The areas surrounding Pineville were the site of the massive Louisiana Maneuvers staged just before World War II. A major focal point in the maneuvers was Camp Livingston.
Company Street, Camp Livingston, La.
The camp was situated generally northeast of Alexandria, off US165, and close to Camp Beauregard and Esler Field. The other major area army facility, Camp Claiborne, was southwest of Alexandria. Other Alexandria area military facilities included Alexandria Army Air Base and Camp Polk.
The former Camp Livingston area is now under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service which provides various recreational opportunities via a series of trails and other facilities.
Changes and impacts abounded in Alexandria as the war grew closer to the United States. Suddenly there was a shortage of many of the basics of life, and a system of rationing was inaugurated.
Families were issued ration books with stamps good for certain items such as gasoline, tires, meat, and sugar.
Within a 30-miles radius of Alexandria, the military constructed Camp Livingston, Camp Claiborne, Esler Field, Alexandria Army Air Base (later England Air Force Base).
The military also reactivated Camp Beauregard. Camp Polk was located further west of Alexandria near Leesville.
Camp Livingston, active during 1940-1945, occupied about 47,000 acres and was a key element in the Louisiana Maneuvers. It was originally named Camp Tioga, but later renamed in honor of Chancellor Robert R. Livingston, a negotiator involved in the Louisiana Purchase. Thousands of troops were based at the camp, which also included a POW facility.
Thousands of acres of rural land in Louisiana were selected by General Leslie McNair and Colonel Mark Clark to conduct maneuvers to train the United States' rapidly expanding military forces.
The area ultimately selected to be used in the maneuvers extended over 2,400 square files, from the Sabine River to the Calcasieu River and north to the Red River.
During the Louisiana Maneuvers, Army strategists began by teaming division against division. Later the war games expanded to have corps fight against corps, and finally in the grand finale, Lieutenant General Walter Krueger's Third Army took the offensive against Lieutenant General Ben Lear's Second Army.
Camp Livingston aerial, 1941.
Courtesy of the Louisiana History Museum, Alexandria
Other key commanders included Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Chief of Staff, Third Army, and Brig. General Mark Wayne Clark, Maneuver Director, Omar Bradley, and George Patton, among other notables.
The armies of two mythical countries were assembled, totaling about 400,000 troops: Kotmk (Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Kentucky) and Almat (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee). Navigation rights for the Mississippi River was the reason for the "war".
During the maneuvers, Army commanders were able to test and simulate a variety of offenses and conventional defenses with attacks from armored vehicles. Patton's tanks pushed back conventionally-armed defenders but failed to achieve a major, convincing victory.
Army strategists also encountered recon and troop supply issues that would later be experienced in actual real-world battle situations, creating valuable experience for the Army prior to the U.S. entering the war.
The Army conducted similar, but smaller, Louisiana maneuvers in 1942 and 1943, but cancelled exercises in 1944 so soldiers could be part of the D-Day invasion in Europe.
After the war ended in 1945, the Army began work to transition the camp back to civilian use.
Today, the area is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Kisatchie National Forest and offers biking, hiking, ATV trails and other recreational opportunities.
To this day, 70 years after the camp's construction and subsequent abandonment after the war, evidence of its existence remains.
Concrete streets and foundations have survived, and an obvious outline of the street grid of the camp is still visible from satellite photographs (see image to the right).
Camp Beauregard is located in Pineville, Louisiana, and is named for Confederate general and Louisiana native Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard. It dates back to World War I when it was authorized by the War Department on July 15, 1917.
Originally, Camp Beauregard included the property that is now Pinecrest State School and a large tract directly behind the Procter and Gamble plant on U.S. Highway 165 as well as the present camp proper. The Camp Beauregard Base Hospital in 1919 became a U.S. Public Health Hospital, and in 1920 a U.S. Veterans' Administration Hospital.
It served as a training facility for soldiers who were sent to France from 1917 to 1918 and was closed in 1919 and turned over to the State of Louisiana which used the grounds periodically for National Guard training.
It was reactivated as a federal facility in 1940 and served as the hub of the Louisiana Maneuvers. The WWII camp grounds also included nearby Esler Field.
Following World War II, Camp Beauregard reverted back to state control and was used as a training area for two years before again being deactivated. It was revived in 1973 and currently serves as a logistical and training base for engineer and aviation units of the Louisiana National Guard.
Today, Camp Beauregard serves as the primary annual training and pre-mobilization training platform for the Louisiana National Guard. Camp Beauregard supports all training of the Louisiana National Guard, and Department of Defense (DoD) customers in support of military and emergency operations both federal and state.
Additionally, Camp Beauregard serves as both a staging base for National Guard personnel and a logistical staging area for various emergency response agencies during times of State and Federal Emergencies.
Shown below are images of Camp Beauregard in a series of historic postcards provided courtesy of the Louisiana History Museum.
Camp Beauregard, April, 1915
154 INF, 135 INF, 39 DIV
Camp Beauregard, February, 1919
Located off Louisiana Highway 116 between Pineville and Libuse, Esler Regional Airport has a long history, and is closely linked to Camp Beauregard, a 12,500-acre camp mainly used today as a training facility owned by the Louisiana National Guard.
Construction of the airport, originally called Camp Beauregard Army Field, for the United States Army Air Corps, began in 1940. In the summer of 1940 and throughout 1941 the area was used for the Louisiana Maneuvers.
The airfield was renamed Esler Army Airfield in 1941 to honor Lt. Wilmer Esler, a pilot who became the first casualty of the airfield when his O-47 monoplane crashed on April 11, 1941.
In August of 1945, the airfield was reassigned directly to Third Air Force. With the end of the war, deactivation of Esler Field began on September 7, 1945. The base was finally closed on May 31, 1946, and remained Federal property until the 1950s when it was finally ceded to the Rapides Parish Police Jury as surplus property. A small civilian airport opened after return to civil control.
Esler then served as Alexandria's commercial airport until the 1990s.
England Air Force Base was closed for the last time by the Department of Defense on December 15, 1992 and began its transition to civilian reuse as England Airpark and Community.
Commercial traffic then was moved from Esler Field to the newly designated Alexandria International Airport (AEX).
The abandoned Esler Field presented the Louisiana National Guard with a golden opportunity to expand the area available to conduct its training. On June 1, 2001, the Rapides Parish Police Jury transferred the airport's management to the guard in a 99-year lease. Today, Esler is the site of numerous training exercises.
Today, about 60 percent of the airport's operations are military and the rest are civilian. Although Esler doesn't offer private jet passenger services it does provide both military and civilian aircraft fuel services.
In December of 2011, the MMR Group, which previously based its aviation operations at Alexandria International Airport, completed work on its new corporate aviation facility at Esler. It includes 10,000 square feet of hangar space and 3,000 square feet of office space. MMR shares the facility with Crest Industries, and the two groups currently support 3 airplanes and 7 pilots.
Esler Field's FAA code is ESF. It is located at Lat/Long 31-23-41.6490N / 092-17-44.7790W. The airport covers 2,161 acres, and has two runways, one at 5,999 feet, and the second one stretching 5,601 feet
Map of Esler Regional Airport in Louisiana (courtesy of Google)