The Original Rockford Nostalgic Website

Camp Grant Gallery Three

Wash day at the camp, the soldiers were responsible for doing their own laundry

On occasion everything in the barracks would be taken outside for some sanitary airing out, including their beds and personal articles, even if the tempature was ten degrees below zero.

Sports was a great tool for the army to keep it's soldiers in shape, teach competitiveness and build confidence. Above the men are engaging in a friendly game of basketball.

With the issuing of the new rifles to the soldiers began the training of the division in the art of modern warfare, to learn things never before taught the American soldier, such as camouflage, close combat weapons, mines, deep gallery shelters and other cover against shell fire, construction of listening posts, perception of subterranean sound.  Pistols and signal rockets, communication with airplanes, wiring, observation and sniping, gas school,  bombing, musketry, automatic rifle, trench mortar, fortifications and other specialties and countless other subjects incident to the new methods of fighting.

Viaduct leading to the 300-target rifle and machine gun ranges. In September, 1918 an additional 1,200  acres of land along the Kishwaukee river was purchased for an enlargement of the rifle range. In the middle of October the work began on the actual system of trenches. In detachments the men of the division were marched to a rolling stubble field just  east of the cantonment. Soon fresh turned earth ran across the landscape for half a  mile. For days the work continued, barbed wire entanglements were stretched over the length and breadth of the system until before long there lay a labyrinth of  trenches. When completed, the firing trenches, communications and approaches  were named after streets of Chicago and other cities from which men had been sent to Camp Grant, and the dugouts and strong points for well known hotels and  resorts. Over this trench system was fought battle after battle, and staged maneuver after maneuver, the lines were occupied and evacuated, barraged, stormed, counter attacked, until the sandy parapets and firing steps caved in under  the strain.

Soldiers collecting brush on the rifle range

A view of the rifle range at Camp Grant. In this view you can see the targets, river and river bridge in the distance

Another view of the rifle range, the soldiers are bundled up against the snow and cold

A line of soldiers participating in target shooting from one of the trenches

Soldiers lined up behind a bunker fortified with dirt and sand bags

Target practice at the rifle range with the Army issued Craig 30-06 rifle and bayonet

A close up view of one of the targets

Target practice with a Lewis Machine gun at the rifle range

Learning the proper procedure of hand grenade throwing

Soldiers jumping over a wooden obstacle while carrying a weapon

Hand to hand combat training the field

Training with live shells on the artillery field

Many hours each day were spent at drilling, in bayonet practice, and in mimic battles fought in Camp Grant’s twelve  miles of trenches. The trench system, laid out under the supervision of French and English officers, covered 100 acres and included dug-outs, bombproof shelters and a “Y” recreation hut which was ten feet underground. In what was known as “Martin’s Garden,” a secondary trench system on the rifle range, recruits learned to explode hand grenades and occupied trenches while machine gun bullets whistled  overhead. There was instruction in the use of gas masks, including periods spent  in chambers filled with tear gas.

Soldiers marching up a hill during training

Soldiers taking a break on the hillside

Field Engineers

Field kitchens were utilized to keep the hungry soldiers fed during training in the field

In this view of the field kitchen, on the left is a horse drawn wagon that carried the equipment and rations to the field

Infantry on the march

War Savings Stamps or Certificates were issued by the United States Government and paid four percent interest and were tax free. War Savings Stamps could be registered at any post office, insuring the owner against loss, and sold back to the government through any post office with ten days notice. The program was popular with small investors who could not afford the more expensive War Bonds. The campaign began on January 2, 1918 and closed at the year's end. When the stamps matured on January 1, 1923, the Treasury Department promised to pay the sum of five dollars for each certificate. In little more than a year over $1 billion was raised in this campaign.

Throughout the fall and winter of 1917-18 Camp Grant was visited by a steady  stream of celebrities. Former Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard  Taft, Secretary of War Newton D. Baker and Governor Frank O. Lowden were  among the earliest visitors. Among the many notables to visit the camp at one time  or another were Major General John J. Pershing, Ignace Jan Paderewski and  Sarah Bernhardt. Former President Theodore Roosevelt who was known as the Colonial paid a visit to Camp Grant on September 26, 1917. He arrived with his party on a special train over the Milwaukee road from Chicago at 12:30 P.M. and left the cantonment  at 2:15 P. M.

