The WWII 300th Combat Engineers

Oregon Image
Medford, Oregon - home of Camp White

History of the 300th Combat Engineers, 1943 to 1945

jeep ferry

Camp White, Oregon

The Camp White training site consisted of buildings and an area stretching to the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. A few miles from the camp were Upper and Lower Table Rocks, flat rock formations hundreds of feet high, and Mt. McGlaughlin which looked like an inverted ice cream cone. In addition to the 300th, Camp White was the training site for their sister battalion, the 299th Combat Engineers.

in Formation at Camp White
300th Engineer Combat Battalion in formation at Camp White.
in Formation at Camp White
Co. A:
5. Newhauser, Burke, Hartstein, Lawler, Harris, Rodriguez, Curtis, Stone, Lyons, Yelton, Mitchell, Black, Boyd, Stokes, W. White, Pelliteri, Shoopman, Cuellar, Tobelman, Bull, Johnson, Dobbs, Caler, Strauss
4. Dillard, Burnet, Freeman, Shields, Lobb, Monthie, Uhr, Morris, Harrell, Morgan, Elliot, UNKNOWN, Browning, Pursley, Puckett, Krug, Beene, Byers, Barrara, Zuniga, Young, Kirk, Hinyup, Badgett, Palmer
3. Vaughan, Reynolds, Foraker, Woods, Harris, Sorrells, Stripling, Cochran, Taylor, Phillips, Edwards, Burns, Vaughn, Long, Burnham, Gordon, Bell, Nesbitt, Hignite, Morrison, Williams, Duncan, Meek, Hogan, Huvar
2. McAlexander, Garrett, Tarwater, King, North, Anglin, Crabb, Satcher, Queen, Oliver, Yeary, Mancha, Duhon, Wagger, Hernandez, Cantrell, G. Williams, Henderson, Hamlett, Akin, Moseley, Schmidt, Barrara, Bryant, Addison, Cuddy, Livingston, Gibbs
1. Wieser, Chestney, Thomas, Livingston, McDonald, Wagnon, Dubec, Vardaman, Lilliard, Pennell, Andrews, McNeil, Hudson, Levitski, Swartz, Taylor, Kehler, Wagner, Gallaway, Knight, Chastain, Woodruff, Key, Ford
Officers of the 300th Combat Engineer Battalion
Officers of the 300th Engineer Combat Battalion, left to right: LT Leo O. Dolan, Asst. S-3; LT Charles B. Shoop, Recon Off.; LT Archille J. Menard, S-2; CAPT Hugh S. D'Anna, Jr., A.D.E.; CAPT Lawarence E. Wood, S-3; MAJ Riel S. Crandall, BN Comm. Off.; MAJ W. Jefferies, Exec. Off.; CAP Frederick A. Wild, Medical Off.; CAP Andrew C. Armstrong, S-4; LT Charles M. Haller, S-1; LT Carl Binger, Dental Off. Photo: Riel Crandall

Medford, Oregon where the 300th trained
Medford, Oregon where the 300th trained. Photo: Harold Palmer

The training of combat engineers at Camp White was rigorous and diverse. It included close-order drills, fitness programs, obstacle courses, short and long (25 mile) hikes, manual of arms training, maintaining and firing rifles,

firing rifles
Camp White training. Photo: Tomme Elliott
bayonet practice, demolition, building and assembling bridges and bazooka training. Other training included map reading, scouting, patrolling, radio operation, tank and aircraft identification, first aid, infiltration and courses in improvising with whatever was available as it was needed to support a mission.

The engineers quickly learned that they would be expected to have a rifle in one hand and a shovel in the other. At the end of training, assignments were made based to some extent on civilian occupations as well as IQ and aptitude tests.

At Camp White; from a presentation by Colonel Riel Crandall at a 300th Reunion in 1996:

Randall I was assigned to the 300th at Camp White near a town called Medford in Oregon. I had never heard of that town. I packed my bag and threw it into my old Chevrolet and headed out. I got there and checked in, signed in at the headquarters there, and I then walked into the 300th. I was welcomed by a First Lieutenant who took one look at me and said, "Who are you?" I said I was Major Crandall and I have been assigned to this outfit. He said, "Thank God because you are the Battalion Commander." So that was my welcome to the job of Battalion Commander. I had about 800 nice-looking, young men, mostly from 18 to 21 and they all came from that section of the United States called Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. I asked how many came from cities and how many from small towns. Most of them came from farms. So, I said to myself, they won't be afraid to try something new.

