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CAMP BULLIS

CAMP BULLIS. Camp Bullis, a United States Army camp, occupies 12,000 acres on Interstate Highway 10 and Harry Wurzbach Road seventeen miles northwest of San Antonio in Bexar County. Camp Bullis and Camp Stanley make up the Leon Springs Military Reservation. Camp Bullis was established in 1917 to train troops in preparation for the growing threat of war in Europe. It was named for Brig. Gen. John Lapham Bullis, who as a lieutenant led the Seminole-Negro scoutsqv during the Indian Wars. During World War I Camp Bullis provided maneuver areas and small arms and rifle ranges for troops from Fort Sam Houston. No units were stationed at the camp. In all, more than 32,000 acres was owned and leased by the government. By 1918, $1,350,000 had been spent on cantonments and improvements in the Leon Springs Military Reservation. After the war Bullis was used as a site for demobilization. Between 1918 and 1940 the army planned and built permanent facilities at the camp. Construction of the cantonment area was begun in 1930. The old arsenal in downtown San Antonio was moved to Camp Stanley in 1931, and the use of that camp for troop training virtually ceased. In 1931 Camp Bullis received a ten-bed infirmary, an officers' mess, vehicle sheds, a landing field, a post exchange, and a swimming pool, in addition to improved firing ranges.

In 1926 two motion pictures were made on the Camp Bullis reservation. For the filming of The Rough Riders troops from the Second Division and Fifth Cavalry were used as extras, and Palmtree Hill was made over to simulate the famous charge up San Juan Hill. For Wings, the Academy Award-winning film for 1927, extensive trench works and a faux French village were built and manned by Second Division troops in German and American uniforms.

During the 1920s and 1930s Camp Bullis provided facilities for training the Civilian Military Training Corps, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Reserve Officer Training Corps, and the Officer Reserve Corps. With World War II looming, Congress authorized the call-up of the national guard, and in 1940 the Selective Service Act was passed. A reception center was established at Camp Bullis in September 1940 to process and train draftees. By December 7, 1941, expansion of Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis was well under way. The camp served for activation and training of infantry divisions, service schools, a reception center, a prisoner of war camp, and a test bed for tactics and organizational units. From January 1942 through November 1943 the Second, Ninety-fifth, and Eighty-eighth Infantry divisions used Camp Bullis. Smaller units continued to use the camp until 1944. After the war 500,000 soldiers were processed out through the separation centers at Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis.

The changing medical needs of the army during and after World War II brought major changes to Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis. By 1944 a school for enlisted medical technicians and a basic training course for army nurses was added. The greater portion of Fort Sam Houston became hospital wards and a convalescent center, Brooke Army Medical Center. Camp Bullis provided field training for small arms and a stretcher obstacle course to train combat medics in the handling of wounded on the battlefield. Camp Bullis was largely on stand-by status until the invasion of South Korea by North Korea in June 1950.

At Camp Bullis the Army Food Service School established a field site, the Detroit Arsenal a tire-testing facility, and the Fourth Army a chemical defense school. The growth of San Antonio and commercial aviation increased air traffic over Camp Bullis, making it necessary to restrict the firing of military mortars and artillery. By 1955 Camp Bullis was providing ranges and training areas for medical units of the regular army, reserve component units, ROTC, and United States Army Reserve schools. Trainers conducted field exercises under realistic conditions, including survival techniques, map reading, and escape and evasion. The trainee loads increased significantly when 40,000 medical personnel prepared for Vietnam duty. The Forty-fifth Medical Unit, Self Contained, Transportable, was the first of these units sent overseas. The unit was a modular facility of inflatable shelters developed at Fort Sam Houston and field-tested at Camp Bullis. A mock Vietnam village was constructed at Camp Bullis to help prepare soldiers for service in Vietnam. In 1965 the air force was conducting weapons training for trainees, air police, and the security service at Camp Bullis.

As the war in Vietnam wound down, so did activity at Camp Bullis. The General Services Administration declared 1,140 acres of the reservation excess in 1972. Dwight D. Eisenhower Park opened on 323 acres transferred to the city of San Antonio in 1988. Another ninety-four acres was transferred to Bexar County in 1977 to allow the widening of Blanco Road, and forty-seven acres was turned over to the county for a park near Borgfield Drive. These reductions had little effect on the mission of the camp.

In 1977 an Air Force Security Police Training Site, known as Victor Base, was constructed to accommodate the Air Force Security Police Academy. The air force was subsequently the largest single user of Camp Bullis until 1987. The army began emergency deployment readiness exercises at Camp Bullis in 1973, when elements of the 101st Airborne Division from Fort Hood were air-dropped at Camp Bullis. Other exercises were conducted by the 101st and the Eighty-second Airborne in 1980 and 1981. In 1985 the 307th Medical Battalion and a French army medical unit were air-dropped on Camp Bullis. A combat assault landing strip was constructed in 1983. The First Marine Amphibious Force conducted landing operations at the strip in 1986 and 1989.

Unit training at Camp Bullis for the garrison and tenant organization of the Department of Defense has been vigorous and sometimes innovative. Commanders have taken their administrative, overhead, and garrison troops to practice "real soldiering" at Camp Bullis. Since the Vietnam War the post has undergone organizational changes. In 1990 the camp was under the operational control of the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization, and Security at Fort Sam Houston.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Camp Bullis: A History of the Leon Springs Military Reservation, 1890–1990 (San Antonio: Fort Sam Houston, 1990). Edward S. Wallace, "General John Lapham Bullis, the Thunderbolt of the Texas Frontier," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 54, 55 (April, July 1951).

Art Leatherwood

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Art Leatherwood, "CAMP BULLIS," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qbc06), accessed July 29, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.