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Camp Stewart Forms

Camp Stewart Forms

On July 1, 1940, the first 5,000 acres were bought and subsequent purchases followed. Eventually, the reservation would include more than 280,000 acres and stretch over five counties. The large expanse of property was required for the firing ranges and impact areas that an anti-aircraft artillery training center would need for live-fire training. In November 1940, the Anti-Aircraft Artillery Training Center was officially designated as Camp Stewart.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 accelerated activities at Camp Stewart as units set about accomplishing the missions for which it was intended. Facilities were expanded and improved. Camp Stewart’s training programs continued expanding to keep pace with the needs placed on it. Units were shipped out promptly upon completion of their training and new units received in their place. The camp provided well-trained Soldiers for duty in Europe, the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Pacific theaters. By late 1943, Camp Stewart assumed a new responsibility as one of many holding areas designated in this country for German and Italian prisoners of war, who had fallen into Allied hands during fighting in North Africa. These persons were held in two separate prisoner-of-war facilities on post and used as a labor force for post operations, construction projects and for area farmers.

Camp Stewart also served as a Cook and Bakers School and as a staging area for a number of Army postal units. By spring 1944, the camp was bulging at its seams as more than 55,000 Soldiers occupied the installation during the buildup for the D-Day invasion. However, almost overnight the post was virtually emptied as these units shipped out for England. With the D-Day invasion and Allied control of the air over Europe, the need for anti-aircraft units diminished. In response, the anti-aircraft training at Camp Stewart was phased out. By January 1945, only the prisoner-of-war camp was still functioning. With the end of the war, Camp Stewart came to life briefly as a separation center for redeployed Soldiers. But on Sept. 30, 1945, the post was deactivated. Only two officers, 10 enlisted men and 50 civilian employees maintained the facilities, and the Georgia National Guard did the only training there during summer months. It seemed as if Camp Stewart had served its purpose.

World affairs would once again affect the life of Camp Stewart. With the outbreak of hostilities in Korea in June 1950, the United States again found itself with the need to update training and prepare new Soldiers to meet the crisis in Korea. Camp Stewart reopened in August 1950. Facilities were again repaired and National Guard troops were brought in for training.

On Dec. 28, 1950, Camp Stewart was designated as the 3rd Army Anti-Aircraft Artillery Training Center for intensive training of Soldiers destined for service in Korea. In late 1953, Camp Stewart’s role was changed to include armor and tank firing as well since the Communist forces didn’t seriously challenge control of the air in Korea. When the Korean conflict eventually cooled down, it was recognized that our country would be required to maintain a ready and able military force to deal with any potential threat to the free world. Camp Stewart had a role to play in that mission. The decision was that the post would no longer be viewed as a temporary installation.

On March 21, 1956, Camp Stewart was redesignated as Fort Stewart. Its role continued to evolve in response to specific needs and world events. In 1959 Fort Stewart was redesignated as an Armor and Artillery Firing Center since its old anti-aircraft ranges and impact area were better suited for this purpose than for the new age of missiles. By 1961, there was a feeling that Fort Stewart may have served its usefulness, and there was movement to deactivate the post again. However, the age of missiles brought with it new threats and a new place for Fort Stewart.

In 1962, on the outset of the Cuban missile crisis, the 1st Armored Division was ordered to Fort Stewart for staging, and in the short span of two weeks, the population of the post rose from 3,500 personnel to more than 30,000.

The country prepared for the worst, but in the end a compromise was reached, and the crisis passed. President John F. Kennedy visited Fort Stewart shortly after the crisis ended. He arrived at then-Hunter Field and flew to Donovan Parade Field at Fort Stewart where he reviewed the entire 1st Armored Division. From there, he was taken to the new conference room dedicated to him where he was briefed on armed forces readiness to respond to the Cuban missile crisis, then he visited troops in nearby training areas.

After the Cuban missile crisis passed, the Cold War situation kept Fort Stewart in an active training role. During the late 1960s, another developing situation brought about yet another change in Fort Stewart’s mission. With tensions growing in the divided country of Vietnam, the United States found itself becoming increasingly involved in that conflict. The Vietnamese terrain and the type of war being fought there demanded an increased aviation capability through the use of helicopters and light, fixed-wing aircraft. In response to a need for aviators, an element of the United States Army Aviation School at Fort Rucker, Alabama, was transferred to Fort Stewart in 1966. Helicopter pilot training and helicopter gunnery courses became Fort Stewart’s new mission.

In an ironic twist, now instead of training Soldiers to shoot down aircraft, they were training Soldiers to fly them. When the Air Force closed their base at Hunter Field in Savannah in 1967, the Army promptly assumed control and in conjunction with the flight training being conducted at Fort Stewart, the United States Army Flight Training Center came into being. The helicopter pilot training was rapidly accelerated, and pilots were trained and soon sent to duty all over the world, with a large percentage seeing active duty in Vietnam.

In 1969, President Nixon planned to reduce American involvement in Vietnam by training the Vietnamese military to take over the war. In conjunction with this, helicopter flight training for Vietnamese pilots began at the Training Center in 1970 and continued until 1972. Gradually, America’s involvement in Vietnam dwindled and by mid-1972 the flight training aspect of Fort Stewart’s mission was terminated and both Hunter Field and Fort Stewart reverted to garrison status. The following year Hunter was closed entirely and Fort Stewart sat idle with the exception of National Guard training, which continued to be conducted at the installation.

It appeared as if Fort Stewart had again reached the end of its usefulness, and questions were raised about its status and future. The end of the Vietnam conflict meant a new focus for the United States Army, and a new life for several of the Army’s historic units would mean new life for Fort Stewart.

 

On July 1, 1974, the 1st Battalion, 75th Infantry Regiment (Ranger) parachuted into Fort Stewart and was reactivated the following month. They were the first Army Ranger unit activated since World War II. Hunter Army Airfield was once again reopened to support the training and activities of the Rangers.

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