north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Essay:
     Like other North Carolina military installations, Camp Mackall was constructed hastily as part of the mobilization effort during World War II. Much of the land on the 66,000-acre reservation in Richmond and Scotland counties was already government-owned, part of a reforestation project in the 1930s. Other tracts were former peach orchards. Construction began in November 1942 with the building of sixty-eight miles of roads and seven bridges. Temporary sawmills were set up to produce lumber from the felled pines.

     Camp Mackall, home to the Airborne Command, was the nation’s first large-scale post for airborne troops. The Army command was responsible for all parachute, glider, and air transported troops. From a single parachute platoon the force grew to include the 82nd Airborne followed by the 101st, the 11th, the 13th, and the 17th. Brig. Gen. William C. Lee, often called the “Father of the Airborne,” commanded the 101st Airborne Division.

     Originally called Camp Hoffman, the installation was renamed in 1943 for Pvt. John Thomas (Tommy) Mackall of Youngstown, Ohio. Drafted in January 1942, Mackall volunteered for parachute training at Fort Benning. He died in a parachute assault on Algiers in North Africa on November 1942. Initial news reports indicated that he was the first American paratrooper to die in combat and elevated him to hero status. In actual fact he was one of three troopers to die on the same mission but his name was the first released to the public. Mackall’s mother spoke at the dedication of the camp on May 1, 1943. The first maneuvers were conducted in December 1943, demonstrating the theories of attack by air, strategies successfully used in the decisive days of the war in Europe.

     Operations at Camp Mackall were suspended in 1946 but the facility later reopened under the auspices of the command at Fort Bragg. Today the camp is a major asset of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg. Approximately 90,000 troops train annually at Camp Mackall. The Army holds over 7,900 acres with maneuver rights to 70,000 acres of adjacent state and private land. The installation has an airfield with three 5,000-foot runways and three drop zones (George, Rhine, and Luzon) for paratrooper training. A missile complex was completed in 1988. Camp Mackall’s eastern border is seven miles west of Fort Bragg’s western border and therefore is noncontiguous with the older facility.


References:
Sgt. Robert J. Griggs, “The History of Camp Mackall” (1966)—copy in the Research Branch, North Carolina Office of Archives and History
38th Troop Carrier Squadron, Camp Mackall, North Carolina. Army Air Forces Troop
Carrier Command, Off We Go (1944)
(Raleigh) News and Observer, May 1 and 2, 1943; and January 25, 1946
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north carolina highway historical marker program


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