Colonel Roosevelt was met at the train by Major General Thomas H. Barry and staff. Major General Barry was the first man to greet the former president as he stepped off the train. After posing for photographs, Roosevelt and Barry took a waiting auto and an inspection and tour of the camp began. Members of the staff of Major General Barry followed in two autos, other autos followed with other officers of the camp. Two autos containing newspaper men brought up the rear. No stops were made during the tour and they proceeded toward the speakers stand.

When the first automobile, carrying Major General Barry and Colonel Roosevelt appeared on Kishwaukee road south of the reviewing stand someone called “Here he comes!” A shout went up which was prolonged into a cheer, with deafening cheers which grew into a roar, mingled with the roll of drums, Major General Barry and Colonel Roosevelt excited from the automobile and entered the  spacious speakers’ stand which had been erected in the rear of the offices at division headquarters.

Twenty one thousands soldiers and civilians who spread out over the open field in front of the speaker stand.  After Colonel Roosevelt and his party had been seated, Major General Barry advanced to the railing of the speakers stand and said:  “Comrades of the Eighty-sixth division, we are all greatly honored by the presence here today of the former commander-in-chief of the American army – a man, who in the last war crisis of this country was one of us and who took an active part in that conflict. He needs no introduction to you at my hands,” Major General Barry continued, “Colonel Roosevelt,” Major Barry said, turning to the former president, “I cannot speak in too high praise of the young men before you. I need not tell you of the interest they are taking in the task before them. Whatever you may say will farther inspire us to the task ahead which is to keep freedom’s soil beneath our feet and freedom’s banner over our heads. I now introduce to you Colonel Roosevelt.

Colonel Roosevelt proceeded at once with his speech.  “Major General Barry and you officers and men of the Eighty-sixth division represent the mobilized manhood and patriotism of this country,” he began. “I came here to pay my homage to you. When this war is over you will not have to offer excuses for why you were not in it. Every man who has not gone into the war through no fault of his will have to make excuses – something you will not have to do.

 I came here today to express my admiration and wish that I might be permitted to go along with you. I envy the chance you have and I congratulate you that you are on the home team. I pity the men of the sidelines, but not those on the team.

 “Men, you are going away to fight abroad, so that, in the future, we will not have to fight at home. I hear, every now and then, some tom fool ask why we are at war, and why fight abroad. I can answer that by saying because we don’t want to have to fight at home! We are going over the seas to fight because we do not want to fight here later at a disadvantage.

 “No fight was ever won by parrying a blow. Fights are won by hard hitting at your adversary. And let me tell you it is the nation that is able to hit the hardest that is the most respected among other nations. It is the nation that can strike the hardest and the often-est that will win in the long run.

 “Ours must be a country which has the respect of other nations. I want to see that preached by every minister in every pulpit. This country must develop a decent citizenship which will fight for the flag. Conscientious objectors must be eliminated, if the conscientious objector to our war does not want to fight for the flag those of us who are not so conscience stricken should see to it that he does not vote. If you men are willing to fight for the country it is to you, then who are to have the nation’s fate in your hands. No man should vote unless he is also willing to fight, even in times of peace.

 “When this war is over we should establish by law compulsory military training. It should be obligatory upon every citizen. If such a law had been enacted years ago we would not now be so sadly lacking in means of national defense. If we had compulsory military training, never again would we be forced to receive the protection of foreign nations as we are now doing until such time as we can get in position to protect ourselves.

 “The people of this country must not now be fooled about our present fighting ability or what is being done. Had we not been protected these months by the armies of France and England we would not have had all this time to make preparation for fighting.

 “But young man you are doing a wonderful work – and I am proud of you. But we have been at war eight months – at the receiving end of the game – and we have not done anything yet to discommode Germany. Instead of springing to arms millions strong overnight, we have been jumping lively these eight months. We are organizing now and profiting, I hope by our past mistakes, and it will be a crime if these cantonments are abandoned at the end of this war.

Those with the rank of lieutenant and above could socialize at Officers Club in Camp Grant, have meals and drink with other officers. It also provided libraries, entertainment and areas to allow officers to entertain guests.

An interior view of a portion of the officers club with the brick fireplace at one end of the building, the broad windows and double dormer windows provided plentiful light.

Camp Grant Post Office for the convenience of everyone at the camp and for speed of delivering military correspondence. The postmark on the mail was Camp Grant, Illinois.

