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NJ WWI Related Locations

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Amatol - Elwood

          
Elwood
NJ
USA
08037
http://amatol.atlantic.edu/

1918

The town of Amatol, NJ was built in nine months, beginning in March 1918.  It was the workers' town for the Atlantic Loading Company - a WWI ammunition plant located two miles west.  Amatol was named for one of the explosives used in the plant's munitions production. It had a population of 10,000 people at its height.  By 1923, work had ended & most of the residents were gone. 

In planning the town, thought was given to its general attractiveness, as well as to the rapid construction of housing.  It was designed to be a 'town' rather than a group of buildings.  The designers of Amatol followed the principles of town planning used by the major architects of the time.  Amatol could accommodate a maximum population of 25,000.  Buildings were wood-frame with cement stucco on lath.  Interior walls were plaster.

A central commercial district featured shops & a large theatre.  A YMCA included a swimming pool, gymnasium w/ stage, bowling alley, billiard rooms, and refreshment & lounge rooms. 

Today, the town of Amatol has been reclaimed by forest & is managed by the Hammonton Creek Wildlife Management Area.  The aerial view photo in the Pictures Gallery shows the outlines of Amatol's street layout still visible in the ground surface. 

Narrative adapted from Shell Loading at Amatol, N.J.: Construction and Operation of a Shell Loading Plant and the Town of Amatol, N.J., 1919.

Photos courtesy of:
Shell Loading at Amatol, N.J.: Construction and Operation of a Shell Loading Plant and the Town of Amatol, N.J., 1919.

 

America Triumphant - Jersey City

          
Pershing Field, Summit Avenue & Sanford Place
Jersey City
NJ
USA
07307

1922

James Novelli

The following is an account of the dedication of the monument published in the New York Times issue of July 5, 1922:

Roses Fall on Monument: 

Jersey City Unveils Memorial  for 147 Soldiers Who Fell in War.

A monument to 147 soldiers from Jersey City who fell in the war was unveiled at Pershing Field, Jersey City, yesterday afternoon, as part of Jersey City's Independence Day exercises. A feature of the ceremony was the dropping of roses over the field during the services.

Lieutenant Stanton Weissenborn, a former army air pilot, circled above the crowd for two hours, and at frequent intervals dropped a rose until 147, one for each man who died, had fluttered down and made an immense bouquet at the foot of the monument.

The memorial is a life-size bronze figure of a woman, her arms filled with laurels. It is called, "Triumphant America." It was bought by the people of Jersey City through voluntary subscription.

Julius Beger, Chairman of the Monument Committee, presented the memorial to the Captain E. Fisk Post of the American Legion, and Arthur Liesemgang, post commander, presented it to the city. Lieutenant Louis Van Den Ecker, representing the French Consul General at New York; Dr. Foster Timothy of New York, representing British veterans, and Lieut. Col. Kerfoot, U.S.A., were among those who took part in the exercises.

Photos courtesy of:  NJ State Historic Preservation Office

 
First Street & Pier A
Hoboken
NJ
USA
07030

1925

This monument was erected in 1925 to commemorate Hoboken's role as the US Army Port of Embarkation during World War I, and honor the 3 million troops who passed through Hoboken's port. The monument contains a bronze tablet mounted to the face of a granite boulder. It was erected by the Hoboken Assembly, Fourth Degree, of the Knights of Columbus. 

The current plaque was fabricated in 1978 and paid for by Hudson County. The boulder originally sat on Pier 4 near River Street. It was moved to River Street near Pier B in 1976. In 2002-03, with the completion of the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway, it was moved to its present location at First Street & Pier A.

Narrative adapted from Hoboken Historical Museum website. 

Photo courtesy of: Hoboken Historical Museum

 
Fort Dix
NJ
USA
08640

The Army Reserve Mobilization Museum was established in 2007.  Its mission is to collect, preserve, interpret and exhibit the history of the United States Army Reserve from 1776 to present.

Using period artifacts, along with accurate reproductions of uniforms, equipment, photographs and documents, the chronologically-arranged exhibits depict the mobilization, training, embarkation and demobilization that occurs when soldiers are called to defend the nation. 

To visit, call the museum at (609) 562-2334 for latest hours and security procedures. You may need to arrange for a visitor pass.

Narrative adapted from Fort Dix Army Reserve Mobilization Museum website. 

Photos courtesy of:  US Army Sgt. 1st Class Gustavo Olgiato & Army Reserve Mobilization Museum

 

Atlantic Loading Company - Elwood

          
Elwood
NJ
USA
08401
http://amatol.atlantic.edu/

1918

The Atlantic Loading Company, also known as Amatol Arsenal or just Amatol, was a World War I ammunitions plant on 6,000 acres in the pine barrens of Atlantic County.  Its associated company town was also named Amatol (located two miles to the east of the plant). 

