Camp (Fort) Knox was Born 100 Years Ago Today, July 26, 1918

Camp Knox, Ky – November 16, 1918 – Spelled out using men from the 170th Field Artillery Brigade. (The photo was actually taken at the West Point Firing Range)

Camp Knox is located about 30 miles southwest of Louisville, Ky, near what is now the City of  Radcliff . It was built directly over the town of Stithton, Ky, and it covers parts of Hardin, Meade and Bullitt counties. It was approximately 36,330 acres at the time of construction. Built to replace the smaller artillery firing range at West Point, Ky, the new firing range had a seven mile long firing zone, which was much greater than the range at West Point. The West Point camp had a few structures, but all of the soldiers lived under canvas the entire time they were there.

West Point Tent Encampment for Field Artillery, circa July-1918

Constructing Quartermaster, Major W. H. Radcliffe, arrived at the newly selected site on July 26th, 1918, and immediately made arrangements with Lieutenant Van F. Pruitt, the Constructing Quartermaster at Camp Zachary Taylor, to take control of the surveying party as they had already performed some preliminary topographical work on the site. No mapping of the site had been preformed, and that was the most important next step in the process. The Camp Planner arrived the next day from Camp Taylor, and the final site selection for the structures were chosen. The city of Radcliff was named after Major Radcliffe.

John Griffiths & Son Co. Construction Office – October 30, 1918

Major W. H. Radcliffe – Constructing Quartermaster at Camp Knox

Five hundred train cars full of material were shipped to the location shortly thereafter, however the train siding at Stithton could not hold more than eleven cars at one time. Additional track was quickly laid to accommodate more train cars. The General Contractor (John Griffiths & Son, Chicago) arrived on August 5th, and buildings started to take shape about 10 days later.

Civil Engineers at Camp Knox, c. Aug. 1918

Stithton and the surrounding area was void of any hotels or boarding houses, so several barns and tobacco warehouses were commandeered and set up as bunk houses. The labor pool in the area was very thin, and finding qualified workers became a problem. The General Contractor was put on overtime, working seven days a week, from sun up to sun down, to keep up with the schedule.

Material was shipped in by the train car load. Some of that material delivered to the site were: 1.5 million bricks, 75,000 barrels of cement, 54 million board feet of lumber, 25,000 kegs of nails, 2,000 gallons of paint, 111,800 rolls of roofing, and 3.5 million square ft of wall board. There were 16,216 men employed over the duration of the construction.

Turnover of workers was very high due to it’s rural location and lack of access to stores and entertainment.

Construction continued until November 11th when the armistice was signed. After that date, all overtime was stopped, and construction ceased completely on December 21, 1918.

Construction started again on February 1, 1919, but stopped on July 7, 1919 when all funds for the project ran out. Congress appropriated additional funds on August 18, 1919 which was to pay for the work that was already in progress and needed to be completed, but no new structures were started. The original plan was for Camp Knox to be capable of housing 60,000 men, and 27.000 animals. After the signing of the armistice, the camp size was reduced to house 27,000 men.

Caissons rolling thru Camp Knox, circa 1919

The 325th, 326th and 327th Regiment of Field Artillery of the 84th Division had been training at West Point since April 1918. These regiments completed their training in September 1918, and shipped out.

The 170th Brigade Field Artillery, composed of the 67th, 68th and 69th Regiments took their place. In addition, the 24th Brigade Field Artillery, the 24th Trench Mortar Battery were also shipped there. The 29th Aero Squadron and 31st Balloon Company were organized at West Point prior to the construction of Camp Knox. These troops were transferred to from West Point to Camp Knox on November 24, 1918. The last of the transfers were complete by December 26, 1918.

Soldiers and Transport Truck at Camp Knox. circa 1919

Camp Knox became one of the US Army’s Field Artillery ranges, second to Fort Sill in Oklahoma. It remained in operation as one of the Field Artillery Central Officers Training Schools, which had started at Camp Zachary Taylor in August 1918. In 1921, the 10th and 11th Infantry Brigades arrived, along with 40,000 National Guardsmen and ROTC students. The fate of Camp Knox was in doubt since the end of WW1. The army was making plans to downsize, and close camps across the US. It was not until June 9, 1922 when it was announced that Camp Knox would remain open.

Soldiers inspecting M1917 Tank at Camp Knox, circa 1919

Artillery pieces of all types along with tanks were delivered to Camp Knox during that time period because of the large firing range that was available there. .

