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Texas | Columns | All Things Historical

CAMP FANNIN

by Archie P. McDonald, PhD
Archie McDonald, PhD

One of the happy yields of the fiftieth anniversary of World War II has been the publication of reminiscences of the citizen soldiers who interrupted lives to serve in the various branches of the military service.

Two such pieces were prepared for the East Texas Historical Journal that focus on Camp Fannin, an infantry replacement training center located approximately ten miles northeast of Tyler.

The first article, "Camp Fannin": A Reminiscence," was written by Laurence C. Walker, originally from Washington, D.C. Ironically, after the war Walker earned a doctorate in Forestry and spent many years as dean of the school of forestry at Stephen F. Austin State University, located about 75 miles south of where he learned to be a soldier. Walker served in the European Theatre.

The other article was prepared by Russell Rulau of Iola, Wisconsin, and was prompted by Walker's earlier publication. Rulau's overseas service was in the Pacific Theatre. After the war he became a writer and dealer in the field of numismatics.

Walker and Rulau symbolize what happened at Camp Fannin from its operation from May 29, 1943, until converted to a separation center, then declared surplus in January 1946. They came from different parts of the United States and served in different theatres, yet each contributed to what FDR called "the inevitable victory."

Camp Fannin, which occupied 14,000 acres of woodland hills, was named in honor of James Walker Fannin, a soldier in the Texas Revolution. Its first commander was Colonel John A. Robenson, who was succeeded by Lieutenant Colonel Charles H. Brammel in August 1943. Troop capacity was 18,680 and the camp hospital could accommodate 1,074 patients. A prisoner of war camp commanded by Major Sam H. Burchard also occupied the site.

Walker, Rulau, and others remember experiences with the Southern heat, ticks, chiggers, and other discomforts, but also dances and visits to Kilgore--where alcohol was available--and Tyler, where it was not.

Like so many in what Tom Brokow has convinced us was our "Greatest Generation," the men who learned to soldier at Camp Fannin and other training facilities throughout the land did not falter when it was their turn to serve.

Some of Camp Fannin's facilities were moved to the campus of Tyler Junior College for more use, and part of the base became the East Texas State Tuberculosis Sanitarium. Some of the men who trained there remain forever in cemeteries in foreign lands, and many others, including Walker and Rulau, lived long and projective lives in the land they helped keep free.


All Things Historical
September 10-16, 2000
Published by permission.
(Archie P. McDonald is Director of the East Texas Historical Association and author or editor of more than 20 books on Texas)


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