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WWII Chronicles | WWI Chronicles

CAMP BARKELEY

Now DYESS AIR FORCE BASE

Taylor County, Texas
Caps, Texas

11 Miles SW of Abilene

Camp Barkeley Area Hotels > Abilene Hotels

Texas WWII Camp Barkeley gate
Camp Barkeley Gate
Photo courtesy Mike Price, 2007
During World War II, this camp (originally meant to be temporary) enclosed 77,000 acres and included 1/9th of Taylor County's land.

The camp was named (on January 10th 1941) by the War Department to honor David Bennes Barkley, winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor for his sacrifice in World War I. The discrepancy in the spelling of the Camp's name has been attributed to a misspelled document.
Private David Barkley's Story

A native of Laredo, Barkley enlisted in the Army while still in his teens. His family stated that he hid his Mexican heritage because he felt it would impede his assignment to the front lines. He succeeded in making it to the front and volunteered for a mission to swim the Meuse River to gather information on German troops. While he and another volunteer accomplished their mission, Barkley contracted cramps on his return across the river and drowned. His death came just two days before the armistice. Barkley was one of three Texans awarded the CMH in WWI. An elementary school in San Antonio was named for him in 1921 and he lay in state at the Alamo, the second person to have that honor. He was interred at San Antonio's National Cemetery.
L- This picture of Private Barkley hangs in the new Barkley/Ruiz Elementary School in San Antonio.
R- Gravesite of Private Barkley at the San Antonio National Cemetery.

Photos courtesy Terry Jeanson, May 2007
Construction of the camp began in late1940. The estimated cost to be around $4 million. It was completed in July of 1941 at a cost of $7 million.

Home to the 45th Infantry Division, the camp was also the temporary home of cartoonist Bill Mauldin, who later became famous for his cartoon featuring cynical Infantry privates "Willie and Joe." The unshaven, cigarette-smoking characters were frowned upon by the brass, but so popular with the enlisted ranks that calls to remove the cartoon from the Stars and Stripes worried officials that it would negatively affect troop morale.
2 Chinese-American Officers were the first graduates of the Army Medical Corps Officer Candidate School
2 Lt. Calvin S. Chin, 28 NYC
2 Lt. Anthony Loo Wung Wong of Honolulu
These two Chinese-American Officers were the first graduates of the Army Medical Corps Officer Candidate School.

Photo courtesy Library of Congress
Other units at Camp Barkeley included the 90th Infantry Division and the Eleventh and Twelfth Armored divisions. The Army's Medical Administrative Officer Candidate School was established at Camp Barkeley in 1942 and they even found room for nearly 900 German POWs. To the embarrassment of the MPs, twelve prisoners escaped from Camp Barkeley shortly after their arrival, although all were soon recaptured.

The camp was deactivated in April of 1945 and dismantled in September of that year. The cost to the government was over $27 million for 66 months of service. Leased land reverted to its original owners. Because of the fine example set by the partnership of Camp Barkeley and Abilene, Dyess Air Force Base was built there in the 1950s.
Camp Barkeley Historical Marker
Camp Barkeley Historical Marker
Photo courtesy Mike Price, 2007
Historical Marker Text
Camp Barkeley
Site of main entrance to Camp Barkeley, one of the nation's largest military camps of World War II. At peak, 60,000 men were in training here. Named for Private David B. Barkeley of the 89th Division, who died on a secret scouting expedition behind German lines during the Meuse-Argonne Battle of World War I. Among famous units trained here were the 45th and 90th Infantry Divisions and the 11th and 12th Armored.

A medical replacement training center, the largest in the country, was also established here, with 15 battalions. In May, 1942, the Medical Administrative Corps Officer Candidate School was activated and graduated about 12,500 candidates.

Camp Barkeley eventually grew to be a complete city unit twice the size of Abilene
of the 1940s. It had a 2,300-bed hospital, 2 cold storage plants, a bakery, 4 theaters, 2 service clubs for enlisted men, 15 chapels, and 35 post exchange buildings.

The military personnel were housed in hutments, except for some 4,000 in barracks. Part of the post was also a German prisoner-of-war camp. Once some of the prisoners escaped, to the alarm of Abilene
citizens, and others attempted to tunnel under the fences. Camp Barkeley was declared surplus in 1945.
Camp Barkeley Today

Photographer's Note:
Very little remains visible from the roads of the camp. There's a series of brick structures like the one shown. Have no idea what they were. There's a lot of concrete roads, but not open for access.

The sign is over the one part that is used, the rife and pistol range used by the National Guard and by Dyess MP's(?). The hillside behind the range is littered with what is probably millions of spent bullets that have eroded out of the ground. As a teenager I could sit on the ground and pick up more than I could hold within a space you could reach without moving.

Satellite photos show how large it was in the built up area. The rest stretched for miles, and up until the late 50's or 60's there were roadside signs warning of unexploded munitions. I believe it was in the 70's that a ranch hand was killed by one he picked up. - Mike Price, October 15, 2007

Cactus in WWII Camp Barkeley, Texas
Cactus in Camp Barkeley
Photo courtesy Mike Price, 2007
Camp Barkeley Texas roads
One of the many roads in Camp Barkeley
Photo courtesy Mike Price, 2007
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