One of the Mess Halls at Camp Knox, circa 1919

However the good news did not last long. With pressure to downsize the military, along with the demobilization of hundreds of thousands soldiers, Camp Knox was close to being shuttered. By October of 1922, Camp Knox was reassigned as a training camp for the Fifth Corps. The manpower was slashed to 300 soldiers, who were kept to maintain the camp, and provide security.

A baseball game at Camp Knox, circa 1920

Soldiers clowning around the barracks at Camp Knox, circa 1920

In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge signed an executive order reducing the once second largest military camp in the US to “National Forest” status. This lasted for two years until the value of the camp was re-assessed, and two companies from the 10th and 11th Infantries were again stationed at Camp Knox.

The camp stayed in operation for four years where it filled a need in the mid-west as a training facility. In 1931, Camp Knox was upgraded to a permanent base, and renamed “Fort Knox”, which it remains today.

100 years ago today, July 14, 1918 – Quentin Roosevelt is shot down over France, giving name to Roosevelt Avenue in Camp Taylor

100 years ago today, the youngest son of former president Theodore Roosevelt, was shot down over France. Quentin, a fighter pilot in the 95th Aero Squadron, knew Eddie Rickenbacker who had high praise for the young pilot, but also thought he was reckless.

Lt. Quentin Roosevelt

Quentin had his first confirmed kill four days earlier on July 10th. On July 14th, while on patrol with three other pilots, they were participating in the Second Battle of the Marne, when the four allied planes were overtaken by seven German planes. Quentin was shot twice in the head, and crashed behind the German lines.

The wreckage of Quentin Roosevelt’s plane

The Germans buried him near the crash site, and maked his grave with a simple wooden cross, banded together with wire from the plane.

American soldiers at Roosevelt’s grave

Roosevelt Avenue in Camp Zachary Taylor was named after Quentin Roosevelt. The road was not named when the camp was built. It bordered the southern edge of Renfro Field, also known as Argonne Field.


Captured German airplane on display at Renfro Field at Camp Taylor c.1918

Renfro Field was used as a makeshift landing strip for when airplanes visited Camp Taylor. There never were any permanent aircraft stationed there, but it was only fitting to name this street after Quentin Roosevelt as it was the closest to a airstrip at Camp Taylor. Twenty years later, Standiford Field would be built just a short distance away from this location, and occupies all of what was the Maneuver Field.

Humorist, Journalist, Sports Columnist and Soldier at Camp Zachary Taylor – Arthur “Bugs” Baer

Arthur “Bugs” Baer

Arthur (Bugs) Baer – Journalist, Humorist, Sports Writer

Arthur Baer was born in Philadelphia in 1886. The seventh of fourteen children, he dropped out of school in 1900 at the age of 14 to work in the textile industry designing lace patterns. He also enrolled in Art School where he learned to do line drawings.

Cartoon by “Bugs Baer” 1929,

By 1906, he found a job at the Philadelphia Ledger as an “office boy”, where he earned $2 per week. He worked up the ladder to obtain a position as a “Staff Artist”. Nine years later in 1915, Arthur took a job at the Washington Times as their Sports Cartoonist, where he gained notoriety. He developed his talent of drawing cartoons showing sports figures (mostly baseball players) as a combination of baseballs with “bug like” appendages.
The readers of the Washington Times liked his cartoons and humor, and their sports page became one the most widely read pages in any newspaper in the country. The “bug like” characters in his cartoons soon garnered Arthur the nickname “Bugs”, which he soon adopted and preferred to be called. “Bugs Baer’s” first newspaper column was called “Rabid Randolph”, a daily humor column in the New York World.

Sports Page Cartoon by “Bugs Baer” 1915

Bugs had an ability to interject humor into his early columns and is well known for his whit. One famous quote from Bugs, (when he was writing about New York Yankee Ping Bodie) who unsuccessfully attempted to steal second base. “His head was full of larceny, but his feet were honest”. That column attracted the attention of William Randolph Hearst, who hired him to work for the “New York American” in 1915.

Newspaper column by “Bugs Baer”, where he signs “Ty Cobb’s” name as the writer.

When World War 1 came knocking on America’s door step, Bugs was taken into the US Army. In 1918, he enrolled into the “Field Artillery Central Officers Training School” (FACOTS) that was being conducted at Camp Zachary Taylor. The school was the largest school in the world at that time and enrolled 18,253 men over a six months period. Of those who enrolled, 8.737 men graduated, and they came from every state in the union, and several countries from overseas, such as Cuba, Japan, the Philippines and England.