Construction of the plant began on March 4, 1918, and was completed in nine months.  The plant was designed for safety & redundancy, with fire prevention and explosive prevention features. Manufacturing buildings were steel-framed construction with concrete or corrugated metal sides.  Hydrants were placed inside & outside the buildings, each equipped with 100 feet of hose.  Fire buckets were placed 20 feet apart.  Exhaust air systems carried away fumes & dust. 

The Amatol Arsenal was designed to load a variety of shells, from 75mm projectiles to hand grenades. 

Amatol was one of the explosives used in production in the plant.  It was a combination of TNT & ammonium nitrate.  It was formulated to be safe to handle but could be harder to detonate due to its susceptibility to moisture. Its formulation conserved the scarce chemicals used to make explosives.

The Amatol Arsenal ceased operations in 1923.  Today, the arsenal site is covered by mature forest.  The only extant structure of the plant is the former NJ State Police barracks located on White Horse Pike (Route 30) between Hammonton & Elwood. About 1,700 acres of the former site are now managed by the State of New Jersey as the Hammonton Creek Wildlife Management Area.

Narrative adapted from Shell Loading at Amatol, NJ. 

Photos courtesy of: 
Shell Loading at Amatol, N.J.: Construction and Operation of a Shell Loading Plant and the Town of Amatol, N.J., 1919 

 

Belcoville - Estell Manor

          
Egg Harbor Township
NJ
USA
08234
http://www.aclink.org/blc/

1918

Belcoville was the company town for Bethlehem Loading Company located in Estell Manor, NJ.  Built in less than six months, the village could house 400 families & 3,000 single employees.  Belcoville included a town hall, school, bank, bowling alley & retail stores. 

Today, the site is part of an Atlantic County Park where many concrete ruins & rail beds remain. 

See the 'Bethlehem Loading Company - Estell Manor' entry for more information on the ammunitions loading plant. 

Narrative adapted from Atlantic County, NJ official website. 

Photos courtesy of: Atlantic County, NJ

 
Belcoville
NJ
USA
08330
http://www.aclink.org/blc/

1918

Bethlehem Loading Company, a World War I ammunitions plant located in Estell Manor, NJ, was constructed from April 3 - July 1, 1918.  The site encompasses over 12,900 swampy acres. By November of that year, 56,000 155mm shells had been produced at the plant and delivered abroad to the war effort.  The plant was guarded by 1,100 soldiers,

To provide housing for plant workers, a company town named Belcoville (short for Bethlehem Loading Company) was completed by August 1918 with a capacity of 400 families & 3,000 single employees.  The village included a town hall, school, bank, bowling alley & retail stores. 

The war ended on November 11, 1918, but the loading plant continued production into 1919.  Today, the site is part of an Atlantic County Park and many concrete ruins & rail beds provide hints of its former activities.

See the 'Belcoville - Estell Manor' entry for more information on the company town of Belcoville. 

Narrative adapted from Atlantic County, NJ official website.

Photos courtesy of: 
Administration Buildings sign - Ventures to Anomaly
Ruins photos #1-3 - Ventures to Anomaly
Ruins photos #4-13 - John Rumaker, Jr.

 
Jersey City
NJ
USA
07305

There are two memorials for the Black Tom explosion - one at Liberty State Park in NY Harbor; the other, a stained glass window at Our Lady of Czestochowa Church in Jersey City. 

Black Tom was an island in New York Harbor, next to Liberty Island, that received its name from an early African American resident.  By 1880, a railroad connected it to Jersey City & it began its use as a shipping depot.  By 1916, its mile-long pier housed a depot and warehouses for the National Dock & Storage Company. 

In 1914 Imperial Germany sent Count Johann von Bernstorff to be its new ambassador in Washington D.C. But von Bernstorff's staff of diplomats were not all as they seemed for these bureaucrats were a veritable army of undercover spies and saboteurs, arriving with millions of dollars to aid the German war effort by sabotage and illicit destruction.

Among their principal targets were the endless supplies of munitions that the neutral US was selling to Great Britain and France. In 1916, over 2,000,000 tons of explosives were in storage on Black Tom, ready to sail across the Atlantic. The island soon caught the attentions of von Bernstorff and his saboteurs.

On the night of July 30, 1916, Black Tom island disappeared. Just after 2 am, slow burning pencil bombs planted by the German agents ignited an explosion so colossal it registered 5.5 on the Richter scale. As glass windows shattered in Times Square and St.Patrick's Cathedral, the blast shook the Brooklyn Bridge and was felt as far away as Philadelphia and Maryland. The Statue of Liberty felt the full blast and was showered with shrapnel, exploding bullets and shells.  

