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Camp Maxey was a World War II infantry-training camp and associated facilities. It was occupied from July 1942 to early 1946 in Lamar County, Texas. Its main entrance was located nine miles north of Paris, Texas. Planning for the 70,000 acre military post began in 1940, soon after the National Military Draft was ordered; the planning accelerated in 1941 shortly before the United States entered World War II in December, 1941.
On May 1st, 1941, an engineering contract to design a $22,800,000 military camp in northwest Lamar County was awarded to a Dallas firm. On January 20th, 1942, Congressman Patman announced that groundbreaking for the camp was imminent. Construction of the camp started on February 27th, 1942 and on April 2nd, 1942 the Army issued General Orders No. 17, which included the name of the military reservation. The facility near Paris, Texas was named Camp Maxey in honor of Major General Samuel Bell Maxey. The first US Army personnel to manage the new reservation arrived on July 4th, 1942. The post was activated by the US Army on July 15, 1942, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Callie H. Palmer.
The first division to be trained at the camp was the 102ND Infantry Division. Cadre personnel of the 102ND Infantry arrived at Camp Maxey on September 1st, 1942 and was formally activated on September 15th, 1942, under Major General John B. Anderson. The 102ND Infantry Division before the war was a National Guard infantry unit from Missouri and Kansas that formed in 1921 and was nicknamed the “Ozark Division”. Nationwide military enlistment greatly expanded throughout 1942 in response to US troops departing for combat action in the Pacific and European theaters. Young men from throughout the United States filled the 102ND Infantry Division’s ranked and arrived for training at Camp Maxey. Trainloads of draftees began arriving and the division began to grow to its authorized strength of 40 000.
The field training of the draftees consisted of a variety of infantry exercises spread over the reservation’s 70,000 acres. The varied terrain provided facilities for working out problems of infantry training to meet modern battle conditions. An artillery range, obstacle course, infiltration course, and "German Village" were included in training maneuvers. In an era before electronic targets, camp designers used an ingenious arrangement of ropes and pulleys to pop silhouette targets up in windows and doorways to add authenticity and realism to the village training area. The camp’s obstacle course used challenging barbed wire barriers and small dynamite charges to simulate artillery explosions.
In March of 1943, Command of Camp Maxey Administration was passed to Colonel Robert O. Annin, who remained there for the duration of the war. In late 1943, the 102ND Division departed after one year at Camp Maxey, moving to Louisiana for maneuvers before being sent into action in France shortly after the Normandy Invasion. Major General Anderson remained at Camp Maxey to command Tenth Corps Headquarters.
In November of 1943, the 99TH Infantry Division, nicknamed the “Checkerboard Division”, arrived at Camp Maxey under the command of Major General Walter E. Lauer. The 99TH Infantry Division trained at Camp Maxey until September 1944 and was sent into action in the European Theatre.
In addition to training the 102ND Infantry and 99TH Infantry, Camp Maxey hosted other military units from 1942 through 1945 including the following: 9th Headquarters, 3rd (later 4th) Army Special Troops, Army Service Forces Replacement Training Center (ROTC students from a five-state area), Tenth Corps Headquarters, 1882nd (local administration for the Eighth Service Command), Regional Hospital and Reconditioning Annex, Infantry Advance Replacement Training Center (15 week Basic training for replacement troops to existing divisions after October 1944), and Regional Troops Separation Point (at the end of the war after September 15th 1945). Other non-divisional units trained at Camp Maxey including artillery (250TH Field Artillery who fired the one millionth round of World War II on January 29th 1945), and associated reconnaissance aircraft, tanks, tank destroyers, cavalry, ordinance, quartermaster, signal corps, engineers, medics, and military police (793rd Military Police Battalion was activated at Camp Maxey on December 26th, 1942. The Battalion stayed at Camp Maxey until February of 1944, when they departed for Scotland to train for the invasion of France).
Camp Maxey as a Prisoner of War (POW) Camp
Camp Maxey was a Prisoner of War camp from October 1943 to February 1946. The POW area consisted of barracks and recreation halls inside a large fenced stockade with watchtowers. It was located at the extreme southeast corner of the reservation along the railroad and highway. It was ordered to be constructed in 1942 and projected to hold captives from the Pacific theatre. Triumph for the Allies in North Africa in the spring of 1943, and the realization that the Japanese would not surrender in large numbers, resulted in the internment of principally German troops from the defeated Afrika Korps. Later in the war, more non-commissioned officers arrived from the German army, navy, and air force until the camp grew to 7,458 prisoners by April 1945, but stopped short of its capacity of 9,000. The last German prisoners of war left Camp Maxey in the spring of 1946.
The Closure of Camp Maxey
With the European war over in May 1945, and the Pacific war abruptly ending in August 1945, the principal training assignment of Camp Maxey was finished. Camp Maxey was placed on the “inactive list” on October 1st 1945, with the Regional Hospital to close November 1st. The POW Camp, Separation Point, and station compliment would remain open but its population slowly dwindled. The final issue of the camp newspaper Maxey Times on October 12th, 1945 highlighted the camp’s history, noted the rapidly shrinking populations of its personnel, and featured a farewell message from the Camp Commander COL Annin.
The camp sat empty, but intact, for several years after the war. During the 1950s, the federal government began the final process of dismantling the Camp Maxey cantonment and selling off the land. More than 1,000 buildings were sold for demolition, and some were moved for relocation as public facilities. Several thousand acres were kept intact by the federal government, including the old post command buildings and vehicle shops near Gate 5 (current National Guard Camp Maxey Training Center Headquarters’ and cantonment area), and turned over to the Texas National Guard for a training facility. In the early 1960s some 10,000 acres of the old artillery range on the north side of the former camp along Sanders Creek, conveniently without improvements or public access for the past 20 years, were transferred to the US Army Corps of Engineers for construction of Pat Mayes Reservoir. This reduced the size of Camp Maxey to approximately 6,650 acres.
The National Guard Era
Presently, the installation serves as a training center for the Texas National Guard. Most of the original buildings were demolished or sold and removed. The base falls under the command of the Texas Army National Guards, Training Centers Command located at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas. The camps responsibility is to provide training facilities to units in Northeast Texas region from DFW to Marshall to Texarkana. This area involves various types of units, i.e. Infantry, Engineer and other support units. Some upgrades have been completed over the last decade to include upgraded ranges and troop housing facilities, which occurred during the War on Terror era.
Post World War II, TXARNG Commanders of Camp Maxey: LTC Wisely: UKN, MAJ Smith: UKN, MAJ Todd Lehenbauer: 2007-2013, MAJ Mike Ford: 2014, CPT David Merrill II: 2015–Present
- 1943 News from Camp Maxey
- Information on the 99th Infantry Division
- Globalsecurity.org - about the camp