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Soon after 1942 began, the United States Army found itself in dire need of training and housing for recruits. The decision was made by the War Department to acquire hotel properties as temporary quarters for new inductees. On the East Coast of the United States, two of the biggest sites offered the conditions, in the quantities needed by the Army; these were Miami Beach, Florida, and Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Through the cooperation of representatives of the United States Army Air Forces, the political assistance afforded by United States Senior Senator William H. Smathers, United States Congressman Charles Sandman, and New Jersey State Senator Frank S. Farley, Atlantic City’s Mayor Taggart, his city commissioners and owners of the city’s hotels, forty-five hotels were provided for United States Military occupancy. Atlantic City’s Convention Hall served as headquarters for the Army Air Forces Basic Training Center No. 7. Thus began the first phase of Atlantic City’s contribution to the war effort, first dubbed "Camp Boardwalk" by the Saturday Evening Post (February 27, 1943).

These facilities were leased by the Army Air Forces at the rate of one dollar per day per room, for not less than one year. According to Mary Haynie, "although room rates were $10-12 per day from May to August and were generally booked, ‘off season’ from September to April few rooms were occupied at the $5-7 per day" (Haynie interview).



Where there were large numbers of soldiers, there were vast quantities of food. A few examples noted in the Saturday Evening Post included, "the Army kitchen installed at Haddon Hall has turned out as much as two tons of fried chicken for one meal, and the largest hotel mess, the Traymore, is equipped to serve 5,000 at each sitting . . . "(26). In addition to the daily rate per room, the United States Government paid rent on dining rooms, space used for classrooms, and recreational facilities (48).

On June 28, 1942, the former Elks Club Building was converted to a radio operator training center for Coast Guardsmen. They were quartered in the Clarendon Hotel (Atlantic City Remembers, 2). These trainees played another important role during the hurricane of 1944.

America’s military machine was put into high gear throughout 1942. Facilities for the rapid transformation of raw civilian recruits into soldiers and sailors were being used en mass. However, before the recruits could function as military personnel, it was first necessary to teach those that were illiterate how to read and write. Without these skills, a modern war machine could not function as designed. This task fell to the Army’s Special Training Units. The 704th Training Group, from Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, came to Atlantic City to assist the newly activated 565th Technical School Squadron. It was their mission to see that every recruit reached a fourth grade reading/writing level within twelve weeks (Newsweek, 1/21/43). Instructions in reading and writing were added to the other training and drilling that recruits practiced daily.

[The search for written records on the Atlantic City-based training center was thwarted by budget cuts during the 1950's-60's. According to an archivist at College Park, Maryland, the decision was made to destroy written records if they were not directly related to combat units. Basic Training Center No. 7 was not considered directly connected to combat units, and its paperwork is now gone. However, two local residents, Pvt. Arthur Neumann, a former teacher from the United States Army Air Force’s Special Training Unit, and his wife, Beryl, who was employed at the Army’s Convention Hall headquarters, have preserved a copy of six pages (482-486) from a record documenting the Center. The data referred to here has been garnered from it.]

The uniqueness of this unit was pointed out on page 483 of the only document discovered that related to the Basic Training Center. It is estimated that, based on the few pages, 482-486, preserved by Pvt. Neumann, the record would have been approximately 500 pages in length.

This unit, the first of its kind in the Army Air Forces, was organized to teach elementary reading, writing and arithmetic to illiterates and non-English speaking soldiers, who formed no negligible percentage of the whole number of recruits sent here for training (482).

The Training Group received authorization to reorganize in order to more efficiently and effectively handle this volume of recruits. This was done by:

Not only did this educational training add value to the soldiers for their units, it also built their self-esteem. An example of how important the Special Training Unit’s efforts were was found in an article written in the EDUCATION section of Newsweek Magazine, January 24, 1944, ". . . the Military Training Division of the Army Special Service Forces had given well more than 100,000 illiterates the equivalent of a fourth-grade education in from seven to twelve weeks each." At the end of the article was a short letter which showed how important the schooling was to families of the soldiers: "Dear Son George: Mother was so proud to get your letter, to think you could write a letter yourself. I will always keep it as a remembrance. God bless the man that taught you. It means so much to me to hear directly from you."

The soldiers were also grateful. One soldier wrote a poem expressing his and probably many other men’s feelings about being given the opportunity to gain an education.


These men are soldiers, too

Fighting the selfsame cause

Men who did not go to school

They reason not, nor pause.

These men who come from every state

From farm and mill and mining camp,

Somewhat illiterate, somewhat shy,

Are learning now of writer’s cramp.

For there are other jobs in war

Besides the fighting and foray;

Like teaching school to soldier lads

Who will return to home someday.

