Unpacking this postcard has been a fascinating journey including a long-forgotten Army Camp in Central Louisiana and the famed 101st Airborne Division. The image depicted, its caption, the writing style of the sender, his assigned unit, the location of the postmark, and content of the message all have much to offer.
Let’s start with the arrival depicted here. The linen postcard image is a color-enhanced photograph of new soldiers arriving by rail car and transferring to trucks at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. The installation was primarily used for basic training and artillery practice. Camp Claiborne was also notable for the Claiborne-Polk Military Railway, a rail line spanning 50 miles, including 25 bridges, which connected the camp to what’s now Fort Polk, Louisiana. The railway was used to simulate rail repairs and test methods for derailing trains. Though Camp Claiborne was returned to civilian use right after the war, it had birthed one of the most decorated units of World War II – the 101st Airborne Division, which was activated there in August of 1942.
Our sender, Sgt Arthur L. Ward, was assigned to the 801st Ordnance Company. The military post office, APO 472, listed with his unit on this card indicates he was attached to the 101st Airborne Division. The division moved to Fort Bragg, North Carolina and then conducted a readiness exercise in the Tennessee Maneuver Area during 1943 (ScreamingEagle.org). Tennessee was selected to host such Maneuvers because of its topographical similarity to the European Theater and explains the Nashville, Tennessee postmark stamped in June of 1943. Middle Tennessee hosted hundreds of thousands of troops preparing for the invasion of Normandy and beyond.
In his message, Sgt. Ward mentions visiting Springfield, a town north of Nashville, TN. His capitalization and punctuation are rather unconventional, yet endearing and admirably consistent.
[Wont] have time for a letter. Rec. your letter. Was real glad to hear from you this Father Day. I hope[?] you ate supper at home. I didn’t hear from mam all last week and the kid are doing fine. I went over to Springfield, but didn’t have time to do anything. It’s dark, so I will stop. With good nite.*
*This transcription has been corrected for capitalization and punctuation to improve legibility.
To: Mrs. Ralph Scott | Morrisville, NC
From: Sgt Arthur L. Ward – 801 Ord CO APO 472 – Nashville, TN
Postmark: June 21, 1943 – W. Nashville, Tenn.
Published by Red River News Co., Alexandria, LA.
Camp Claiborne, Louisiana
This reel from 1941 shows soldiers on their rail journey to Camp Claiborne.
The above 6 and half minute archival clip describes the highly technical and under-sung competencies of the rail technicians of the Army Transportation Corps.
More about Camp Claiborne: CampClaiborne.org
Lineage of the 801st Ordinance Company – 101st Airborne Division