Off the banks of the St. Johns River near Jacksonville, Florida lies the Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jacksonville). The NAS Jacksonville was named in 1940, but the base has a rich history that dates back to 1908. During World War I, the base was known as camp Joseph E. Johnston as it served the United States Army as a training base for soldiers. In May of 1908 at the location of the modern day Navy base, 13,000 acres were authorized by the Florida state legislature to create a military camp. From 1909 to 1917 the Florida National Guard had a base established there. The United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917. The federal government decided to create a new base in Jacksonville for the sole purpose of training officers in the United States Army. The base was named after the Confederate General Joseph Eggleston Johnston who was one of the senior Generals for the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. General Johnston actually had a past of serving in the state of Florida and in 1860 reached the rank of Quartermaster General in the U.S. Army. This is significant to the identity of camp Joseph E. Johnston because the camp specialized in training Quartermasters in the Army.
Construction began on the camp in October 1917. The first group of enlisted soldiers and officers entered the camp on November 19, 1907. The base eventually evolved into a 600 building complex which trained thousands of soldiers during World War I. The base was also home to the nation’s second largest rifle range. Once the year 1918 came around the camp was the largest of all the Army’s Quartermaster mobilization and training camps. According to a trainee by the name of Wesley Bouslog there were representatives from twenty different states in his barracks. It is further stated in Bouslog’s letters that there were people of multiple ethnic backgrounds present on base including Scottish, Irish, and Jewish. Soldiers were trained throughout the year and forced to stay on base, but on April 18, 1918 a trolley line was established so the enlisted men could go into the city of Jacksonville. The soldiers would occupy themselves by going to school which was provided by the base and taking part of the location’s YMCA center. At the close of World War I, the camp was closed on May 16, 1919.
Civil War Trust. “Joseph E. Johnston.” Civil War Trust. Accessed December 02, 2016. http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/biographies/joseph-johnston.html.
Library of Congress. “Camp Joseph E. Johnston, Florida, March 4th, 1918.” The Library of Congress. Accessed December 02, 2016. https://www.loc.gov/item/2007664485/.
University of North Florida. “Camp Joseph E. Johnston (Jacksonville, Fla.) Collection.” UNF – Thomas G. Carpenter Library – Camp Joseph E. Johnston. Accessed December 02, 2016. https://www.unf.edu/library/specialcollections/manuscripts/collections/Camp_Joseph_E__Johnston.aspx.