Forest Hill, Louisiana
...Aubert stayed at Fort Custer only five days and then, as one of
the 3,845 men assembled there, traveled by train to Camp Claiborne, LA,
for basic training. Camp Claiborne was located in the Kisatchie National
Forest, at Forest Hill, approximately 17 miles south of Alexandria.
Basic training lasted about thirteen weeks. Aubert received his
promotion to Private First Class on February 1, 1943, and then another
to the rank of Corporal a month later on March 1, 1943. He also received
his Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at Camp Claiborne and this lasted
until the beginning of May 1943.
Shirley had written to Aubert, telling him that when he came home on
his first leave that they were going to get married. Shirley and her
mother, Nellie Emrick, went to the Wayne County Courthouse for the
marriage license. Shirley had already gone in advance to Sacred Heart
Church in Dearborn to schedule the marriage ceremony and to sign an
agreement to raise any children as Catholics. Sacred Heart was the
selected parish because if she had already been Catholic, it would have
been her home parish.
Aubert was granted furlough, leaving for Michigan by train on May 3,
1943, and arriving May 5, 1943. When Aubert came in to Detroit from Camp
Claiborne, his future parents-in-law, Elbert and Nellie, along with
Shirley, drove to Michigan Central Railroad Station on Michigan Avenue
to pick him up. During the next few days, he stayed with his own
parents, Albert and Aurore Seguin, in their home at 1950 LaSalle Gardens
On the day of the wedding, Aubert picked up Shirley in a green 1939
Ford. They were married by Fr. James L. Hayes about noon on May 7, 1943,
in the rectory of Sacred Heart Church, three days after Shirley turned
18. Aubert wore his military uniform and Shirley wore a pale blue dress.
The ceremony was in the rectory and not the church because it was a
“mixed faith” marriage between a Catholic groom and a non-Catholic
bride. (Shirley did not convert to Catholicism until December 7, 1951.)
Shirley’s sister and brother-in-law, Madeline and Kenneth Rommann,
were best man and matron of honor. Since the Catholic Church wanted
Catholic witnesses, William “Mike” Voscinar (a good friend of
Aubert’s from A&P Supermarket) and Therese Seguin (Aubert’s
sister) were also at the wedding. Afterward, the six of them had a
brunch at Hedges’ Wigwam Restaurant on Woodward Avenue at 12 Mile
Road. From there, Aubert and Shirley went with Madeleine and Kenneth to
Elbert and Nellie’s home. The newly-married couple then went to visit
her sister and brother-in-law (Lucille and Harold Martin) in Dearborn.
From there they next went to Albert and Aurore’s home. Aubert and
Shirley spent their honeymoon days at Madeline and Kenneth’s apartment
on Grand River since no gasoline was available due to wartime rationing.
It was not until after the war that they were able to take a delayed
honeymoon trip to Niagara Falls, NY.
On May 16th, Aubert left to return to Camp Claiborne and arrived May
18th. A month later, on June 19, 1943, he became a naturalized citizen
of the United States based upon petition #977 to the U.S. District Court
of the Western District of Louisiana, Alexandria Division. His physical
description was listed as 5’8 1/2”, 128 pounds, brown hair, and
hazel eyes. An unusual incident occurred at this time which forever
legally changed his name. Aubert had grown up always believing that his
legitimate name since birth was Aubert Ferdinand Seguin. Therefore, in
making his petition to the court, he applied using the same name with
which he entered the Army. The petition being granted, his legal
American name became Aubert Ferdinand Séguin on Certificate #6002000.
It was not until 35 years later, in October 1978 as he prepared for a
trip into Canada and checked his baptismal certificate (which served as
the only legal document of his birth), that he learned his full and
correct name given at birth was Joseph Ulric Fernand Aubert Séguin.
The 103rd Infantry Division moved by motor march on August 8-9, 1943,
to an area west of camp near Slagle, Simpson, and Hineston, LA, and
engaged in a what was known as the “D Series” of field problems.
During this time, Aubert was made a squad leader. From his notebooks, it
appears that his platoon leader was 1Lt Charles H. Thompson of Vienna,
VA, and the platoon sergeant was a Sgt Brandies. The men assigned to
Aubert’s squad and for whom he was responsible included:
August C. Stapp, 36548667, Detroit, MI (First Scout)
Darrell B. Brockmeyer, 37447920, Bennett, IA (Second Scout)
Nickie G. Meyers, 37542323, Sebeka, MN (BAR Record)
Vito J. Campabello, 36626937, Chicago, IL (BAR & M1 Record)
Pfc Thomas F. Coyne, 36714005, Chicago, IL (Ammo Bearer, BAR, & M1)
James A. Dockins, 34497341, Lebanon, TN (Rifleman)
William Remmenga, 37466300, Elwood, NE (Rifleman)
John M. Sexton, 36548469, Moorehead, KY (Rifleman)
John E. Klein, 37447468, Waterloo, IA (Rifleman)
Everett C. Maine, 37246264, Marionville, MO (Rifleman)
Dominic N. Panarese, 36702444 , Chicago, IL (.03 Records)
Ernest C. Lehmann, 37541346, Minneapolis, MN (Platoon Messenger)
Hanna (Platoon Basic)
Pfc Leslie A. Singleton, 37162399, Duluth, MN
Pvt Edward J. Oleksiak, Detroit, MI
Pvt James H. Gray, Detroit, MI
Pvt Carmen Minano, Dearborn, MI
Pvt Leonard J. Urbanowski, Chicago, IL
Pvt Victor J. Conway, Baraboo, WI
The division returned to Camp Claiborne on September 2 and stayed
there two weeks until September 15, 1943, when it departed on another
motor march which would last for two months. This march took them
through the communities of Anacoco, Hornbeck, Kurthwood, Alco, Zwolle,
Burkville, Winnfield, Mathis, Evans, Boyce, and Hawthorne. During these
maneuvers which had four flag exercises to simulate European battle
conditions, the 103rd Infantry Division took part in attack, defense,
delaying actions, and river crossings. In a post card dated September
23, 1943, and postmarked at Shreveport, LA, he wrote to Shirley’s
parents regarding his application for Aviation Cadet appointment:
“Dear Mom & Dad - Still waiting word from the Cadet Board.
Awful anxious. Hear you folks haven’t been feeling too well. Take care
of yourselves. And take car of my honey too. I’ll let you folks know
how I make out. Love, Whitie”
The maneuvers ended with a crossing of the Sabine River on engineer
bridges and the division went into bivouac near Merryville, LA, on
November 15, 1943.
The “Cactus” Division then received a permanent change of station
for maneuvers at Camp Howze near Gainesville, TX, and set out three days
later by rail and motor march.
HISTORY: This World War II tent camp, initially called Camp
Evangeline, was renamed for William C.C. Claiborne, the Governor of the
Territory of Orleans and first governor of the State of Louisiana. It
was located in Rapides Parish on the west side of U.S. Highway 165 (at
the intersection of Louisiana State Highway 112), about 17 miles
southwest of Alexandria in the Evangeline District of the Kisatchie
National Forest (established 10 Jun 1930), just north of Forest Hill,
Remains of the Main Gate
During World War II, Camp Claiborne was one of four military posts in
the vicinity of Alexandria, LA. The other three were Camp Livingston,
Camp Beauregard, and Alexandria Army Airfield (later named England AFB).
Construction of Camp Claiborne was started in 1940 by the W. Horace
Williams Company of New Orleans. By December of that year, 13,300
workmen were engaged in building the camp which was about two and
one-half miles long by one and one-half miles wide. It had 684 frame
buildings and 6,796 tents, occupying 3,100 acres. The final cost of the
initial camp was in excess of $14,000,000. West Camp Claiborne was added
Standing by the remains of an old supply warehouse, Mr John B.
Butter, a Forest Hill resident, delivered newspapers to the camp as a
boy. He and his wife, Vivian, owned a restaurant in town in 1992.
Companies E, G, and H of the 22nd Infantry arrived at the
camp in December 1940, and 151st Engineer Regiment was there in January
1941. The 34th National Guard Division (from the States of Iowa, North
Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota) had completely moved into the camp
by February 1941.
Remains of what appeared to be a water treatment plant
The 82nd Infantry Division was activated at Camp Claiborne
but was converted to the 82nd Airborne Division. The latter was split
there on 18 August 1942 to create the 101st Airborne Division.
Remains of a camp theater along the north side of Camp Claiborne Road
Although the 11 key commanders and the 85th Division's
initial cadre of 210 officers and 1,446 enlisted men arrived in early
October 1942, the 103rd Infantry Division was not officially activated
at Camp Claiborne until 15 November 1942. More troops to bring the
division to its required strength began arriving on 4 December 1942 They
came from: Camp Grant, IL (4,060), Fort Custer, MI (3,845), Fort
Leavenworth, KS (1,307), Fort Dodge, IA (1,036), Fort Snelling, MN
(990), Jefferson Barracks, MO (526), Fort Bragg, NC (600), Fort
Oglethorpe, GA (600), Fort McPherson, GA (537), Fort Jackson, SC (218),
and various posts in the Eighth and Ninth Service Commands (921). The
division received its 13 weeks of initial basic training and remained in
place at Camp Claiborne until it departed for maneuvers in western
Louisiana on 15 September 1943, and was officially given a permanent
change of station from its final maneuvers location (Merryville, LA) to
Camp Howze, TX, on 18 Nov 1943. Later a large part of Camp Claiborne was
used for training engineering units and service forces. The Camp
Claiborne and Fort Polk military railroad was constructed for use in
training railroad battalions. Almost half a million troops trained at
Camp Claiborne before it was deactivated on 15 December 1945. It was
commanded from 24 August 1944 to 20 Oct 1945 by Brigadier General Louis
F. Guerre, a longtime officer in the Louisiana National Guard.
Part of the camp was used to house prisoners of war. Over 7,000
buildings at the camp were sold in March 1947. Portions of the range
have been used by the U.S. Air Force for bombing exercises in recent
LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY AT ALEXANDRIA
ORAL RECORDS COLLECTION
Brigadier General Carlton Smith was interviewed by his granddaughter,
Patricia Lavoner, in 1974. Smith was a major with the 634th Tank
Destroyer Battalion at Camp Claiborne.
