The 71st anniversary of the World War II D-Day Invasion is Saturday and WTXL is taking a look at the invasion and documenting stories of Americans who were there in D-DAY: The Great Crusade. This is part two of the series focusing on Camp Gordon Johnston, where troops trained for the invasion.
TALLAHASSEE, FL (WTXL) - It's no surprise troops trained long and hard for the invasion. What many may not know is, hundreds of thousands trained here on the Gulf Coast at Camp Gordon Johnston in Carrabelle.
Linda Minichiello, the Museum Curator for the Camp Gordon Johnston Association, says that service members who trained at the camp were ready for war when they shiped out.
Camp Gordon Johnston was an amphibeous training base during World War Two. It was the second largest one in the state of Florida. The post consisted of 165,000 acres;155,000 of them leased from individuals and from the St. Joe Paper Company.
"It consumed most of Franklin County. If you had come during the war, there would have been a gate at the Ochlockonee Bay, the Ochlockonee River and the Carrabelle River, and once you got to the other side of the Carrabelle river, the land would have been baracaded off, so that you could travel 98, but you couldn't get off onto the camp itself," explains Minichiello.
Carrabelle was chosen as a training site for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it had 20 miles of beach area.
Minichiello says that, "This was the area they found that had both of these requirements, the beach and all of the back area as well for the other types of training that these soldiers had to go through."
The base was was one of the most difficult for service members to train at and was often used as a punishment for those who didn't behave according to Minichiello, "If you didn't buckle down and do what you were supposed to, we're going to ship you down to Camp Gordon Johnston, they'll straighten you out, because it was, of all of the other amphibeous training bases, it probably was the most horrendous training."
While the camp trained about a-quarter of a million people, the 28th division and 4th division were trained specifically for D-Day; using both live and dummy ammunition, so it wasn't their first time under live fire.
Minichiello says that, "If you read one of the quotes that's in one of our rooms, he said, 'had you given us the choice of D-Day or training here, I believe I would have taken on the Germans, because training here was so bad. But Omar Bradley said these were probably the best trained troops that we sent oversees because they had already been exposed to absolutely everything."
Men were not the only one's trained at Camp Gordon Johnston. So were female nurses.
"Many of the nurses that went in on the D-Day invasion had actually trained at this camp. One of the women that went in on this invasion said that by the time they hit the beach, and they went on the landing craft just like the men did, she said that by the time they got to the beach, there were wounded men everywhere. / Very brave women to do that and go in under these conditions," explains Minichiello.
After the war, Camp Gordon Johnston was closed but the pictures, artifacts and memories remain.
The premier of the 3-D Film "D-DAY: Normandy 1944" is Friday. For showtimes visit the Challenger Learning Center.
The invasion had been planned since the beginning of the United States entering the war, according to Kurt Piehler, the Director of the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience.
It's no surprise troops trained long and hard for the invasion. What many may not know is, hundreds of thousands trained here on the Gulf Coast at Camp Gordon Johnston in Carrabelle.
The military's mission in World War II was to destroy the Axis Powers. One way to do that was by creating a second front in Europe on D-Day.
"D-Day: Normandy 1944" is a documentary to honor all who serve. The film's director, Pascal Vuong, says he always had a strong interest in World War II and D-Day ever since he saw the movie "The Longest Day" as a young child. Years later, he decided to create the very first large screen documentary devoted to D-Day.
The letters from those who served on D-Day show more than just war and fear, they show hope of ending the war and a sense of a greater purpose.