Special Photo Section: Camp Upton, 1919
In addition to reprinting a story about Camp Upton from the April 14, 1988 issue of Newsday, which provides an excellent historical overview of Upton, 12 photos of the camp taken in 1919 (including three rare panoramic views) are presented to give readers an accurate picture of just how large Camp Upton was.
Speaking of Blasts From the Past: Home to Irving Berlin But Some Bombs, Too
By Mitchell Freedman (Copyright 1988, Newsday Inc., reprinted by permission)
When Michael Tesla found a World War II anti-personnel mine in the woods at Brookhaven National Laboratory last week and the Suffolk police were called on to detonate the explosive device it was a dramatic reminder of the Army past at the sprawling nuclear research facility.
Virtually all of the original Camp Upton where World War I doughboys were trained and Sgt. Irving Berlin wrote "Oh! How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning" was torn down after that "war to end all wars."
But there are still wooden barracks within sight of many of the laboratory's ultramodern steel and concrete research buildings, and some administrative offices are located in buildings that once housed mess halls and hospital wards.
The camp was decommissioned and the heavy equipment and lumber that made up many of its 1,660 buildings were sold for scrap at a public auction. The Civilian Conservation Corps later reclaimed much of the land, planting grass and trees where earlier workers had leveled woods to build barracks and training fields.
The grass and the white pine trees they planted in the 1930s were torn up again during World War II, when Camp Upton was rebuilt as a reception center that held up to 15,000 troops at one time, a small prisoner of war camp that took 900 Germans most from Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps and a small convalescent hospital.
When the war in Europe was ending, Army officials deemed the reception too small to house the troops as they were reassigned from Europe to the Pacific Theater, so the entire operation was shifted to Ft. Dix, NJ. There was to be one more spurt of military growth for Camp Upton before World War II ended, however.
The small convalescent hospital at the camp had opened in September 1944, with 82 patients who were transferred from Atlantic City. Then, in February, 1945, the entire base was converted to hospital use, housing up to 4,300 patients at a time. There were only 53 barracks and nine other buildings available when the hospital opened, all left from the Camp Upton reception center. The need for a new hospital meant the construction of a dental clinic, bowling alleys, an indoor swimming pool, seven shops for vocational therapy, and an 800-seat auditorium. In all, 26 new buildings were erected and 175 old buildings mostly barracks, warehouses, and service buildings were rehabilitated for hospital use. The Army also built or reconditioned 35 miles of roads, another 35 miles of fire lanes in the woods, repaired 477 additional buildings, and put sod, seed, and water culverts down on 250 acres in a special erosion district at the camp. Finally, when the war in the Pacific ended, Camp Upton was again considered unnecessary. The camp that had been named for Civil War hero Emery Upton, who was wounded at the Battle of Spotsylvania and promoted to brigadier general, was declared surplus, for the second time, on June 30, 1945. In July, 1946, federal officials decided to turn the land over for use as the world's first peacetime nuclear research facility. The Army shipped all its records out when the base was formally abandoned on Aug. 20, 1946. Still, when new buildings are constructed, work crews occasionally find military items that stop work such as the dummy hand grenade a construction worker dug up on Cornell Avenue at the lab in May 1987.
The last nine photos whose thumbnails appear below (click on the thumbnail to view a larger version) are from two panoramic photographs taken in 1919 that are publicly available from the digital collections of the Library of Congress American Memory Project (we reprint all here with their permission). As the photos were uncaptioned, any information about them can be directed to the Webmaster. I would appreciate any information on the buildings pictured, the orientation of each, etc. Users with "exceptional bandwidth" can download the full-sized originals by following either of the next three links (you will be required to scroll horizontally to view the photographs):