Bug’s talent was not only in his studies during this grueling six-week course of mathematics, geometry and calculus, but his talent was also enlisted as one of several artists who were asked to draw cartoon panels for the 1919 book “FACOTS”. Bugs drew several panels for that publication.

“That OD Underwear”, cartoon panel by Bugs Baer for FACOTS Book.

After leaving the army, he also contributed cartoons for their quarterly publication while working for the New York American Newspaper. One was a look into the future (1980 to be exact) with the main character telling his grandchild about his embellished exploits in the Great War at Camp Taylor.

“The Grand Army of the Ohio, 1980” by Bugs Baer, 1919.

After leaving the army and returning to civilian life, Bugs returned to journalism, Broadway and Motion Pictures. While working for the Washington Times, Bugs switched to columnist when the his boss went on a two week long binge, leaving Bugs to write the column. He soon quit drawing cartoons and wrote full time as a sports columnist, injecting his humor along the way.

Bugs Baer was personal friend of Babe Ruth, and he coined the phrase “The Sultan of Swat” when referring to Ruth. In 1920, Bugs wrote the screen play for “Headin’ Home”,

“Headin Home” written by Bugs Baer. 1920

a silent movie about Babe Ruth, where Ruth plays himself as the lead character. Although the story line was completely fictional about Ruth’s life, it was an attempt to create a mythology about Babe Ruth that put his troubled past in a better light.

In 1923, Bugs co-wrote the “George White’s Scandals” review, which was on Broadway, with George Gershwin as the composer.

Bugs Baer continued his work as columnist with a syndicated King Features column “One Word Led to Another”, which had a circulation of about 15 million readers.

“One Word Led to Another”, by Bugs Baer.


Another syndicated column was “The Baer Facts” where common every day observations were humorously discussed, as well as his column “Bo Broadway” for the Evening World,.Bugs was also one of the writers for the “Mutt and Jeff” comic strip for two years. He wrote many of the story lines that were used by Bud Fisher, the creator of Mutt and Jeff.



The Baer Facts by “Bugs Baer”

Mutt and Jeff, by Bud Fisher










He appeared on radio station WGBS as a humorist and writer, and was a regular emcee for various appearances and shows by the “Syndicated Newspaper Cartoonists”.

Friend and acquaintance, Milton Berle, said that “he tapped Bug’s wit on occasion for inspiration when needing fresh humor”.

Arthur “Bugs” Baer was considered by the New York Times as “one the country’s best humorists of his time”.

Other quotes by Arthur “Bugs” Baer

A writer’s fame may be measured these days by the Lit’ry standing of the birds who steal his stuff.”

America never lost a war or won a peace.”

In 1928, when referring to Philadelphia Athletics pitching ace Lefty Grove,  “He could throw a lamb chop past a wolf.”

You can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy

Alimony is like buying oats for a dead horse

Arthur “Bugs” Baer died in 1969 at the age of 83.



“The Star Spangled Banner” – 100 Years Ago Today, the First “4th of July” was Celebrated at Camp Zachary Taylor

One hundred years ago today, the 84th Division at Camp Zachary Taylor assembled in the parade ground at the Flag Staff for the first 4th of July flag raising ceremony held at Camp Zachary Taylor. The Flagstaff was located near the Headquarters at Taylor Avenue and Poplar Level Road.

Approximately 45,000 soldiers were there, along with thousands of civilians who came to listen to the speakers that address the crowd.

When the Flag was raised on that hot July day, all of the soldiers saluted it while the band played the National Anthem.

Dignitaries and Officers at the Flagstaff

Officers on horseback conducted the Flag Raising Ceremony at the base of the Flagstaff in full view of the dignitaries and civilians.

The photo taken that day was titled :The Star Spangled Banner”, and is one of the most iconic images ever taken at Camp Zachary Taylor.

Happy Centennial Day for the first 4th of July at Camp Zachary Taylor.

The Great Demand for Uniform Clothing at US Training Camps

At the onset of World War 1, the US Military was in need of a large amount of clothing for all branches of the armed services, and very quickly. The US Government did have private manufacturers for uniform clothing, but Government itself manufactured more uniforms than it secured from any single outside source during World War 1.

The Quartermaster Depot, Jeffersonville, Indiana

There were two government uniform factories. One was located at the Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot, and the second was at the Quartermaster Depot in Jeffersonville Indiana. The Jeffersonville Depot produced army shirts, breeches and outer clothing. It expanded in size to cover 10 square blocks during the war, and it became the largest shirt manufacturing plant in the world.

