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History

Camp Claiborne was a U.S. Army military camp during World War II located in Rapides Parishmarker in central Louisianamarker. The camp was under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Eighth Service Command, and included 23,000 acres (93 kmĀ²).

The camp was just north of the town of present day Forest Hillmarker, near the intersection of U.S. Highway 165 and Louisiana Highway 112. The camp was just south of Alexandria, Louisianamarker. It was established June 10, 1930 as Camp Evangeline, named for the Evangeline District of the Kisatchie National Forestmarker where it was situated. It was later renamed for the Governor of the Territory of Orleans and first governor of the State of Louisiana, William C.C. Claiborne. In 1939 construction crews were sent to expand the camp and it was activated in 1940.

From 1939 to 1946 over half a million men went through Camp Claiborne. The camp was mainly used for basic training and artillery practice, which included the nearby Winn District-Kisatchie Precision Bombing Range. It was also home to the Engineering Unit Training Command(EUTC) and special service forces training was also conducted there, including railroad battalion training. The 34th Infantry Division came to Claiborne for its basic training and would be the first American force sent to the European Theater of Operations (ETO).

In 1941, prior to the United Statesmarker declaring war, the camp was part of the Louisiana Maneuvers, a 400,000 man training exercise involving two imaginary countries fighting each other. The two armies faced each other across the Red River, over of land, including part of East Texas. Near the end of the war Germanmarker prisoners of war (POW) were held at the camp.

For many of the men, like the ones from the 34th Infantry Division, who were from Iowamarker, Minnesotamarker, North Dakotamarker, South Dakotamarker, and Wisconsinmarker, they had never been to the south. Not only did they have to get used to basic training, they had to get used to the climate of Louisiana.

The camp was deactivated in 1945 and returned to Kisatchie National Forestmarker, as part of the National Forest System, administered by the U.S. Forest Service.

Units Serving

332nd Training at Camp Claiborne, LA
Many of these divisions were created at this camp or reactivated. Units that served here were 84th Infantry Division, U.S. 5th Tank Group, 784th Tank Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division,407th Brigade Support Battalion, 332nd Engineer General Service Regiment,101st Airborne Division,327th Infantry Regiment,205th Infantry Brigade renamed to 103rd Reconnaissance Troop,325th Infantry Regiment,412th Engineer Command,761st Tank Battalion,497th Transportation Company,33rd Infantry Regiment,18th Engineer Brigade,1195th Engineer Base Depot Group Redesignated 1195th Engineer Combat Group HHC, 361st Special Services Engineers Regiment,393rd Special Services Engineers Regiment

Today

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) manages the property where the camp once was, not much is left, part of a gate and a handful of scattered shells of buildings, some of which have been fenced off and sealed with sheets of metal. Many streets still exist as well as parking lots and footings of all the old buildings. The USFS also maintains Claiborne Trail, a trail system for hiking, walking, and biking through the area.

Today the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is in the process of evaluating the grounds of the former camp to see how feasible it would be to remove possible unexploded ordnance.

In 1948, the Camp Claiborne chapel was relocated to Clarencemarker in Natchitoches Parishmarker, where it is still used for worship services by the Clarence Baptist Church.

References

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