A new book – “Voices of Camp Forrest in World War II” – tells the stories of those who witnessed the impact Camp Forrest had on Coffee County.
The book, released Nov. 11, follows author Elizabeth Taylor’s first book about the base, “Images of America: Camp Forrest.”
The base, first called Camp Peay, was completed in 1926. It significantly grew in 1940 with the United States entering World War II. The War Department officially changed the name from Camp Peay to Camp Forrest in January 1941, according to the book.
In the 1940s, the camp expanded to 85,000 acres. Tullahoma’s population skyrocketed. More than 20,000 workers came to the area for the construction phase. The camp employed about 12,000 civilians and was home to 70,000 soldiers.
In addition to newcomers, the base brought numerous opportunities for locals.
During the end of the construction phase, governmental contracts were awarded to local companies and individuals. Duck River Electric Membership Corporation provided electricity throughout the base, and local farmers provided fruits, vegetables, cheese and milk, according to the book.
Camp Forrest included 1,300 buildings, 55 miles of roads, 5 miles of railroads, several artillery ranges and an air-training site. The base also featured one of the first model “Nazi Villages” for practicing realistic combat maneuvers. More than 250,000 soldiers received their initial army physical exams at Camp Forrest.
In 1943, the camp housed German and Italian POWs.
After the war, the base was decommissioned, but its legacy still lives. Coffee County residents still remember and tell stories of the camp’s heyday, and Taylor shares those stories in her new book.
Local resident Judy Jenkins provided pictures of her mother, Lieutenant Carmella Paterniti Smith, one of the nurses treating physical and psychological wounds of the soldiers. One of the photos depicts Smith wearing her coat – her coat lining had more than 100 insignia patches sewn on it, with each patch representing a wounded soldier she treated.
The camp impacted the entire county, not just the base and those working and housed there.
Growing up during the war and near Camp Forrest brought opportunities to locals. Children in Coffee County had the chance to meet people from throughout the country.
Taylor said she enjoyed working on the book.
“The book has oral histories which chronicle personal accounts of the soldiers who worked at, and the citizens who lived near the World War II induction, training, and prisoner of war facility,” Taylor said. “This book gave me an opportunity to listen to stories of individuals who lived throughout a time of war and significant changes on the American home front.”
“Voices of Camp Forrest in World War II” is available at The Bookshelf in Tullahoma, starting the week of Nov. 11.
About the author
Taylor is a historian and best-selling nonfiction author who has spent the last decade researching topics such as Camp Forrest, World War II, the U.S. home front and American government.
“Voices of Camp Forrest in World War II” is Taylor’s second book.
Her first book, “Images of America: Camp Forrest,” portrays life at Camp Forrest and in the surrounding towns through numerous black and white photographs and captions.
Taylor continues to research the impact of Camp Forrest abroad and on the home front. She maintains the Camp Forrest website, www.CampForrest.com, and welcomes individuals to contact her with stories, comments and photographs.
She teaches American Government at several universities in Georgia. Taylor completed her doctorate in public administration at Valdosta State University, and master’s degrees in political science, and public administration at Georgia State University.