Sally Campbell recalls troop trains on the way to Camp White in Medford, Oregon:

I was maybe 10 yrs old when the troop trains went through our very small town of Hornbrook, California at the foot of the Siskiyou Mountains. We kids would stand alongside the tracks and wave to the soldiers as the train passed through town on the way to Camp White in Medford, Oregon. Many of the men would write their names and addresses on paper, roll them tight, kind of like a cigarette, and toss them out to us. No doubt they were hoping to get some mature young girl who would write to them. Well, we thought we were just that. We would scurry to collect the rolled up papers then meet at home and very meticulously write a grown up letter hoping these guys might think we were older. One of the younger girls by the name of Elva Skimp received a response and as I recall the soldier who wrote had to think he was writing to someone older or he was just leading us along. I doubt that our handwriting resembled anything but that of a 10-year old. He did say he wanted to come visit which frightened Elva to death. Since I was older, I took it upon myself to write back for Elva. For the life of me I can't remember what I said but it was the last time she heard from the guy. We really thought that we were contributing to the war effort and were so excited to be a small part. Wouldn't it be interesting to know if any of these soldiers who are still around remember their train going through this little town with a very small group of children waving them on and them throwing out their names and addresses?

John Lee Durant enlists:

durantI went to military school in Tennessee. One day the lieutenant asked who wanted to enlist and 50% of us raised our hands. I enlisted immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor. I was in the regular army but I was allowed to finish school. I married my girl and we went to Camp Robinson in Little Rock, AR for my infantry training. I did paratrooper training at Camp Legume. From there I went to Camp White in Oregon. My wife moved out there with me until we left for Camp Shanks in New York.

300th Engineer Warren Chancellor describes becoming a medic at Camp White:

chancellor I was originally assigned to 1st platoon, Company A [at Camp White]. After completing six weeks of basic training which included 20 mile hikes, forced march (four miles in 50 minutes with full field packs, rifle and gas mask), infiltration course and rifle range qualifying, I was told one morning to report to Company A headquarters. Capt. Swartz told me to report to Capt. Wills at the dispensary and I told him I was not sick and did not need to see the doctor. He informed me that my file indicated I was a good typist and had been employed in a pharmacy. He said they needed someone who could type and keep medical records. So I was told at that time I had been assigned to the medical detachment and transferred from Company A. I did continue to live in the Company A barracks.

I always thought it rather strange that since I was in a combat engineer unit that they would choose to use me as a typist rather than a rifleman since I had qualified as "Expert Rifleman." In the final analysis, I am sure everything worked out for the best.

Frederick A. Wild, Jr recalls his experiences at Camp White:

Frederick A. Wild, JrWe were ordered to Camp White near Medford, Oregon, after a month at the Medical Field Service School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Not having any experience traveling, I bought tickets on a day coach and went out to Chicago, St. Paul, across the Dakota "bad lands," Havre, Montana, Spokane and Medford. We stayed in the local hotel until Mary [wife] was able to find bed and bath in a converted playhouse windmill in a backyard where we stayed until Mary was able to find an apartment in the GeBauer apartment house. We stayed there until I went overseas. Meanwhile, I was assigned to a medical battalion, which consisted of about forty doctors under the command of Colonel Larsen, where we went to classes and on field trips with a regular army group of cavalry soldiers from Fort Bliss, Texas, about which the 91st Infantry Division was to be built, commanded by Major General Gerhardt, a wiry little man who had previously coached at West Point. Mary and I got to go on trips to Lake of the Woods, Diamond Lake and Crater Lake.

I was available for medical assistance and I recall one visit when a soldier came into our aid station, a woods spider having crawled into his ear. I have often wondered whether the spider was attracted to the light which I used to peer into his ear, but be that as it may, the spider swiftly galloped out of his ear and away. As the time drew near for the division to be filled to its normal complement (about fifteen thousand men), I had to participate in a 91 mile hike with the cadre, 10 to 14 miles a day, one mile for every number counting to 91. We certainly were glad that we didn't belong to the 400th Division. I can recall how disgusted my aidmen were at the end of each day when, while all the rest of the hikers got to rest, we had to hold sick call, which mostly consisted of bandaging foot blisters. On the last day, we marched triumphantly through downtown Medford with the General leading the troops and carrying a Browning Automatic Rifle as big as himself to the cheers of the townsfolk. What a ham!

