HISTORY OF FORT DIX NEW JERSEY - 50 YEARS OF SERVICE TO THE NATION 1917-1967
Prepared by the Information Office, United States Army Training Center, Fort Dix, New Jersey 08640
Chapter I – THE UNITED STATES ETNERS WORLD WAR I 1
Chapter II – SELECTION OF SITES FOR MOBILIZATION CAMPS 5
Chapter III – MAJOR GENERAL JOHN ADAMS DIX, U.S.V. 9
Chapter IV – THE CONSTRUCTION OF CAMP DIX 13
Chapter V – CAMP DIX ACTIVITIES IN WORLD WAR I 19
Chapter VI – CAMP DIX AND DEMOBILIZATION 29
Chapter VII – CAMP DIX BETWEEN THE WORLD WARS 33
CHAPTER VIII – FORT DIX DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR 47
CHAPTER IX – POST – WORLD WAR II 71
CHAPTER X – IN THE SIXTIES 99
CHAPTER XI – FORT DIX TODAY 123
Appendix 1 – FORT DIX COMMANDERS 129
Appendix 2 – ROSTER (31 December 1966) 131
The history of Fort Dix, New Jersey, is a striking example of the changing attitude of the American people and their elected representatives toward the United States Army in the 20th Century. The United States has traditionally maintained a small standing army in times of peace and relied heavily on citizen militia and conscription in times of national emergency.
This was the case at the outbreak of World War I. The United States Army at the time of the declaration of war could not claim a single organized division. Its total strength numbered only 200,000, most of whom were recent enlistments in early stages of training. A crash program to build an Army of 1,000,000 authorized by Congress demanded new training facilities. Sixteen camp sites were selected throughout the United States, and Camp Dix in central New Jersey was designed as the focal installation for the heavily populated northeastern United States.
The camp site, although well selected, was constructed in haste in an atmosphere of impermanency within a few months after the United States entered the war. Throughout the war, the camp and its personnel did a prodigious job of training and processing troops for the American Expeditionary Forces as well as for other training camps in the United States. The camp reached a peak population of 55,000 men in August 1918. With the armistice, Camp Dix became the principal separation center of the entire United States.
Following demobilization, there was no longer a national emergency – the world was already made “safe for democracy.” In the 1920s and early 1930s, Camp Dix was left to fall into almost utter decay. Were it not for the need for barracks to house members of the Civilian Conservation Corps and other programs developed during the “Great Depression,” the camp site might not have survived. There was constant pressure to return the rich farmland to meet growing agricultural needs of the area.
With the threat of another war in Europe becoming more acute each passing year in the late 1930s, the American people and the Congress began to sense the need for greater preparedness than exited prior to World War I. Caught up in this changing reaction, Camp Dix became Fort Dix, and a spirit of permanency became apparent almost immediately. Careful plans were made for the rebuilding and expansion of facilities, but Hitler and his blitzkrieg forced drastic acceleration of many projects.
However, when the United States entered World War II, Fort Dix was ready to fulfill its mission. In mid-January 1942, less than five weeks after the United States had declared war on the Axis Powers, elements of the 34th Infantry Division had received final processing at Fort Dix and were already on the high seas bound for Ireland.
During World War II, Fort Dix trained and processed personnel, including 10 full divisions, for operations in every theater throughout the world. Peak loads in all respects exceeded those of World War I. The Columbia Encyclopedia credits Fort Dix as “the largest army training center in the country” during the Second World War. With surrender of the Axis powers, the fort again became the largest separation center in the country – more than a million soldiers were processed for return to civilian life.
Post World War II showed slight resemblance to the complacent attitude that had prevailed 25 years previously. One national crisis after another convinced the American people of the need for constant vigilance.
The Berlin Airlift, invasion of South Korea, Hungarian Revolt, Lebanon Affair, Berlin Crisis, Cuban Missile Confrontation, United States participation in the Dominican Republic, escalation of assistance to the South Vietnamese – these and more have proven beyond any doubt the continuing role that the ground soldier must play in the conduct of our nation’s foreign policies.
Fort Dix today is known as “The Home of the Ultimate Weapon.” There are many who see this as incongruous in relation to the atomic and hydrogen bombs, intercontinental ballistic missiles, advances in chemical and biological warfare, and developments in the use of outer space.
To the infantryman, each new war or military conflict introduced weapons which at the time convinced many that the ultimate had been achieved – witness the spear to the club, the longbow to the bow and arrow, shrapnel to cannon, machine gun to the rifle, tank to the horse, atom bomb to the blockbuster. Each had its time and place and yet the mission of the infantryman to take and hold the objective has remained unchanged.
The poisonous gases have remained in storage since their use in World War I. The atomic bomb has not dropped on an enemy for more than 20 years. But the infantryman turned the tide in Korea and remains in his age-old role in South Vietnam. Who knows how many times in the future his singular mission will have to be carried out.
Despite all the man-hours and dollars that go into research, science has yet to find a substitute for the Ultimate Weapon – the Human Soldier. It is he who ultimately must protect that for which we are fighting. It is he who must close with and destroy those who seek to destroy us.
Who is this man, the Ultimate Weapon, this highly trained and skilled practitioner of the art of War? You know him….and know him well. He is the boy next door, the lad down the street, a son, a husband, a father. He is a career soldier, a member of the National Guard or the Army Reserves, the mayor, the drug store clerk, the bank teller. HE is THE ULTIMATE WEAPON.
The need for him has never abated. Our country needed him at Concord Bridge and Remagen Bridge, at the banks of the Delaware and the banks of the Mekong, from Trenton to Seoul. He held the line at Gettysburg and stormed the ramparts at Vicksburg, took Guadalcanal and planted Old Glory atop Mt. Suribachi. He marches in parades in Philadelphia, Chicago and Seattle, and patrols the Demilitarized Zone at Panmunjom and Taesong Dong. He recently crouched in an alley in Santo Domingo and today is successfully meeting the challenge to end communist aggression in Vietnam.
He is every alert, every ready for the fight he prays will never come. But he is there, poised, because he knows he must be there, ready to make whatever sacrifice is needed to preserve that which gave him his life’s first ever-free breath. Although he is trained for his job, the learning process for this man’s task at hand never ceases. But it does have a beginning. This beginning usually comes by visiting the local recruiting sergeant or by receiving an official envelope from the local board of the Selective Service System. From that beginning it is but a short trip to the haircut, combat boots, chow line and long hours of drill and marksmanship.
For thousands of young men each year, the first taste of military life and training comes at the “Home of the Ultimate Weapon.” Fort Dix…just a memory to some, nostalgia to others.
This is the story of Fort Dix and how it has provided, from 1917 to today, men for a man’s job.
This is the story of one camp, which continues to play a large role in perfecting THE ULTIMATE WEAPON.