranges. The cantonment area housed 18,000 to 20,000 trainees as well as cadre and service personnel. Along with the barracks and requisite headquarters buildings for the 16 training battalions, the camp buildings included the post headquarters, post office, post exchange, service clubs, movie theaters, chapels, hospitals, dental clinic, Red Cross, and numerous others. Construction continued until May 1941, when construction of 674 buildings under the original contracts was declared complete. One month later the first soldiers, those from the 33rd Training Battalion, graduated from the 13 week course and were sent to join the 28th Division in Pennsylvania.
Between 65,000 and 75,000 troops moved through the Croft IRTC every year. Most of the trainees were "selectees" meaning they were men drafted into service through Selective Service rather than volunteers. The men reported first to an induction center, probably in their hometown, and then were sent to a Reception Center. Reception processing ideally required four to five days during which time the men were tested, interviewed and finally recommended for an initial duty or training assignment. The next stop for many selectees was one of the nine IRTCs, all located in the south and Southwest. Courses initially lasted 12 to 13 weeks, but were cut to 8 weeks immediately following Pearl Harbor. Soon after a 17 week program was adopted and remained in place until the end of the war. Selectees they had little choice of what unit they desired to join and after graduation they were sent to supplement infantry units already in the field. The men were designated as "loss replacements" if they were replacing troops lost to combat, sickness, furlough, or discharge. Likewise they were known as "fillers" if they were being used to bring a unit up to full strength which had never been at full strength before.
Initially the staff, training cadre, and service personnel were almost all from the regular (volunteer) Army. Tension sometimes existed between the regular army cadre and the new draftees and a gradual process began to send the best graduates to a three week cadre school. Eventually most of the cadre was made up of selectees.
While all the men learned the same basic infantry skills, there was also specialty training which prepared each man to be a member of Rifle, Heavy Weapons, Cannon, Antitank, Headquarters, or Service Company. Some of the training battalions and companies were set up to provide individual training. For example, the 27th Battalion (Service Company) trained men to become specialist members of an infantry company and consisted of Co. A - motor mechanics, Co. B - chauffeurs (truck drivers), Co. C - pioneers and clerks, and Co. D - cooks, armorers, artificers and buglers. Ten of the original sixteen battalions were designated as Rifle Companies. Each battalion was also assigned to a training regiment for administrative purposes as follows:
6th Infantry Training Regiment - 32nd, 33rd, 34th, 35th Battalions (briefly included the 71st)A major organizational change came in September 1942 when the Infantry Replacement Training Center and the Fourth Service Command units were split into two distinct departments. This meant the IRTC headquarters unit managed the administration and training of selectees while the Service Command took responsibility for post facilities.
The firing ranges at Croft consisted of pistol, rifle, machine gun, mortar, antiaircraft, and antitank ranges. Weaponry used on the ranges included hand and rifle grenades; 45 caliber (cal) pistol; 30 cal M1, M1 carbine, and BAR; 30 cal light and heavy machine gun; 50 cal machine gun; 60 mm and 81 mm mortar; bazooka; 37 mm antitank gun; and the 105 mm infantry howitzer. The camp also contained 2 gas chambers and a gas obstacle course.
Officers, enlisted men, nurses, and WACs were not the only residents of the camp. Possibly as many as 500 German POWs, some the Afrika Corps, were housed at Croft and used as labor on local farms, orchards, and forests. Their presence caused concerns among some of Spartanburg residents who disliked the idea of "those guys" being close to their homes.
Immediately after the war, the camp served as a major separation point for soldiers being discharged from the service. First Sergeant Joseph P Hudock from Pennsylvania became the first soldier to receive his discharge at the post on September 19, 1945.
EPILOGUE (1947 and beyond)
In 1947, the entire acreage of the former Camp Croft was declared surplus by the War Assets Administration. By 1950, the Army sold the land by pieces to organizations and businesses, including the transfer of 7,088 acres of land to the South Carolina Commission of Forestry for the creation of the Croft State Park. The remaining acreage has been converted to residential housing, and industrial and commercial businesses.