The draftees began to come into Camp White and I was reassigned as Assistant Battalion Surgeon to the 361st Infantry Regiment; the battalion surgeon was Arthur "Ratface" Richardson, a Tulane classmate. This didn't last long and on Valentine's Day, 1943, I was reassigned to the 300th Combat Engineer Battalion, with which I spent the remainder of my military career. Shortly after reporting, the machine shop crafted a set of shoulder insignia, captain's bars about nine inches square, and presented them to me to commemorate my promotion to Captain.

William Walter Allen describes how he became a cook:

William Walter Allen The reason I got in the kitchen was because they gave me my shoes at Camp White two sizes too big. In about four or five days my feet were just solid blisters. I went to sick call to get shoes to fit me. They laid me up and ordered shoes to fit me. The doctor said, "You stay in the barracks and come back here every day to doctor your feet to get the blisters cleared up." I was laid up in the barracks for several days. I would go to the kitchen every day to get coffee and stuff. The mess sergeant came up and said, "You are staying over here so much why don't you make us another cook?" I decided to try that - go to bakery school. I'd done had all that marching I wanted. I went to Bakers School for two to three weeks and was assigned a cook.

Aaron Glenn remembers Camp White:

I remember getting into Camp White. We took a troop train from home to Oregon. I was just an old farm boy and wasn't used to the kind of food on that train. When we got to Camp White we unloaded and they told us to go and get our beds and then we could go to the mess hall and eat. And I remember there were great big pictures of milk on the table I sat at. That hit the spot with me. You could look over the mountains where we were in training. There was one tree standing out all by itself. And one day we said we would like to walk to that tree. It turned out that it was nine miles to that tree. Quite a long walk over and back. We done a lot of walking at Camp White.

George Garrison remembers training at Camp White:

We knew what battalion we would be in soon after we got to Camp White. They set us up as two engineer battalions, the 299th and the 300th and we would be sister battalions in the training in Camp White. There was a road right down the middle of Camp White and on the west side was the 91st Division Infantry and on the other side were mostly engineers and a little bit of calvary. They still had a few horses there. Lt. [Frank] Levitski was our platoon leader and everything you did was by platoon which was about 50 men.

Everything we trained for was for the South Pacific. We had bayonet training all day long in that 90 to 100 degree weather. And we trained in hand-to-hand combat. They would show us films and those Japs were super in camouflage. They would show us a forest and the trees would start moving and that would be the Japanese soldiers in camouflage. I knew that if I went over there in hand-to-hand combat I knew I wasn't coming home. I just couldn't handle it.

We heard that Gen. MacArthur in the Pacific said he didn't want anyone from Camp White because when they got there they are over-trained and exhausted so he didn't want us in the Pacific. When they put us on the train, we thought we were going to the Pacific but that train headed east and we ended up in the European Theater.

Willie Hein on weekend leave in basic training in Oregon
Willie Hein on weekend leave in basic training in Oregon. Photo: Willie Hein

A few years earlier, it was local support that brought Camp White to Oregon. In early 1941, the Medford, Oregon Chamber of Commerce suggested that the War Department consider a training site in the Medford area. The Army surveyed the region and chose the "Agate Desert," a flat area seven miles east of Medford. Following the development of the initial design, the War Department announced in May, 1941, that Camp White would be one of nine new training locations on U.S. soil.

Three days after the War Department engineers finished the detailed construction plans for Camp White, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. There was no doubt the training camp was needed. Construction began on an accelerated schedule on February 25, 1942 and was completed on December 14 that same year.

The camp consisted of three zones; a central building core for services, housing and administration and two huge ranges for training and maneuvers. The northwest range was "Beagle Range" and the southwest range was "Antelope Range." The core building area was a one mile wide rectangle.

Five firms combined to build the site at a cost of $27,500,000. Buildings were designed for versatility and speed of construction. All trim and details were uniform for a single "Camp White" look. Work was around the clock with most of the 10,000 construction workers living on site in tent cities. Even though work was almost frenetic, in the end, the camp was considered very well built.

On September 15, 1942, the camp was officially named "Camp George A. White" after the adjutant general of the Oregon National Guard who had recently died. It was 77 square miles and trained up to 40,000 troops at a time. For a time, Camp White became the second largest city in the state.

(Information for the history of Camp White came from the Camp White Museum.)

Co B
Co. B in formation at Camp White.
Co A
Co. A in formation at Camp White.

