THE HISTORY OF CAMP ATTERBURY 

Compiled from various source material, 15 Feb. 81, by COL Clifford M. Brown, ARFTA Post Commander, with assistance of COL (Ret) Richard R. King, COL Leland Fine, and CSM James E. Engelking.

Three traveling ministers, preaching fire and brimstone, came to the little town of Mt. Pisgah, Johnson County, Indiana, in 1902. One member of the congregation recorded this excerpt from a sermon: "The time will come when not a house or farm shall be left standing in these parts and your lands shall be a place of desolation." 

Forty years later, the site of Mt. Pisgah was the center of Camp Atterbury, and its sister community of Kansas, Indiana, had become a ghost-town before the fast rising yellow structures of an Army Camp. 

The bitter shock of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor lingered in the hearts of millions of Americans, but America's entry into World War II brought many changes in the lives of this small group of Indiana farmers who were asked to give up homes and farms, many of which had been in the family more than a hundred years. 

The Army's announcement that a training camp large enough to house 30,000 men would be built, came from Washington on 6 January 1942 --- less than a month after entry into World War II. 

The Army moved swiftly to start construction of the camp, and by April, 1942, more than 15,000 civilian workers were employed. The camp was built on the northern part of more than 40,000 acres of land purchased from farmers in Johnson, Bartholomew, and Brown counties. Throughout the Spring of 1942, it rained almost continuously and a sea of mud confronted the builders.  

COL Welton Modisette, Post Commander from the time of construction until late in 1945 -- says that his memories of arrival are most vivid. "I arrived late in May when construction was still going on. I had never seen anything like it and never have since! My car sank in the mire and I had to walk from the outskirts to the heart of the Camp to introduce myself. A day later I got my car out." 

The new post was named for Hoosier Brigadier General William Wallace Atterbury, the famed World War I military transportation expert, and later President of the Pennsylvania Railroad. 

Inevitably civilians building the camp, and later soldiers, took the cue and nicknamed it "Mud-Berry."

"THE WORLD WAR II YEARS" 

Six months after construction started, soldiers began pouring into the Camp. No official dedication took place, to mark the opening of the approximately $86,000,000 Camp, but on August 15, 1942, the 83rd Infantry Division was activated and the Camp was thrown open to visitors. More than 25,000 Hoosiers watched the colorful ceremonies and inspected the Camp and its facilities that day. 

According to most military men, however, a base is born on the day it's headquarters is set up and the first numbered Order is written. Atterbury's first special Order rolled off a mimeograph machine on 2 June 1942, in a headquarters, set up in a red brick house, located on Hospital Road and formerly the home of Mr. Dale Parmalee, a local farmer. 

The 83rd "Thunderbolt" Division, commanded by Major General (later Lt. General retired) Frank W. Milburn of Jasper, Indiana, was the first of three divisions to receive training at Camp Atterbury during World War II. In April, 1944, they departed for overseas and fought in France, Luxembourg, and Germany. 

The 92d Division, second to arrive for training, 15 October 1942, was composed of black troops and eventually deployed to the Mediterranean Theater, participating in the Italian Campaigns. 

The "Old Hickory" 30th Division was the third to arrive for training. They arrived on 7 November 1943, and departed for England in January, 1944. The 106th "Golden Lion" Division was the last big unit to receive its training at Camp Atterbury during World War II. They spent nearly eight months in training and left for England in October 1944, for another brief period of training. The 106th took a position on a "quiet" sector in France on 11 December 1944. A few days later the Germans, led by General Von Rundstedt, made their final desperate bid for victory. The "Golden Lions" took the brunt of the attack, in the Battle of the Bulge, and suffered 8,663 casualties in a period of less than a month. 

During World War II, more than 100 units, nearly 275,000 men received their training at Camp Atterbury, and thousands more, who received their initial training elsewhere, were sent here for advanced training. 

Passing through the rows upon rows of deserted barracks, it is hard to visualize the bustling camp as it once was. Movie theaters, restaurants, churches serving all denominations, gymnasiums, service clubs, barber shops, a huge hospital, libraries, laundries, bakeries, a dial telephone system, inter-camp bus lines -all were here. 

The campís hospital, Wakeman General Hospital, was named in honor of COL Frank Wakeman, a Hoosier educated Army Doctor. 