The PX supplied the soldiers with toiletries, magazines, writing materials, tobacco, candy, snacks, ice cream, soft drinks and sandwiches. Soldiers could cash checks and money orders and exchange cash for canteen coupons  used as credit towards the purchase of PX items. As an Army operated organization, the Exchange promised the lowest possible prices on all items and profits were distributed to the funds of the training companies for the benefit of the enlisted men mostly to purchase recreational and athletic equipment

An interior view of the 332 Field Artillery Exchange. The post exchange was similar to a country store or the corner drug store not only supplying the soldiers needs, but it was also a place where he could meet his friends and swap stories, a place he was thoroughly taken care of.

The Exchange also operated the tailor shop, barber shops, two ice cream trucks, a horseback riding academy, and auto service station and acted as the agent for laundry and dry cleaning services.

Shortly after the United States entered into World War I, the American Library  Association convened a War Service Committee to distribute library materials to  American  soldiers. This committee oversaw what was to become known as the  Library War Service program. The A. L. A. Library at Camp Grant was opened for  the soldiers use on December 14,1917, after a couple of busy months of planning,  building and organizing. When first opened its reading stock consisted of a few hundred books and magazines but quickly grew to contain over  forty thousand volumes, of which one half were in the main building and the rest  distributed among the various branches and stations around camp. The library has collections of books situated in all of the organizations such as the Y. M. C. A., the Knights of Columbus and so forth and in many recreation rooms established by the army and even in some barracks.

American Library Association facilities like this one were built around the camp. The interior of the library is about one hundred  feet long by thirty feet wide, the books are all on open shelves so the soldier could  wander from shelf to shelf and select the material that most interested him, whether it be  books on military advancement or a book on auto repair or agriculture to further themselves after life in the military. The program effectively demonstrated  the importance of ALA membership, while at the same time showing the value of  collaboration with other military and welfare agencies, such as the YMCA, YWCA,  and  the Red Cross.

The  Y. M. C. A. buildings were adaptable to a multitude of uses, it was a building of all things to all men. The  buildings were designed  to simultaneously be home, club, church, schoolhouse and entertainment center for the men in uniform. A place where the varied army  Y. M. C. A. programs could be going on at the same time without seriously  interfering with another. There were facilities for movies, lectures, religious talks and  at  the same time the man who wanted to write home, buy a stamp or a money  order, wrap a package, borrow a book or magazine, play a game of checkers or chess, enjoy a chat with his friends or have a heart to heart talk with the  secretary, he could do so.

The single story Y.M.C.A. buildings, or "Huts" as they were often called in the camp were easily distinguishable by their dark  green coat of stain. The buildings had numerous broad windows and double dormer windows that flooded the interior with sunshine, and the doors placed at convenient intervals offered ready access. Alongside and parallel to the large wing snuggles a smaller one, connected to the larger one by a broad passageway. The  larger wing was the auditorium, the smaller the social hall. The auditorium had permanent benches with a stage at the far end with a piano on it, and a movie  screen for showing motion pictures. Shelf desks, for writing, ran all around the walls. In the above postcard notice the small print that states " ©1917 R.I. Co.", this was one of many Rockford Illustrating Company postcards the company produced of scenes from Camp Grant. More information on the Rockford Illustrating Company can be found elsewhere on this site.

In the smaller or social hall wing of the building was a huge stone or brick fireplace that lent a cheerful homelike atmosphere. This room also had writing desks wrapped  around the walls but the center of the long room was full of comfortable chairs,  many of which were rocking chairs and great armchairs, a comfort the soldier had  in his civilian life.

The Y. M. C. A. Headquarters building was necessary, and from it the activities in  all of the centers were directed. There the head camp secretary, the camp athletic director, the camp song leader, the camp religious work director, the camp  educational secretary, the camp social director, and the other head secretaries, had their offices and rooms.

Their building likewise was the peak of convenience and efficient arrangement. It  was a two story structure with the entrance slightly to the right of middle of the longer side. The entrance lead into a lobby where there were desks,  heating furnaces for the entire building, chairs and halls leading to right  and left. Numerous offices for the various camp secretaries, a larger committee  room, and storerooms lined with shelves, which were filled with all manner of  requisites for camp work, in the two halls. Across one end of the hall was a one  story "lean to" storeroom for heavier materials and supplies. This place was equipped with scales, a truck, small block and tackle, and the like. The second floor of the headquarters building was divided lengthwise by a hall that ran end to end. Doors opened into the bedrooms of the secretaries, into a well-filled  linen closet, and into the bathroom. The latter was equipped with basins, shower bath  and other customary fixtures. Every inch of space was skillfully utilized.

