Back to News

'Trench and Camp': the official WWI military camp publication

A look back at a century in the making

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

"Camp Lewis built at lowest cost," read the Sept. 12, 1917 headline in the Tacoma Daily Ledger. Capt. David Stone, a West Point graduate, was assigned as Quartermaster for the cantonment to be built on land at the south end of American Lake. Total cost was $6,517,488 - or $142 per capita - the lowest per capita of any cantonment or National Guard Camp.

Several months earlier, another Ledger story reported that the Hurley-Mason Company had been awarded the contract to build the Northwest military post. "The firm was recommended by the general munitions board, and the work will be done on the cost plus percentage profit basic adopted for all cantonment contracts."

Under Stone's command, the cantonment was completed well in advance of the arrival of its first troops, and at that low, per capita cost. That October, the first edition of a national military newspaper, Trench and Camp, was available for the soldiers to read.

The front page story in that paper's first edition, published Oct. 8,1917, featured "A Message from the Commander in Chief, Pres. Woodrow Wilson:"

To the soldiers of the National Army,

"You are undertaking a great duty. The heart of the whole country is with you. Everything that you do will be watched with the greatest interest and with the deepest solicitude, not only by those who are near and dear to you, but by the whole nation besides. For this great war draws us all together, makes us all comrades and brothers, as all true Americans feel themselves to be when we first made good our national independence. The eyes of all the world will be upon you, because you are, in some special sense, the soldiers of freedom. Let it be your pride therefore, to show all men, everywhere, not only what good soldiers you are, but also what good men you are, keeping yourselves fit and straight for everything, and pure and clean, through and through. Let us set for ourselves a standard so high that it will be a glory to live up to it, and then let us live up to it and add a new laurel to the Crown of America. My affectionate confidence goes with you in every battle and every test. God keep you and guide you."

Woodrow Wilson

Decades before The Ranger, Airlifter and other Fort Lewis/McChord military newspapers were published in Pierce County, copies of Trench and Camp were read by doughboys stationed at Camp Lewis. Microfilmed copies of this early 20th century publication are available in the Pacific Northwest Room at the Tacoma Public Library and also at the Lewis Military Museum.

T & C newspaper was published by the National War Work Council of the YMCA, in partnership with various city newspapers, for soldiers during World War I. The weekly paper was printed in different editions for each of the 32 cantonments, including Camp Lewis. About half the material was supplied weekly from a central editorial office in New York, with the other half provided by local reporters.

Its purpose was "to print the news, to inform, to stimulate, and to help relieve the tedium and monotony of camp life" for soldiers, as well as "to be a graphic account of the life of our soldiers, whether they be drilling or fighting, at home or ‘over there' " for civilians. Contributions from soldiers include descriptions of the entertainments at the camps, athletic contests, educational lectures, jokes and poetry, as well as personal columns telling of their experiences. The papers also sponsored cartoon contests, resulting in many good pictures portraying camp life. In addition, each Trench and Camp was a channel of communication to the troops from the President, Congress, and War Department.

As an insert in area newspapers that was circulated in 32 cantonments, such as The Topeka State Journal edition at Camp Funston at Camp Riley, Kansas, or the Battle Creek Enquirer or the Evening News edition for Camp Custer at Battle Creek, Michigan. This publication was not the "child" of any particular contingent, but rather of the Young Men's Christian Association, a government auxiliary.

The usually eight-page paper was printed at cities near the various camps. The paper at Camp Dodge in Kansas claimed that it was the "first one" to be published.

A selection of headlines from local Camp Lewis editions, worth pondering, include these from some 1917 editions:

  • "Seven miles of weiners at one camp mess; feeding of the multitude at Tacoma post is some task: buy beef by the half million pound."
  • "Hazardous job is that of mule shoers"
  • "Danish war song sung in camp"
  • "348th Artillery to stage big rodeo"
  • "Says wholesome recreation is antidote to world's evils"
  • "Greeting colored soldiers from California at the camp"
  • "Cares for Jewish men at the camp"
  • "Aviators fight in duel like knights"
  • "Home guard starts campaign for respect to the flag"
  • "200 Pies each day at Hostess House"
  • "Santa Claus will surely be at Camp"
  • "Big Anvil chorus at Remount Depot"
  • "Huge pipe organ installed in YMCA Building" (the organ was a gift of Mrs. William Rust)

Photos in the 1918-19 issues featured an assortment of military bands, commanding officers, a panoramic view of the cantonment, and one showed the camp bakers who baked "eight-and-a-half tons of bread daily."

Each edition, inserted in the Tacoma newspaper, included reports from each "building"- information about coming movies, boxing matches, "Smokers" and other events between the soldiers.

Read next close


Do 565 in 28

comments powered by Disqus