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More than 10,000 acres of Central Oregon was selected for the exercise, and included portions of Deschutes, Crook, Lake and Harney counties

A map from 1943 shows the area used for the Oregon Maneuvers.The United States was well into its war effort in World War II in 1943. It was decided to have a joint military training maneuver on a large scale on the High Desert of Central Oregon. Three Army training bases were located in Oregon. Camp White was north of Medford and was the training center for the Army's 91st Infantry Division. Camp Adair was north of Corvallis and provided training for the 96th and 104th Infantry Divisions. Camp Abbot was near present Sunriver and was the training center for Army combat engineers. A large air base had also been constructed at Redmond.

Although individual division training was conducted at the bases, it was determined that a large-scale training operation was needed to maneuver divisions in combat simulations. It was of particular concern that coordination of armor, artillery, infantry and air operations mock encounters with enemy forces. It would help determine if soldiers, staff and units were prepared for combat.

Planning began in the spring of 1943. Operations were to begin in July 1943 and last through October of that year. Over 10,000 acres of Central Oregon was selected for the exercise. It included portions of Deschutes, Crook, Lake and Harney counties.

It was chosen as the site for the maneuvers as it was sparsely populated and provided for the terrain and physical features that the Army could be operating in actual combat. The U.S. Department of War acquired special use permits to use federal land for the exercises.

The operation was first known as the "Central Oregon Maneuver" and later became known as the "Oregon Maneuver." More than 75,000 Army personnel participated in the training. Highways were jammed with troop carriers and transport vehicles driving into Central Oregon. Camps were established along roads and in fields and pastures throughout the maneuver area. Poles were set up for running communication lines with almost 330 miles of telephone lines being constructed. Several wells were drilled to improve water supply. Supply depots were established to provide food, ammunition, clothing and other needed supplies.

There were eight tactical problems included in the maneuver. For each problem two infantry divisions were designated as the offensive force and one division as the defensive force. Umpires were assigned to observe the maneuvers of opposing commanders. Active training operations concluded on Oct. 31. Engineer units continued working to repair damaged roads and fences and removed the telephone poles. The units all returned to their home base. Soon each of the three Army divisions received orders to actively join in combat and were assigned to various theaters of war. Central Oregon had provided the landscape and terrain for necessary training for the war effort.

Steve Lent is a local historian and assistant director of the Bowman Museum. He can be reached at: 541-447-3715.

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