103d INFANTRY DIVISION WORLD WAR II ASSOCIATION
Next Stop - Camp Howze
Camp Howze was activated August 17, 1942, and initially served as an infantry training facility. At Camp Howze, The 103d infantry Division (Cactus) along with two other infantry divisions trained over 90,000 troops prior to deployment to Europe. Later, during World War II, Camp Howze housed nearly 3,000 German POW's.
Camp Howze sat upon nearly 58,000 acres in Cooke County, TX. The base sat along the fence on the west side of the Texas Department of Transportation Travel Center, where a monument ot the veterans of the 103d Infantry Division (Cactus) sits today. Today, foundation pilings that resemble grave markers and the 120 ft tall Camp Howze concrete water tower are currently all that is visible from the original Camp Howze site that sits nearly a mile west of the current TXDOT Travel Center.
Buildings were of single wood wall construction covered with black tar paper. The troops were billeted 40 men to a building with heat provided by a coal stove located at the end of each building.
The environment at Camp Howze was a bit better than what the Cactus men experienced at Camp Claiborne. It wasn't quite as hot and definitely a bit dryer. Plus the small towns of Leesville and Alexandria were quickly forgotten by the big city lights of Dallas and Fort Worth, which were much more conducive to a good time, in town than what had been found in Louisiana.
One thing that remained constant, the intensity of training continued at Camp Howze. There were field problems, followed by more field problems, and there was another field problem afterwards. What better way to break up the intense training regimen than a parade! Oh joy, the spit and polish came with those parades but one thing you did find the men of the 103d Infantry Division were a proud bunch and in spite of the "bitching" about spit and polish, these men came out with boots shined and uniforms immaculate.
One of the weekly highlights at Camp Howze, was the Camp Howze Howizer, the Camps newspaper.. The Camp Howze Howitzer was published and printed by the Gainesville Daily Register and distributed free to camp residents. Each week, the Howitzer covered topics of interest to the soldiers stationed at the camp. Topics included results of camp sporting events, entertainment news, trivia contests, war news from Europe and the Pacific as well as Milt Caniff's cartoon stirp, "Male Call." The Texas A&M University-Commerce Libraries, Cook County Public Library and morton Museum of Cook County Tx has placed the Camp Howze Howitzer collection on its website for researchers and educational purposes. You may view the collection at http://dmc.tamuc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/cooke/id/940
During the late summer of 1944, the 103d Division completed its orientation and training in glider transports. The training was done, the senior division staff were all in place and all that remained was the final words, "Lets go!" It was September 15, 1944, when the final parade was held at Camp Howze. These men not only looked ready to fight a war, they felt ready.
After the parade, it was boxing and crating of equipment to load unto trains that would take the entire division to New York. Inspections of equipment, boxes, crates, and stowing were the order of the day. On September 20, 1944, the advanced party left Camp Howze for Camp Shanks, then it came. Headquarters and Headquarters, XXIII Corps, dated August 5, 1944, Subject: Movement Orders, Shipment 6299. 103d Division, Camp Howze, Texas to Camp Shanks, New York. The first unit to move in mass was the 411th Infantry Regiment, loaded onto six trains and headed for Camp Shanks. Europe? Was that their final destination? No one knew, but speculation ran high.
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