The 9,000 bed hospital, one of the largest of its kind in the nation, treated more than 85,000 patients during World War II and was one of the Army's plastic surgery centers. 

The base also served as an internment camp for approximately 15,000 Italian and German prisoners of war. They were housed in a large compound located on the extreme western edge of camp. Many of them left the POW compound during the day to work on nearby farms and in canneries in Southern Indiana. Symbolic of these captured prisoners, is a place of worship aptly named "The Chapel in the Meadow" located about a mile from the Post Stockade. It is a building, 12 x 18 feet, of poured concrete. Inside the Chapel is an altar and a coating of red paint, in lieu of carpet, leads in from the open front. The Madonna, Angels, St. Anthony, and the Dove of Peace were painted, in fresco style, into wet plaster by Italian prisoner artisens. Barbed wire has been strung around the Chapel to protect it from animals. The German-American and Italian-American clubs of Indianapolis are making plans to preserve the Chapel and to hold yearly memorial services in honor of the 19 Germans and Italians who were in the Atterbury Cemetery. The remains of these POWs have since been moved to the National Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois. 

"THE KOREAN CONFLICT" 

Atterbury has been called "the Camp that died twice" and her first death throes were felt immediately following VJ Day. Late in 1944, the tide was turning in favor of the Allied Force and directives were received establishing a Separation Center at Camp Atterbury. In a period of 7 months, more than 500,000, mostly from Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, and Kentucky, were discharged. Huge warehouses were used to process the thousands that arrived daily. In all, 560,595 World War II Veterans had their final taste of Army life at Camp Atterbury 

On 31 December 1946, Wakeman General Hospital was inactivated and other post activities slowed to almost a snail's pace. Late in 1948, the Defense Department, in a move to cut budget expenditures, decided to close the Camp. Many of the temporary buildings were dismantled and thousands of dollars worth of equipment sold. The number of civilian employees, which reached a peak of 5,000 during World War II, dropped to a few hundred. 

An immediate reverberation was heard from Hoosier townspeople surrounding the base. Committees were formed to try to convince the Army to keep Atterbury open and representatives of those groups went to Washington to present their case. They fought just as hard, in their effort to keep Camp Atterbury open, as the small group of farmers fought, in 1942, to retain their farms. Rumors flow, but Atterbury was "mothballed" with a staff of less than 50 employees and military personnel. 

The Korean conflict returned Atterbury's status to the public's attention. A month after the outbreak of the Korean War, in August, 1950, the Department of the Army announced the reactivation of Camp Atterbury and the station hospital. The Fifth Army sent a special team of civilians to assist the Commanding Officer in establishing the civilian personnel section, and in hiring the employees needed to prepare for the arrival of the 28th Infantry Division for training. During the first two weeks, 1,000 civilians were employed. 

The Commanding General, 5th Army, supplied the office personnel from sources available to the Department of the Army. Enlisted personnel were supplied from sources available within the 5th Army area. The 28th Infantry "Keystone" Division, formerly a Pennsylvania National Guard Unit, trained here from September 1950 until November 1951. In March 1952, advance guard units from the 31st Infantry "Dixie" Division began arriving at Camp Atterbury. Several weeks later, the remainder of the 31st Division returned from Spring Maneuvers and Atterbury had seen it's 6th Division in eleven years. 

Official information was received in December 1953, that the 31st Infantry Division would move to Camp Carson, Colorado, and that Camp Atterbury would become an inactive post on 31 March 1954. Phase-out operations and plans were immediately started; other non-divisional units stationed at Atterbury were moving to other locations in the United States. The many facilities -theaters, service clubs and libraries were closed down once more and Atterbury again faded away. 

After the Korea Police Action subsided in early 1954, Camp Atterbury again reverted to an inactive status. Wakeman General Hospital (now Job Corps Block 10) was closed and all the equipment was mothballed. All troop units were relocated to other stations. All buildings were weatherized and housekeeping equipment placed in storage. Camp Atterbury was assigned a mobilization mission and left with a housekeeping unit of approximately 60 personnel. 

