Neosho becomes involved in war


By JoJo Brinkhoff

Entertainment Editor

Crowder did not start out as a college. In fact, it was first known as Camp (and Fort) Crowder during WWII.

According to an October 2007 Sentry article, May 15, 1941 marks the day when the United States Army officially announced the coming of Camp Crowder. The Army purchased 66,000 acres of Newton Co. to house 15,000 – 16,000 men and an addition for future expansion; a sum totaling $22 million. The camp was named in honor of General Enoch Crowder who was a Missourian soldier and later the Judge Advocate General.

Neosho was a perfect location for two reasons: transportation and water. According to the 2007 Sentry article, highway 71 and 60, as well as the Kansas City Southern and the Frisco railroad, all ran through Neosho. As for water, there was plenty nearby for about 16,000 men to bath, cook, mop, do yard work and drink.

Training soldiers was not the only usage for the camp. On Feb. 3, 1943, Camp Crowder held their first Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACS). Until the end of WWII, 500 women filled the clerical work and some heavy machinery operation.

The camp was also used as a prisoner of war (POWs) camp for the Germans and Austrians on Oct. 6, 1943. The POWs were paid 80 cents for working at the camp such as cooking, yard work and machinery. Along with being paid, the POWs were treated with respect and given the same privileges as an enlisted soldier for medical attention, housing and meals.

In 1943, two men were enlisted who were inspired to use Camp Crowder in their career.

One of the men was the famous actor Dick Van Dyke. In the Dick Van Dyke Show, Rob (Van Dyke) and Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) supposedly meet each other in episode 6 at a camp identical to Crowder.

The other man is the cartoonist, Mort Walker. According to an article in the Neosho Daily News, the characters in Beetle Bailey are memories of people Walker met while training at Camp Crowder. Even the name “Camp Swampy” was inspired by a lake that flooded the camp during his stay.

With WWII ended, the Army eventually closed the camp on Feb. 17, 1961. According to the February 2013 Sentry article, the closing of Camp Crowder opened a new door for the future. On April 2, 1963, voters approved R. W. Anderson’s proposal of turning the camp into a junior college.

In memory of all the WWII veterans who were trained in Neosho, “Crowder College” was chosen as the official name for the new junior college.