Camp Barkeley was located eleven miles southwest of Abilene in Taylor County. After the outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939, the U.S. Army began to rapidly expand as a precaution and needed temporary camps to train and house troops. The camp was named for David B. Barkley, a native Texan who received the Medal of Honor in World War I, but his name was misspelled. Construction started in December 1940 and was completed in seven months. It was initially a training camp for infantry and supply troops. The first to occupy the camp were 19,000 soldiers of the Forty-fifth Infantry Division under Maj. Gen. William S. Key on February 23, 1941. Before his later fame as a cartoonist for Stars and Stripes, Bill Mauldin was on the division’s newspaper’s staff. Camp Barkeley included the main camp of 2,500 acres, bivouac and maneuver areas of 58,000 acres, and combat ranges of 9,400 acres. Central Texas was favored because the climate allowed year-round training.
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