Training for War at Camp Funston

One hundred years ago, during the winter and spring of 1918, the U.S. Army stepped up the training of soldiers and began to send them overseas. To set the stage for this training, I’ve included a map (with a detail) and a link to a panoramic photograph of Camp Funston. Upcoming posts will describe Grandpa’s job as a cook–in the mess hall and the field, his training for combat, and the surprising (to me) variety of recreational activities he and his buddies enjoyed.

larger map with arrows

This map was published in Putnam’s Handy Volume Atlas of the World, 1921.

The green arrow points to the area in northwest Missouri where King City, Grandpa’s home, was located. The red arrow points to Camp Funston, in Kansas. Grandpa traveled the distance, roughly 200 miles, by train.

map detail arrows

Detail of same map, 1921.

In this detail, the blue arrow points to Ft. Riley, the historic 19th-century military fort that aided travelers heading West. Camp Funston, shown at the tip of the red arrow, was a completely new facility built on a portion of the fort’s land, a flat area along the Kansas River. Just south is the town of Junction City. To the northeast lies Manhattan. Both these towns were destinations for Grandpa and his fellow soldiers, when they wanted a break from duties at camp.

Below is a link to a panoramic view of the camp, posted by the Kansas State Historical Society.  Have a look, scroll across the image then come back to this page for explanations.

The photograph is dated 1917, when the camp was still under construction. At its completion, the camp sprawled over “more than two thousand acres, contained fifteen hundred buildings constructed with more than forty-seven million feet of lumber, had twenty-eight miles of paved streets, and was a temporary home to over fifty thousand men,” according to Jonathan Casey, director, Archives and Edward Jones Research Center, the National World War 1 Museum and Memorial.*

I chose this image because of the handwritten note, “Company “D” 356th Inf. Stationed here.” The arrow points to a group of buildings that resemble barracks. Grandpa belonged to Company “C” 356th Infantry.  I’m guessing Grandpa’s barracks, where he lived and also worked as a company cook, lies in this cluster of buildings. The one-story extension at the back of each held a kitchen.

The orientation of the view is to the south. The photographer stood on elevated ground at the north of camp. Grandpa referred to the area where they trained as the “hills,” which may have been these, which are part of the Flint Hills.

Notice, on the far right, the arrow pointing to Ft. Riley, 4 miles away. You may recall from my post on Grandpa’s illnesses and hospitalization, that he spent some nights at the base hospital in Ft. Riley.

Back to this map, in the central section, notice a marking for “Hospital.” Grandpa often mentioned how he went to the infirmary to see a doctor or pick up medications; I’m wondering if this building, called a hospital here, was what Grandpa called the infirmary.

You can see the tracks, and even a train belching smoke on the left side of the image; look for the handwritten notation “Camp Depot” for the building and to the right, the train. This was the Union Pacific depot.

For leisure and recreation, Grandpa and his buddies had lots of options at Funston. The Y.M.C.A. built a number of buildings. One is noted here. Some had reading rooms with newspapers and desks for letter-writing. Others had large auditoriums for musical performances and lectures.

An outdoor screen labeled “Picture Show” stands in an open field, as does a “Bout Stage,” probably used for boxing, a popular camp sport. Not shown (or not labeled) is a baseball field. Also missing are references to Army City and another area called the “Zone,” both set up as places where soldiers could attend movies, live stage performances, have their photographs taken, pick up food and do some shopping.

Even as he kept busy at camp, Grandpa kept in touch with Grandma. They wrote almost every day. And she would send him small gifts along with homemade treats like candy and cake. One of his friends from King City, a man named Ferris Keys (nicknamed Key Ring), apparently liked these gifts, too.

Send candy and love, 2-21-18

Letter to Grandma, February 21, 1918

Speaking of sweets, the next post offers up doughnuts, hundreds of doughnuts, made by Grandpa, Key Ring, and their fellow cooks.

*Casey, Jonathan. “Training in Kansas for a World War: Camp Funston in Photographs.” Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains 29 (Autumn 2006), 165.




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