Monday, October 11, 2021

Personal Recollections of Camp Adair, continued

This post continues the recollections of Camp Adair in 1943 by James K. Robbins that are in the archives of the Benton County Historical Museum. He was a member of the  the 70th Infantry “Trailblazer” Division. He begins:

“In an infantry company, one of the first things a soldier learns is how to clean and take care of his rifle. He learns to tear the gun completely apart, oil and clean it, and put it back together again. During regular inspections, the inspecting officer may check a rifle at any time.  We had been issued M.1 rifles and learned how to thoroughly clean these in a hurry.

Inspection at Camp Adair.  Note the inspector
on the right checking the rifle.

“We had a private from New Jersey named Hornsby who did not like the army.  He was a general foul-up doing nothing right, thus he often had extra duty. One Saturday morning we were to have inspection. Our captain came through the barracks to see if everything was in order.  Everybody has ready but Hornsby, who was still trying to put his rifle back together.  The captain spotted Hornsby and gave the following order: “Hornsby, you should have learned that job the first week you were here.  I am going to give you one minute to put that rifle back together or the extra duty I am going to give you will be four times what you have had. I have never seen a rifle put together as fast as Hornsby did that one. He did it in at least 30 seconds!”

“I remember going to the range for the first time to fire our rifles.  We had a young private by the name of Wong from Portland, Oregon.  When shooting, if a rifleman missed the target completely, a red flag would be waved above the target to let him know the target had been missed.  The flag was called “Maggie's Drawers.” When Wong's turn came to fire, he got a red flag every time he fired. He turned to me and said, “Look what a fine score I made---100 points.” Wong was wrong! He was firing at target #100.


This photograph appeared in the  "Camp Adair Sentry," of November 25, 1942 with the following caption. “An expert gridiron star and a graduate doctor, Lt. Dennis G. Emanuel is just a rookie when it comes to the intricacies of the rifle. He was caught, in this shot, taking 'basic training' so if you eagle-eyed readers see any mistakes in this picture, don't call the Sentry but just gloat on your wonderful powers of observation."

Not everyone was as clueless as private Wong.


This photograph shows a 70th Division Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) team made up of identical twin gunners Raymond and Richard Ferrell and  ammunition bearer Benny Lawhon. They scored 227 points out of 250 possible.  The “Camp Adair Sentry” also noted that “ Richard is also an expert on the BAR with 176 points, and both he and Lawhon are sharpshooters on the M-1.”

In addition to training at the rifle range, they troops trained in the field and in a mock German village


 Robbins concludes, “Somehow with all the trials and tribulations the men of the 70th were molded into an efficient, crack fighting infantry division.  The proof of this is the fact that the Division received a Distinguished Unit Citation.  Thirteen men were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, 228 men the Silver Star, 430 men the Bronze Star, and 10 received Air medals.  In addition, the citizens of Philippsburg France erected a monument to the 70th.  The plaque on it reads "IN TRIBUTE TO THE MEN OF THE 275TH INFANTRY REGIMENT, U. S. 70TH DIVISION, WHO IN DEFENDING ALSACE STOPPED THE GERMAN "OPERATION NORDWIND"" ATTACKS AT PHILIPPSBOURG AND BAERENTHAL, 2-5 JANUARY, 1945, AND IN MEMORY OF THOSE WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE BATTLE.” A portion of that monument was replicated in glass and given to the 70th.  It is now on display in the Benton County exhibit in the Corvallis Museum. 

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon   

 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

First-hand Recollections of Camp Adair

The last post gave a brief history of Camp Adair.   Among the many items in the Benton County Historical Museum related to the camp is a first-hand account of his time there by James K. Robbins.  In his own words, he was “a twenty-year-old from a small town in East Texas who had never been out of the State but once....” He was a member of the “70th Infantry Division “which was activated at Camp Adair, Oregon on June 15, 1943, with Major General  John E. Dahlquist commanding....The “Trailblazer” 70th was to see combat in Europe.  I was assigned to Company D.”

U. S. Army 70th Infantry Division
"Trailblazers" insignia patch
“After I had been in camp a few days, the call went out from my captain—did anyone in our company know how to play a bugle.  I had played a trumpet in high school and in the Texas A & M “Aggie” band.  I could blow a bugle.  My captain...immediately informed me that I was Company Bugler. The next day, Division Headquarters asked that any Company Bugler that knew bugle calls report to Division Headquarters.  There were only three men from the entire division who reported:  a man named Smith from Missouri, Carl Raponi from New York City, and me... We reported to a regular army sergeant, Lem Hendly...who had been a bugler longer than fifteen years.”

