History of Camp Wellfleet
From the notes of Major John M. Yarbrough
Camp Wellfleet is a relatively new military installation having been developed by the Army during the Second World War as one of the three AAA training bases in Cape Cod. The other two were subsequently closed permanently at the end of hostilities.
Long before the boom of anti-aircraft guns thundered across the beaches, the site of Camp Wellfleet was being utilized for history making electronic experiments.
Two hundred feet from the high tide mark, well behind the beach and almost on the spot where range tower #1 is located, is the foundation of the building that Guglielmo Marconi built in 1902 for one of his earliest radio stations. Due to tidal erosion and storms, there are no longer any traces of the twenty 240 ft. towers that the great Italian inventor erected for his scientific investigation.
Another vestige of the past is near the present southern boundary where the French Atlantic telegraph cable was laid in 1879. Sections of it may still be seen today along the beach.
The land on which the camp is located was leased by the federal government from local owners and construction was begun in 1943 by a civilian contractor. Less than forty buildings including the permanent pumping station were originally erected but others have been added as needed.
Following its completion, the post was taken over by the Army and used as a gunnery site until June of 1944, when it was temporarily closed. It was placed in the hands of a caretaker until January 1945, then reopened by the Navy for use as a radar school. The Navy added the structure that is currently being used by the 16th RCAT detachment as a hangar and repair building.
After the war the Navy again placed Camp Wellfleet in standby status, returning it to Army jurisdiction in the late 1940’s it was designated as a sub-installation of Camp Edwards and first used as a training site for Army National Guardsmen and Reservists during that period. One major improvement made under the jurisdiction of Camp Edwards was the construction of additional hard top roadways adjacent to and crossing the post’s main street. The camp originally had but one road, leading from Route 6 to the firing range, but in 1952 an extensive road building project began and now hard top surfaces are throughout the area.
In 1953 Camp Edwards was deactivated and the operational control of Camp Wellfleet was transferred to Fort Devens. The primary mission of the camp during the summer months, the training of First Army area National Guard and Reserve AAA gun unit, remained the same under the Fort Devens command.
As Camp Wellfleet stands today, it has 109 temporary type buildings and three billeting areas capable of housing 1024 men each in a total of 63 pre-fabricated steel buildings. The camp will house 3701 men including 124 officers. Generally the temporary barracks are used for permanent party and winter time billets for regular Army AAA units.
The AAA range is a sandy beach of 4700 yards frontage. There are eight observation towers 1100 feet apart; each tower normally used for the control on one battalion, anti-aircraft artillery. The main range control tower is a 93 foot steel structure with glass enclosed observation platform equipped with air to ground and ship to shore radio, telephone communication with the eight range towers and a warning siren. The range danger and warning areas extend fifteen miles to sea and to an altitude of 61,000 feet with unlimited time of use. Radar sets are available for search of both surface and air.
Currently there are two types of units which train at this station: 90 mm anti-aircraft units, which are considered medium AA units; and automatic weapons self-propelled, or light AA.
The 90 mm AA units are organized into a headquarters and headquarters battery and four firing batteries. Normally each firing battery is equipped with an M-33 integrated fire control system and four 90 mm guns. The M-33 integrated fire control system is composed of a radar set and computer. It has a search or acquisition radar capable of detecting targets to a distance of 120,000 yards and a tracking radar which tracks any targets to a distance of 32,000 yards. The tracking radar gives present position data on a target which is accurate up to ten yards. The radar feeds the present position data and rates of change into an electronic computer which instantaneously and continuously predicts the future position of the target. This future position data is electronically transmitted to the guns which can then be positioned either manually or by an electrical-hydraulic control system.
There are two types of targets used here at Camp Wellfleet. First is a sleeve-type target towed behind a B-25 flown out of Otis Air Force Base. The sleeve target is equipped with reflector material to give a radar signal or reflection. The other type is a radio controlled aerial target or what we commonly call an RCAT. The RCAT target is flown at a range of 200 yards appears as a normal size fighter plane at 600 yards. Remotely controlled by radio, it can fly at a maximum speed of 228 miles per hour and can duplicate any maneuver performed by standard aircraft.
The RCAT is launched by either of two methods. The first is a rotary launching method by which the RCAT attains its launching speed of 80 MPH on the ground and is then released. The second method is by JATO (Jet Assisted Take Off). The RCAT is landed by means of a parachute contained within the fuselage and released by the operator. Should the RCAT land in the water, it is recovered by the “amphibious duck”.
The physical appearance of Camp Wellfleet continues to be improved each summer. A chapel, service club, library and cinemascope theater have been added within the last four years, and additional installations are being planned. Since the camp now has attained an air of permanence, the future seems to be along the lines of continuation in its present training mission.