Following Basic Training at Camp White and a battalion parade before officers and the company commander, the 300th Engineers took a training trip to the high desert in Oregon. Taking with them only combat gear, clothes and personal items, the battalion moved out of Camp White in a convoy with their vehicles.

They moved north into the foothills and into the Cascade Mountains through small towns to a tiny town known as LaPine. The town had an open field and a small stream and a Jack Pine forest. An advance party had already laid out the area in neat rows under the shade of the pine trees. Company areas were designated for the men to put up pup tents with each company having a headquarters tent, mess tent, latrine, garbage pit, water bag and a supply tent. This was to be the new home of the 300th for their specialized training.

The men cut down trees, peeled the bark and hauled them out to be used by the Signal Corps as poles for telephone lines. They became proficient in the use of 30 caliber, water-cooled machine guns. Following the telephone project, the men folded up their tents and moved into the mountains to build a 35-mile road. They set up a rock crusher and hauled the rock to build a road that was lined with large rocks on each side.

After the road building project, it was time to test their soon to be used combat skills. This was a Combat Engineer Battalion and they would not only carry weapons but be expected to use them if necessary in combat. There were both day and night combat exercises. When these exercises ended, the 300th men returned to the LaPine base camp where they learned they had been ordered back to Camp White. The 300th Engineers had just about completed stateside training and now would be shipping out to Europe for more training in England and then on to the invasion.

In Camp White, Roy Welcnel with rifle clowning with Pvt Gilispy
In Camp White, Roy Welcnel with rifle clowning with Pvt Gilispy. Photo: Charles Olive

Don Richter describes his "Moonlight Requisition:"

richter When any item is needed and not available through the normal Army source of supply the person/persons needing the item would, under cover of darkness, go out and fill the need from some other nearby Army Unit or some civilian source. Filling a need by "moonlight requisition" is a nice way of saying filling the need by "stealing." Getting what was needed was not an unusual way of filling a need while keeping up with needs in WWII.

This method of supply was not even unusual inside our own army units. I was injured (smashed my fingernail while helping build a road across the "High Desert" in Oregon) and spent a couple of weeks in an Army MASH unit enjoying super attention as I was the only patient in the hospital. Upon being sent back to duty I found that someone had taken my bedroll. Being out on maneuvers at the time our Supply Sergeant told me that he had no bedding available to fill my needs. I told Joe Leyva of my problem and he said, "Didn't I tell you back in Camp White that I was going to take care of you?

Not to worry." It was turning dark and I saw Joe move swiftly from one pup tent to another taking a blanket here and another there until I was completely re-supplied.

Chuck Bice tells about building a bridge across the Rogue River:

bice This little story is about a lieutenant who didn't know as much as he thought he knew. We were practicing building a foot bridge across the Rogue River in Oregon. The Rogue River was running about thirteen miles an hour which is real swift. We got it completed and the Lieutenant decided he would take a sixteen-foot, flatbed boat with seven men and cross the river above the bridge. So I told him, "Lieutenant, you can't go up across the river above the bridge." And he asked me what was I talking about and I said, "The river is pretty swift and it will wash the boat into the bridge." He assured me that seven men could row that boat straight across the river. And I said, "You will hardly get started."

He loaded them up and took off. As soon as that boat hit the swift current it turned nose toward the bridge and went downstream as fast as it could go. It hit the bridge, broke the bridge in two, and threw some men in the river. The boat went up in the air, turned over backwards with the men in it and they started coming down in the river. There were men on the bridge clinging on for dear life and they managed to pull up on the handrail getting off the bridge.

Foot bridge built across the Rogue River
Foot bridge built across the Rogue River, Oregon by Co. B. Photo: Tomme Elliott
Foot bridge built across the Rogue River
Testing the bridge. Photo: Tomme Elliott

There just happened to be a couple motorboats in the river and they saw it happen and here they come picking men up. It was cold and we had a fire going on the bank and everybody was around the fire and we thought we were missing one man. The lieutenant was really getting frantic because he had already pulled a big boo-boo. We started asking who else was in that boat. There was an old boy, not real smart, from Arkansas sitting there at the fire and I asked, "Were you in that boat?" He said "No." So we looked and we talked and tried to figure who else was in that boat. I looked at him again and said "Perdue [Nolan P.], was you in that boat?" He said "No." So we looked and talked and I looked at him again and said, "Perdue, was you in that boat?" He said "No, I was under it."

