Sunday, January 20, 2013

WWII: Camp Farragut

My father did his Navy boot camp in Idaho at Camp Farragut.  When I wrote my dad's I did some research about the Camp.  Camp Farragut was in the panhandle of Idaho on the southern tip of Lake Pend Orielle.  Dad's first reaction to it was, "This is certainly a big camp" (Quotes from my father are taken from his letters.)  About a week into camps he said, "The scenery around here is beautiful.  There are mountains all around.  They are covered with pine trees.  I haven't seen the lake yet but I hear it is beautiful"
I found several descriptions of the station, which give further insight into why it was located in such a remote area:

After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, the U.S. Navy began immediately to build naval support facilities in the continental USA.  On of these was Farragut Naval Training Center, a huge facility built on the south shore of Lake Pend Orielle.  Its inland location and general anonymity outside of Idaho were obvious assets when West Coast locations were vulnerable to Sea war.
Farragut grew rapidly and was operating within a few months.  By September 1942, the population of 55,000 at the camp made it, in effect, the largest city in Idaho at the time.  The training center was organized into six self-contained camps, each with its own barracks, parade ground, swimming pool, and rifle range among other features.  The hospital had beds for 2500 patients.  German prisoners of war eventually arrived and did the gardening and general maintenance. 
Each camp accommodated 5000 sailors at a time, passing them through their training in two or three months.  The men learned to rig boats, handle lifeboats, manage gas masks, suppress fires, and shoot rifles and other firearms.  Liberty trains carried them from the camp to Spokane, Washington, and on to their ships.  By the time the Navy decommissioned the camp in 1946, nearly 300,000 men had passed through the center. (Idaho, a portrait)
At the start of construction in 1942, twenty-two thousand men worked on the project.  Each of the five camps built was designed to be self sufficient....They had their own mess hall, dispensaries, basketball courts, swimming pool, barracks, and rifle ranges.  As one camp was being completed and occupied, construction on the next began.  (Bonner County Historical Society)
Nestled at the foot of Cour d'Alene Mountains in the Bitterroot Mountain Range..., Idaho welcomed it first Naval recruits on 17 September, 1942.
From then until 10 March 1945 when the last class graduated, Farragut was the second largest U.S. Naval training station in the world.  During the 30 months it was operational Farragut trained 293,381 recruits.
19 states sent Naval recruits to Farragut.  They were California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.  (Farragut, Idaho)
Between its opening in September 1942, and its decommissioning in June, 1946, the stunning expanse of 4000 acres served as temporary home to almost 300,000 Naval recruits.  Located about 30 miles from Sandpoint at the far end of the lake, the Farragut Naval Training Station--briefly to become Idaho's largest city--served as boot camp for the "Blue Jackets."  During basic training, recruits left home for the first time, came to Farragut and learned how to march, row, swim and use firearms before heading off to the Mediterranean Sea or the South Pacific.  Others received additional training as signalman's gunner's mates, the hospital corps or radiomen.  WAVES (women Naval officers) served as nurses at the base hospital.  (Love, Marianne)

The station was divided into six camps: Camp Ward, Camp Peterson, Camp Waldron, Camp Bennion (named for Captain Bennion,) Camp Hill and Camp Scott, each named for an honored seaman who had passed away during the war.
The base commander was Captain F.H. Kelley U.S.N.  In an introductory pamphlet he said, "Navy Men--must be fighting men--with a fighting spirit.  The foundations of the Navy are based on honor and integrity, discipline and obedience; and while you are a Navy man it is your duty to live up to the Navy's tradition by your every act." (U.S. Navy)

The base was named for Admiral Glasgow Farragut, of Civil War fame.  It was he who said at the Battle of Mobile Bay, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead." It was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who named the camp,  President Roosevelt visited the base in September of 1942. (U.S. Navy)
Camp Farragut Daily Life


  1. Virginia Hopson Thanks for this info, I've always wondered about Camp Farragut. My dad was sent there for Training, but was only there a couple of weeks then sent home due to a bad back. His last official duty was escorting a prisoner back to Boise.

  2. Billy Wardle----
    Deanna Bangert McLearn, my father, Harold Louis Bangert trained there. Would be interested in knowing families of others trained there.