The costs of the proposed World War II expansion project in the Middle Tennessee region were projected at $13 million (approximately $240,000,000 in 2020 dollars) and was expected to cover approximately 40,000 acres. Eventually, the construction costs exceeded $36,000,000 (approximately $666,000,000 in 2020 dollars) and covered an area of 80,000 acres.
The Hardaway Construction Company of Columbus, Georgia and the Creighton Construction Company of Nashville formed a temporary partnership to build Camp Forrest’s 13,000 buildings, 55 miles of roads, and 5 miles of railroad tracks. Over 20,000 people from throughout the southeast region were employed in construction of the camp.
• Crowded Streets, Stores and Restaurants,• Influx of Out-of-Town Families and Visitors, • Renting Rooms In Homes, and• Rationing
Army Air Corps Installation
Impact on Civilian Life
Amenities of Camp Forrest • 2,000 Bed Hospital, Dental Clinic, and Emergent Care facility• Red Cross Services• Chapels equipped for services for at least three different faiths• Library• Post Office• Service Clubs• Theaters• Guesthouses• Post Exchanges (PXs)• 9-hole Golf Course• Sports arena• Tennis• Archery• Swimming
Housing for troops proved to be a recurring problem. No matter the time of the year many soldiers bivouacked in tents during their assignments. The hash Tennessee winters, and sweltering summers often provided the most formidable conditions for soldiers. Camp Forrest employed 12,000 civilians from throughout the middle Tennessee region. The civilian employees operated post exchanges, the 9,000 square foot laundry, vehicle and artillery maintenance shops (jeeps, trucks, tanks, guns), and staffed the induction center. Over 250,000 inductees received their initial physical exams at Camp Forrest.
Training for War In addition to infantry training there were numerous specialty schools at Camp Forrest. One such school taught classes on cooking for soldiers in the field. Classes at the Cooks and Bakers School were taught by Sergeant Bradley.
Army trainees received instruction in house-to-house combat in the first mock village. The 2nd Ranger Battalion trained at the base and later won fame when they scaled the 90-foot cliffs at Point-du-Hoc on D-Day. Camp Forrest provided logistical support for the Tennessee Maneuvers, which occurred from 1941 – 1945. General George S. Patton brought his 2nd Armored “Hell on Wheels” division from Fort Benning, Georgia to participate in the maneuvers.
Civilian Internee and Prisoners of War By the end of the war, over 31,000 suspected enemy aliens/civilian internees and their families, including a few Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, were interned at Immigration and Naturalization Services internment camps and military facilities throughout the United States. Camp Forrest was one of the first internment camps in the nation and housed approximately 800 civilian internees of various nationalities from January to November 1942. By early 1943 the military reservation transitioned to a prisoner of war facility which housed approximately 24,000 German and Italian POWs. The German prisoners were members of the Wehrmacht, which was the name of Germany’s unified armed forces from 1935 to 1945. The Wehrmacht consisted of Heer (army), Kriegsmarine (navy) and the Luftwaffe (air force).
After the War After the D-Day invasion of France in June 1944, training at Camp Forrest was reduced drastically. The camp was declared “surplus” September 1945 and given “inactive" status February 1946. The War Assets Administration (WAA) sold the buildings and all the equipment, but the State of Tennessee retained the land. Everything on the military reservation was either salvaged, sold to the public, or distributed at cost to colleges and universities throughout the southeastern region. Materials were sold to colleges and universities at cost as the federal government anticipated an influx of soldiers partaking in the advanced education opportunities afforded to them by the newly passed G.I. bill.
By spring 1948, the federal government selected the former military encampment site for the location of Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC). On June 25, 1951 President Harry Truman flew to Tullahoma to dedicate the new test site, which was named in honor of General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold. Arnold was the World War II Commander of the Army Air Forces and the only Air Force officer to hold 5-star rank. AEDC is the most advanced and largest complex of flight simulation test facilities in the world with more than 50 aerodynamic and propulsion wind tunnels, rocket and turbine engine test cells, space environmental chambers, arc heaters, ballistic ranges, and other specialized units. Twenty-seven of the center’s test units have capabilities unmatched elsewhere. Facilities can simulate flight conditions from sea level to altitudes above 100,000 feet and from subsonic velocities to those well over Mach 20.
Today, the Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) and National Guard occupy portions of the old reservation grounds. Land that is not occupied by these two organizations is overgrown with trees and there are only a few chimneys and concrete foundations that mark the once busy military base.