Camp Shanks, New York

Camp Shanks, New York, was the final stateside stop for 1.3 million soldiers who processed through this staging area and prepared for departure from Piermont Pier to the European Theater of Operations. Units bound for France were shipped overseas from Piermont Pier, approximately four miles away, where a monument marks their embarkation. Units bound for England were transported to the NYPE.

HISTORY: On the evening of 25 Sep 42, over 300 Orangeburg residents met at the Orangeburg School (now the city library) to learn that their homes, lots, and farms (amounting to approximately 2,040 acres west of the museum) were being seized for the immediate construction of a military camp. One hundred thirty families lost their homes. If the United States was to transport troops and equipment to Europe, it had to expand its military facilities around New York City. Colonel Drew C. Eberson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was the Chief Engineer during constuction. Camp Shanks was a rush job, completed between Sep 42 and May 43 at a cost of $44,391,335. Charges of corruption, petty theft, and disorderly behavior by workmen plagued the project. In Jun 46, a federal grand jury cleared the military and the contractors of charges of graft, but acknowledged major problems among some of the labor unions, primarily consisting of a gigantic kickback system. Camp Shanks officially opened 4 Jan 45 under the command of Colonel Kenna G. Eastman. The barracks in which the transient soldiers lived measured 20' x 100', and consisted of two rows of bunks and three coal-burning pot-belly stoves which provided the limited heat. Two WAC detachments, consisting of over 400 women, were assigned to the camp, and filled positions ranging from clerk to mechanic to warehouse staff to armorer. Their freedom of movement on the installation was restricted. Camp Shanks comprised one of three staging areas on the eastern seaboard. The other two, Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, NY, and Camp Kilmer, New Brunswick, NJ, when combined with Camp Shanks, made the area the largest staging area in the world. One of the primary functions as a staging area was to ensure each soldier and WAC left the U.S. fully equipped before crossing the Atlantic. The final field inspection at Camp Shanks identified any problems, made any necessary repairs, and replaced anything which could not be repaired. At the beginning of the war, no large depots existed in England from which soldiers could get their equipment. They carried their essentials with them in their backpacks or barracks bags. During the second half of 1944, Camp Shanks was sending tens of thousands of troops overseas. Staging peaked in Oct 44, when 78,354 troops arrived while 85,805 troops departed. By the end of Nov 44, all staging areas in the U.S. stopped their final field inspections. Shortages and replacements could be handled from supply depots in England. When the soldiers were notified that they were on "Alert" status, they knew they would be shipping out within twelve hours. The soldiers removed their division sleeve patches, and their helmets were chalked with a letter and a number, indicating the proper marching order from the camp to the train and the railroad car to ride in. It was a short train ride to the New Jersey docks, and a harbor boat ferried troops to a waiting troopship. One source also advised that troops marched the four miles from the camp to the Piermont Pier where they boarded troopships. Camp Shanks also housed 1200 Italian and 800 German prisoners of war between April 1945 and January 1946, with the first Germans arriving in June 1945. At the close of the war, 290,000 POWs passed through Camp Shanks as they were processed for return to their native countries. The last German to leave was on 22 July 46. Camp Shanks closed in Jul 46.


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Copyright 2001, J. R. Puckett
J. R. Puckett
Revised: 1/3/04