All three passed Hendly's test.  After training with him for a week, they were assigned to start a buglers school for each company of the division.  Robbins, in charge of the school, wondered “How to teach men from ch ages of 20 to 35, most of whom had no experience in this area? We had to start from scratch.”

“About the middle of September the first class of 30 men reported.  Many of the students were there  not because they wanted to be, but because they had been assigned by their company commanders.... We had some students who were eager and tried hard to make a success while others made  no attempt to do anything. On the second day, one man...sat down and said he would not try, even if he was court-martialed.  After several hours of trying every method we knew to proceed with the task at hand, I was forced to call the Military Police. The striker was taken back to his company and the next day a replacement for him was at the school.  We never found out what his punishment was.”

“One interesting extra duty we had was that  Smith, Raponi and I had to play all the bugle calls for the division over the loud speaker system.  The most important calls that are used by a bugler are Reveille, Assembly, Mess, Retreat, and Taps.  The buglers' day started with 6 o'clock reveille and last until the midnight taps with all other calls in between.  We each took turn doing this every third day for the month of September....I think many times of the thrill of playing taps in the setting of Camp Adair.  The Willamette Valley floor surrounded by the majestic, snow-capped Mt. Hood and Mt. Baker made a beautiful sight.  The bugle's sounds in the night air, with the aid of the loud speaker system, could be heard for miles.  It was an experience I will never forget.”  

After three weeks, they certified their first group of 30 buglers. “The Infantry Company Bugler has other duties besides that of blowing a bugle.  When the company is in the field, either for training, maneuvers, or combat, the bugler stays at the side of the company commander at all times.  His duties are to sound calls when needed and to deliver the company commander's messages where they need to be sent. When the company settles in for the night, the bugler sleeps next to the commander's tent.  A bugler who performs his duties as they should be performed is the right-hand man of the company commander.”

The 70th Trailblazers were sent to Europe and encountered heavy fighting near the Saar River.  Robbins says, “ In the heavy fighting, as the bugle class carried out the orders of the company commanders, I like to think that the graduates of the 70th Division Bugle School did the job they were trained to do.”

Mr. Robbins' account of the rest of his time at Camp Adair will continue in the next post. 

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon 

Monday, September 27, 2021

Camp Adair

 One portion of the Benton County history exhibition in the historical society's Corvallis Museum is devoted to artifacts related to Camp Adair. Today, most people in the county have no memory of the base and its impact on the county.  The photographs, documents, and artifacts in the Benton County Historical Society's collection can combine to provide a picture of this part of our history.

In February, 1941, the United States War Department decided that there was a need to build three new Army basic training camps on the West Coast. By July, 1941, the army had chosen a site of 56,800 acres in a rectangle 6 miles wide by 10 miles long, located 8 miles north of Corvallis, 8 miles south of Monmouth and six miles west of Albany. Highway 99W ran through the site.  In addition to its access to transportation, the site was valued for the similarity of terrain to what recruits would find in Europe.

Within six months, the camp's 1700 buildings had been constructed at a cost of $32 million.  That such a large project could be completed that quickly is truly amazing.

The buildings included waste water and fresh water treatment plants, a heating plant, 500 barracks, 11 chapels, 5 movie theaters, 13 post exchanges, 2 service clubs, a hospital, a field house with 3 basketball courts, a bakery, 2 guest houses, a bank, a post office, phone exchange, warehouses, headquarters offices, firing ranges, an electrical substation, an airfield,  rail yards, and a mock German village.

To equip the 96 dayrooms, the army asked local communities for second hand furniture and recreational equipment, which many contributed.

 The soldiers who were to train the new recruits arrived in the summer of 1942 and the recruits in the fall.  Four divisions were stationed there, as noted on this sign. They included 40,000 people, making Camp Adair the second-largest city in the state at the time. 

What the soldiers in these units remembered was the rain, which left everything sodden and muddy.  The camp earned the nickname, “Swamp Adair.” The rest of the year, poison oak was the major complaint.  The last group of recruits shipped out on July 20 1944.

The next two posts will include portions of a first-hand account of life in camp.

If you want to learn more about the history of Camp Adair, check out the on-line exhibition at http://www.bentoncountymuseum.org/index.php/exhibitions/online-exhibitions/swamp-adair/

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon