From the first months of the Sixties, it was apparent Fort Dix would develop at a pace even greater than that of the previous decade.
One international crisis after another, in which the United States was involved, convinced the nation of the great necessity for a strong and ready Armed Force. Just two years before the Sixties, on request of Lebanese President Chamoun, US forces were ordered to occupy parts of that Middle East nation.
On 1 January 1959, President Batista fled Cuba, and revolutionist Fidel Castro began to communize that island, only 90 miles from the US. In 1960, a series of coups in the former Indo-Chinese country of Laos troubled the US government, resulting in significante increases of US aid and advisors to that nation. Again nearby in Cuba, the ill-fated Bay of Pigs fiasco on 17 April 1961 stunned the American people.
The “Berlin Crisis” in 1961 and the Cuban missile confrontation of 1962 brought the United States and Soviet Union face-to-face. In late 1962, the US provided massive support to India after its invasion by Communist China. Every ripple in the waters of the Cold War placed significant demands on the US Armed Forces, including Fort Dix, which was responsible for providing its share of any soldiers required.
Also in 1962, developments in South Vietnam reached a stage in which US had little choice but to increase its assistance. During the next four years, US Army strength in that war torn country escalated from a handful of advisors to more than a quarter-million combat troops. As if the Vietnamese situation were not a significant burden on the training responsibilities of Fort Dix, the 1965 revolution in the Dominican Republic and the continual buildup of American troops in Thailand added more. From June 1965 to the beginning of 1967, the number of trainees in the Infantry Training Center on any given day almost doubled – from 11,000 to 21,000.
At first glance, the construction program at Fort Dix provided the most visible changes during the Sixties. Opening of the post’s multi-million dollar Walson Army Hospital was the first significant step in this program. More than 600 guests were present on 15 March 1960 as Secretary of the Army Wilber M. Brucker dedicated the modern 500-bed hospital.
The facility was named in honor of Brigadier General Charles M. Walson, whose widow was present at the dedication ceremony to unveil the commemorative plaque. General Walson had been born in Laurel, Delaware, on 24 August 1883 and was graduated from the Jefferson Medical College in Pennsylvania in 1906 and the Army Medical School in 1912. During World War I, he served as a major with the American Expeditionary Forces in France and the Army of Occupation in Coblenz until 1922. For his service as surgeon general of Second Service Command from November 1940 to July 1945, General Walson was awarded the Legion of Merit. He had fulfilled a significant role in the processing of 145,000 Americans and 7,000 prisoners-of-war patients who had passed through the port of New York during World War II. After his retirement, he served as administrator of the American Red Cross blood program for the greater New York area until his death in 1947.
The ultra-modern hospital, located at New Jersey Avenue and West Third Street, make use of the latest medical and recreational equipment and facilities. Patients are accommodated in one-to-four bed rooms or operating rooms plus and emergency operating room located near the ambulance entrance. A central food service section to the hospital prepares and serves all food, thus eliminating the need for special diet kitchens. In its first full year of operation, Walson admitted 22,999 patients.
Lack of adequate billets for troops was still an acute problem in the early 1960s. At the time, approximately 75 percent of the enlisted men at Fort Dix were still housed in “temporary” barracks, built in 1940-41, with an original life expectancy of only five years. Because of this, a special committee of four congressmen arrived on 12 June 1961 to investigate troop housing conditions. At the conclusion of their tour, they were convinced building appropriations should be increased for Fort Dix.
Representative Frank C. Osmers, Jr. of New Jersey stated that renovation of the 20-year-old buildings would be as “polishing rotten apples,” 1. (Fort Dix Post, vol. xx, no. xxiv 1961) and said a three-to-four year program to replace temporary troop housing should be carefully considered by the House Appropriations Committee. The other representatives, Richard E. Langford of Maryland, agreed with Osmers “that the Fort Dix staff had done a remarkable job keeping these old things on their feet at all times.” 2. (Ibid)
The acutance of the barracks situation was further aggravated in late 1961 with the call-up of the Army Reserves and National Guard. At that time, the post received hundreds of activated Reserve Forces personnel. The earlier congressional analysis led to a June 1962 announcement that an $11 million project for construction of nine permanent barracks and six mess halls. Then in November 1963, Congress appropriated more than $19 million for further troop billeting improvements at Dix during the Fiscal Year 1965. These were important steps in continuing the long-range Military Construction Army (MCA) plan to relocate and rehouse all personnel in permanent barracks by 1971.
Construction of an entire regimental complex was started in the area along Texas Avenue near McGuire Air Force Base in September 1963. Eventually occupied by the 2nd Basic Combat Training Regiment in 1964, it included 11 barracks, four mess halls, four battalion headquarters and classrooms, four supply and administrative buildings, regimental headquarters, dispensary, post exchange, chapel and gymnasium. A motor pool complex supporting this area was completed in July 1966.
Another regimental complex was begun along the Pemberton-Pointville Road in March 1964. The space allocated was almost entirely occupied by cleared training areas and drill fields. The new complex included eight barracks, each housing 326 men, regimental headquarters and classroom buildings, supply and administration buildings for each of the four battalions, post exchange branch, gymnasium, chapel, motor pool area, dispensary and central heating plant. Two-thirds of the complex was completed in the fall of 1965, and construction on the remaining one-third began in December 1965. This area was occupied by the 3rd Basic Combat Training Brigade.
Fort Dix suffered a major setback in its long-range troop housing improvement program in 1965. During that year, Congress appropriated $21 million for building additional permanent structures at Fort Dix. However, because of unprecedented costs of the Vietnam War, $17 million of the total was deferred by the secretary of defense late in 1965 only to be reinstated in February 1967.
All told, MCA projects, other than family housing units, completed since 1 January 1960, included 31 barracks, 12 administration and storage buildings, Post Chapel and Religious Education Center complex, two other chapels, three motor pools, 11 battalion mess halls, 11 battalion headquarter buildings and classrooms, three brigade headquarters, three post exchanges, three dispensaries, two gymnasiums, and addition to Walson Army Hospital for clinics and an Air Evacuation Center, quarters for 80 nurses, and an addition to the Telephone Exchange. Construction started but not completed by 31 December 1966 included three barracks, an administration and storage building, chapel, battalion headquarters building, battalion mess hall and a gymnasium.
During the first half of the decade, additional family headquarters were constructed, and a concentrated effort was made to improve the appearance of the post. Construction began on the first of a 200-unit Capehart housing project for noncommissioned officers in February 1961, which was partially available for occupancy in December. The project, located in the area west of 17th Street and extending to Gum Street along the Juliustown-Browns Mills Road, contained two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments. Costing $3,610,630 and completed in January 1962, the project – now known as Laurel Hill – consists of 43 two-story duplexes.
In 1963, enlisted men in pay grade E-4 (corporals or specialists four) with four or more years’ service were permitted to apply for family housing a Sheridansville, Nelson Courts or Kennedy Courts. Previously, the requirement for E-4s was seven years of active service.
Plans were drawn to beautify Fort Dix. Through the efforts and skills of the 86th Engineer Battalion, Dogwood Lake, Willow Pond, Deer Lake and Meadow Lake were completed by the summer of 1960. Dogwood Lake, one of the first man-made lakes to be constructed under the program, extends from Pennsylvania Avenue past Theater #5 to the Post Golf Course. It consists of a system of lakes connected by culverts.
Not only did the lakes add to the beauty of the installation, they also assisted in irrigation, water purification training, and served as sources of water supply in the event of emergency. They could be tapped to extinguish nearby brush fires. In addition, their construction was a practical exercise for members of the 86th Engineer Battalion. The use of heavy construction equipment and the skills of moving, compacting, and making earth hold water were required. Other lakes already in existence were Brindle Lake, Hipp’s Folly, Lake of the Woods, and Hanover Lake.
In the summer of 1961, increased tension in Berlin and other parts of the world caused President John F. Kennedy to ask Congress for standing authority to call 250,000 reservists and national guardsmen to active duty. In August, 14 such units were alerted to report to Dix. Arriving on post in October, the activated Reserve Components personnel represented seven states from Main to Indiana. First to arrive was the 920th Transportation Company from New York. Traveling in buses, the reservists received a warm welcome from the installation commander and an Army band as they passed through the post entrance. After the greeting, men of the 920th settled down to the routine of Army life, which lasted until August 1962.
On 24 October 1961, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 173rd Medical Battalion of South Portland, Maine, and the 114th Surgical Hospital Detachment from Patterson, New Jersey, were assigned to Walson Army Hospital. The remaining Army Reserve or National Guard units were attached to Special Troops. Units arriving at Fort Dix included the 366th Medical Detachment from Cleveland, Ohio; 141st Transportation Company, Rochester, New York; 306th Medical Detachment, New York City; 435th Finance Disbursing Section, Indianapolis, Indiana; 834th Signal Company, Fort Monmouth, New Jersey; 134th Ordnance Company, Albany, New York; 445th Ordinance Company, Kearney, New Jersey: 340th Military Police Company, Garden City, New York; 322nd Military Police Detachment (Criminal Investigation), Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania; 618th Transportation Company, White River Junction, Vermont: and the 321st Adjutant General Post Office of Troy, New York.
Approximately 14,000 reservists underwent summer training at Fort Dix in 1961, as did some 10,000 in 1962. The following year, 35,323 reserve personnel participated in weekend drills and field exercises at the post, and an additional 10,482 underwent two weeks of annual active duty training. In 1964, 44,137 reservists received weekend drill and marksmanship training at Fort Dix, and 12,534 underwent annual training. Personnel from 39 non-divisional unites, three training divisions and five Army Reserve schools, participated in annual active duty training programs during the summers of 1963 and 1964.
Fort Dix supported and coordinated the training of 12,423 citizen soldiers who arrived for their annual active duty between 5 June and 11 September 1965. During 1966 Dix units supported the summer training of 13,890 reservists and national guardsmen from four divisions and 39 separate units, representing 13 states from Main to Louisiana and as far west as Illinois. Following the 16-week summer training period that ended on 10 September, Reserve Forces Division of G3 hosted an additional 25,000 officers and enlisted men from 33 Army Reserve and National Guard units, who participated in weekend drills at Fort Dix during the remainder of 1966.
For the convenience of visitors and new arrivals to the post, the Information Bureau was opened 19 August 1961 on Route 68, replacing the one located in the Sports Arena. Operated to expedite the location of individuals, units and facilities on post, the bureau assisted more than 14,500 visitors during its first two months of operation. Staffed by the post’s military police, it operated seven days a week.
Paralleling dramatic improvements to the Fort Dix physical plant was the modernization of training methods and aids. In 1960, a Fort Dix-originated modification of Trainfire targets earned the government a net saving of $7,000 during the first year of adoption. The modification resulted in an all-weather, moisture-proof target, which was as durable as the fiberglass targets originally designed for the range. Cardboard targets were coated with paraffin, and tests revealed that the 19-cent replacement had a usable period equal to those of fiberglass, which cost $1.75 each. Other advantages of the inexpensive targets were resistance to breakage in strong wind or heavy firing and elimination of patching, refacing and repairing.
Fort Dix implemented another suggestion in October 1963 that saved $58,000 Armywide. Previously, each range contained as many as 35 marker panels, located approximately 300 meters from the firing line. Over a period of time these panels, which cost $6.20 apiece, suffered many hits and required replacement, which meant a constant expense to the government. The even-numbered panels that designated firing lines were eliminated, doing away with as many as 17 panels. The idea was forwarded to Headquarters First US Army, and then, Fort Benning, Georgia, where it was tested by students of The Infantry School. From there, the system went on to Department of the Army for Armywide adoption.
In June 1960, it was announced that Fort Dix was scheduled to receive its initial shipment of M-14 rifles and M-60 machine guns – the general purpose weapons of today’s modern Army. Some 550 M-14s and 40 M-60s arrived later that year. Both weapons fire the standard 7.62 millimeter (civilian .308) round adopted by NATO countries in December 1953. In 1954, the round was formally accepted in the United States as the standard military rifle cartridge. The M-14 replaced the (Garland) M-1 rifle, Browning automatic rifle, .30 caliber carbine and the .45 caliber machine gun. Today, all trainees at Dix are issued M-14s. Familiarization with the new M-16 rifle is given to personnel leaving for Vietnam.
Additional heavy weapons training was introduced to the curriculum of the 1st Advanced Individual Training Regiment in January 1962. The regiment, which had been conducting advanced eight-week courses in basic unit and individual training, began teaching the 106mm recoilless rifle and the 81mm and 4.2-inch mortars. To accommodate the new training program, four ranges and five training areas were built. The regimental Training Committee was increased in strength and new lesson plans written.
Meanwhile, constant research and evaluation by Department of the Army in training potential enlisted leaders resulted in the establishment of a trainee leadership school at Fort Dix in January 1962. The program of instruction, encompassing 10 weeks, was designed to train privates (E-2) to become effective leaders. The first two weeks of the program were devoted to formal leadership instruction in the school’s classrooms, and the remaining weeks were used for practical application in an advanced individual training company. In 1963 and 1964, average weekly enrollment at the school was 25 to 30 students, with more than 1,000 students graduating both in 1963 and 1964.
Instead of merely wondering who trainees could fire higher scores on the ranges, cadremen of Company K, 4th Basic Combat Training Regiment, put their heads together, pooled their ideas, and came up with a training aid called a wooden portable foxhole. Adopted in 1962, this training aid – three feet square and almost six feet high – made a noticeable difference in the scores of the regiment’s trainees. The foxhole was used mainly to instruct trainees in the correct firing positions before they went to the ranges. Once they had a basic knowledge of the proper positions, the soldiers were able to “make themselves at home” in the range foxholes. A higher percent of trainees qualified on the ranges when the portable foxhole was used. Built in June 1962, the ingenious training aid was the only portable foxhole on post and often loaned to other units.
On 6 June 1964, the chief of Faculty Group was assigned the responsibility of establishing an Expert Infantryman Badge test for Fort Dix. In addition, to improve the trainee test program of Faculty Group, a proficiency testing area was established on 15 July 1964. The earlier area could not absorb the necessary changes, and a new area, comprising eight permanent-type test stations and four other buildings, was built. Stations were set up for such subjects as first aid, bayonet, hand-to-hand combat, guard duty, and other exercises and techniques that every trainee must know.
In August 1964, the Faculty Group was assigned to teach field sanitation, a subject previously taught by the training regiments. To aid in the two hours of instruction, an elaborate three-station field sanitation display area was constructed. One station exhibited liquid waste disposal devices, another involved sold waste, and the third station displayed field expedients for washing, showering and laundering.
During September 1964, the present Basic Rifle Marksmanship Course replaced the Trainfire concept. Today, every basic trainee is taught the name of various parts of the rifle and to assemble and disassemble the M-14. He is told how and when to clean the weapon and to fire from proper positions. A period involving sighting and aiming was added to the marksmanship program. To accommodate this change, a new 100-point preliminary rifle instruction area was built behind Faculty Group headquarters.
In an effort to provide the most highly skilled cadre for training brigades, a Drill Sergeant School was established at Fort Dix and other training centers in October 1964. The school was the result of a study by the Secretary of the Army Stephen Ailes concerning the need for highly effective NCOs, under whose guidance the recruit would be turned into a top-notch soldier. Identical schools existed in each of the six other permanent basic training centers in the United States.
The first 70 men to graduate from the Fort Dix Drill Sergeant School received their distinctive campaign hats at the post’s Timmermann Theater on 30 November 1964. The class had begun with 90 noncommissioned officers from the basic combat training regiments, advanced individual training regiment, common specialist training regiment, US Army Personnel Center, and Faculty Company. The school’s cadre of 20 instructors and there tactical NCOs were picked prior to the start of the course.
During the five-week school, abilities of prospective drill sergeants were taxed physically and academically. Intensive study was designed to acquaint them with the general knowledge and specific skills required in handling training problems while performing duties as leaders, instructors or administrators at platoon level. Graduates were placed in a specialty classification and permitted to wear the famous Army campaign hat, which had been eliminated from service in 1940. For years, many top Army officials sought to have it reinstated because of the espirit de corpss it imparts to the wearer.
In December 1964, consolidation of enlisted leadership training was effected within the fort Dix Leaders Academy. The academy was assigned the mission of conducting the Drill Sergeant School, the five-week NCO Academy Senior and Basic Courses, the two-week Trainee Leadership Training Corps. Effective 1 July 1966, Fort Knox, Kentucky, assumed sole responsibility for operation of the First US Army NCO Academy. All of the above Leaders Academy courses remained at Dix.
In 1965 a shortage of qualified cadre instructors existed because of increased trainee loads and the Vietnam buildup that required transfer of drill sergeants overseas. To provide immediate remedy, Major General Charles E. Beauchamp, commanding general, initiated a Drill Sergeant Assistant Course at Dix and submitted the proposal to Headquarters, United States Continental Army Command (USCONARC). The first class at Fort Dix – composed of candidates who had completed basic training, attended the Leadership Preparation Courses, and graduated from advanced infantry training – began in October 1965. The program, designed to provide cadre personnel who would assist drill sergeants in the training of recruits, was approved by USCONARC and adopted by the other Army training centers. Late in June 1966, the Drill Sergeant Assistant Course was redesignated the Drill Corporal Course.
Meanwhile, the five Fort Dix training regiments underwent modernization on 1 August 1965, when they were redesignated training brigades. The 1st Training Regiment was redesignated the 1st Advanced Individual Training Brigade, while the 2nd and 3rd Training Regiments became basic combat training brigades. The 5th Training Regiment was renamed the 5th Common Specialist Training Brigade. Under the reorganization, the 4th Basic Combat Training Brigade was activated on 11th October 1965 and its companies assigned to the 2nd and 3rd brigades. The change, result of a study made by former Secretary of the Army Stephen Ailes the year before, placed five companies in each of the brigade’s five battalions. Each company had a capacity of 220 trainees. In addition, each of the basic combat training brigade’s headquarters and headquarters companies were redsignated as headquarters detachments.
With reorganization of the training brigades came the announcement that Faculty Group would be redesignated Committee Group on 2nd October 1965. Faculty Company, then attached to the post’s Special Troops, was transferred to Committee Group, with the group becoming a major command reporting directly to Infantry Training Center Headquarters. Its mission was to conduct standardized training through the committee system for units undergoing basic combat training, in conformance with programs published by USCONARC. It also conducted instruction of the Leaders Training School (NCO), Leaders Training School (Trainee) and later the Special Training Company (BCT).
On 10 December 1965, Special Training Company was activated within Committee Group to provide extra training for men having trouble with the requirements of basic combat training. The assignment of 23 cadre, including three drill sergeants to each platoon, provided personnel and time for special physical programs, counseling to enhance confidence and motivation, and close personal supervision. Special Training Company offered extra individual attention that an ordinary basic combat training company could not afford because it would distract from the overall training mission. During its first eight months of operation, 142 of the 200 men assigned to the company mastered their individual areas of weakness to the point that they were able to return to the basic combat training cycle to complete training. However, trainees requiring the completion of only one specific phase of training to graduate often were shipped to new assignments directly from Special Training Company once that phase was mastered. Most common deficiency was the lack of ability to pass physical training requirements.
On 19 March 1966, the 5th Common Specialist Training Brigade was redesignated the 5th Combat Support Training (CST) Brigade, in accordance with a message from USCONARC. It was felt that the title “common specialist training” did not accurately describe the mission of the brigade, which provides the Army with competent combat support specialists.
Five months later, in August 1966, expansion plans were announced that would make the 5th CST Brigade the largest of the four training brigades at Fort Dix, with an anticipated 75 percent increase in personnel. General Orders 276, issued on 19 August by Infantry Training Center Headquarters, organized five battalions within the brigade – an increase of three over the two provisional battalions – consisting of 25 companies in place of the previous eight. In mid-October, the brigade’s trainee strength had more than doubled, increasing from 3,500 to 7,300. As examples of the expansion, the number of students in the Supply Clerk Course almost quintupled, while enrollments tripled in another course and doubled in two others. This reflected the increased number of Selective Service calls during the preceding months, which were needed to provide trained individual replacements and to active new Army units, particularly for Vietnam.
Amid the expansion, the 5th CST Brigade launched its ninth annual “Operation Santa Helpers,” a project to collect outgrown or discarded toys, repair and repaint them, and distribute the “new” toys to needy military families and orphanages and charitable institutions in the surrounding communities. Toy pickup points were established in September. As in the past eight years, the toys – ranging from games and dolls to children’s cars, trucks and bicycles – were repaired by student-mechanics at the brigade’s Wheeled Vehicle Mechanical Course who had completed training and were awaiting orders. The cadre also aided in the project when not engaged in instruction. Members of the brigade took an unusual interest in the project and received a great deal of personal satisfaction from using all of the tools and equipment in the repair shop. More than 4,500 toys of an estimated value of $40,000 were repaired and distributed prior to Christmas 1966.
On 30 June 1963, a new unit, Special Processing Detachment, was activated and assigned to the 1387th Replacement Company. Currently the detachment administers AWOLs, deserters, and persons apprehended by military and civilian authorities in New York and New Jersey who are confined at Dix. The detachment also arranges their subsequent assignments or discharges. Its parent organization, the 1387th continues to process all incoming personnel returning from overseas for duty on post and reenlistees who do not require basic training.
The 60th Ordnance Detachment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) received orders on 6 April 1965 assigning it to Special Troops. Operational control remained with the 542nd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, Fort Jay, New York, as it had since August 1957. Today’s 60th Ordinance Detachment is capable of detecting, identifying, rendering safe, recovering, field evaluating and disposing of unexploded United States and foreign explosive items. Such items include bombs, shells, mines, rockets, pyrotechnics, demolition charges, guided missiles, and special weapons that have been launched, dropped, placed or armed in such a manner that they constitute a hazard to personnel or material. They also include the disposal of explosive items rendered unsafe due to damage or deterioration.
Training explosive ordnance reconnaissance personnel, both military and civilian, is another responsibility of the 60th Ordnance Detachment. It provides instruction for explosive ordnance reconnaissance agents throughout New Jersey. Considering that the unit at any time may be called on to aid civilian communities in the event of a bomb threat or similar emergency, the importance of the 60th Ordnance Detachment is recognized well beyond the gates of Fort Dix. In such instances, the danger is just as great as if the unit were performing its mission on an actual battlefield or at some training camp where artillery firing is taking place.
Just such an incident occurred during 1965, when a rumor spread across the country that a number of Vietnamese dolls in the possession of United States residents might be booby trapped. Experts from the 60th aided civilian authorities in disposing of the dolls, once such action had , County on 25 October. It collected and destroyed 68 eight-to-15-inch dolls that had been turned in to police departments in the area. Authorities at Fort Benning, Georgia, said the rumor apparently began in Vietnam and spread to the United States in letters from servicemen. The oriental dolls turned up in almost every part of the country, but none was found to be booby trapped. Explosive experts at Fort Benning x-rayed and examined nearly 200 dolls without finding anything other than straw and rubber.
To provide the “Home of the Ultimate Weapon” with a distinctive musical symbol representative of the training mission and the pride and spirit of the trainee, CWO Samuel F. Brown, Jr., then commanding officer of the 19th and 173rd Army Bands, composed “The Fort Dix Proud Trainee” in April 1965. The song, which is heard at appropriate occasions involving trainee participation, was created to ease the transition from marching with cadence to marching with Band music.
Commanders of major and separate units were urged to compose a second verse, symbolic of their unit. With this musical addition, the Fort Dix trainees appeared to march with snappier cadence and more pride and spirit.
The words of the song are:
We’re training, fighting men of the Army.
The rifle is our friend, in the Army.
We train to be prepared and never to forget,
The training on the rifle range and with the bayonet.
We’re the Army, the marching Army.,
Proud of our training, fighting team esprit de Corps.
Proficiency Park becomes the final test,
Where every soldier strives to be the best.
Prepared for all eventuality, is the FORD DIX PROUD TRAINEE,
Ready to fight for right and freedom,
Ready to fight ‘till victory’s won.
Ready to serve Old Glory.
Serve her proudly, ‘till the day is done.
Ready to fight on hill or lowland, in the defense of Liberty.
Ready to die, if it is Thy Will, Be Done,
IS FORT DIX PROUD TRAINEE
Meanwhile, Fort Dix had made several contributions to civilian as well as military, life. Projects included medical research, support of the Project Advent Satellite Communications System, law enforcement assistance in riot-torn Mississippi, and the President’s youth opportunity programs.
Working in conjunction with the post medical service in 1960, a civilian research unit from Columbia University made a definite health contribution by developing an adenovirus vaccine for the reduction of influenza. To carry out research, two Columbia technicians worked closely with medical personnel assigned to the Fort Dix Health Center. The development of a vaccine illustrated the close relationship between Army medical services and civilian agencies in the joint search for better means to protect the nation and its soldiers from disease.
Fort Dix had a minor part in the “space race in 1961 by providing limited logistical support to one of two “Project Advent” instantaneous global communications ground stations in the United States. In July of that year, one of the stations was erected near dix and the other placed near Camp Roberts, California. A shipboard terminal, operating at sea in many parts of the world, tested communication capabilities. The system permitted simultaneous worldwide transmission of high speed radio teletype and voice broadcasts.
Project Advent called for stringent reliability requirements in space technology. Advent satellites were designed to remain operative for at least one year without failure. In addition, altitude control and tracking capabilities were built into each satellite to permit adjustment of its positon to synchronize with the earth’s rotation Horizon sensors were used to keep the satellites’ antennas continuously turned toward the earth. The satellites contained several receivers and transmitters for microwave communications with ground tracking stations and receiving signals. The communications and telemetry antennas were located on one end of the satellite.
A year later, fort Dix’ 716th Military Police Battalion was tasked to maintain law and order in riot-struck Mississippi community. The riot-control-trained battalion was airlifted on 30 September 1962 from McGuire Air Force Base to Oxford, Mississippi, to enforce desegregation at the University of Mississippi and to escort James Meredith, the first Negro ever to enroll in “Ole Miss,” to classes. The 716th was the second Army unit to arrive at the university following rioting and other disturbances designed to prevent a Negro from enrolling in the previously all-white institution of higher learning. The first unit to arrive was the 503rd Military Police Battalion from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Upon arrival, the 716th bivouacked near the Oxford airport and immediately set up road blocks around the campus and sent out patrols to prevent further rioting. In addition to escorting Meredith, the Fort Dix military policemen safeguarded the dormitory and other campus buildings, issued passes to students and faculty members, and patrolled not only the campus but parts of Oxford. Relieved of their chores in October, three of the 716th companies returned to Fort Dix. On 20 November 1962, the officers and men of Company B returned to the post. While at Oxford, Company B had patrolled the own and campus and secured Baxter Hall, on-campus residence of James Meredith. The 720th Military Police Battalion from Fort Hood, Texas took over the vigil at Oxford upon departure of the 716th.
In April 1963, Fort Dix again was called on to provide assistance to a civilian community – this time in the local area. Men and equipment from Fort Dix battled raging brush and forest fires that swept through southern New Jersey for four days. Area fire fighters had been unable to contain the wind-whipped flames and asked Fort Dix for assistance. Within 45 minutes of the first distress call, the Fort Dix Fire Department and soldiers of Company L, 1st Training Regiment, were dispatched to the scene. They were backed up by men of Company K, 1st Training Regiment, and assisted by the 716th Military Police and 86th Engineer Battalions. Military policemen aided local police officials in controlling traffic and establishing traffic control points. Using military radio patrol jeeps, a radio communications network coordinated civilian and military efforts. Men of the 86th Engineer Battalion battled the fires with giant bulldozers by cutting fire breaks and clearing away charred debris.
