The memory of Camp Howze lives on in the knowledge passed down through generations. In Gainesville and the surrounding areas, there are efforts by educators, volunteers, historians, librarians, and curators to preserve and educate others about the area’s local WWII history. The teachers in Cooke and Denton counties, the living historians and volunteers in the Camp Howze Military Vehicle Preservation Association (Camp Howze MVPA), and the staff at the Morton Museum of Cooke County and Cooke County Library all contribute to furthering the legacy of Camp Howze.
A few educators in Cooke and Denton counties are preserving the history of Camp Howze by teaching their students about the connections the army training camp had with the local community and within the broader context of World War II.
Educators Lucinda and Robert Hess, of Denton Independent School District mention Camp Howze as it pertains to WWII. They educate about the German POWs held in the camp during the war. Specifically, they mention how “the prisoners went to work for the farmers in Muenster and Lindsay because the local population could speak German.” It was expressed that Camp Howze is only briefly mentioned as one of more than 30 military camps in Texas. Regardless of the quick mention, Lucinda Hess conveyed that the children find the camp interesting because of its close proximity to Denton.
Educator Rick White from Callisburg Independent School District teaches Camp Howze as part of his WWII unit in junior U.S. History classes. According to White, the camp is described as a “connections to home,” expressing how the war affected the local area.
Camp Howze MVPA's History Alive program
A group of living historians and volunteers in the Camp Howze MVPA has made it their mission to educate the community about World War II and the history of Camp Howze. Through public events and educational programs, Camp Howze MVPA ensures present and future generations understand Gainesville’s connection to the war and the sacrifices made by what journalist Tom Brokaw first called “The Greatest Generation.”
The nonprofit started in 2012 with about a dozen members as a chapter of the international Military Vehicle Preservation Association. Since many members were from the North Texas area, they decided to tie their chapter to Camp Howze and leverage the local historical ties in its work.
It soon became clear that its members wanted to do more than restore old vehicles. Their military cars, jeeps, tanks and other artifacts have amassed into a rolling museum that tell the stories of WWII and wars of later generations. Camp Howze MVPA now has nearly 50 members from Texas and surrounding states who own about 45 fully restored military vehicles the group regularly shows at schools and community events.
Camp Howze MVPA takes its rolling museum mostly to middle and high school students in local school districts, private schools, and home school programs to deliver knowledge about WWII soldiers and Camp Howze.
Camp Howze MVPA’s History Alive Weekend events transport attendees of all ages back in time with people in period dress for historical reenactments, preserved military vehicles, and educational displays.
The video on the left and the brochure below offers an in-depth look at the History Alive Weekend in 2016, which included a variety of presentations, interactive learning sessions, reenactments, and a United Service Organization (USO) show. From learning about the food, transportation, gear, and artillery to how soldiers would have communicated and received their medical care on the battlefield, Camp Howze MVPA educates the public about the daily life of a soldier and life on the home front during WWII.
Brad Meeks, public information officer for Camp Howze MVPA, restored an old military jeep with the paint and markings of a medic vehicle in the 103rd Infantry Division from Camp Howze.
Meeks said: “I’m using this World War II jeep as an ice breaker. You walk up and you look at it. I’ll allow you to crawl up and sit down in it. We’ll start it and you’ll listen to it. That’s something you can’t do in a museum where you are behind the line. We feel like we’re able to take that educational impact a little closer and be able to help really sit some things in when you smell it, feel it, and you get to ride in it. If I was able to ride in a World War II tank when I was young, I would still remember it right now. That’s what we’re hoping with this younger group coming out. We want to give them those experiences that they can carry with them so that by the time that their kids come around, which is so far removed from World War II, there will still be an impact [of what they learned.]”
Listen to Brad Meeks talk more about the work of Camp Howze MVPA and how the nonporfit supports and honors veterans as well as its other community events.
Cooke County Library
Though it was not in its current home on South Weaver Street in Gainesville, the Cooke County Library was welcoming patrons during World War II when Camp Howze was an active army training camp.
In the years after the camp's deactivation, the public library has acquired many documents, books, and newspapers about Camp Howze. The library has a plethora of material regarding the army training camp, ranging from the Gainesville Daily Register newspapers, land survey records, maps from the United States Army Corps of Engineers to novels, and even a grade schooler's research report.
Some of these items are held in handmade binders. Materials such as the newspapers can be viewed on microfilm. However, current work is underway by the University of North Texas to digitize copies of the Gainesville Daily Register and Camp Howze Howitzer to be made available through the Portal to Texas History.
Morton Museum of Cooke County
The Morton Museum of Cooke County is another one of the few physical places open to the public that hold artifacts from Camp Howze. Founded in 1968 by the Cooke County Heritage Society, the museum aims to share about the major milestones in the county’s past.
Among the exhibits at the museum is one about Camp Howze. Through photos, newspaper clippings, camp documents and more, museum goers can learn more about the army training camp that called Gainesville home during WWII. Some of the more unusual items in the museum's Camp Howze collection over the years, have included an ammunition for a cannon and commemorative Camp Howze pillow tops soldiers used to purchase and send back to loved ones during the war, according to Shana Powell, who served as curator of the museum from 1986-2007. (Listen to Shana Powell talk about Camp Howze and the museum's collection.)
The museum has played a role in commemorative events for the army facility such as “Camp Howze Days,” held Sept. 13-15, 1991. The front-page Sept. 13, 1991 article from the Gainesville Daily Register below highlights the itinerary of the three-day event alongside two large photos of Camp Howze artifacts on display at the Morton Museum during that time.
Years later, the Morton Museum partnered with Camp Howze MVPA to display the well-attended exhibition, “Sentimental Journey,” which ran from Feb. 28-July 31, 2014.
The exhibit filled up the entire museum and included special sections dedicated to the 84th, 86th, and 103rd infantry divisions that trained at Camp Howze. On the opening night Feb. 28, 2014, members of Camp Howze MVPA donned period clothes and brought out their restored WWII military vehicles to celebrate.
“We took a lot of pride in it. We actually went out to [where] Camp Howze [used to be] and pulled up grass, grabbed sand, and pulled up an old dead tree to set up a pup tent scenario with actual grass and dirt in the floor of the museum,” said Brad Meeks, public information officer for Camp Howze MVPA.