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Centreville Jeffersonian NewspaperRumors of an army camp began circulating as early as December of 1940. The headline story "Centreville Rumored Site For Army Camp" appeared in the December 13th issue of the Centreville Jeffersonian. About this time the Homochitto National Forest was rumored as being a proposed site of an army training camp.

The appointment of John O'Brien to head of the land division created interest in the proposed camp. The Mayor of Centreville, Lee B. Robinson, sent a telegraph to John O'Brien, in February 1941, stating "the people really want you to locate a camp here". Mayor Robinson offered his services in the acquisition of the site and was ready to send representatives to Washington "armed with all the facts".

In February 1941 Robinson headed a delegation appearing before a Board of Army officers at Camp Shelby to promote the Southwest Corner of Mississippi as the location of an army training camp. A week later a Board of Army Officers from Camp Shelby came to Centreville and toured the proposed site.

March of 1941 saw the official organization of the Southwest Mississippi Cantonment Association (SMCA). Some of the men making up this group included Lee B. Robinson, C. C. Germany, H. H. Crosby, L. O. Crosby, W. S. Johnson, W. M. Webb, and Oliver Emmerich. Members of the SMCA, upon organization, immediately began securing options for the lease or purchase of thousands of acres in the southwest corner of Wilkinson and the southwest section of Amite County, Mississippi. By April of 1941 the SMCA was able to present to the War Department options for the sale or lease of more than ten thousand acres.

A construction company, building at Camp Polk,  Louisiana, notified employees and contractors that work would begin in May 1941. Workers began to arrive from Leesville, Louisiana, in April 1941, at the proposed army training site. The transit population of Centreville exploded with the appearance of numerous "squatters". One local resident was quoted as saying, "yesterday I knew everybody, now today I don't recognize anyone".

The Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad began making plans to switch tracks to the proposed site, and the Highway Department prepared to begin construction of highways to accommodate the increased traffic.
The Centreville Jeffersonian on May 16, 1941 reported that the War Department announced " the Centreville project was unsuitable for development as a division training camp".

Camp Prospects Brighten

President Roosevelt declared an unlimited national emergency on May 30, 1941, and prospects of an army training camp brightened.

On February 25, 1942, one year after the first rumors of an army camp began, the contract was lent to Solomon & Kies of Troy, New York to lay out and supervise the construction of an army training camp.

The Woodville Republican reported in an article dated July 4, 1942 that the name selected for the new Army camp would be named after General Earl Van Dorn, thus Camp Van Dorn was born.

Major General Earl Van Dorn was born September 17, 1820 and had roots in Port Gibson, Mississippi. He attended West Point, and took part in Scott's 1847 campaign in Mexico with the 7th Infantry. He transferred to the cavalry in 1855, and was wounded in Oklahoma territory in a battle with Native Americans. General Van Dorn resigned his commission in the United States Army in 1861 to fight for the Confederacy. General Van Dorn's most famous battle, the routing of 75,000 Union troops with a cavalry troop numbering around 3,800 at Holly Springs, Mississippi, set the stage for Grant's retreat from Mississippi. Although wounded at least twice in battle, General Van Dorn died in 1863 at the hands of a jealous husband.

Roads, railroad spurs, and warehouses were the first to be built, with barracks and headquarters buildings to be built after camp roads were in place. The building of barracks, constructed of tarpaper, and heated by coal or wood heaters was begun in June 1942. The first troops moved in for training in November 1942.

A War Department report ended December 31, 1945 showed barracks and buildings that could accommodate 39,114 enlisted men, 2,173 officers, and a station hospital with a bed capacity of 750. The camp possessed a covered storage capacity of 395,000-sq. ft. (9.07 acres), and 5,894,959-sq. ft. (135.33 acres) open storage. The War Department owned 41,843 acres and one leased acre. The cost to the government for the construction of Camp Van Dorn from June 1, 1940-December 31, 1945 was $768,079 for land and $20,971,83 for construction.

Army units departed Camp Van Dorn as the war ended. Camp Van Dorn was declared surplus October 1, 1945, less than 3 years after men began training there. In April 1947 former landowners were able to re-purchase their land.

Camp Van Dorn was born out of the necessity to defend the United States, Europe and the World from the menace of tyranny. Its short life had a tremendous social and economic effect on Southwest Mississippi and the war.