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Camp Crowder
Neosho, MO

Camp Crowder is a Missouri Army National Guard Training Site in Southwest Missouri, just south of Neosho. The Missouri National Guard operates seven training sites, including Skelton, Wappapello, Macon, Camp Clark, and Camp Crowder. Limited public access is allowed. In accordance with the terms of a Wildlife Management Agreement with the Missouri Conservation Department, access and hunting is allowed in the portion of the post located south of the range complex during the period October 1 through March l. The post is closed to all public access at any time units are in training.

Fort Crowder was built in 1941 as a training center for the U. S. Army Signal Corps, and at its peak had nearly 47,000 troops stationed there. Camp Crowder was activated shortly after the beginning of WWII and served as the temporary home of thousands of male, female, white and black soldiers. The construction of Camp Crowder, one of the largest army installations in the midwest, doubled the population of Neosho in a matter of weeks. The camp, a U.S. Army Signal Corp Training Center, flooded Neosho with an average population of 40,000 uniformed men and women. A number of radio intelligence companies were formed there which later saw action in both the European and Pacific theaters. The 43rd Signal Construction Battalion (Colored) was activated at Camp Crowder, Missouri on 7 February 1944. Between December 1942 and May 1946, Missouri was home to more than 10,000 German and Italian prisoners of war who lived in 32 camps scattered throughout the state, including at Camp Crowder. The Blacks had WWI barracks, outside latrines and dilapidated facilities. Even the German POW's had nicer facilities than the Blacks.

Mort Walker used his experience there to create "Camp Swampy" for "Beetle Bailey." Major Milton K. Wirtz, head of the dental section at the U.S. Army base at Camp Crowder, was one of the pioneers in plastic eye prosthesis.

In 1946 Camp Crowder was closed as a basic training site. The impact of Camp Crowder's establishment on Neosho was only be matched by the impact of its closure. The millions of dollars spent locally by the government and soldiers almost disappeared entirely when World War II ended. Utilizing the many facilities left at the old camp site, business and industry rose where barracks and mess halls once stood. Later, Crowder College was formed and moved in where the army had moved out. Fort Crowder was completely deactivated in 1958, and was declared surplus property in 1962.

To help Marine Corps reservists continue learning, Camp Crowder, located in Neosho, Mo., provides Professional Military Education (PME) courses. Camp Crowder has been the site for the reserve PME courses since 1997. Currently there are two sergeants' courses, two career courses (staff sergeant) and one advanced course (gunnery sergeant) offered here each summer. The sergeant's course includes instruction in sword and platoon drills, professional reading, squad and patrol tactics and anti-terrorism procedures. The staff sergeants learn about rear area-security, offensive operations, defensive tactics and Marine Corps doctrine of tactics. The gunnery sergeants course deals with change of command operations, preparing a tactical map, fundamentals of defensive tactics and a local battle study. Each course also includes a day and night land navigation course, reserve affairs brief, physical fitness test, reserve administration brief, financial management brief and burial detail brief.

Air Force Plant 65

In approximately 1957, the Army transferred a portion of Camp Crowder to the Air Force for construction of a rocket engine manufacturing plant. This installation was known as Air Force Plant No. 65. Construction of Plant 65 began in approximately 1956, with operation beginning in 1956 or 1957. Besides the main manufacturing plant, construction also included an area initially used to test-fire rocket engines (now referred to as the Engine Testing Area or ETA), an area for testing components related to rocket engines (now referred to as the component testing area or CTA), and a former Camp Crowder building, initially used as a warehouse, but later used for engine overhaul and manufacturing purposes (now referred as the 900 Building).

For 16 years, starting in 1957, rocket engines for missiles such as the Atlas, Thor and Saturn were tested at Air Force Plant 65. The U.S. Air Force developed the Atlas as America's first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. Its Cold War mission was to deter nuclear attack. The Atlas was retired from military service without ever being used, but water and soil contamination caused by cleaning the rocket engines with TCE still is present. To address the TCE contamination, sources of the contamination are being identified, soil is being removed for treatment and the groundwater is being pumped and cleaned to prevent further migration. The cleanup is being performed by the Department of Defense with oversight by the EPA and Missouri DNR.

