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Saturday, August 24, 2019
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Military Community and World War II Fort 
The mid-twenties ushered in a changed attitude toward military post construction and upkeep. Major General B. Frank Cheathem, the Quartermaster General, defined military post development under the new Housing Program of the Army. In his words, the new posts would be a "deviation from the set type of military post." His approach was to assemble a group of noted architects to develop plans for the permanent buildings for military installations. These men were able to produce designs that could be cast in the regional styles appropriate to the venue in which they were to be built. Thus the Georgian and Federal styles were considered appropriate for installations on the Atlantic seaboard. French Provincial for Louisiana posts, and Spanish mission for the Southeast and Southwest.

Fort McClellan, no longer Camp McClellan by authority of a 1929 War Department Order, was part of the new wave in military post development. The site was now considered a permanent installation. General Charles P. Summerall, head of the Citadel in Charleston and Chief of Staff of the Army between 1926-1930, officiated at the ceremonies. Summerall had a special rapport with the camp, having negotiated its purchase in 1917. The order spelled out that Fort McClellan would be a Regular Army post for one regiment of Infantry (1,500 officers and enlisted men) and would also have a standard layout for a summer camp with a capacity for 6,400 civilian trainees.

Fort McClellan entered into the post improvement program in 1929, two years behind it's regional counterparts, partly due to its delayed selection as a permanent post. The experience gained from the improvement projects at the other regional forts benefited Fort McClellan's overall layout. Although General Summerall was not post commander, he had a previous relationship with the camp and was in a position to comment on the chosen design. Hence he was a leading force in the plan for the improvements made to the fort in the 1930s.

Fort McClellan Headquarters Building

While initial permanent construction focused on housing, the projects undertaken during the 1930s ran the gamut from quarters to a coal trestle. Specifically, the building projects included both officers' and non-commissioned officers quarters, and enlisted men's barracks, a fire station and guard house, a truck park, and a repair shop. In 1936 and 1937, the assembly hall auditorium (Hutchinson Hall or Post Theater No. 1), the main post exchange, the officers' club (now called Remington Hall), Silver Chapel, stables, wagon sheds, the regimental garage and vehicle shop, a bakery, three additional warehouses, the Quartermaster utility shop and office buildings, ordinance magazines, a railroad spur, coal trestle and yard, the gasoline storage system, a sewage disposal plant, a concrete reservoir and booster station, new primary and secondary roads, street lighting, a perimeter fence, a target range, and other public utilities. An estimated $1,370,000 dollars was expended for new construction during that two year period. An additional $425,000 was spent on street improvements, additional buildings, the construction of Reilly Field, a golf course and landscaping in 1938.

"The Gazebo"

The finished construction gave Fort McClellan one of the most beautiful headquarters and officers housing areas within the Department of Army organization. A tree-lined horseshoe drive (Buckner Circle) was adorned with numerous officer housing units overlooking a large parade field. The post headquarters building was place on one end of the horseshoe. At the other end the officer's club (Remington Hall) was placed. A view from Remington Hall framed the Headquarters Building with the 'trademark' gazebo which sits in the middle of the headquarters parade grounds.

The 1940s witnessed a second boom period for Fort McClellan directly related to world affairs as Japan expanded, France fell to Germany, and Great Britain became increasingly vulnerable to attack. Delays in beginning mobilization ended as Roosevelt began taking steps to prepare for war. An outlay of $175 million was allocated for the construction of coastal defense works, updating arsenals, expanding existing military installations, and creating new posts. The Selective Service Bill of 1940 was passed on the condition that the draft would commence once proper arrangements for housing, sanitation, and medical care were made for the draftees. Thus the need to house men, particularly draftees, was foremost.

Fort McClellan, with functional areas already in place, need minimal construction to become ready for training new soldiers. A "Civilian Village" was added between 1937 and 1946, and this residential zone was laid out similar to the post command area. A traffic circle was added near the firehouse, joining "Middle Gate Road" (now Baltzell), 15th Street, 20th Street, "South Gate Road", and Post Headquarters Road. Both permanent and temporary construction took place at Fort McClellan in the 40s to accommodate the 27th Division . This phase of construction was accomplished with $6.5 million in federal funding. This generation of buildings was constructed during the tenure of Commanding Officer Colonel John L. Jenkins. Overall, the improvements included 47 miles of paved roads, 27 miles of unpaved roads, 27 warehouses, 12 shops and a small foundry, school buildings, a cold storage facility able to meet the needs of 40,000 individuals, sewage facilities for 50,000, a general hospital, new cantonments, three dormitories for civilian workers, four swimming pools, two libraries, service clubs, guest houses, 200 dayrooms, three bowling alleys, five theaters, and an amphitheater with a 12,000-person seating capacity.

As the 27th Division began to settle into the local environment, they and the City of Anniston began a close and harmonious relationship. Articles published in the Anniston Star in 1941, for example, herald the return of the 27th from maneuvers and announce a public dance in their honor on Main Street, exclaiming happily "A Yankee army will invade Anniston tonight." Not to be outshone, the Anniston Chamber of Commerce sent individual invitations to Anniston women; cars were hired to ferry women from Birmingham-Southern College and Jacksonville State Teacher's College to the gala (Anniston Star, October 8, 1941).

This harmonious relationship was interrupted after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The 27th Division was ordered to an 'unknown destination' on December 19, 1941. They arrived in Hawaii on May 21, 1942. The 27th fought in the Pacific theater of war until 1945, and participated in the occupation of Japan.

After the 27th Division left, Fort McClellan had the distinction of acting as the headquarters for the 92nd Division, the Army's second African-American division, activated on October, 1942. At least 6,500 men from the 92nd were trained at Fort McClellan. The 92nd was deactivated in 1945.

Other groups housed at Fort McClellan included the station complement which tripled in number during World War II. In addition, the post complement included two detachments of Women's Army Corps (WAC). The women in these detachments acted in administrative and clerical roles at the Post Headquarters, handled the post motor pool, and worked in the bakeries, service clubs, mess and supply. Women in the corps were afforded housing considered "separate but better" than that given to male soldiers. The essential WAC barrack was known as the converted Theater of War barrack. The early housing for the WACs was replaced in 1955 as Fort McClellan became the center for all WAC training and the first permanent home of the WAC since the group's organization in 1942.

Thirty POW camps were built in 1942 to house the onslaught of captured enemy soldiers. McClellan's POW camp was completed in 1943. By mid-1944, German POWs had become a significant part of the labor pool at Fort McClellan. In their off hours and in jobs assigned to them on post, POWs created a substantial legacy at Fort McClellan in masonry and art as well as more invisible improvements. Two hundred prisoners were detailed daily for excavation, drainage, and clearing operations on the main post; 170 were involved with food preparation; and others worked on vehicles on post. POW labor is responsible for numerous examples of stonework on Fort McClellan, including stone walls, chimneys, a patio built behind the old Recreation Center, drainage ditches, and landscaping. The carved bar at the Officer's Club (Remington Hall) and the exceptional murals which dress the club's wall are also credited to POWs. The camp at Fort McClellan not only acted as the processing center for all prisoners interned in the Alabama camps, but was the last camp to be deactivated on April 10, 1946.

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