History of Fort Pickett

Fort Pickett is a Virginia Army National Guard installation and located near the town of Blackstone, Virginia. It is named for the United States Army officer and Confederate General George Pickett.

About General George Pickett

Inception

At its inception, Fort Pickett was originally named Camp Pickett. The name was chosen to honor Richmond, Virginia native Major General George E. Pickett, whose ill-fated charge at the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania during the US Civil War, holds a unique place in the history of warfare. Situated just east of the town of Blackstone, Virginia, the location of Camp Pickett was chosen for its central location and access to natural resources. Approximately 46,000 acres were aquired and cleared - construction was begun in January of 1942. The camp was formally dedicated in ceremonies at 1500 on 3 July 1942, exactly 79 years to the day and hour of Pickett's Charge in Gettysburg.

Development at the base continued at a rapid pace after the United States' entry into World War II and by the end of 1942 approximately 1,000 barracks for enlisted, 70 officer's quarters, and another 400 various buildings were completed and in use. These other buildings included 12 chapels, a post hospital, six fire houses, warehouses, and headquarters and administrative facilities. For recreation, there were four movie theaters, a gym, several enlisted clubs, and a main post exchange; as well as several satellite PXs. Transportation infrastructure was critical and involved both an Army airfield and railways being constructed to facilitate moving troops on and off base. Blackstone Army Airfield consisted of multiple runways, an air-control tower, and the post's only hanger. Two rail spurs to the camp were connected to the nation's existing rail infrastructure.

The Army also built and maintained its own water and sewage plants to assure adequate sanitation and potable water for the post. In the 1980s, these facilities were transferred to the control of the town of Blackstone. Two prisoner-of-war camps, and nine smaller satellite camps in nearby counties, housed approximately 6,000 German POWs. Many of these POWs were brought to the United States to perform farm work and other non-war-related jobs as allowed by the Geneva Convention.

Training for War

Soldiers in Training

The first of the fighting units to train at Camp Pickett was the 79th Infantry Division, under the command of MG Ira T. Wyche. Cadre of the 313th, 314th, and 315th Infantry Regiments and the 310th, 311th, 312th, and 904th Field Artillery Battalions began the two month basic training of thousands of new recruits. They had the advantage of training on one of the newest rifle ranges in the country. Among the innovations of the range were a dyke that allowed simultaneous short and long range rifle practice and the moving-targe range that provided training that proved invaluable in the combat that the troops would soon see in Europe.


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