The Engine Testing Area (ETA) was used by a U.S. Air Force contractor to test rocket engines from approximately 1956 to approximately 1967. Newly assembled rocket engines were tested in an area that consists of two bunkers equipped with rocket blast deflectors and concrete waste liquid drainage ditches (troughs) leading to a series of storage ponds. During the main period of operation, several train tanker cars of liquid rocket fuel were delivered and used per week. Operations created large quantities of waste fuels and lubricants; however, no record exists of the exact amount. After completion of the performance tests, the rockets were drained of any remaining fuel. The fuel, any lubricants that were used, TCE, methyl alcohol, hydrazine, and other waste products, were allowed to flow via concrete drainage ditches (troughs) to a hazardous waste pit and storage lagoons. After a large volume of waste liquids had accumulated, the storage lagoons were burned off. These fires created large clouds of black smoke that created concerns about air pollution and the practice was halted. After the practice of burning was stopped, waste liquids were sold to an asphalt company. Also, unknown quantities of waste TCE were sold to a chemical company for recycling. In approximately 1967, the ETA was closed and abandoned. In 1981, the lagoons were pumped dry and filled with soil.

At the Component TeAst Area (CTA) tests were performed on rocket components, such as gas generators, turbo pumps, and vernier engines until 1967-68 when the mission of Plant 65 changed. A different contractor began using the CTA to test small turbo-jet engines. In 1970, another company took over the operation using the site for identical purposes until it closed the site in 1973. In 1976, the U.S. Government sold the CTA portion of the Test Site to the Water and Wastewater Technical School, Inc. During the time of operation of the CTA, waste liquids were routed to primary and secondary storage lagoons and/or a hazardous waste pit. In 1981, the storage lagoons were pumped dry and the liquids disposed of on site. The storage lagoons were destroyed by bulldozing the existing berms.

The Manufacturing Facility was built in 1956 and used to make rocket engine parts and assemble rocket engines. Manufacturing processes performed included machining, welding, heat treatment, plating, degreasing, and final assembly. After being purchased by a new owner in 1968, the facility was used to overhaul jet engines. Although, ownership has changed, the facility has continued to be used for that purpose through the present.

An Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) was signed in December 1998, between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the potentially responsible parties for the Pools Prairie Superfund site. The AOC required a public water system to be developed for residences located in areas contaminated with Trichloroethylene (TCE), south of the city of Neosho. Two hundred thirty-three residences have been connected to the city public water supply system. The Pools Prairie site is a National Priorities List site located in Newton County, outside the city limits of Neosho. Two areas of residential well contamination have been identified at the site. Within this area, 37 residential wells have been found to exceed the maximum contaminant level for TCE, which is five parts per billion.

In July 1995, bottled water was provided to the residences where TCE-contaminated wells exceeded the maximum contaminant level. In 1997, EPA sampled the soil and ground water in the vicinity of the 900 Building and found elevated levels of trichloroethylene (TCE) and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In the spring of 1998, the provision of whole-house water treatment units as an interim measure was enacted.

On May 5, 1999, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), the United States Department of Defense (DOD), and Teledyne Industries, Inc., completed an agreement to address soil and ground water contamination at an area of the Pools Prairie Superfund site called the Quince Road Area. The Quince Road Area is located near the intersection of Highway 71 and Quince Road and includes the 900 Building, which was formerly part of Camp Crowder and Air Force Plant 65. Previous operations at the 900 Building include the Camp Crowder laundry, warehousing, and jet engine overhaul and testing. The building is currently owned by the Saberliner Corporation.

Construction of the permanent public water supply system was completed in October 2000. This involved the construction of more than 82,000 feet of water main and installation of water meters and the connection of 233 residences. The owners of 19 residences opted not to be connected to the public water supply system.

 



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