He had gone under when the boat took a flip and he could swim like an alligator and he just swam to shore. He was the one that was missing. That kind of relieved the pressure on the lieutenant but it was so strange to a bunch of us that he would not know that you can't put in above a bridge at a close distance. If he had been a mile up from the bridge he would have been all right. He never lived that down.

Randy Hanes describes a training mishap:

hanesOne of our 'mishap' experiences was our attempted assault crossing of the 'angry' Rogue River in Oregon; assembling a floating Infantry Foot Bridge one section at a time. One of the assault boats upriver got out of control overturning and spilling troops into the swift current and then crashed into our partially assembled cork foot bridge midway from the far point and the river bank. Tommy Renfro and myself were stranded in midstream. Luckily, the rope handrails did not break and we pulled ourselves to shore - wet but safe.

Frederick A. Wild, Jr remembers a close call at Camp White:

An incident then occurred which almost cost me my life. We had orders to run in an obstacle course from which no one was excused. It consisted of throwing dud hand grenades, firing a .45 sidearm, and crawling under barbed wire while live machine gun fire made it advisable to keep your head down. This brought us to the banks of the Rogue River where we were expected to sling an M1 rifle across his back, wade across as far as we could and swim the rest, climb out, don a gas mask and run about a hundred yards. No one ever bothered to find out if we could swim, fully clothed and carrying a full pack. Well, I got through all right until I waded out into that damned river. The water was only about knee deep until the last thirty or so feet, when one reached the deep channel and encountered a rather swift current. I still don't think I would have been in trouble except that the rifle strap slipped down over my chest, effectively pinning my arms at the elbow to my sides. Fortunately, when I came up, I found two enlisted men in a skiff, patrolling the area for unlikely warriors like me. One held out what must have been the smallest and yet what seemed to me the largest twig in the world -remember the saying about a drowning man clutching at a straw - which I seized and was drawn to shore. I dutifully donned my gas mask and ran the final hundred yards.

Then we went on maneuvers in the desert as it was called; we lived in wall tents as the battalion prepared "roads" through the sand and mesquite. We depended on the Deschutes River for water. I shared a tent with Major Jeff Jeffries, a very intelligent officer who was the executive officer of the battalion. One night, I came in after playing poker with Major Crandall and some of the other officers. I laid down on my cot and was disconcerted to hear and feel a vibrating sound under my blanket. It was quite chilly on the desert at night. I had never heard the sound that a rattlesnake makes but the thought leapt into my mind that this might be it. I kept quite still and called to Jeff, who was already abed. He got up, drew his .45 and instructed me to throw back my covers. A furry little kitten scurried out! I felt like a fool but I had never heard a rattlesnake rattle.

300th Engineer Don Richter describes training at Camp White:

Table Rock Mountain, Medford, Oregon
Table Rock Mountain, Medford, Oregon. Photo: Harold Palmer

I remember arriving at dingy, smoky Camp White with the view of the Table Rocks in one direction and the inverted ice cream cone in the other. What about the close order drill and morning calisthenics! There was KP, guard duty, tests, short-arm inspections, and shots, shots, shots. Rifle cleaning, target practice, ten minute breaks, combat training, and training films became a way of life for us. Twenty mile hikes and later bivouacs. There was bridge building, blowing up bridges, blasting holes for a firing range, scaling the Table Rock, laying and clearing minefields, crawling under barbed wire with live ammunition, machine gun and hand grenade training and compass reading exercises in pine forests.

There was real competition to excel between the squads of platoons, between platoons of the companies and between the companies of the battalion. Lt. Frank Levitski, an outstanding young officer and soldier, was Platoon Commander of the Second Platoon of Company B. He was determined to have the best platoon in the battalion and drove his men pretty hard to attain this.

I recall when Gene P. Falvey came to B Company as a new Second Lieutenant and announced that we were all out of shape and left a lot to be desired as soldiers. There were to be some changes made as he took over as the Platoon Commander of the Third Platoon of Company B. He must have impressed someone because he was named Company B Commander. There were white glove inspections, field inspections and dress parades. Finally basic training was over and we were real soldiers in the Corps of Engineers at least.

