The History of Camp Lejeune
Camp Lejeune and Onslow County have come a long way since September 1941
when the 1st Marine Division set up camp in the middle of a sandy pine forest along the
Units have come to train and deployed around the globe to fight wars. A tobacco barn, farm house and temporary tent cities have grown into a 246-square mile premier military training facility. A bond and lifestyle have grown encompassing the Marines, Sailors, family members, military retirees and civilians who planted the seeds that are seeing Onslow County grow.
The Camp Lejeune story began 58 years ago. World War II had started and military planners were posturing forces for America's eminent entry to the fight. The need for an East Coast amphibious training facility was answered as the War Department purchased an initial 11,000 acre tract of land. With close proximity to ports at Wilmington and Morehead City, Lejeune was a logistical gem. When planners added the remote pine forests and miles of beach the value of Camp Lejeune as a home training base for Marines was unbeatable.
On May 1, 1941, LtCol. William P.T. Hill, was ordered by the 17th
Commandant LtGen. (then Major General) Thomas Holcomb to establish and assume command of
the base, then known as Marine Barracks New River, N.C. His original headquarters was
located at Montford Point and in August of 1942 it was moved to Building #1 at Hadnot
Point, where it remains today.
Near the end of 1942, the base took on a the name of Camp Lejeune, named in honor of the 13th Commandant and Commanding General of the 2d Army Division in World War I, MajGen. John A. Lejeune. (Shown here)
The value of this land to the Marine Corps has grown over the years as men have trained to fight wars in Korea, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia and have deployed for such actions as peacekeeping in Lebanon and a host of noncombatant evacuation operations throughout this decade. The idea of Special Operations Capable Marine Expeditionary Units was born at Camp Lejeune and Marines here continue to make strides toward the future of warfare in such as areas as urban and riverine operations.
Camp Lejeune and the satellite facilities at Camp Geiger,
Camp Johnson, Stone Bay and the Greater Sandy Run Training Area have a historic value that
goes beyond their national strategic importance.
Camp Johnson, which now serves a crucial role in the follow-on training of thousands of Marines every year, was the first training base for black Marines. Originally known as Montford Point, black Marines attended boot camp here while the nation was still racially segregated. After the walls of segregation came down, it was named in honor of SgtMaj. Johnson and Marine Corps Service Support Schools was located there.
Outside the gate of Camp Johnson stands a solemn tribute to Marines and Sailors who gave their lives trying to keep the peace in the Middle Eastern country of Lebanon. The Beirut Memorial is the site of an annual commemoration of the tragic October 1983 bombing of Battalion Landing Team 1/8's Headquarters in Beirut. A visit to the Jacksonville area isn't complete without a stop at this memorial.
Camp Geiger is a vital training center unto itself. With more than 12,000 Marines undergoing Marine Combat Training every year, it is a hub of activity that mirrors the original days in 1941 when the 1st Marine Division prepared to ship-out to the Pacific.
Today Camp Lejeune boasts 14 miles of beach capable of supporting amphibious operations. There are 54 live-fire ranges, 89 maneuver areas, 33 gun positions, 25 tactical landing zones and a state of the art Military Operations in Urban Terrain training facility. Military forces from around the world come to Camp Lejeune on a regular basis for bilateral and NATO-sponsored exercises. These include Cooperative Osprey, a Partnership for Peace exercise that involved 13 countries last year.
The base is home to an active duty, dependent, retiree and civilian employee population of nearly 150,000 people. The base generates $2 billion in commerce each year, coming from payrolls and contracts let to support the structure required to train and equip our modern Marines.
From the supporting infrastructure, a tradition of excellence in doing day-to-day business has evolved. From environmental programs that include a state of the art landfill and water treatment system to quality of life programs that ensure Marine families are taken care of, Camp Lejeune stands out as a superior military base.
Camp Lejeune is a three-time recipient of the Commander-in-Chief's Award for Installation Excellence. This award recognizes the base on a Department of Defense-level for effectively managing assets and developing quality programs to accomplish the mission of providing expeditionary forces in readiness.
The Marines, Sailors and civilian employees who provide for the efficient management of Camp Lejeune's assets strive to ensure that even grander goals are realized in the future. The most recent addition to Camp Lejeune, the Greater Sandy Run Training Area, has added a new level of credence to Camp Lejeune's claim to being the "Home of Marine Expeditionary Forces in Readiness," providing for the training of Marine Air/Ground Task Forces defending our country.