With the scale down in military use of the post and the reduced labor force, it was decided to offer grazing leases to the public for control of weeds and grasses. The first lease was let to a sheep raising corporation and at peak period some 10,000 sheep were roaming the reservation. Later, cattle grazing leases were awarded and continue to this day, however, the sheep were removed in 1970. 

Very little military activity took place at Atterbury during the period between 1954 and 1958, except for National Guard training and the Whirlpool Corporation test facility firing program. Whirlpool, operating under contract to the Defense Supply Agency, developed and tested the artillery flechette round, later used in Viet Nam in a close-support role. Northrop Aviation also tested tank weapons during the same time frame on the Atterbury range. 

About this same time (late 1950s and early 1960s) the U.S. Air Force Reserve unit from Bakalar Airfield, Columbus, Indiana, developed and tested a new slingshot heavy equipment aerial delivery system, using the area west of the Driftwood River as a drop zone. 

In July, 1958, the Indiana Air National Guard established an air-to-ground gunnery range in the southwestern portion of the post and continues to operate, Tuesday thru Saturday, today. Fighter aircraft assigned to active Air Force, Navy, and Marine units, as well as Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units from the mid-western area, practice strafing and bombing gunnery on the range, with as many as 64 individual aircraft sorties flown per day. The range and post complex is included in FAA Restricted Zone R-3401A and R-34018 and controls all airspace up to 20,000 feet when the range is active, or when artillery and mortars are firing. At all other times, airspace up to 4,000 feet is controlled, to permit small arms firing and nap-of-the-earth helicopter pilot proficiency training. 

Beginning in 1964, Crane Naval Ordnance Depot established a special program at Atterbury, conducting almost daily test drops of aerial parachute flares, caliber .50 machinegun tracer ammunition, and the 40 millimeter Riverine Gatling Gun. 

During December 1965, the Indiana Army National Guard Officer Candidate School was forced to vacate their facility at Fort Benjamin Harrison and moved to Atterbury, becoming the first Indiana Army National Guard activity to occupy full-time facilities on post. COL Richard R. King, Academy Commandant, was appointed as Training Site Coordinator, to assist Indiana ARNG units using Atterbury as a training area during this period. 

In November 1965, an Airborne Infantry Battalion was organized in the Indiana Army National Guard and two areas at Atterbury were selected as airborne drop zones, to train the qualified jumpers in the unit. The drop zones, called Anderson DZ and Anderson DZ Annex, were named in honor of MG John S. Anderson, Adjutant General of Indiana. The present Post Commander, then CPT Clifford M. Brown, was the first jumper to land on the Anderson Annex Drop Zone, in May 1966.

 Lockbourne Air Base, Columbus, Ohio established a target area in 1969, designed to train the C-47 and C-130 Gatling gun system, later known as "Puff, the Magic Dragon," used extensively in Viet Nam. At about this same time, Lockbourne also tested a method of retrieving downed aircrews, by lowering a basket from a circling aircraft. When the basket came to rest, the airman climbed in, the aircraft increased altitude, the basket and airman hoisted to the plane, and the rescue completed. The theory was sound, the tests worked, but for some reason, it was difficult to get volunteers to climb into the basket ! 

Cummins Engine Company, Columbus, Indiana used Atterbury for an extensive testing program in 1971-1972, to develop engine and drive-trains to retool the World War II vintage half-track vehicle for the Israeli Army. 

Allison Division of General Motors, later re-titled as Detroit-Diesel, Allison Division, General Motors used the post in 1969 to develop and test fire an automatic cannon loader for the experimental main battle tank - 1970, and again in 1972 to test the engine used by Air Force and Navy in the A-7 aircraft. 

In 1966, a parcel of approximately 600 acres, bordering the Driftwood River, on the east side of post, was deeded to the U.S. Forestry Department as a National Forest Effective 31 December 1968, the post was declared excess to Army needs and was subdivided into five parcels of land, with the Prince's Lake Water and Sewage Utilities taking control of the wells and sewage treatment plant and 70 acres of land. The remaining acreage was divided as follows: 5,500 acres was purchased by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources; 300 acres, encompassing the Wakeman Army Hospital was leased by U.S. Department of Labor for use as the Atterbury Job Corps Center; 561 acres were deeded to the Johnson County Park & Recreation Dept; and the remaining 33,484.64 acres leased to the Military Department of Indiana for use as a Reserve Forces Training Area.

