Camp Training and Operations
Camp Howze was designated for the purpose of training infantry and artillery soldiers. For this purpose, most of the camps’ grounds were given over to training fields. The camp could train 40,000 soldiers at a time and over the course of four years pushed through hundreds of thousands of American soldiers, the majority of whom were arriving in Texas for the first time. This included the 84th “Rail-splitters” Division, the 86th “Black Hawk” Division, and the 103rd “Cactus” Division. A monument honoring the 103rd division sits just north of Gainesville, with the names of every man who died or went missing in battle engraved on it.
The new soldiers, both volunteers and draftees, came from all over the country. Some wrote home describing the area as a desert. Sam Jones, a former Military Police on the base who came from Corpus Christi said “I was led to believe Camp Howze was in beautiful green rolling hills. When I got here, I thought the world had turned into dead grass and dust”. Most of the local communities, who were happy to support the war effort, welcomed the soldiers. Local residents would even be approached by soldiers inquiring about the cowboys, gunslingers, and other cliches they’d learned about in popular culture. However, the African American soldiers at Camp Howze were a camp-related issue for the local area. During the war years, segregation was an important element of Southern life and culture, and it was an official US military policy. A 2,000-man black unit was stationed at Camp Howze, and black soldiers were restricted in the jobs they were authorized to do so most served mainly in the motor pool.
The training of soldiers included drill ranges for firearms, grenades, and bayonets, as well as large-scale artillery ranges used to train both the operators of the artillery and the spotters. The majority of these troops' time was spent improving the abilities they would need to survive in battle. While hundreds of thousands of troops trained for deployment in the camp, not everyone in the camp followed down that path. To maintain base operations, for example, a permanent detachment was required at Camp Howze. The daily life of a training soldier at Camp Howze consisted of endless hours of physical training in preparation to be shipped to the Western Front of World War II, as well as recreational time at the USO, shopping, or at one of the five theatres at the base to help them feel more at home.