Building 192 ft bridge with 15 stringers over Deschutes River in Oregon
Building 192 ft bridge with 15 stringers over Deschutes River in Oregon. Photo Willie Hein
Finished bridge over Deschutes River in Oregon
Finished bridge over Deschutes River in Oregon. Photo: Willie Hein

Ben L. White describes some of his experience at camp white:

Ben WhiteI was at Camp White in Oregon and I was home sick and I got a letter from home that my grandmother had died. And so I went out and got drunk and passed out in a café and so they threw me in jail which I don't remember nothing about. I do remember them getting me out of jail at one or two o'clock in the morning and they took me and put me in the stockade at Camp White. The staff sargent come out there and got me and he didn't like me very much anyway and he told me that you are in real trouble now. I was sick and I look like a tramp I guess. Swartz (Capt. Carlyle Swartz) came in and he said, "Get out of here and report to me." He looked at me and he said, "Man you are a mess." And I said to him, "I feel bad." And so he said, "What in the world we you drinking?" So I told him I drank beer and wine and he said, "No wonder you're sick." So he said, "I'm not even going to bust you but you are confined to camp for 14 days." And so I said, "Sir you can't confine me for 14 days." He said, "I might not be able to but you're going to wish I had." And I said, "Yes sir." He said, "Go take a shower and clean up." We had this new Lt. Levitski and so Swartz introduced me to him and told me that he was my new Lt. So I went over there and I cleaned up. So the next morning when we fell out the new Lt. wanted to know everybody's name and he came up to me and I told him my name and he said, "I never will forget you" and he never did I don't guess. He was a good old boy. And later on he tried to get me to stay in the army.

Don Honeycutt recalls training in the Oregon desert:

Don HoneycuttWhile we were out in the La Pine Desert on maneuvers, one of the things we had to do was run a telephone line across part of it to a town. It rarely rained out there. One day, five of us were standing around a tree and a bolt of lightning hit it. It killed LT Gaston instantly.

That La Pine Desert area had plenty of sand, lava rocks, jack rabbits and rattlesnakes. We knew all about rattlesnakes because we had them in Texas. There was a cave where the rattlesnakes had decided was a good place to live. There was a whole lot of them in there. We had just finished high explosion training and thought we were really smart guys. We got us some of that dynamite, lit the fuses and threw a bunch in the cave. Snakes went flying everywhere.

Warren Chancellor remembers ice cream and camp beds:

We were not supposed to have anything sweet like candy or ice cream. So one Sunday afternoon we were all confined to the company area so we could go to the PX. These guys wanted to get some pints of ice cream. A pint cost about $.50 each so about 50 of us pooled $.50 each and got some guys to get us pints of ice cream. About the time they got back someone had ratted on us and we never did figure out who it was. We never got to eat ice cream. They took us out and made us stand at attention for 30 minutes and then another hour. And we had to clean up the area for another two weeks. And we never got to eat the pints of ice cream.

We were at camp one night and I went to bed and the next morning my buddy asked me how I slept and then I discovered there was a salamander under my sheets and blanket and I slept all night long and never knew it was there.

Robert Taylor was the truck driver for the medics. One night he got in to take a shower and it was about 10 o'clock and the lights were turned out at 10 o'clock. After he went into the shower we took the mattress off his bed and we had string and we tied the mattress to the frame of the bed and fixed it up with the strings. So he got out of the shower with the lights out he just kind of vaulted himself into the bed. Of course the strings broke and he went crashing onto the guy on the bottom of the bunk. And he got so mad and went running out of the barracks and he was going to kill someone. He had a pretty good temper but we finally cooled him down.

Charles Fuller describes the visit of his wife:

fuller After basic training [at Camp White] I brought her [his wife] out with me. That was the best part of my stay at Medford. We got this cabin and went on "maneuvers." I had "acquired" some steaks from the kitchen for us to eat. Here I am trudging along and the steaks started bleeding through my jacket. We were a couple of miles out of camp and here comes this jeep and it was Major Crandall. He said, "Son do you want a ride?" You can't mistake that I got steaks, so I said, "Major, my wife and I were downtown and I've got some little steaks here and she bakes a fine supper. Would you join us?" He said, "No, I've got things I have to do but I may take a rain check on that." And he drove off. I thought I was going to be court-martialled.