Federal investigations named two guards at Black Tom as the likely culprits; the guards turned out to be German agents Kurt Jahnke and Lothar Witzke, but both escaped. An explosion in 1917 at the Mare Island naval shipyard in Vallejo, CA was also attributed to them. When the US finally responded to German's secret war of attrition by declaring war in 1917, Jahnke and Witzke fled to Mexico.

Black Tom Island was reconstructed with landfill and is today the southeastern part of Jersey City's Liberty State Park. Today the park is a popular recreation area, with families taking advantage of the close up views of the Statue of Liberty. But in the corner of the picnic area is a simple plaque, often passed by, which reads, "You are walking on a site which saw one of the worst acts of terrorism in American history."

It is not known exactly how many people died or were injured in the explosion. Possibly, the congregation of Our Lady of Czestochowa were hit hard, which led to the commemorating of the attack with their stained glass window memorial.

The Lehigh Valley Railroad who owned Black Tom Island sought compensation against Germany, who settled on a payment of $50 million which was finally paid as recently as 1979. 

The attack may be long forgotten and little known, but it has an ongoing repercussion.  Structural damage caused by the explosion is the reason today's visitors to the Statue of Liberty are prohibited from going up into the torch.  It has been closed to the public since that fiery evening. 

Narrative adapted from Atlas Obscura website. 

Photos courtesy of: 
Memorials - Luke J. Spencer, Atlas Obscura
Vintage photos - NJ Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Parks & Forestry

 

Camp Alfred Vail - Little Silver

          
Little Silver
NJ
USA
07703

The US Army recognized at the beginning of World War I that the Signal Corps strength of less than 2,000 officers and enlisted men was not able to provide the necessary communications support should the United States enter the war.

In October 1916, the Office of the Chief Signal Officer asked executives of private sector communications companies to recruit from among their trained employees for a Signal Enlisted Reserve Corps. The response was greater than expected with 1,400 male employees of the Bell Company of Pennsylvania applying for enlistment.

The Signal Corps needed places to prepare these citizen soldiers for service in battle. Four camps were established: one in Little Silver, NJ.  A training camp was established on a portion of the site of the former Monmouth Park Race Track. The first 32 Signal Soldiers arrived at the site in June 1917, first known as Camp Little Silver.  By the end of the month, 451 enlisted men and 25 officers were stationed there. 

The camp sent its first units to the Hoboken, NJ Port of Embarkation in August 1917.  In September, the camp was renamed Camp Alfred Vail, for an individual prominent in the history of telegraphy who worked with Samuel FB Morse in developing the commercial telegraph.  After the end of the war, Camp Vail became one of the original components of the Army's chief communications post, Fort Monmouth. 

Narrative adapted from "A Concise History of Fort Monmouth New Jersey," US Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) Historical Office, 2009.

Photos courtesy of: 
Soldiers at tent, 1917 - Library of Congress
Soldiers typing & Signal Corps Base - US Army CECOM Historical Office

 

Camp Dix - Wrightstown

          
Wrightstown
NJ
USA
08562
https://www.dix.army.mil/About/History.aspx

1917

Camp Dix was named for Major General John Adams Dix, a veteran of the War of 1812 & the Civil War, who served as a US Senator, Secretary of the Treasury, Minister to France, and Governor of New York.

Construction began at the site in Burlington County, NJ in June 1917, and on July 18th, the War Department named the cantonment, Camp Dix.  During World War I, the camp was a training and staging ground for the 78th, 87th & 34th Divisions.  Camp Dix rapidly grew and by war's end was the largest military installation in the northeast.

Following the Armistice, the camp became a demobilization center.  In March 1939, Camp Dix became Fort Dix as the installation transitioned to a permanent Army post. In October 2009, Fort Dix became part of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. 

Narrative adapted from Fort Dix official website. 

Photos courtesy of:  
Hand-colored postcards - Burlington County Library
Dormitory photo postcard - Rutgers University Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives

 

NJ WW1 Centennial Logo cmyk GrayBckgrnd

The State of New Jersey

Contact: NewJersey@worldwar1centennial.org

 

New Jersey World War I
Centennial Partners

New Jersey Historical Commission
sara.cureton@sos.nj.gov

New Jersey Historic Preservation Office
doug.mcvarish@dep.nj.gov

New Jersey State Museum
nicholas.ciotola@sos.nj.gov

New Jersey State Archives
veronica.calder@sos.nj.gov

Rutgers University
rbecker@rulmail.rutgers.edu

New Jersey National Guard Militia Museum
http://nj.gov/military/museum/contact.html