Some soldiers posing outside one of the Y.M.C.A. Buildings. "The Y. M. C. A. keeps the home ties from breaking. Wherever American troops gather the Red Triangle of the Y.M.C.A. goes to help safeguard the home ideals".

Entertainment in one of the Y.M.C.A. auditoriums located in the "huts". Here are brand new soldiers listening  attentively as a concert orchestra from nearby Rockford welcomes them to the camp. Plays, skits and virtually all types of entertainment were held in the Y.M.C.A. recreation halls. Billiards, ping pong, reading and refreshment were available too.

One of the many movie nights at th Y.M.C.A. Buildings, this one at hut number two, one of eight located at the camp.

Many classes were offered at the Y.M.C.A. including the above class in French taught by French officers to our men.

In addition to the auditoriums comprising one wing of every Y.M.C.A. hut, a huge central auditorium was built at Camp Grant. This structure measured one hundred and thirty-one by one hundred and six feet and provided two thousand eight hundred and three seats. Several hundred more could be accommodated in the standing room. The building was used for plays, vaudeville, concerts, lectures and large religious gatherings. On Sundays it was open to Protestant, Catholic and Jewish chaplains in turn, and week days would find it in almost constant use. The central part was free from any supporting posts and was large enough for two basketball courts. At one end was a large stage. The auditorium, like the other Y.M.C.A. buildings, was heated by stoves placed on concrete foundations at frequent intervals.

The many workers at the Y. M. C. A. who made the life of a soldiers more fulfilling during their stay at Camp Grant

The Young Woman's Christian Association came into the camp later with that unique institution, the Hostess House, designed primarily to take care of women visitors and furnish a place for meeting the men. The building was designed entirely by women architects. The Hostess House was a large brown bungalow like building which sat near the entrance to the camp. The Hostess House served as a meeting place for mothers, sisters and wives of the enlisted men and officers at Camp Grant.

The Hostess House had a large fireplace in the middle of the living room, rest rooms for women, out of which opened a fully equipped nursery and a cafeteria where attractive meals were served. The building was lighted by electricity and had steam heat like the other buildings at the camp. It also featured sun parlors and the second floor contained bedrooms of the resident hostesses and emergency sleeping quarters for women that were stranded at the camp.

The Knights of Columbus built three Knights of Columbus Halls at Camp Grant. The buildings were dedicated by Right Reverend Peter James Muldoon, Bishop of Rockford and State Chaplain, and from that time on served as the religious centers of the Catholic soldiers and the social and recreational centers for all, irrespective of creed or race. The splendid set of secretaries in charge made the slogan, "Everybody Welcome and Everything Free" more than empty words. Their goal was to make the life of a soldier a little easier.

The uniform of a soldier of the United States or of the Allies was the admission  ticket into the Knights of Columbus buildings and activities. The reading and card  rooms, the billiard room, shower baths and swimming pool were all free to the  soldier. More than one tired and dusty soldier blessed the club for a cool plunge  after a hot day on the field or the range. Above is a view of the alter at a Knights of Columbus Hall.

Interior of one of the Knights of Columbus Buildings located at Camp Grant. The room had a large brick fireplace at on end of the hall, library books on the shelves supplied by the American Library Association library at the camp and a phonograph so the soldiers could listen to the popular tunes of the day.

The spacious lawn was the scene of many a pleasant outdoor gathering and  dances were given each Saturday night. They also had special entertainment, social, athletic and educational programs after its regular meetings for the members of the Knights of Columbus with free transportation to and from the  camp. It also sponsored boat rides and dances on the boat, dinner parties and  entertainment at the Rockford Motor Club. All provided at no cost to the soldiers.

Recognizing that an active social life tended to bind the members together and  make them interested in more serious matters, the council had an unwritten rule, "Something doing at every meeting".  As a result the meetings were well attended.

In athletics the council has always taken a prominent part. Many championships,  both in indoor and outdoor baseball, bowling, basketball and other branches, have  fallen to its teams. In the many spirited contests in which the council had engaged  true sportsmanship had prevailed ; and while its teams did their best to win they   also proved themselves to be good losers. Boxing was a fun and popular sport in camp and at the Knights of Columbus Halls.

   All Website Content Copyrighted By  © 2008-2017