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Camp Barkeley was one of the country's biggest army training camps during World War II. It was built in 1941 at a cost of $7 million and at its peak housed up to 60,000 soldiers. It was so big that it encompassed 1/9th of Taylor County and was twice the size of the nearby Abilene. The camp was named after David Barkley (a clerical error led to the camp being misspelled), a Laredo, Texas native and recipient of the Medal of Honor for his role in a successful scouting mission at the end of WWI (see below for more details). The 45th and 90th infantry trained here as well 11th and 12th armored divisions. The camp was also the site of the largest medical replacement training center in the country as well as a medical administration corps officer training school. The camp had a good relationship with Abilene and this was a factor that led to the decision to establish Dyess Air Force Base near the city in the 1950s. Today, much of the property is privately owned and cannot be explored, but county road 257 and highway 277 go through the site and some building remnants can be seen. The historical marker is affixed to a fence at the intersection of highway 277 and county road 257.


  • The marker as seen from highway 277.
  • The remains of a building's foundation at the former camp.

David Barkley was born in 1899 and enlisted in the army in 1917. His mother was a Mexican and as such his last name was Cantu, but he decided to use his father's last name to avoid any possible difficulty joining the army. The fateful mission took place two days before the armistice was declared on November 11, 1918. He and another soldier volunteered to obtain information on German movements, a task that required them to swim across the Meuse River in France. They got the information but upon swimming back Barkley cramped up and drowned. He and his fellow soldier were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions.

German prisoners of war were also held Camp Barkley. Distressingly, two months after the camp opened, twelve managed to escape, alarming residents of Abilene. Thankfully the Germans were all captured within a week. The camp, which was basically a small city—complete with a hospital, four theaters, a bakery, and other buildings—was dismantled in September 1945 and ownership went back to the previous owners. 

"Camp Barkley." The Historical Marker Database. Accessed July 4, 2017. https://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=77729.

"Camp Barkley." Texas Escapes. Accessed July 4, 2017. http://www.texasescapes.com/WorldWarII/Camp-Barkeley.htm.

Myers, James. "Camp Barkley." Handbooks of Texas Online. Accessed July 4, 2017. https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qbc02.

Photos: Duane Hall, via the Historical Marker Database