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CAMP BARKELEY. Camp Barkeley was eleven miles southwest of Abilene in Taylor County. It was originally planned as a temporary camp for infantry and supply troops, but during World War II it became one of the state's largest military installations. The camp was named for David B. Barkley, a native Texan who was awarded the Medal of Honor in World War I. A clerical error apparently caused the discrepancy in spelling. Construction of the camp began in December 1940. The government leased 70,229 acres, with the option to purchase a small portion, to accommodate the facility and maneuvering grounds. Although the cost of the camp was originally estimated at $4 million, when it was completed in July 1941 costs totaled $7 million.
The first unit to occupy the camp was the Forty-fifth Infantry Division, consisting of 19,000 men under the command of Maj. Gen. William S. Key. The division occupied the still unfinished camp on February 23, 1941. The 45th Divisional News was published at Camp Barkeley. One member of the paper's staff, William Mauldin, became a famous war cartoonist during World War II. Other units in addition to the Forty-fifth trained at Camp Barkeley, among them the Ninetieth Infantry Division and the Eleventh and Twelfth Armored divisions. The Medical Administrative Officer Candidate School was established at Barkeley in May 1942, and from it 12,500 candidates eventually graduated.
The camp also served as a camp for German prisoners of war. On February 1, 1944, the 1846th Unit POW Camp was activated under the command of Lt. Col. Harry Slaughter. At its peak in March 1945 the POW camp housed 840 prisoners. Two months after the camp opened, twelve prisoners escaped, but all were recaptured within a week.
On April 30, 1945, Camp Barkeley was deactivated. At its peak it had a total population of 50,000. It was officially closed in September 1945 and dismantled. The War Department estimated the total cost from December 1940 to September 1945, including land and construction, at $27,332,000. At the time it closed, the military reservation encompassed one-ninth of Taylor County—77,436 acres—of which the government owned 18,976. After the camp was abandoned, the leased land reverted to its owners. Camp Barkeley had long-term effects on Abilene. Construction and army payrolls helped the local economy, and the community's demonstrated ability to maintain satisfactory relations with a large military population was a factor in the government's decision in the 1950s to locate Dyess Air Force Base there.
BIBLIOGRAPHY:John J. Hatcher, "Camp Barkeley: Abilene, Texas," Texas Military History 3 (Winter 1963). James M. Myers, World War II as an Instrument of Social Modernization: The Social and Economic Influence of Camp Barkeley on Abilene, Texas (M.A. thesis, Hardin-Simmons University, 1981).
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, James M. Myers, "Camp Barkeley," accessed April 26, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qbc02.
Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.