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Self-Guided Driving Tour Before they went to war “over there…. they went to war “over here”.

 And the “over here” was in our backyard!

Every soldier who trained here was important to the Allied Victory of WWII. But there are three groups whose presence here made US Army History.

Tennessee Maneuvers
Tennessee Maneuvers
Tennessee Maneuvers

The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, also known as The Ghost Army, was activated in January of 1944 at Camp Forrest, TN.

The unit of 1,100 soldiers was the first mobile, multi-media, tactical deception unit in US Army history. They used sound effects, inflatable tanks and trucks and their imagination to fool the Germans.  They staged 20 battlefield missions, many of which were close to the front lines. In January 2022, the soldiers received the Congressional Medal of Honor for their service.

In late 1942, The US Army created a Ranger School at Camp Forrest, TN. The purpose was to train soldiers in “rough and tumble fighting and special techniques.” The training included: sniping, ambush, infiltration, making booby traps and sabotage. The 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions were among the first soldiers to land at Normandy on D-day. Their job was to scale the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc, France, then go inland and destroy the German bunkers and machine gun posts.

The Army established the 758th Tank Battalion in Fort Knox, KY in January 1941. They were the Army’s first all-African American armored unit. The 758th trained in the Tennessee Maneuvers in June 1942. Because of segregation, African American soldiers had to be transported, fed and housed separately. To note which units were African American, an asterisk was placed on instruction sheets. This included the 758th Tank Battalion and the 76th and 77th Light Pontoon Engineer Companies. The 758th saw combat in northern Italy and assisted in that country’s liberation. In July 1948, President Truman signed executive order number 9981 which began the de-segregation of the Armed Forces.

Start Your Tour

  • Tour Stop 1

    Smith County Chamber of Commerce

    STORY: overview of the maneuvers

    PHOTOS: soldiers at train, inside Cumberland gym, paratroopers in field

    SOUND: Elizabeth Taylor, PhD (historian) explaining the importance of maneuvers

           BJ Reich – witness

  • Tour Stop 2

    Cordell Hull Bridge

    STORY: how pontoon bridges were used

    PHOTOS: soldiers on pontoon bridge near Cordell Hull Bridge

    SOUND: Walter Glen Birdwell – witness

  • Tour Stop 3

    Grant Store Community

    STORY: soldiers eat in field kitchen

    PHOTOS: Ronnie Bussell mother’s photos –     soldiers at the store

    SOUND: Florence Hall – witness

  • Tour Stop 4

    New Middleton Community

    STORY: plane crash killed pilot

    PHOTOS: pilot, crash scene & military papers related to the crash


  • Tour Stop 5

    Rome Community

    STORY: how residents used pontoon bridge

    PHOTOS: people on pontoon bridge and soldiers eat watermelon at store

    SOUND: Geraldine Reich – witness

    Jack Cato – witness

  • Tour Stop 6

    Dixon Springs Community

    STORY: soldiers gathering with locals at store

    PHOTOS: soldiers/vehicles in Dixon Springs   Odell Garrett’s mother’s photos

    SOUND: Jack Cato – witness

  • Tour Stop 7

    Pleasant Shade Community

    STORY: soldiers in tanks

    PHOTOS: men in tanks in field

    SOUNDS: Pete Holman/soldier – tank driver

  • Tour Stop 8

    Chestnut Mound Community

    STORY: barrage balloons sighting

    PHOTOS: archive – from other locations of       balloons in the air

    SOUND: Jim Beasley – witness