The two main areas of conflagration nearest the post were in Jackson and Pemberton Townships. The fire blazed its way south, leaving 60,000 acres of charred and smoldering woodland in and around Lebanon State Forest. At the height of the fires, almost 1,000 Fort Dix soldiers and miscellaneous military fire fighting equipment were at the scenes. The bulk of the men were from Company K and L of the 1st Training Regiment and Companies D and P of the 4th Training Regiment. In addition 200 beds and mattresses and more than 400 blankets were sent to the Toms River Courthouse Annex to help the homeless.
In the interests of civil defense, another community service was provided the surrounding areas by Fort Dix personnel. On 1 January 1964, the post’s chemical officer was delegated the responsibility of training local civilian radiological defense monitors. The first class was conducted at Margate, New Jersey, on 25 January 1964.
When President Johnson’s Youth Opportunity Campaign was initiated at Fort Dix in June 1965, the Civilian Personnel Office announced that the post could hire 25 youths. This was in accordance with the federal government’s policy of hiring one extra civilian trainee for every 100 employees on the payroll to stimulate more than 500,000 work-training opportunities lcontinuing essential and critical operations, it was decided an additional 175 youths could be used during the summer. The request was forwarded to the Department of the Army for consideration. Upon receiving approval, the jobs were filled, resulting in Fort Dix exceeding the President’s requirements to create additional positions for young men and women between the ages of 16 and 21. In 1966, the Civilian Personnel Office at Fort Dix hired 310 economically or educationally disadvantaged youths, who worked during July, August and September as part of the President’s “War on Poverty” program.
The 1960s saw a continued program to improve morale, health and welfare services and facilities for military personnel and their dependents. Enhanced were Special Services programs and facilities, medical care, Army education opportunities, religious facilities, post exchanges, sports programs, and open messes.
More than 8,000 basic trainees from all of the basic combat training regiments at Fort Dix were entertained in 1960 by “Operation Entertainment,” which brought soldier variety shows to bivouac areas for infantrymen undergoing field training. Initiated by the post entertainment director, the shows provided relaxation and amusement for trainees who, while spending a week in the field, had little opportunity for recreation. The first of these shows took place in June 1960, and the project continued through September. A troupe of 16 performers in each show entertained trainees on bivouac, using the back of an Army truck as a stage. The group also entertained patients in Walson Army Hospital and went on to perform in service clubs. The program continued during summers of the next six years, with more than 10,000 bivouacking troops entertained in 1966.
The addition to Fort Dix of Walson Army Hospital in 1960 was not the end of new medical facilities built on this post in the Sixties. Quarters for 80 nurses, constructed in an area adjacent to the hospital at a cost of $750,000, were ready for occupancy in March. A huge, modern red-brick barrack, costing $691,000 and designed to house 326 medical enlisted men, was ready for occupancy near Walson the following year.
In June 1965, a $1.3 ilingmillion construction program began on a two-story addition for clinics and a one-story Air Evacuation Center for Walson Army Hospital. The two-story addition increased medical facilities at the hospital by 32,000 square feet. Opened 22 June 1966, it was occupied by preventive medical facilities for Army health nurse programs of immunization, physical examinations, and child and adult health care and the following clinics: dental, dermatology, neuropsychiatric, pediatrics, pharmacy, surgical and medical, and eye, nose and throat. After these facilities moved into the addition, the builders returned to expand the areas vacated by some of the clinics and modify activities remaining on the first floor of the original hospital.
The Air Evacuation Center, a joint operation involving Fort Dix and McGuire Air Force Base, moved into its newly built facility at the hospital in May 1966. The addition is 14.5 feet high and expands floor space by 6,000 square feet. Responsible for giving medical care to air evacuation patients en route to their final destination, the center handled between 750 and 825 patients a month between July and October.
Despite the expansion of the Sixties, not all medical facilities are located in the hospital complex. The Medical Activities Building on Pennsylvania Avenue, formerly known as the Health Center, houses facilities for the Mental Hygiene Consultation Service, the First US Army Medical Personnel Procurement Office, the veterinarian, and the Columbia University Research Team. The Medical Processing Center of the Department of Hospital Clinics, located on Florida Avenue, conducts physical examinations.
During 1966, a staff coordinator from Walter Reed Hospital arrived at Walson Army Hospital to develop plans for WRAIN-University of Maryland, a program for training student nurses at the hospital. Plans call for the first group of student-nurses from the University of Maryland to arrive at Fort Dix in July 1967 under the WRAIN (Walter Reed Army Institute of Nursing) program.
The Army Education Center located at 8th Street and New York Avenue, offered a variety of services to raise an individual’s education level through collegiate training, on-and off-duty instruction, self-study and examination. Additionally, high school and college courses through the United States Armed Forces Institute were offered. Nearby colleges, including Rutgers, Trenton State, Temple, Rider, Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania, offered evening courses, which permanent party soldiers could attend. In 1964, Trenton Junior College offered a program of courses to Dixans to complement those already available. By 1965 a broad field of courses ranging from sociology to data processing was available to post personnel.
Continued emphasis on education brought a marked increase in the number of high school graduates or equivalent among the ranks of enlisted personnel. With a goal of at least a high school education for enlisted men in the Army, a general educational development test was administered and diplomas issued. In February 1961 alone, a record of 413 permanent party enlisted personnel successfully completed the high school equivalency test.