Weapons training in Oregon
Weapons training in Oregon. Photo: Willie Hein

Cecil Milliner, one of the original trainers of the 300th at Camp White, describes some of the elements of basic training:

MillinerIn basic training a trainee learns "Military Courtesy" with the hand salute; the face movements (right face, left face, about face); marching movements (forward, to the rear, right and left flank and oblique); open ranks for inspections and closed rank; the attention ("Ten-HUT"), at ease and parade rests. Weapons training included manual of arms, how to care for your weapons and triangulation before going on the rifle range. On the rifle range one learns safety around weapons, how to shoot from the prone, sitting, kneeling and standing positions. Other training was camouflage; bridge building (footbridge, Bailey bridge, ponton bridge, wood bridges); building tank traps of various kinds; barbed wire entanglement construction; how and where to use explosives of all kinds; how to set out booby traps and to probe for them and how to disarm them and setting out the different tank mines. Infantry movements included the skirmish line, diamond formation, in-line formation and compass training. The 300th were also trained with machine guns (tommy guns, burp guns, 50 caliber); the 45 caliber semi-automatic pistol; 30 mm and the 4.2 mm mortars and use of the anti-tank guns of various kinds. They learned how to set up a bivouac; performed forced marches up to fifteen miles one way and back and stood guard duty and did assault boat training while crossing a river.

Kenneth "Cowboy" Morris remembers Joe Oliver in training:

morrisMe and Joe were big buddies. Truck drivers, in basic training in Oregon, many times at night we'd take the men into town. When I come back, Joe went on the truck, and he was on guard and he was pretty drunk and it was time for him to go on guard. I said, "Joe, they'll court martial you sure as hell if they catch you drunk on guard." My tent was off in the motor pool. That's where we left from and came back to. I said, "You crawl in my tent and I'll pull guard for you and give you time to sober up some. He went to the tent and there was the biggest commotion you ever heard. He come right up and pulled that tent right out of the ground. He had crawled into the tent with a porcupine!

Frederick A. Wild, Jr leaves Camp White:

While we were on the desert, preparing the sites for maneuvers to come, we did have other occasions, which did not end so benignly. A soldier was shot in the chest and killed by the accidental discharge of an M1 rifle. I can recall that part of his lung protruded through the wound of exit. The commander of B Company wanted a small tree removed from the entrance to his wall tent and ordered an enlisted man to chop it down. Impatient with the soldier's use of his hand axe, the captain seized the axe, sank it in the tree and was killed by a stroke of lightning. I was called but there was nothing I could do. I remember there were large burned areas on the chest and the insides of both knees. It was Major Crandall's unhappy duty to go down into Medford to carry the news to the widow, who, I understand, was pregnant. Captain Falvey became commander of B Company, Captain Schwartz of A Company and Captain Armour of C company.

I used to ride down the mountain once a month in a 2x6 truck with the warrant officer, Mr. Nordeen and go back up with the truck full of provisions. All this happened in the summer and fall of 1943. We shipped out in December, but first, I got two weeks leave and took Mary [wife] and April [daughter] back to New Orleans on the Sunset Limited. We stayed with my parents until it was time for me to go back on the same train. Mary, April and Mrs. Knight went back to Hattiesburg where they stayed for about a year and then moved to the house in New Orleans.

Almost as soon as I got back to Medford, we had to turn in our equipment and load the battalion onto a troop train which took us through Green River, Wyoming, to Council Bluffs/Omaha. I remember Green River because about the time we were getting there, I had a battalion of soldiers with diarrhea to take care of but no medicines. I took up a collection from the officers and while the train waited, I got off the train and went to the nearest pharmacy. I explained our dilemma to the pharmacist, expecting at the least that I would get a discount. No way! Then when I walked back to the train, I was escorted by a bunch of misfit children yelling "Sucker, sucker," presumably because I was stupid enough to be in the army. Whenever I remember this incident, I almost wish the Germans had won. I have an animus toward Wyoming to this day and have never gone back there.

In 1996, a half-century later, Eugene Powell, 300th veteran, wrote of his memories of Camp White:

PowellMy negative impression of the camp on first view and later, when spring arrived, to discover just how beautiful the mountains, forests and streams were.

The platoon standing at attention in front of our barracks, in the sleet, for some infraction of the rules and being chewed out by our company commander.

The forced march that entailed rushing up a small but very steep hill that carried the promise of a ride back to camp for the first few to arrive at the top.

My furlough home and the return trip.

My sudden and unexpected orders to participate in the Army Specialized Training Program.

The search for my friend and bunk mate at Camp White, Sleepy Young, and his search for me over the span of four decades and our eventual reunion in South Houston.

Warren Chancellor remembers leaving Camp White:

We didn't know where we were going. We went back to Camp White and packed everything up and they told us we would be leaving. So we ditched a bunch of stuff and didn't carry much with us. We got on the train and I didn't even remember how many days it was but it seemed like several days. I was on board what we called a G I Pullman. It was a converted boxcar.

