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.
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
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
building the camp, and later soldiers, took the cue and nicknamed it
"THE WORLD WAR
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.
"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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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 !
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.
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
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
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.
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
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:
No. Ranges No.
7 FS U -0)
Rifle 1000 in.
Rifle KD (500 yd)
Rifle KD (1000 yd) 1
LMG Trams 1
LAW HE/TP 1
HMG (fld firing)
Except Service Munitions
19 firing pts
55 firing pts
Tech of Fire
150-180 meters 1
1 1 ship max
1 ship max
Sqd ARTEP (live)
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.
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.
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.
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