 The water system now supplies service to the Prince's Lake area, the Cordry-Sweetwater Conservancy District, and to all activities on the original post. The water system was designed to support a maximum of 35,000 troops and has the capacity of providing a maximum of 4,500 GPM for short periods and extended max delivery of 4,000,000 gallons daily. The sewage treatment plant can handle an average of 3,000,000 GPD, with max capacity of 7,500,000 GPD. 

In preparation for the takeover by the Indiana Army National Guard, HHD, ARFTA was organized and Federally recognized on 1 April 1969, commanded by COL Norman K. Tritch, and was given the mission of serving as the post, camp, and station carrier unit. On 1 March 1972, the unit was redesignated as HHD, 1413th Engineer Detachment, given the same mission, and COL Tritch remained in command. On 1 April 1974, COL Richard R. King was appointed Post Commander, replacing COL Tritch who retired. 1 September 1976, Atterbury Training Site was organized as a new unit, absorbing the post, camp, and station mission from 1413th Engineer Detachment, with COL King remaining in command. On 20 November 1978, COL King retired and was replaced by COL Clifford M. Brown. 

Manday utilization of the post clearly depicts the various cycles, which Atterbury has undergone since 1973, and the Viet Nam buildup; followed by the demolition of old buildings and construction of new area. The area controlled by the Military Department includes approximately one-third of the original buildings. In order to make room for the six-phased new construction program, demolition of the WWII wooden structures began in late 1976, with the buildings' sold to civilians by the Corps of Engineers. The new construction began in 1978, with Phase I completed that year, consisting of 20 barracks, dining facilities, BOQs, and administrative and supply buildings, and the Post Headquarters. This phase was completed on 1 April 1979. Phase II, consisting of a 12-bed Dispensary, was completed on 1 May 1979. Phase III, consisting of 26 buildings was completed 1 October 1979; Phase IV, consisting of 20 buildings, including the Post Commissary/Warehouse, was completed on 1 May 1980; Phase V, consisting of 20 buildings, to be completed on 1 May 1982; and Phase VI, 14 buildings to be completed on 1 October 1986. Total cost of this project amounts to nearly $14,000,000. Manday utilization dropped off slightly during the construction program due to lack of housing availability, but began to build up again in late 1978 as the new construction began to exert it's influence.  

The present post, consisting of 33,484.64 acres, measures nearly 12 miles, north-to-south, and is seven miles wide, east-to-west, at the widest point. The terrain ranges from fairly flat agricultural type land forms on the north, to rolling hills in the central portion then to steep hills and valleys in extreme southern portion. Lowest elevation is 640 feet above sea-level, on the east side of post, along the Driftwood River, to the highest elevation of 974 feet, in the south-central portion of post. Average yearly temperature is 52 degrees, with last killing frost 27 April and first killing frost 10 October. Temperatures range from -20 degrees in winter to 110 degrees in summer. Summer months are characterized as hot and sultry, with prolonged dry conditions, broken by sudden severe electrical storms. Tornadoes have been known to strike the area during spring and summer months. Low-lying areas along the Driftwood River are prone to spring flooding. Prevailing winds are from the southwest in summer and west-northwest in winter, averaging 10 MPH. Rainfall averages 40-45 inches per year and average snowfall is 27 1/2 inches per year, usually in amounts of 4 inches or less at a time. Vegetation ranges from brush to hardwood forests, with stands of large trees in some areas restricting mobility of wheeled and tracked vehicles. 

Atterbury is centrally located in Indiana and has an excellent road net for accessibility, with IS-65 passing east of post some 4 miles. The rail lice spur, although not operational at this time, is scheduled for major rebuild and, when completed, will permit access to the Conrail System, east of post. Construction of loading ramps and docks is included in the renovation plan. 

