In the spirit of the upcoming Veterans Day, the Camp Fannin Association hosted a ceremony Saturday afternoon to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Camp Fannin.
Camp Fannin, named after Texas Revolutionary War hero Col. James Walker Fannin, was a U.S. Army infantry replacement training center just northeast of Tyler, near what is now the grounds of UT Health Northeast.
Keynote speaker Dr. Don Davidson said at the time that Camp Fannin was bigger than Tyler, and its presence helped the area come out of the Great Depression of the 1930s.
In the time it was open — January 1943 to June 1946 — Camp Fannin trained more than 200,000 soldiers who served in World War II, with 40,000 soldiers at a given time, Davidson said.
The camp served to replace overseas causalities, he said.
Davidson recognized the tribulations of being an infantryman during World War II.
“The infantry had the hardest, most dangerous and most difficult job of all those who served in the military,” he said. “I am honored to be able to speak on their behalf, as we gather today to celebrate the greatest generation.”
Davidson also recalled the hospitable people of Tyler, who welcomed the soldiers when they came into town, by often taking them into their homes and treating them like family.
He extended a thank you to all who trained, volunteered and built Camp Fannin.
“There is much to be remembered, and much to be thankful for,” he said.
Mary Jane McNamara, 89, was one of the welcoming volunteers Dr. Davidson mentioned.
Ms. McNamara, who volunteered with the USO and attended many functions at Camp Fannin, recalled how the community came together to treat the soldiers well, including feeding them breakfast at churches and dinner at people’s homes.
She said she considered that sense of community a way for people in the home front to contribute to the war effort.
“We were all the same (as those soldiers), we were all in this (war) together,” she said. “It was a wonderful time. It was a huge benefit, both socially and economically.”
She said the camp served not only as an economic booster for Tyler, but also a social one, because of the great sense of community they built with the visiting soldiers.
Ms. McNamara also said that at the time she finished at Tyler Junior College in 1942, something was lacking from Tyler, which Camp Fannin helped remedy.
“There weren’t any boys left at all,” she said. “They were all gone.”