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Camp Howze Museum

Soldiers of Howze

Camp Howze was created to meet the demand of soldiers needed for war. The Camp was constructed in 1943, and the early life of soldiers in this Camp was difficult at best. Soldiers were part of the construction group for the Camp. The hastily built Camp housed its soldiers in tar-paper shacks; the units attached to this Camp were the 84th rail splitters under the command of Alexander R. Bolling. As well as the 86th Black hawks under the command of Brig. Gen. Harris M. Melasky, the 103rd Cactus brigade under the leadership of Maj. Gen. Charles Christian Jr. Haffner​​​​​​. 

                                                                                                              84th Infantry Division 

Brig. Gen. Alexander Russell Bolling from Philidelphia served as the commander of the 84th division, also referred to as the “Rail Splitters.” However, it was also known as the “Lincoln” division as it was made up primarily of National Guard soldiers from Illinois, Kentucky, and Indiana – the Lincoln states. The 84th received its insignia of an ax splitting a white rail on a red background as a tribute to President Lincoln’s use of the ax with the addition of a split rail.

                                                                                                              86th Infantry Division 

Brig. Gen. Harris M. Melasky from Austin, Texas, served as the 86th Infantry Division commander at Camp Howze in Gainesville, Texas, from July 16, 1942, to December 1945.

The 86th Infantry Division also referred to as the “Blackhawk Division,” the symbol consisted of a small red shield with the initials “B” and “H” inside of a design of a Blackhawk within a red shield. The personnel of this division was from Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Chief Black Hawk and his tribe formally inhabited this territory; as a tribute to the pioneers of this area, the BlackHawks dedicated their insignia in recognition of their prowess in battles. The Bird symbolizes keenness, cunning, and tenacity.

                                                                                                              103rd Infantry Division 

Maj. Gen. Charles Christian Jr. Haffner was the commander of the 33rd ID Div Arty until he was promoted to the rank of Maj. Gen. and sent to take command of the 103rd Infantry Division, also referred to as the Cactus Division. Brig. Gen. Haffner served as the commander of the camp from August 13, 1942, until health issues forced him into retirement. After his retirement, Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe took command until its deactivation in September 1945.

The Cactus Division received its insignia of a yellow disc with a green Saguaro cactus superimposed upon a patch of blue; it was adopted in 1922. The yellow disc represents the golden sky, while the cactus coming out of the blue saged-covered earth references the southwest.

Daily Life

Camp Howze was a temporary camp designed primarily for immediate utility and was built in a hurry by contractors. In September of 1942, the first set of soldiers moved into the Camp as carpenters and electricians continued their work. As the Camp neared, its construction soldiers had a variety of attractions to visit within the Camp.

Service clubs were offered solely to enlisted men; these clubs offered dances, games, camp radio programs, and areas to relax. Enlisted soldiers had three of these camps to choose from, and each one could be found near a dining facility. The Camp offered two libraries which were always stocked and supplied for military personnel. The libraries were found in the south wings of the two main service clubs.

For recreational fun, the Camp offered six War Department theatres that provided camps with the latest movies. The theater was also used in the daytime to show troops training films.