The impact area, located in the center of the post, is approximately 7,000 acres in size and can handle any weapon in today's Army inventory except for the tank main gun. Ranges available include:

 TYPE  RANGE          No. Ranges    No. Points

7 FS U -0)      777T   5                      75--

Rifle    1000 in.          5                      250

Rifle    KD (500 yd)   3                      150

Rifle    KD (1000 yd) 1          3p        1500 yd; 

LMG    Trams 1                      5

LAW   HE/TP 1                      8

LAW (Sub-Cal                       1                      2

Recoilless                  1

Recoilless(Tbl I-II)                  1                      4

HMG (fld firing)                      1                      4

Hand Gren                 1                      8

Tank-All Tables Except Service Munitions

Mortar 19 firing pts

Artillery

                                    55 firing pts

Tech of Fire   150-180 meters        1          12 psns

Helicopter                  1          1 ship max

Door Gunner              1          1 ship max

Sqd ARTEP (live)                 2

Plat ARTEP (live)                 

The training area is divided into seven maneuver battalion areas, with each further subdivided into two or more company-sized training areas. The post is listed as a Brigade sized training area and can handle, if necessary, one Brigade engaged in tactical training in a field environment and one Brigade in weapons firing, simultaneously. Road net totals some 122 miles of bituminous and gravel roads and trails. 

Housing capacity, when Phase VI is completed, is 2 Bns and 1 separate company in year-round heated buildings; one Bn and five separate companies in new buildings (unheated); and two Bns in WWII type housing. Total spaces are 3420 troops in new buildings and 2500 in old-style buildings.

 To enhance the daily life of the soldier during off-duty hours, the post has two chapels, a gym with basketball and handball courts, weight-lifting equipment, and inside running area; an outdoor lighted tennis court; outdoor handball courts; several volleyball and horseshoe courts; three softball diamonds; a soccer field; a swimming pool (operational 1 June thru 31 August); and two campgrounds. Also included are an Officer Club, and NCO Club, and an Enlisted Service Club and a fully stocked Post Exchange (operational 15 March thru 30 November ).

 A Unit Training Equipment Pool is located at Atterbury with a wide variety of tracked vehicles, tanks, engineer equipment and a maintenance facility included. To provide general support maintenance capability for post and all units in southern Indiana, a Combined Support Maintenance Shop is co-located with the UTES and an Organizational Maintenance Shop, charged with maintenance/repair of wheeled vehicles is also housed on post.

 As previously mentioned, other tenants on the post include an Army Reserve Training Center; the Atterbury Job Corps Center; the Johnson County Park & Recreational Area; the Indiana Dept of Natural Resources; the Operating Engineer Union Apprentice School; and a commercial truck driver/heavy equipment operator training school. The Indiana National Guard has no responsibility for any of these agencies, although we provide phone service thru our central switchboard to the USAR Center. We do have a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Natural Resources, which permits small game hunting on the Military portion of the post, in return for assistance in wildlife management and enforcement activities. This program has resulted in excellent rapport and cooperation between the two agencies with Atterbury attaining the enviable position as the top small game producing area in the state. Normal annual game harvest results in a kill of 5,000 rabbits, 600 quail, 350 grouse, 1200 squirrels, 550 woodcock, 150 ducks, and 550 deer. A total of 22,000 hunters enjoyed their sport at Atterbury in 1980. 

In addition to the hunting programs, Atterbury is regularly used for other recreational activities, such as Boy Scout outings, Civil War Reenactment mock battles, fishing, and most recently, snow-mobiling. With today's emphasis upon energy conservation measures, firewood cutting has gained a great deal of interest, with the proceeds from this program being returned to the Dept of Army General Fund, thereby providing a source of revenue with no expenditure of tax dollars. A typical year of firewood harvest results in sales of $3,000.00.

 We currently employ 101 Federal technicians and 25 state workers to operate the various military activities on post, with an annual payroll of approximately 1.9 million dollars. This amount, coupled with the money spent by soldiers training on post on weekends and two-week annual training periods, results in income to the Edinburgh-Franklin-Columbus area of over 5 million dollars per year. 

In the event of mobilization, Atterbury becomes a sub-installation to Fort Benjamin Harrison. Current plans call for emergency construction projects amounting to over 30 million dollars, should mobilization occur. We host bi-annual mobilization conferences, designed to update the commanders and staff officers of units scheduled to mobilize at Atterbury on the status of faculties, training areas, and other pertinent areas of interest to permit better planning and more efficient reaction to a mobilization situation. 

© 2005 James D. West - Indiana Military Org  All Rights Reserved
Page Last Revised 12/17/2006