The Jeffersonville Uniform Factory, which was just across the Ohio River from Louisville Ky, was established in February 1918. Louisville already had several operating clothing and cotton mill factories. Many experienced workers were easily secured to work in the government factory, with wages offered for the all women production force starting at $50 and up to $80 per month. The factory operated two shifts of eight hours, and produced 750 woolen coats and 1,500 pairs of woolen trousers per day. The factory employed approximately 2000 workers at it’s peak.

The Jeffersonville plant also installed the most modern “woolen cloth shrinking equipment” in the United States. At the cost of $50,000 to install, it could treat 10,000 yards of wool per day. The US Army plant in Jeffersonville was able to make uniforms at a cost of 25% less than those purchased from private manufacturers. The cost to produce a woolen Service Coat was $1.02, and a pair of Breeches cost .54 cents.

Standard WW1 Army Issue Wool Shirt and Breeches

The great demand for clothing and skilled seamstresses was so strong in 1918, that the US Army implemented a program of hiring expert seamstresses to work and teach out of their homes. The new sewing women, who had volunteered to work from home, were recruited through newspaper ads, and the assembled sewing force grew to approximately 20,000 women operatives, which were located in practically every town and village throughout southern Indiana and northern Kentucky.

This new sewing force increased the output of shirts from 600,000 per year at the QM Depot, to 8,500,000 per year. Each home worker was supplied with one complete shirt to be used as a template, and was provided the shirt material from the Jeffersonville factory. The material was pre-cut to a pattern, and bundled in sets of 10 shirts. The completed shirts were inspected by the factory, and cleaned before being shipped out.

Manufacturing at the Jeffersonville Shirt Factory continued at full capacity until the end of the war, where production was halted in November of 1918.

Copyright, CZTHS 2018

The 99 Year Old Motor School Garage to be Taken Down

The last remaining, unaltered building that was constructed during World War 1 at Camp Zachary Taylor, will be dismantled next week. The process will take several weeks to complete, and an attempt to save as much of the structure will be made. The building was the last structure built at the cantonment in 1918, and it almost made it to it’s 100th birthday. But due to water infiltration and rot, the 102′-0 long wooden trusses have caused them to begin to collapse. The building is in imminent danger of falling down.

Ariel view of the Motor School Garage – 2017

The Motor School at Camp Zachary Taylor, was designed to teach soldiers the repair of Trucks, Motorcycles, Automobiles and Artillery Pieces. At the onset of World War 1, the Army realized that there were not enough trained mechanics to provide support to the new mechanized division in the Army. Camp Zachary Taylor built the Largest Mechanic’s School in the World to train those soldiers.


The Motor School Garage was the second garage built. The original garage was 1/4 the size, and stood just a few yards north of the existing building. The New Garage building was 102′-6″ wide and 256′-0 long. The roof was curved and built using lattis trusses for a clear span over the entire building, and it had a concrete floor. A windowed clerestory ran the entire length of the building, allowing for natural light to illuminate the inside during the day.

The original building was taken down, and the lumber was salvaged for use in the new garage. It was announced on October 7, 1918 that the new garage, and additional buildings, would be constructed, which began the first week of November 1918.

View of Garage North Face – 2017

The cost to build all of the structures was $190,456.00. Construction continued until November 11, 1918, when the armistice was signed, halting all hostilities in Europe. The army issued orders immediately cancelling all construction projects in the United States.

North Face 2-07-2018

The Garage was put on hold, and it stood partially built until December 4, 1918, when new orders were issued, re-authorizing the construction to move forward.

View of Garage South Face – 2017

South Face 2-07-2018

Metro Parks uses this facility as their maintenance facility. Their plan is to build a new structure on the same spot, and approximately the same size. The new building will be an all steel structure, and will not resemble the Old Garage, other than it being the same size. The Camp Zachary Taylor Historical Society, along with the Department of Veterans Affairs, is working with Metro Parks and the City of Louisville to save as much of the original building material as possible. The City included in the budget of 2017 the cost to take down the building, and store the material (on site). It will be covered to protect it from the elements.

Our goal is to work with Metro Parks to help encourage the budget committee to provide funding in next years budget to include the funding to build a new stand alone structure in the cost to build the new garage.  The stand alone building would serve as a “History Center” for Camp Zachary Taylor. The History Center would incorporate a Museum and Learning Center that would focus on Camp Zachary Taylor, and Louisville’s participation in World War 1. The History Center building would incorporate as much of the timber and salvaged lumber from the garage in it’s construction.

