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Cantonment area marks 60th anniversary

      Aug. 30, 2002 marked a big milestone in Fort McCoy's history - the 60th anniversary of the opening of the cantonment area.

      Local newspapers from yesteryear devoted much of page one to coverage of the opening and to inviting the public to an open house to sightsee.

A collage of the cantonment area buildings at Fort McCoy circa 1942.

A collage of the cantonment area buildings at Fort McCoy circa 1942. (Fort McCoy History Center Photo)

      Here are a few excerpts from the Monroe County Democrat, dated Thursday, Aug. 27, 1942:

      "The official opening of the new Camp McCoy brings to a successful close many years of hard work and untiring efforts on the part of Sparta and other parts of Monroe County to have the war department develop Camp McCoy into a huge army cantonment."

      ".New Camp McCoy will be officially opened for public inspection Sunday, Aug. 30. The announcement was made by the camp Commander, Colonel George M. MacMullin, this week.

      ".Sunday's host at Camp McCoy will be Colonel George M. MacMullin. He has a job we don't envy him, handling the thousands of sightseers who will want to see the new Army cantonment."

      "Open house will be from eight o'clock in the forenoon until four o'clock in the afternoon, during which time the public is invited to drive to the area and inspect the camp. There will be guided tours through the camp, giving visitors an opportunity to see the largest army cantonment in the north central part of the country. Not only will they see one of the largest camps in the country, but they will see one of the best, as architects, engineers, army officers, contractors and workmen have put their best efforts into the project to make it the best camp in the country."

      "Thousands of cars filled with eager sightseers will jam the highways into Sparta and Camp McCoy. It will bring back again the traffic jam of August 1940, when there was visitors' day for the army maneuvers. At that time it was estimated that 25,000 people made the trip to Sparta to see the army in action.  Sunday's jam is expected to be even larger."

An aerial view of the cantonment area circa 1942.

An aerial view of the cantonment area circa 1942. (Fort McCoy History Center Photo)

      "Sightseers will be permitted to enter the camp only from Sparta. At Gate 1 sightseers will be met by guides who will conduct the cars through the area in groups. Positively no pictures will be allowed to be taken, so cameras must be checked at the entrance. The taking of pictures in army camps is positively forbidden by army regulations."

      "The tour will be approximately twelve miles long from the entrance and will give sightseers a chance to see the hundreds of buildings that have been built in the last five months; the huge hospital area; the wide, hard-surfaced streets, and the hundreds of service buildings which very soon will house thousands of America's finest fighting men."

      "Sparta's facilities to feed the sightseers will be taxed to the limit and it is doubtful if by Sunday evening there will be a bite of food left in Sparta. Restaurants, hotels, drug stores, etc., are laying in an extra supply of food and refreshments in order to be able to take care of the crowds."

      "It will be another gala day for Sparta in the history of the development of Camp McCoy."

      According to a year-in-review article in the Dec. 31, 1942 issue of the La Crosse Tribune, "some 50,000 visitors received their first down-to-earth conception of the new camp's immensity" during the Aug. 30 open house.

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