In early 1941, there was an article in the Medford Mail Tribune that the Medford Chamber of Commerce had provided the War Department with a list of potential training facility sites. Three months later, in May, the Quartermaster Corps set up an office in Medford to make a preliminary survey for a proposed cantonment in the Antelope area.
The area the army was interested in was the “Agate Desert”, a flat area seven miles east of Medford. The flat topography would be perfect for the building and parade grounds the army would need.
In May 1941, the War Department announced its decision that one of nine new training camps would be Camp White. In December 1941, the planning was completed – only three days before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. War was declared on December 7, 1941 and the camp would be needed. On January 7, 1942 the camps in both Medford and Corvallis were authorized. The actual construction of Camp White began on February 25, 1942 and was completed on December 14, 1942.
Five firms combined forces and submitted the low bid of $27,500.000. More than 10,000 workers were involved. Despite the speed, the camp was well built.
On September 15, 1942 the camp was officially dedicated as “Camp George A. White” in memory of the adjutant general of the Oregon National Guard who had recently died. General White was born in Illinois July 18, 1881. When but a youth, he became interested in military life and served in the Spanish-American War. He came to Oregon from the Rocky Mountain States in 1904 and joined the staff of the Oregonian. In 1915, White became Adjutant General for Oregon and from that time on his rise in military rank was remarkable. He served with distinction in WWI. Successively he held more important positions and was Major General in Command of the 41st Division when that organization was called into federal service September 6, 1940.
The camp involved 77 square miles, had over 900 buildings and trained 40,000 troops at a time in basic combat (BCT). It was the second largest city in the state.
The history of Camp White is amazing–a training camp that sent over 100,000 fully-trained troops in defense of our nation, a P.O.W. camp that housed many German prisoners, to a domiciliary. After the war, Camp White was declared surplus and many buildings were sold at public auction. Little remains of Camp White except a military hospital and military barracks, which were deeded to the Veterans’ Administration and were reopened as a freestanding Domiciliary.
Many of the soldiers who were trained at Camp White met their wives in the local area. Upon returning from WWII they settled down in this area. The unincorporated city of White City is developing on the old camp site.
Colonel Charles Hurlbut II and CSM Bill Best were members of Willamette Valley Chapter #529. The National Commander Stan Miller, in May 2002, suggested they should start a chapter in the Rogue Valley. This required the two of them to start recruiting members. The members decided that since Camp White was sold after the end of WWII and since we draw members from the Rogue Valley we would name our Chapter accordingly. The Rogue Valley Chapter #538 received its charter on February 21, 2005, Presidents Day. We had 26 charter members. Our Chapter was once Camp White Chapter #170, chartered in 1942. It dissolved in 1946 at the end of WWII. At the same time we established Camp White Camp, Heroes of ‘76 consisting of four local Heroes. CSM Best was elected Commander of the camp.
Our first President was COL Hurlbut, who along with CSM Best, Adjutant, took us through the growing pains of becoming a chartered Chapter. COL Hurlbut moved to California in April, 2005 to be near his children. In March, 2005 we elected LT(jg) Jackie Adams to fill the vacant position of President. We have 38 members–35 are Heroes of ‘76; 27 are life members. We currently sponsor two ROTC units–an Army ROTC unit at Southern Oregon University in Ashland and an Air Force Junior ROTC unit at Henley High School in Klamath Falls.