Patricia introduced her subject with this note: "General Smith
toured the abandoned camp with me on April 8th, 1974, and pointed out
the crumbled foundations which is all that remains of Claiborne build 34
Smith told his granddaughter: "We arrived at the Camp Claiborne
site in the fall of 1940. The camp area was under a complete
construction program. Thousands of workmen from the area were building
the temporary housing and utility buildings for the entire camp, which
was expected to be used early in 1941. The area at that time consisted
of 6,195 acres plus a large training and maneuver area, approximately 40
miles, extending west to Camp Polk. Much of this area was on a lease
basis and was used only as a maneuver and training area."
"The camp site consisted of a tent area and many more or less
permanent type structures that would last for an unknown period. The
first troops arrived in January and February 1941. They mainly consisted
of the 34th Infantry Division from Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, and South
Dakota, plus many other service units and engineers units were were to
help in construction of the area."
"There is still evidence in the area where one can identify the
actual sites where the troops were located, where the buildings were
located, and the maneuver and training area."
"At the entrance of the camp area off of Highway 165, the stone
and concrete columns still identify the old camp entrance."
"Shortly inside the old gates were the buildings used for vaults
for the camp records and finance offices. This area was also used for
construction headquarters during the time of the construction."
"Further in the camp you can identify the foundation, footings
and columns of the old gymnasium and theater buildings. The service road
through the center of the camp has now been improved and is the main
route from Highway 165 to Leesville."
"The location of the old camp headquarters, the camp
quartermaster, and the utility services for the camp can be identified
by the footings, the walls, the remaining parts of the concrete
buildings and by rows of concrete footings that extend above the ground.
These can be easily identified for most of the buildings on the
"Although I know where the old hospital building was located,
there is little evidence to indicate that it was ever there. The area
has been reforested and has grown to cover this particular area. The
hospital had been built for 1,656 beds and was located near the hill at
the center of the camp."
"The roads for the camp still crisscross through the area. Most
of these roads have been barricaded due to deterioration or salvage. The
area roads still in use consist of the main road through the camp to
Leesville and various service roads accessible to the areas around the
camp. The entire camp area, still owned by the government, has been
reforested and is now under the supervision of the U.S. Engineers"
(U.S. Forest Service)
"As we stand here today and see the mute evidence of what was a
part of World War II, we hope that the time will never come again when
it will be necessary to rebuild Camp Claiborne, as it was an emergency
project for World War II."
At the entrance to Camp Claiborne (U.S. Highway 165 and Louisiana
Highway 112), the State of Louisiana has erected a commemorative marker,
noting the existence and location of the camp.
Aubert and Shirley Seguin visiting Camp Claiborne, 1992
Activated Oct 1940 - Deactivated Dec 1945
Camp Claiborne was named for William C.C. Claiborne, first governor of
the state of Louisiana. The camp was part of the 8th Service Command. It
was also home for the U.S. Army's 34th Infantry Division, the first
American force sent to the European theater. The camp's 23,000 acres
were also the center of the famous "Louisiana Maneuvers,"
which were the largest peacetime war games ever conducted. Almost
500,000 American troops trained here between 1940-1945. When Congress
deactivated the Camp, use of the land was returned to the U.S. Forest
A commemorative marker placed in downtown Alexandria, LA, in front of
the Hotel Bentley, recalls the Louisiana Maneuvers.
In 1940, Lt. Gen. Stanley D. Embrick of the U.S. Army Fourth Corps Area,
Atlanta, Ga., selected central Louisiana as site of training maneuvers
to prepare American forces for possible involvement in war in Europe.
Louisiana's 1941 maneuvers were the Army's largest peacetime training
exercise. Approximately 400,000 troops were divided into armies of two
imaginary countries: "Kotak" (Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas,
Missouri, and Kentucky) and "Almat" (Arkansas, Louisiana,
Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee), supposedly at war over Mississippi
River navigation rights. These maneuvers allowed Army strategists to
test conventional defenses attacked by armored vehicles. Maj. Gen.
George Patton's tanks pushed back conventionally-armed defenders but
failed to achieve a spectacular victory. Army commanders also
encountered reconnaissance and troop supply problems expected in
battlefield conditions and thus had several months to formulate
solutions before the U.S. entered World War II. The Army conducted
smaller scale maneuvers in 1942 and 1943 in the same area, but cancelled
1944 exercises to allow troops to participate in the D-Day invasion of
Europe. In addition to Patton, military leaders central Louisiana during
the maneuvers included Joseph Stilwell, Dwight Eisenhower, Omar Bradley,
Mark Clark, and J. Lawton Collins. Many of these headquartered at the
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