|Col. Michael Cleveland - Garrison Commander (Right) and Command Sgt. Maj. John Thomas - Garrison Command Sergeant Major (Left) watch as Maj. Gen. Janson Boyles - Adjutant General of Mississippi (Center) cuts the ceremonial cake. |
Born in the drive to supply troops to Europe to stop the advance of the Axis Powers, the Camp McCain Training Center has remained a vital component to maintaining national defense for 75 years.
The Mississippi National Guard, retirees, and civilians celebrated the camp’s anniversary December 7 with a ceremony featuring artifact displays from its history, special award ceremony, monument dedication, and cake cutting.
During the ceremony, Col. Michael Cleveland, Camp McCain’s garrison commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. John Thomas presented the Maj. Gen. H. Pinckney McCain Distinguished Award of Merit to Maj. Gen. Janson D. Boyles, the adjutant general of Mississippi, Command Sgt. Maj. John Raines, the state’s senior enlisted advisor, and Col. Joe Hargett, state director of operations. The new award recognizes conspicuous long-term service for or on behalf of Camp McCain.
Boyles spoke about the legacy of the installation on preparing Soldiers for deployments overseas.
“Congratulations on 75 years, but I will tell you the next 75 years are just as important,” Boyles said.
Cleveland dedicated a 75th anniversary monument, located on the parade field, to past, present, and future Soldiers.
During the cake cutting, Boyles again recognized George Mullen, a Grenada native and resident. A World War II veteran, Mullen was drafted in 1943 and passed through Camp McCain while en route to basic training at Camp Wheeler, Georgia. He served with the 79th Infantry Division and was part of the second wave of U.S. forces to invade France at Omaha Beach in June 1944. He was wounded in action.
At its peak in WWII, Camp McCain trained two divisions to preserve freedom in Europe as a federal installation. Although it is now a state facility, it provides training year-round, not only to MSNG units, but also for active and reserve components from throughout the U.S.
The post, which comprises approximately 13,027 acres in Grenada and Montgomery counties, was established December 15, 1942, and is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
In the early 1940’s, the War Department acquired 42,073 acres for the Army to use as a training base. Once the camp was established, its name was changed from Grenada Triangular Division Camp to the present day Camp McCain in honor of Maj. Gen. Henry Pinckney McCain. The general came from a famous family of military men from neighboring Carroll County, but distinguished himself as the father of Selective Service after establishing the World War I draft. He is also a forebear of John McCain, a current U.S. senator from Arizona and a former prisoner of war.
Camp McCain was one of several training camps opened in Mississippi during WWII and served approximately 50,000 troops at its peak.
The post held active training for the 87th Infantry Division until December 1943 in preparation for the European War. The 94th Infantry Division arrived at Camp McCain soon after the 87th and trained there until July 1944, when the unit staged at Camp Shanks, New York, and also deployed to the European Theater.
In addition to training troops for the war, the camp became home to more than 7,700 German POWs.
The camp’s mission ended with the conclusion of the war and was closed in October 1944. Most of its land was sold or returned to other agencies. It was declared surplus in January 1946, but the state claimed the remaining 3,000 acres and some rifle ranges.
Mississippi reopened the camp, expanded and developed it as a National Guard training facility, and that mission continues today. The camp can house 1,200 troops and has a number of tactical training facilities.
Camp McCain is more than a training site, however. It is also a key component in the state’s disaster response plan.
Jimmie B. Pinnix, Camp McCain’s environmental officer, remembers when Hurricane Katrina hit Mississippi in 2005.
“Camp McCain had a lot of movement from states like Wyoming and Pennsylvania heading down for disaster relief,” he said. “It was used for units traveling through to fuel up because our new fuel facility had come online.”
Whether through training or disaster response, Camp McCain continues to serve the people of Mississippi.