They question not the how or why

But stanchly take the task assigned

This is their country, this their land,

Teacher and soldier, with but one mind. (Schottland, 33)

Included in the Army’s acquisitions was Convention Hall, the largest structure of its kind in the world (at that time), to be used as the Headquarters of Basic Training Center No. 7. The main hall was used for mass exercises and physical training where up to four thousand men could do calisthenics together. Most of the other space was used for offices. The government also renovated Convention Hall. The terms of the usage and payment for that facility were of considerable controversy. The Army Air Forces proposed to pay one dollar rent per year, and operating expenses. The City rejected the proposal, claiming the Army should pay more. That the Army was already occupying Convention Hall, added to the confusion. According to an article in the Atlantic City Press/EveningUnion, July 23, 1942, operating costs, salaries and interest on ten million dollars in bonds for building the hall amounted to $100,000 per year, while income from events and conventions equaled approximately $50,000 per year. The City had to absorb the difference. Although the Army’s proposal, "called for the government to take over the Hall and the burden of all expenses, thus relieving the city of any worries for the

duration . . . , " the Mayor revealed that there were other problems involved with outsiders. In the same article he was quoted as saying,

. . . because of the contractual involvements with other persons who have entered into leases and agreements with the city for the use of the Hall and due to the claims that have been made against the city by reason of these contracts, it has become impossible to enter into a voluntary agreement with the government. It has become necessary to have condemnation proceedings by the government in order to evaluate the rights of all parties concerned in a friendly and amicable manner.

Part of the reason the Army was victorous on this issue was due to the clear and present danger of a national emergency.

The entire Training Center was under the command of Colonel Robert P. Glassburn. He was quoted in an explanation regarding the need for the Army’s actions in

Atlantic City:

If the T. T. C. had to take over hotels to house its men, it was much better to take over the strictly entertainment-type hotels rather than ordinary commercial ones. Then, too, where but in a resort town could we have found so many of this particular type of hotel clotted together in an area small enough to make training possible?

The time factor was the most important of all. Here was a camp already built, and the critical materials necessary for a whole new installation could not have been procured rapidly, if at all. In addition to eating and sleeping space, we found utilities ready and waiting, such as sewage disposal, ash-and-garbage removal, electricity, gas-and-fire protection, all geared for expansion overnight to take care of as many men as we wanted to bring in (Saturday Evening Post, 48).

Roughly one year after its opening, Basic Training Center No. 7 was being phased out of existence. According to the Atlantic City Press/Evening Union, there were approximately 250,000 men trained and educated at Basic Training Center No. 7 (June 27, 1943). By July 1943, this special unit was moved to Basic Training Center Number 10, located in Greensboro, North Carolina, in order to set up another teaching and education program (A. Neumann interview, 10/10/97). At this time also, the need for Atlantic City’s forty-five hotels as "temporary barracks" became unnecessary. To cut costs, the control of the hotels was gradually being returned to civilian control and commercial use. In place of Basic Training Center No. 7, it was announced that:

The Army will establish the Army Air Forces Redistribution Center for the reassignment of Air Forces personnel returning from theatres of operation. In addition, the Government will set up a second station to be known as the AAF Personnel Redistribution Station No. 1(Atlantic City Daily World, 8/19/43).

According to the newspaper, ". . . the purpose of the Personnel Redistribution Center is to ‘evaluate and reassign officers and enlisted men on their return to the United States from service overseas.’ "{the Army related} Additionally, "those who will be discharged for medical reasons, will be assisted in their return to civilian life through various Government agencies." (Atlantic City Daily World, 8/19/43) This sounded good, but the Army has been notoriously famous for making any transition difficult, as an example from this program will show. Lt. Nestor, Sophie’s husband, was wounded in Europe, March 1945, and returned to Halloran General Hospital, Long Island, New York. While there, he was asked where he would like to be sent, Tennessee, North Carolina, or Atlantic City. Since his wife and family were in Atlantic City, he expressed his desire to return there. He was immediately sent to Kennedy General in Memphis, Tennessee. Neither Lt. nor Mrs. Nestor was pleased, and, according to Mrs. Nestor, she began making telephone calls to correct this error. One of the other volunteers told Sophie that she was successful in getting her loved one transferred to Atlantic City by speaking to the Commanding Officer. Sophie immediately called the Commanding Officer of Thomas England General Hospital, and asked for the Colonel’s intercession. The Colonel told her to have her husband put in for a furlough, and bring all his belongings with him, as he would not be returning to Tennessee. When his furlough was over, Lt. Nestor was to report to Thomas England General as a patient (S. Nestor interview, 10/17/97). Some of Lt. Nestor’s decorations include: the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, three Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts, the French Chroix de Guerre, the Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon, a Combat Infantryman’s Badge, and a battlefield commission (The Bugle, 10).

A final comment concerning the rumors which have persisted for many years, regarding the U.S. Army Air Forces failing to render compensation to the hotel owners in reprisal for resistance to the Army’s take over during a national emergency. An article in the Atlantic City Press, July 9, 1943, reveals, "Figures show resort having great season." Even with the strict rationing of food, fuel and the military presence, Atlantic City was doing well in 1943 and in fact was to be one of the best business years in its history. Also, according to an article titled "City Bank Deposits Up $44,000,000 Since Army Moved In, Taggart Says" in the Atlantic City Press, July 12, 1945, "In the first year of ‘Army occupation,’ he said, deposits jumped 10 million dollars; second year, 16 ˝ million dollars, and third year, 17 ˝ million dollars." The former mayor stated that he "personally kept a record of bank deposits . . .", showing those rumors to be false.

While the Army Air Forces were establishing a Basic Training Center, the Navy was acquiring land owned by the city to establish a Naval Air Station. This new facility will be discussed in greater detail in a subsequent chapter.