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During World War II more fighting men were trained in North Carolina than in any other state. The largest of the state’s military installations were Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune, and Cherry Point. The largest non-permanent installations were Camp Mackall, Camp Davis, and Camp Butner.
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Located on approximately 40,000 acres or sixty-three square miles in Granville, Person, and Durham counties, Camp Butner was a combat infantry facility and site of training exercises for an estimated 30,000 soldiers. Named for Maj. Gen. Henry Wolfe Butner (April 6, 1875-March 13, 1937), a native of Surry County and commander of the First Artillery Brigade in World War I, the camp opened on August 4, 1942. Taking part in dedication ceremonies were Gov. J. Melville Broughton and officers of the 78th (“Lightning”) Division. Subsequently the 35th and 89th Divisions were also trained at Butner. The rolling farmland terrain was used for a range of exercises, including rehearsal of gas attacks, camouflage, and river crossings. German and Italian prisoners of war were brought to Camp Butner where they served as cooks and performed various duties.
At the war’s close the temporary quarters were bulldozed and most of the land returned to its former owners. The State of North Carolina acquired about 13,000 acres as sites for a mental hospital, correctional institution, state-owned farms, and National Guard training facility. Today the former military hospital is known as Umstead Hospital.
Eddie L. Smith and Ben Patrick, Voices from the Field: A Pictorial History of Camp Butner (1992)
Sarah M. Lemmon, North Carolina’s Role in World War II (1964)
Mary M. Allen, Origin of Names of Army and Air Corps Posts, Camps, and Stations in World War II in United States (n.d.)
William S. Powell, North Carolina Gazetteer (1968)
(Raleigh) News and Observer, August 5, 1942
Durham Morning Herald, February 10, 1950
Durham Sun, November 27, 1981
POW painting of Camp Butner