We hope to get this accomplished in the next several years, and look forward to seeing this come to a reality. Anyone interested in more information about this project, or would like to volunteer in any capacity, please feel free to email us at

Image of building column after exterior sheeting removed, showing extensive damage to the structure.

Original Exterior tar paper that was applied to the building for weatherproofing. The ghost image of the baton strips are visible on the paper.


View of the North Face showing the window bays that ran the entire length of the building. The header in the first bay on the left has broken and is falling down. (indicated by arrow)


Christmas at Camp Zachary Taylor – 100 years ago

Camp Zachary Taylor was open for only a few months before the winter of 1917. Thanksgiving had just past, but the coldest December on record was on it’s way. Christmas was a cold and snowy one. December of 1917 still holds the record for the snowiest and coldest in Louisville.


Christmas Tree in the YMCA Auditorium on Poplar Level Road, 1917.

Days leading up to Christmas in 1917 saw the coldest temperatures ever recorded in December. December 8th was neg. 1, December 9th was neg. 6, December 10th was neg. 4 and December 11th was neg.3 degrees. These four consecutive dates still hold the record for the coldest temps on those dates.


Barracks at Camp Zachary Taylor during the record cold and snowy winter of 1917-1918

The unusual cold weather continued through the month of December 1917 and into January 1918, with the record coldest date for January occurring on January 12, 1918, where it reached -15 below zero. The photo above was taken around that date, and mentions -18 degrees, which it might have been, away from the city.

1917 also hold the record for the most snow fall ever recorded in the month of December, which was 13.6″. The winter of 1917-1918 still hold the record of the most snow in one season, which is 50.2″. It crippled the camp, and the city. Not much moved unless it was mule drawn, as you can see in this photo of soldiers trying to get a team out to the main road, right after one of the snow storms.


Merry Christmas!

Camp Zachary Taylor’s 100th Anniversary Celebration and Tree Planting – November 3, 2017

Friday, November 3, 2017 will mark the Centennial of the official opening of Camp Zachary Taylor in Louisville Ky. The camp had been occupied since September 8th, 1917, and within a couple of months, they had men in uniform and trained in the Military discipline of marching formations.

Civilians along with the media were all invited to attend the dedication services along with the 40,000 men of the 84th Division, and other dignitaries. General Harry Hale gave the dedication speech, which in part read:

“We have been called today to dedicate the flag of our country in the service for which it was designed. Our work at Camp Zachary Taylor is divided into two periods. The ceremonies today mark the completion of the first period – the period of construction. We are now entering on our second and last period, that of instruction, which will terminate with our departure to France.

Kentucky’s Governor, A. O. Stanley spoke next and patriotic enthusiasm he said:

“Although we have raised this flag but a little more than 100 feet here, it is floating high enough to be seen around the world. I have fancied that its folds inspire not alone the gallant thousands who have salutes it, but that also, with tear-rimmed eyes and with maimed and broken bodies, dauntless heroes of France, shattered legions in the Alps, and all the world gazing upon the flag today with the hope that is this nations strength is destined to make the world safe for democracy.”

On Friday, November 3, 2017, we will honor these men who put their life on the line fighting for this country. The tree planting and Centennial Celebration will begin at 10:00 am. 100 years to the day and time of the first ceremony. Please join us at Camp Taylor Park on November 3rd, 2017.

The First Soldiers Arrive at Camp Zachary Taylor 100 years ago Today, September 8, 1917

Camp Zachary Taylor was nearing completion in early September 1917. The huge construction project had begun only 10 weeks earlier, and was nearly ready to start receiving men. On September 8, 1917, the first wave of enlisted men arrived to join the US Army.Lester Monk Picture

The first man to arrive at Camp Zachary Taylor, was Lester Monk from Illinois. Soon men from Kentucky and Indiana.

pg 18-1

Indiana Enlistments

Over the next several weeks, men from the region flooded into Camp Zachary Taylor to report for duty.

Select Men

The new recruits exchanged their civilian clothes for army uniforms, and training began almost immediately. By the end of the month, 40,000 men were stationed at Camp Taylor, which was the birthplace of the 84th Division. They would be known as the “Lincoln Division” or “Rail Splitters”, in honor of the area’s most notable son, Abraham Lincoln. The camp was not completely finished, but could be occupied.

The final finishing touches were completed on November 23, 1917, and officially turned over the US Army on December 1, 1917.

copyright 2017, Camp Zachary Taylor Historical Society