Training Camps & Schools


Camp Hancock


The Declaration of War and the Selective Service Act


On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany, thereby entering World War I. For about two years, Georgia's newspapers had been writing against the war because of its negative impact on the state's economy. Yet almost overnight the media changed their tune, becoming anti-German and strongly patriotic.


Federal Installations and War Camps


The state had five major federal military installations when the United States entered the war in 1917. The oldest garrison was Atlanta, which opened in 1889; the newest was Fort Oglethorpe, constructed near the Tennessee border just a few years after the Tybee Island, guarded the entrance to the Camp Hancock.


Georgia had many war-training camps as well. The large national army cantonment at Camp Gordon, which opened in July 1917, was located in Chamblee, northeast of Atlanta, and was the training site of the famous Eighty-second All-American Division. The division included men from several different states, but Georgians made up almost half its number. National Guard training camps were based in Augusta and Souther Field, located northeast of The Otranto Disaster


On the morning of September 25, 1918, about 690 doughboys (infantrymen), mostly Georgians from Fort Screven, boarded the old British liner Otranto, which set sail with a large Allied convoy bound for England. The Otranto was a medium-sized, prewar passenger liner that, like so many others, had been pressed into military service by the British Royal Navy. As the convoy entered the Irish Sea on October 6, still a day from port, the storm became worse, with gale-force winds. A tremendous wave struck the Kashmir, a converted troopship within the convoy, causing it to break ranks and veer hard. It rammed at full steam into the unsuspecting Otranto and caused severe damage to the liner. With a gaping hole in her side and a loss of power, the Otranto was helpless against the strong, storm-driven current, and she began to drift toward the nearby Scottish island of Islay and its rocky coast. The Otranto began to sink slowly before a huge wave pushed the ship onto Islay's rocks. The ship broke apart and quickly sank. Approximately 370 men were killed, an estimated 130 of whom were Georgians.



In late September 1918, new draftee replacements for the Fort Screven Coast Artillery units began reporting to the infirmary seriously ill. Within a few days, it became clear that the men had contracted the dreaded Spanish influenza. On October 1 the number of ill at Augusta's Camp Hancock jumped from 2 to 716 in just a few hours. The next day, Camp Gordon near Atlanta reported that 138 soldiers had contracted the virus. On October 5 Camp Hancock was quarantined with 3,000 cases of flu, but the quarantine came too late, as 47 cases had already reached the nearby city; by evening, more than 50 soldiers were dead, while many more had contracted pneumonia. Though seriously affected by the Spanish flu epidemic, Georgia escaped the massive numbers of sick and dying counted in other states along the East Coast.
Remembering the War



World War I officially ended on November 11, 1918, known as Armistice Day. Most Americans wanted to remember the war and the sacrifice of the men who had fought in it. This spirit of remembrance led to Armistice Day being recognized as a new national holiday. The tragic sinking of the HMS Otranto had stunned many Georgia communities, perhaps none more than the small town of Nashville. The seat of a sparsely populated and agricultural.

In 1922 two of America's war dead received special recognition and a large memorial site in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. These fallen young men represented America's Unknown and Known Soldiers, comprising the nation's unknown or missing dead and all of the known troops killed during World War I. Congress chose Floyd County's lost lives.


Suggested Reading:

Bert E. Boss, The Georgia State Memorial Book (N.p.: [American Memorial], 1921).


Milton R. Ready, "Georgia's Entry into World War I," Georgia Historical Quarterly 52 (September 1968): 256-64.

Gerald E. Shenk, "Race, Manhood, and Manpower: Mobilizing Rural Georgia for World War I," Georgia Historical Quarterly 81 (fall 1997): 622-62.


Joseph M. Toomey, Georgia's Participation in the World War and the History of the Department of Georgia, the American Legion  (Macon, Ga.: J. W. Burke, 1936).


Todd Womack, Wiregrass Historical Society


~ source: The New George Encylopedia