Greetings From Camp Davis is the first full-length history of the now-vanished WWII Antiaircraft Artillery Training Center at Holly Ridge, NC. The book is based on oral history interviews, government records, period newspapers and journals, correspondence, and original photographs. The author, Cliff Tyndall, a History and Geography Instructor at Bladen Community College, spent almost ten years researching and gathering the historical data, photographs, and memorabilia needed to successfully pen this work
The book covers the entire history of Camp Davis from conception and selection of Holly Ridge to construction, military training and operations, to the final closure and abandonment of the facility. Camp Davis was originally designated a Coast Artillery Training Center, but by early 1942 it had separated from that service branch to become the nation’s premier Antiaircraft Artillery Training Center. For a few brief months in its early operation in 1941, Camp Davis featured all three principal segments of Coast Artillery: Seacoast Defense, Barrage Balloons, and Antiaircraft Artillery.
Besides the obvious military ramifications of Camp Davis, the huge base, greatly affected southeastern North Carolina. Thousands of men secured high paying jobs constructing the sprawling camp in 1940-41 and several thousand civilians, both men and women, were later employed throughout the facility in jobs ranging from firemen to clerks. Female soldiers, known as WACs, (Women’s Army Corps) served admirably at the camp while WASPs (Women’s Airforce Service pilots) flew tow-target planes for Antiaircraft Artillery gunnery practice. Some lost their lives in service at Camp Davis.
African-American soldiers trained at the base, often in newly implemented integrated environments. Black AAA and Coast Artillery units were organized and trained at the camp. The Army’s sole Antiaircraft Artillery Officer Candidate School was situated at Camp Davis and thousands of men received commissions via the arduous experience. The AAA School offered advance training in radar, communications, and tactics.
Units organized at Camp Davis participated in the Allied war effort from the 1942 landings in North Africa to the final surrender of Japan in September, 1945. Each of these AAA units has its own unique and proud history and many have compiled individual battalion histories. The AAA men of Camp Davis helped win the war against fascism.
Camp Davis brought about a myriad of social, economic, and cultural changes in southeastern North Carolina. The impact of thousands of soldiers from around the United States stationed at the base was immediate and profound. The war was a time of many changes, and often awkward and confusing situations, regarding women, race relations, and sectionalism.
The U.S. War Department began winding down AAA training in early 1944 and the AAA School and AAA Board transferred to Texas in the fall of 1944. AAA Training Center operations also ceased at Camp Davis at that time. The base was used briefly by the Army Air Corps and several other entities, but its heyday was over. By 1947-48 the camp was rapidly disappearing as it was torn down, moved, or surplused. Today, few visible remnants of the once huge camp remain in and around Holly Ridge. Glimpses of a few brick chimneys, crumbling asphalt streets, concrete foundations, and a smattering of altered WWII frame buildings are all that remain of once proud Camp Davis.
Greetings From Camp Davis recounts the brief but illustrious history of this former AAA Training Center. The book contains 50 period photographs, many never published before, that illustrate the wartime appearance of the camp. Oral history accounts of WWII soldiers and civilians adds a touch of realism and humanity to the camp’s history. This work is dedicated to the men and women of Camp Davis and it is hoped that it will help stir and preserve the now fading memories of this once significant and impressive WWII Army camp.
About Cliff Tyndall
The author of “Greetings From Camp Davis” is a History and Geography Instructor at Bladen Community College in Dublin, NC. Cliff has written for Our State magazine and his first book, “Threshold of Freedom: Lenoir County, NC During the Civil War,” was published by the Lenoir County Historical Association in 2002. Prior to teaching college full-time, he worked for the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources and instructed history and geography courses for East Carolina University and several community colleges as an adjunct instructor. He received a MA Degree in History from East Carolina University and he earned a BA Degree in History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Cliff’s interest in Camp Davis dates to his childhood days in eastern North Carolina, when he became fascinated with the chimneys and abandoned streets of the long-vanished base. His grandfather, a farmer and carpenter from Lenoir County, helped construct buildings at Camp Davis in the winter of 1940-1941. The research for this book began almost ten years ago and was conducted when precious free-time permitted.
“The experience of interviewing the WWII vets and civilians associated with Camp Davis was an experience that I’ll never forget.” It is hoped that this “labor of love” will help preserve and illuminate the fascinating and important history of Camp Davis.