1917 : Camp Custer Construction Begins

July 15, 2024 all-day

Camp Cust aerial photograph taken in 1917, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Note: Aerial photo of Camp Custer, 1917.

Men arrived – 8,000 strong, from across the Midwest. They came carrying their own hammers and saws for the immense construction undertaking. It was hot, dusty, strenuous work, clearing the land and building railroad spurs, roads and barracks. The sound of hammer on spike rang across the hills.

Camp Custer was originally built for military training during World War I. Named after Civil War cavalry officer General George Armstrong Custer, more than 100,000 troops trained or demobilized there during the war. In the years following World War I, the camp was used to train the Officer Reserve Corps and the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Two unidentified United States Army Soldiers standing in their Class A Uniforms and Overseas Caps outside one of the barracks at the Fort Custer Military Base in Battle Creek, Michigan. Soldiers at Fort Custer During World War II

On August 17, 1940, Camp Custer was designated Fort Custer and became a permanent military training base. During World War II, more than 300,000 troops trained there, including the famed 5th Infantry Division (also know as the “Red Diamond Division”) which left for combat in Normandy, France, June 1944. Fort Custer also served as a prisoner of war camp for 5,000 German soldiers until 1945.

Fort Custer became home to units of the Navy Reserve in 1949 and to a Marine Corps Reserve Tactical Bridge Company in 1952. Also during that time, approximately 17,000 troops were trained for the Korean War. Beginning in 1959, Fort Custer served for a decade as part of the North American Air Defense system.

In 1968, the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs assumed control of Fort Custer. Today, the facility is federally-owned and state-operated.

Today the Fort Custer Education Center is operated by the Michigan Army National Guard and the Regional Training Institute conducts Military Occupational Specialty, Non-Commissioned Officer Leadership Training and Officer Leadership Training Courses for Soldiers from all over the State, the Region and the Country.

Ft. Custer Army National Guard Base remains one of the most heavily used training facilities in the Midwest with its close proximity to Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. It is used primarily for small arms and maintenance training at the company level. The 20th Century Tactical Studies Group (based in the US Midwest), holds two battles here in this National Guard base in Battle Creek every year.

During 2014 and 2015, Fort Custer has been designated as a possible location for a new Intercontinental Ballistic Missile base.


Historical Society of Michigan Michigan History Calendar

Fort Custer Training Center News courtesy of the Michigan National Guard.

Fort Custer Training Center wikipedia entry

Ft. Custer Army National Guard Base courtesy of Globalsecurity.org.

Al Jones, “Military leaders say Fort Custer Training Center is a strong candidate for missile defense system”, MLive, August 25, 2015.

Al Jones, “National Guard excited about chances of landing missile defense system in Battle Creek”, MLive, July 6, 2015.

Leave a Reply