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Commander blackballed whole city as not fit for soldiers
Liberty Lore
camp stewart mess hall
A 1940s era postcards showed one of the mess halls on Fort Stewart with the soldiers' tents in the background. - photo by File photo

The establishment of Camp Stewart caused a lot of heartaches and headaches, but also successes for the installation and the city of Hinesville. We are very thankful that Fort Stewart is still in our midst today. I have gathered several facts about the early years:

On Nov. 13, 1940, the War Department announced that the “Savannah Anti-Aircraft Base, with headquarters in Hinesville, Georgia,” had been officially named Camp Stewart in honor of Brig. Gen. Daniel Stewart of Liberty County. In the Midway cemetery is a huge monument in his and Gen. Screven’s honor that was unveiled in April 1915 and erected by the U. S. Congress.

U. S. District Judge W. H. Barrett informed all landowners who lived on lands destined to be part of Camp Stewart that they had to vacate their land by March 24, 1941. One very prominent landowner was so depressed by having to leave that he jumped in his well and drowned himself.

In spring 1941, there were two roads from Hinesville to Camp Stewart known as “Boomtown” and “Zoomtown.” A travelers-aid office had over 138 inquiries for living accommodations in October 1941.

Hinesville City Council had a difficult time keeping full-time employees to clean the streets and collect garbage, as their pay was so much lower than the wages at Camp Stewart. Liberty County employers turned to child labor. A child from 12-16 years old could make more than a schoolteacher.

The child delinquency rate went up in the city and county. A 15-year-old boy was accused of helping to burn down the motion picture theater in Hinesville.

During the winter and spring of 1943-44, there were 40,000 troops stationed at Camp Stewart. The number of students at Bradwell Institute increased from 439 in 1940 to 672 in 1943. In all the Liberty County schools, there were 2,500 students and 83 teachers.

“Mudge” Stafford was elected mayor of Hinesville in 1943, and worked hard to clean up the city. The first streets were paved under his administration. He worked very closely with the Camp Stewart officials to establish recreational facilities in Hinesville. Stafford Memorial Park, located on the grounds of the National Guard Armory, was named in his honor.

Liberty County Work Camp inmates were sent to Georgia state prisons in November 1943. Striped uniforms, spiked anklets and governor’s pardon power were abolished.

“Hinesville Hedy” and “Boomtown Sadie” were two female impersonators in a Camp Stewart musical production, “Who Is Leslie?” It played for three weeks to packed houses.

Shoot ’em Down was the weekly post newspaper at Camp Stewart in 1941. A recreational center on East Henry Street in Savannah was operated by the special services office at Camp Stewart which had 500 beds in hutments, showers, a post exchange and lounging rooms. For a quarter, a soldier could spend the night there.

There were two USO clubs in Hinesville — one for the whites and one for the blacks. Hinesville Country Club had two tennis courts for white soldiers only.

By 1944, 19 commercial buses ran through Hinesville.

Ten members of the U. S. Armed Forces from Liberty County died during World War II.

Camp Stewart was inactivated in July 1946, and had 62 people to guard the post and its property. Many of the former property owners of Camp Stewart reservation wanted to buy back their property and “go home again,” but it was not to be done.

Many businesses in Hinesville had to close after the war ended. The “big boom” of World War II became the “big bust” of the postwar years.

In 1947-48, National Guardsmen and U.S. Army Reservists from all over the United States started using Camp Stewart for summer training.

From 1953-56, Gen. R.W. Mayo was commander and placed Hinesville off limits to his troops for a short time because he felt it was not a fit place for them to reside and visit.

Camp Stewart became Fort Stewart, a permanent military installation, on April 7, 1956. It was officially designated “Fort Stewart Anti-Aircraft Artillery and Tank Training Center.”

This information came from “Sweet Land of Liberty: A History of Liberty County, Georgia” compiled by Robert Long Groover in 1987.

Love is a history buff.

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