Louis Pellitteri with gear waiting to depart for England
Louis Pellitteri with gear waiting to depart for England. Photo: Louis Pellitteri

In 1945, Camp White housed up to 2,000 prisoners of war. Due to a shortage of migrant labor during the war, the POWs were organized into labor groups and worked in agriculture in the region. After the end of the war in April 1946, Camp White was inactivated and buildings and land were sold. Olive drab buildings were moved from the camp site and could be seen throughout the region as stores, barns, gymnasiums and residences. The grazing lands were returned to local ranchers and war veterans purchased several thousand acres of the land at very affordable prices. The city of Medford, Oregon took 1,000 acres.

Veteran and civic groups began a campaign to save the remaining hospital complex and barracks. In 1948, the U.S. Congress passed a bill to turn the remaining camp over to the Veteran's Administration. Today, seven wood frame structures and the 28 brick hospital buildings house more than 1,000 beds for treatment of veterans.

The Camp White Military Museum was dedicated on November 11, 1997 in Building 200 on the Veteran's Administration campus. Military memorabilia is displayed at the museum including guns, medals, letters, posters and historic uniforms. The museum has a large collection of Camp White's history which is being collected and preserved.


Two Versions of a Story - 65 Years Later

Norman Webb:

Webb When we were in basic training, I played a little trick on Chuck Bice. It wasn't really a trick, it was just kids. We bunked together in a pup tent out in the mountains in Bend, Oregon. I had been out to a picture show when I came back to the tent. There was a stream in there where we went swimming. Boy - was it ever cold! Melted snow I guess.

Chuck Bice:

Bice Well, Norman would like to play with people's minds. And he liked to aggravate everyone he could. We were in Oregon near the Deschutes River which was melted snow and just above freezing. We had tents and it was about 2:00 in the morning.

Norman Webb:

I came in this night and woke Chuck up about midnight and I said, "Chuck, come and go swimming with me." I wasn't drinking or anything. He gave me a pretty good cuss and said, "You better get out of here and leave me alone." And so as I left and I said, "I hope your conscience doesn't bother you in case I happen to have a cramp down there by myself and die." So I left and went down by myself.

Chuck Bice:

Webb came into my tent and said, "Bice, Bice." I knew who it was as soon as I woke up. And I said, "Webb, what do you want?" He said, "I need to talk to a friend. I thought you were my friend." And I said, "Tell me what you want Webb." And he said, "I want to talk to a friend." So, I said, "Well, talk to me." He said, "You don't have to be in a hurry." I said, "I tell you what Webb, if you don't tell me what you want, I'm going to get up from here and I'm going to give you a good whipping." And he said, "That's exactly what I thought. I thought you were a friend. Friends are not really what they seem. I thought I could count on you. I'm going down to the river and if something happens to me, you will be responsible." So he left.

Norman Webb:

I did go down and went swimming. I got up close to the bank and there he was and he swatted at him. He missed. He was waiting on me to get close to the bank to hit me. He gave me an early cuss and said, "Get out of there and come on with me."

Chuck Bice:

I laid there for a few minutes and I thought well the bolt have twisted off, you know? I better go see about him. I got up and went down there and the idiot was swimming and he saw me and just died laughing. He said, "I knew you couldn't stay in bed."

You know, he was always pulling something like that on somebody. If he knew anybody was engaged and we would be sitting around the fire him saying, "I wonder what Betty Sue is doing tonight." He'd keep going that until the boy would get mad and he'd laugh and get up and run. Good soldier but he was a character.

building a bridge across the Deschutes River in Oregon
The 300th begin building a bridge across the Deschutes River in Oregon. Photo: Bob & John Knox
building a bridge across the Deschutes River in Oregon
300th building a bridge across the Deschutes River in Oregon. Photo: Bob & John Knox
completing a bridge across the Deschutes River
300th completing a bridge across the Deschutes River. Note the uniforms on the far left. Photo: Bob & John Knox
Crater Lake Resort in Oregon
Crater Lake Resort in Oregon. Photo: Bob & John Knox
100 bottles of beer on the shelf
100 bottles of beer on the shelf... at Camp White. Photo: Frank Neuhauser
A work detail at the railhead in Camp White
A work detail at the railhead in Camp White, Medford, Oregon, 1943. Photo: Randy Hanes

Appendices