In the Sixties, the post’s six libraries continued to serve the interests of Fort Dix personnel. By the end of 1966, the Main Post Library contained 30,000 volumes with more than 1500 phonography records in the music room. In addition to the main library, branch libraries are located in four of the service clubs and Walson Army Hospital. Also, a library bookmobile serves personnel at Nike Army Air Defense Command sites in Clementon and Swedesboro, New Jersey and Edgemont,
Pennsylvania. The total number of volumes in the Fort Dix Library system exceeds 65,000. On-post libraries serve the entire Fort Dix community, with emphasis on nonfiction and reference materials.
The time-worn cleche, “better late than never,” properly describes an incident involving the Post Library in 1964. Bruce Williams of Westfield, Massachusetts, was a civilian employee at Camp Dix in 1917, At that time he “borrowed” a book from the Post Library. In mid-1964, a small package arrived at the Post Quartermaster’s Office. In it was a book of John Greenleaf Whittier’s Complete Poems, along with a note from the man who had borrowed the book 47 years before. Said Williams in his letter, “I would rather return the book now than have folks think I failed to return it to its rightful owner. Please forward this to the librarian.”
Today the library’s scope is supplemented by arrangement with New Jersey’s Public and School Library Services Bureau. This arrangement provides practically everything in the way of reference material. A microfilm viewer has been purchased, and microfilm of the New York Times and several periodicals, spanning the years 1961 to the present, are available for viewing.
Religious facilities on the post received a major boost on 11 April 1963 when groundbreaking ceremonies were held for a 600-seat Post Chapel and Religious Center. The center, featuring complete religious education facilities, was dedicated on 3 September 1964. Earlier, on 29 June, construction of a 300-seat regimental chapel had begun in the 2nd Training Regiment Area. AT the time the post chapel opened, 13 others were in operation. Each had chaplains available to servicemen and their families. Regular services were scheduled for Protestants, Catholics and Jews. In addition, services were conducted for specific denominations, such as Christian Scientists, Episcopalians, Latter-Day Saints and Lutherans. Each of the chapels provided an active religious program, which included religious instruction, baptism, and marriage, in addition to general programs of Sunday School, catechism classes and Hebrew School.
Meanwhile, after extensive renovation, the Main Post Exchange was reopened in June 1964. Two snack bars, two filling stations, a beauty shop and tailor pick-up point were added to the exchange system. Sales of all exchange facilities during 1965 totaled $13 million and in 1966, almost $15 million.
Other changes were made on post to improve morale and welfare programs and facilities. Among them were revision of the Army sports program, opening of additional Special Services facilities, refurbishing the Fort Dix Officers Open Mess, and construction of a new Fort Dix NCO Open Mess.
The post golf facilities were complemented in 1962 with construction of a driving range. In 1963, five softball fields, two tennis courts, a baseball field, and a football field were added to Fort Dix.
Also during 1963, a 24-lane bowling alley was constructed. When it neared completion, a wire service story with a Washington D.C., dateline was carried in the local newspapers quoting the mayor of Wrightstown, New Jersey, the community adjoining Fort Dix. He stated he would appear before the Senate Armed Forces Committees to air his complaints against ‘unfair competition by the services.” News stories in the local papers, including publications in Philadelphia, Trenton and Newark, followed. Although queried by many press representatives, Fort Dix officials did not comment on the mayor’s remarks. Opening on 30 September 1963, the $338,000 Fort Dix Bowl was considered one of the finest bowling alleys on any military installation.
Since its 1917 inception, Fort Dix has had successful sports programs, and this was well exemplified during the 1960s. however, a 1965 change in the Army sports program eliminated many of the post-level teams and interinstallation competition. Too much military training time was used by individuals to train, travel and compete in such sports. Until this change, Fort Dix had excelled in competition between installations. Presently only those sports that lead to international competition, such as boxing, basketball, wrestling, track and field, triathlon and soccer, are supported. Teams travel only once – to the site of the Army’s area championships.
Over the last 10 years of interinstallation competition, Dix captured 61 First US Army championships, 42 runner-up awards and 12 third-place finishes. In 1960 Fort Dix won the First US Army basketball, boxing, volleyball, table tennis, flag football, bowling and horse shoes championships. 1961 saw the post-level teams repeat in the first five sports above and add the baseball title to their string of victories. Fort Dix athletic teams won six of nine First Army championships in 1962 and continued their winning performances in 1963. Softball, baseball and horseshoe championship laurels were added in 1964, although the track and field team failed to retain its championship.
In 1965, Fort Dix won First US Army championships in boxing and basketball, the two sports during the Sixties in which Dix athletes always excelled. At the time of the Army sports program change, the boxing team had won six consecutive championships and the basketball team an even more impressive 11 straight. On their way to the First Army basketball championships, the “Borros” had posted some phenomenal season records, such as 43-2 in 1960 and 34-1 in 1962.
Fort Dix also played host to a number of important sporting functions during the Sixties. The post was the headquarters and training camp for the 1960 United States Olympic Boxing Squad, which faired so well in the Olympics at Rome. Among the team members was a classy young boxer named Cassius Clay, later to become the professional world heavyweight boxing champion.
In May 1961, the 14th Conseil International du Sport Militaire Boxing Championships were held in the Sports Arena at Fort Dix. Nine countries were represented in the bouts conducted from 9 through 12 May. The teams represented Italy, West Germany, United Arab Republic, Belgium, France, Iraq, Austria, Tunisia and the United States. The United States team won the championship.
Famous professional athletes also have trained or been stationed at Fort Dix. Pole vault star Don Bragg was assigned to Fort Dix when he was a member of the 1960 Olympic track team and holder of the world’s indoor pole vault record.
The football world has been represented by such all-pro standouts as linebacker Jim Houston of the Browns and former Giant tackle Roosevelt Grier.
Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers might have been in trouble during recent years if they had two of their “Dix-trained” stars. Trading baseballs for hand grenades did not seem to bother Dodger hurlers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.
Nor did it seem to hinder 1965 American League home run leader Tony Conigliaro of the Boston Red Sox. All-American cagers Sihugo Green from Duquesne and Al Ferrari of Michigan State trained here before making successful transition to professional basketball.
Today, Fort Dix offers an excellent and varied sports program for the athletically included soldier. Currently there are 18 major sports in the installation’s sports program. Offered are bowling, basketball, table tennis, badminton, volleyball, track and field, tennis, golf and swimming. Also included are softball, horseshoes, flag football, boxing, wrestling, soccer, weight lifting, skeet shooting and handball. The current Army sports encourages maximum participation by personnel for physical development, teamwork, and the enhancement of the esprit de corps. This is accomplished through company intermural competition. At the discretion of the commanders, a maximum of two hours daily during duty hours is authorized for sports training at installation level and below. All competition between teams is held during these two hours and off-duty time only. Two fully enclosed, lighted softball fields were completed at Dix in October 1966, making it possible for soldiers to participate in softball games during the hours of darkness.
Both the NCO and officers’ open messes witnessed major improvements in their facilities in 1963 and 1964. In the last quarter of 1963, the bar, cocktail lounge and TV room at the officers’ open mess were completely renovated and refurbished. On 1 December 1964, ground was broken for a new $650,000 NCO open mess. The air-conditioned structure, which had its grand opening in February 1966, contains a ballroom with a seating capacity for 550 persons. The building is complete with bandstand, performers’ dressing room, 175-place dining room, 20-man stag bar, barber shop, snack bar, cocktail lounge, television lounge and service bar.
In February 1965, the Fort Dix Community Service Center was established to assist in meeting the social welfare needs of military personnel and families who live at Fort Dix or in the surrounding communities. Located in the old hospital area in Building S3648, the center is staffed by professional military social service workers and a host of volunteers. The center is guided by a board of governors and meets family needs through two broad programs: family services and youth activities.
The family service program is designed to assist families on an emergency basis, when hardships result from illness, death, moving, financial crisis or other unexpected events. A committee was established to provide information to newly arrived families about services available, such as the location of the commissary, post exchange, theaters, hospital and religious facilities. Referral services are provided in the areas of marriage, finance and welfare services in New Jersey.
The broadest of the programs is the youth activities program, which operates on a year-round basis for children of all ages. Activities include the Fort Dix Teen Club, brownies and girl scouts, cubs and boy scouts, and youth sports such as bowling, baseball, football and basketball.
A youth employment bureau was established to provide such summer jobs as camp and recreational counselors, as well as on-and off-post employment for interested teens and college students. The service of volunteers in every activity – recreation, arts and crafts, athletics and baby siting – illustrates the service center’s slogan, “The Army Takes Care of Its Own.”
The Community Service Center, which had been singled out in the summer of 1966 for having the best operation of a major installation in the First US Army area, was commended as outstanding in the US Continental Army Command. In August, its record reviewed again, it was proclaimed “best in the United States Army” by Department of Army.
The Dix center was cited by the Department of the Army for assistance given servicemen and their families “during the 1966 expansion of the Army which necessitated moves on short notice for thousands.” In winning the Continental Army Command award several months earlier, the center’s activities had been judged outstanding in all areas of management and in the use of professional personnel, community resources, volunteer workers and an advisory council.
As the first half of the 1960s drew to a close, a change affecting all installations in the eastern United States took place. It was decided by Department of the Army to merge Second US Army with First US Army. The merger added a larger area, New Jersey and parts of New York and eastern Pennsylvania, to Fort Dix in its responsibilities of supporting off-post units and activities. However, its mission of training troops continued as if no merger had taken place. The phase-in of the merger, which inactivated Second US Army, began in July 1965 and was completed on 1 January 1966. First US Army headquarters moved from Governors Island, New York, to Fort Meade, Maryland, previously the home of Headquarters, Second US Army.
During the Phase-in period, Fort Dix hosted the visit of civilian aides to the secretary of the army from the then First and Second Army areas. On 28 and 29 September 1965, they met with the commanding generals of the two armies as well as those of the II, XX and XXI US Army Corps. During their stay at Dix, members of the group were briefed on the merger of the armies and the training mission and activities of the United States Army Training Center, Infantry, Fort Dix. They also visited training and other activities on the post.
The aides are civilian advisors to the secretary of the army, the Army chief of staff and the commanding general of the Army areas in which they live. Their function is to interpret Army missions and objectives to the community and civilian views and reactions to the Army. The group’s visit came at the end of the first half of the Sixties – a period when the nation faced perplexing crisis. Cold War activity and the challenge to freedom’s frontiers had continued throughout the five years, then exploded with active combat in the Vietnam War.
Again the American soldier was called on to fight in a land thousands of miles away from home. Young men in increasing numbers were inducted to fulfill their obligation in the military service of their country. Fort Dix’ continuing mission of training such men and preparing them for combat never diminished during the sixth decade of the 20th Century. Just as their older brothers and uncles in the Korean War, their fathers in World War II and their grandfathers in World War I, the Fort Dix-trained soldier of the 1960s displayed the courage, loyalty and love of country for which US Army men long have been noted. Never had the US Army received men who responded so well to training and assimilated it so fast. Perhaps this speaks well for the training abilities and dedicated of their trainers.
And so, the primary mission of training troops did not change over the years – only the methods to perform that mission. In a world where different types of war – nuclear, conventional and unconventional – could be fought, lighter and more efficient weapons and equipment plus up-to-date methods and tactics were furnished and taught the modern soldier – America’s Ultimate Weapon.