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Camp Shelby History Collection

Identifier: M517

Scope and Contents

The collection traces the history of Camp Shelby, Mississippi, beginning with World War I through the early twenty-first century. Materials held within the collection include letters, postcards, a scrapbook, photographs, official documents, news clippings, ephemera, and publications.


  • Majority of material found in Circa 1918-2004

Conditions Governing Access

Noncirculating; available for research.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical / Historical

Camp Shelby was founded in 1917 as a training center for World War I troops, with a capacity of 36,000. The facility trained and mobilized 50,000 troops between 1917 and 1918, including elements of the 37th Division, Ohio National Guard, the 38th Division, known as the “Cyclone Division,” as the result of a tornado that occurred during the unit’s training, and the 101st Division. Elements of other divisions and independent artillery and engineer units also trained at Camp Shelby during World War I.

Camp Shelby was closed after the end of World War I and most of its assets sold off. It served as a training facility for the Mississippi National Guard beginning in 1924. By the late 1930s, with the Second World War looming, the Third Army utilized Camp Shelby for protective mobilization maneuvers. The U.S. Army expanded the camp in 1940, to train a second division. First, the 38th Infantry Division arrived in February, 1941, followed by the 37th Infantry of the Ohio National Guard.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the official entry of the United States into World War II, Camp Shelby was expanded to accommodate another over-strength division, along with the two divisions that it already housed. A German prisoner of war camp was added, which housed 2,500 Germans, including members of the German Africa Corps.

During World War II, Camp Shelby encompassed 360,000 acres and leased an additional 400,000 acres for troop maneuvers. Between 1940 and 1946, more than three-quarters of a million personnel were inducted, trained, or demobilized at Camp Shelby, making it the second largest military installation in the United States during that time period. The famous 442nd Regimental Combat Team, consisting of Japanese-American volunteers, trained at Camp Shelby. The unit became the most decorated unit for valor for its size and length of activity in Army history. Other units included a detachment of Women’s Army Corps (WAC), which provided installation support.

Following the end of World War II, Camp Shelby was deactivated and its assets auctioned off. It remained closed through the Korean War, not reopening until 1953, when the Mississippi National Guard took control of the camp and designated it as the training camp for the 31st “Dixie” Division between 1956 and 1965. However, the only combat unit to train at Camp Shelby for the Vietnam War was the 199th Light Infantry Brigade, which held its pre-deployment maneuvers at the camp in 1967. During the late 1990s, the camp was reorganized as a National Guard training base. As a result, nearly 100,000 personnel trained at Camp Shelby annually throughout the period. In 2001, the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum was opened on Camp Shelby, to serve as a state military history museum.

Camp Shelby served as a mobilization center during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, with 250,000 military personnel passing through the facility during the military actions. Camp Shelby continues to play dual roles for the state and the country, both as a state installation for the Mississippi National Guard and as a mobilization platform for the First Army. More recently, Mississippi was named as the Department of Homeland Security’s Unmanned Aircraft System demonstration site, and since Camp Shelby has 158 miles of restricted air space, the facility will play a key role.


1 Cubic Feet : MC1/D10

Language of Materials



Photographs, newspaper clippings, postcards, correspondence relating to history of Camp Shelby, an armed forces training camp located near Hattiesburg, Mississippi.


The arrangement scheme for the collection was imposed during processing due to the artificial construction of the collection, although items that appeared to belong together were maintained in that order. Arrangement is roughly in chronological order.

Related Materials

M559 N.V. Hannegan Camp Shelby Letters

M580 Catherine Adeline Crowell Camp Shelby Photographs

M645 Ron and Elizabeth Howard


The collection has been assembled from materials donated by multiple donors, transferred from other collections, purchased, or from unknown provenance. Donors include: Shane Jones; Garland Sullivan; Diane Ross; Belinda Smith; the Estate of Glenn & Virginia Spangler via Karen Lane of Grove City Library, Grove City, Ohio; and Allen Nation via Dr. Aubrey Lucas. Materials were transferred from the Political Campaign Collection (M408), the Thigpen (S. G.) Papers (M446), the Grimsley (Reagan L.) Research Collection (M486), Mississippiana, and the Vertical File. One item was purchased through the Douglas A. Noverr Grant for Collection Enhancement for Institutions to Build Popular Culture and American Culture Research Collections (Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association). One item was purchased, then translated by Elena Azadbakht from its original German.

Administrative History

The original panoramic photograph of 113th AM. & SP. TR hangs in a building in Picayune, Mississippi that is associated with “A” Company of the 890th Engineering Battalion, headquartered in Gulfport, Mississippi.

Items of Note

A pamphlet issued by the Department of the Interior War Relocation Authority in collaboration with the War Department, titled Nisei in Uniform, discusses Japanese Americans that enlisted in the United States Army from the relocation camps where the federal government had restricted them following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Also includes souvenir booklet and pamphlet from World War I.


Also see case file and collection materials for source materials.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Lynn Cowles.

Camp Shelby Historical Collection
Lynn Cowles
June, 2018
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Historical Manuscripts and Photographs Repository

118 College Drive - 5148
Hattiesburg MS 39406-0001