Fort Hood, Texas
...The Great Place
1940s - Tanks Will Perish in the Wake
Before the Army
Native-Americans roamed the Fort Hood area through the period of transition of Texas ownership from Spain to Mexico.
In the 1820's and 1830's, American colonists settled in Central Texas with the permission of Mexico. In 1835-36, the Texas Revolution gave Texas independence.
During the days of Texas Republic, more settlers moved to the Fort Hood area. This was a dangerous area still inhabited by many native tribes, such as Apaches, Comanches, Kiowas and others.
On December 29, 1845, Texas became a state. Fort Gates was established soon afterwards to protect the local settlers from Native-American attacks.
The attacks stopped in 1875 when the Army set up patrols to prevent native tribes from crossing the Red River.
In the 1870's, cattle rustlers plagued local farmers. But in 1874, the sheriff caught a gang of horse thieves.
The thieves were confined in the local jail in Belton. About a 100 locals, upset about their losses, broke into the jail and killed the prisoners. Afterwards, rustling in the area declined as other thieves heard of the grisly fate of those captured.
With dangerous conditions abated, farmers eked out livings, created communities and built schools and churches.
World War II begins
Tank Destroyer Center
The 1940-1 Army was unprepared for the war in Europe. The German army was over-running Europe. Lieutenant Col. Andrew D. Bruce was tapped to develop tactics to counter the German blitzkrieg. Bruce and his staff developed the idea of tank destroyers: mobile anti-tank guns on armored halftracks. This led to the decision to create a Tank Destroyer Center along the same lines as the Machine Gun Center of World War I.
Army posts of the time were small and inadequate for the maneuvers envisioned by the tank destroyer planners. On Dec. 19, 1941, Bruce and his aides traveled in civilian clothes to inspect several possible sites for this new school.
On the 20th, just two weeks after the Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese and the United States entered World War II; Bruce toured the Killeen area and decided the area was adequate. On Jan. 10, 1942, the Army formally announced the Tank Destroyer and Firing Center would be located at and around Killeen.
Land Purchase and Construction
The initial land purchase was 108,000 acres and involved the displacement of many local families. Army land agents opened an office in Gatesville and proceeded to purchase the land.
The communities of Clear Creek, Elijah, Antelop, Sugar Loaf and others ceased to exist as families moved.
The state highway department began constructing roads that would allow the large amounts of men and equipment to reach the Center.
Bruce recommended that the new post be named Camp Hood, after General John Bell Hood, a Texas Civil War hero.
Founding of Camp Hood
All construction was to be completed by Aug. 15, 1942. Several contractors were hired to construct the various facilities on post, including facilities for 4,000 German POWs.
Construction of the initial 108,000 acres was completed by September 1942.
More land was added to the camp and the rest of the construction was completed by September 1, 1943.
Camp Hood was 158,000 acres and 5,630 buildings, and 35 ranges.
The Tank Destroyer and Firing Center headquarters commanded by Bruce moved from temporary quarters in Temple to Camp Hood Aug. 21, 1942. The official opening of Camp Hood was September 18, 1942.
As World War II continued, Camp Hood continued training tank destroyers, but also began training artillerymen in 1944.
On March 10, 1944, Camp Hood also became the Infantry Replacement Training Center. The camp's size continued at 55-60,000 personnel throughout the war.
Post-World War II Camp Hood
After the end of World War II, South Camp Hood was found suitable for postwar retention, but North Hood was not. North Camp Hood was deactivated and converted into a National Guard and Reserve training area.
South Camp Hood was retained and two armored divisions were moved here in January 1946, the 2nd and 20th. The 20th was deactivated in April 1946, but the 2nd Armored Division became the post's main unit.
This began the long association between Fort Hood and 2nd Armored Division.
The end of WWII resulted in the shortage of funds for the military as Congress authorized some $12 billion finance the Marshall Plan as the United States extended aid to Europe. Activities at Camp Hood were curtailed severely.
Most of the thousands of buildings constructed during the war were designed to be only temporary buildings with, at best, a five-year life span; most began falling apart at this point.
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