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The 808th Tank Destroyer Battalion

invites you to enjoy this site while learning about WWII and tank destroyers

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Camp Phillips

Mountain Warfare Training began July 1943 for the 808th TD

The following article is a reprint from the Kansas Historical Society.
It was found in a stack of disorganized articles.

Camp Phillips, a large-scale military training camp which grew to cover 46,000 acres and housed 75,000 to 80,000 soldiers at one time. It was designed to be a 5-year camp, it also served as a POW camp for 3,000 Germans and Italians. Schilling Air Force Base was also being built at that same time.

Camp Phillip was also rough on the men as they trained.That summer Smolan, Ks swelled from a town of about 100 people to over a thousand. Construction workers lived in anything they could find; from the luxury of rooms let by Smolan residents to shacks, shanties, tents, trailers, wash houses and chicken coops. Even a small band shell in the Lutheran park was turned into a residence. Smolan high school students, enticed by good wages, took jobs helping the government survey the land.

It was a wet spring and summer (that) complicated the heavy traffic moving on Smolan's unpaved streets. Morning and evening bumper traffic, stretching for miles, was directed by a single police officer stationed at the north end of Main Street. Buses ran daily between Smolan and Salina.

To further complicate matters, no city water, lights or sewage systems existed in Smolan. The rat population multiplied and grew plump as they banqueted about town, thus contributing to sanitation problems.

But in the midst of these inconvenient, over-crowded conditions, new Smolan businesses sprang up. Once accustomed to serving only a few farmers and residents, the city of Smolan soon shifted its activities to serve construction and military needs as well. Mrs. Luther (Florence) Oborg operated her cafe in the basement of the brick building on Main Street. Fresh water was carried from the gas station daily. Three oil stoves were used to cook 150 meals a day. Added to this was the chore of carrying dirty dish water out of the basement at day's in.

Camp Phillips was incomplete, as was usual, for the 808th when they trained there.At that time, Smolan also had a drug store, two or three grocery stores, clothing shop, and three other cafe's. A tent served as a temporary movie theater. Late at night the tune of "One Dozen Roses," along with other popular songs of this time, blared from a loud speaker at the ice cream parlor.

Consequently the effects of war on this small farm town were stunning. Almost overnight, Smolan residents watched their city being turned into a camp town that rested on the rim of a military base 350 times greater than it's self. Yet, 143 farm families felt an even greater impact when they were told their land was being secured by the US government and they would have to relocate.

Some farmers sought other land to buy but others left farming entirely. Farmers like these were given little time, often less than a month, to search for a place to move.

As the camp neared completion there was an exodus of workers. Tracks carried troop trains and cars filled with POW's.

Harvesting during training for local farmersThe days of camp town frenzy when prisoners escaped or wandered off, came to a close three months after the war ended in 1945.

At last the war was over. Smolan rejoiced in celebration of sons and husbands coming home. But mixed with the tears of joy were the tears of loss.

Several 808ers told me they were stationed at Camp Phillips for more winter training when they were sent out to harvest for local farmers. Below is a picture of a group of them hard at work.

The photos on this page are of members of the 808th tank destroyers. The first two are confirmed photos from Camp Phillips, the third, "Harvesting" is assumed to be Camp Phillips.

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