- Grant Recipient
- 189 Longwood Road, Yaphank, NY 11980, USA
- 40.865833, -72.903333
The Longwood Society for Historic Preservation
Camp Upton was established at this site in Yaphank, NY, in 1917. The camp covered an expansive area and consisted of several different buildings. The men of the 77th Infantry Division were trained for combat here before being sent to Europe to aid the Allied Forces during World War I. After the war the camp closed and was abandoned, but this was far from the end for Camp Upton. As world tensions began to escalate once again, the United States mobilized for the possibility of a second world war. Camp Upton was reopened in the early 1940s and served as a Draft Center to train men registered with the Selective Service.
After the conclusion of World War II, Camp Upton served as the site for the Brookhaven National Laboratory, built in 1947. This cutting edge facility, which still existed as of 2019, was established as a center for the study of physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, applied science, and a wide range of advanced technologies. The Laboratory employs nearly 3,000 scientists, engineers, and support staff plus an additional 4,000 visiting researchers from around the world.
According to the Brookhaven National Laboratory website, when the United States entered World War I, large forces would be needed to fight overseas, but a standing army was non-existent. It was decided that sixteen cantonments would be erected across the country to train the New York area inductees. The proposed army base was to be named Camp Upton, after Civil War figure Major General Emery Upton. The recruits who arrived at Upton came from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, representing twenty-five or more national backgrounds and all walks of life. In all, some 40,000 men would spend some part of their military service at Upton.
Camp Commander Major General J. Franklin Bell’s sixteen-week training program included almost every aspect of infantry combat. French and British officers were brought to the U.S. and instructed the men in tank, trench and gas warfare. The draftees trained in the use of hand grenades and machine guns, and professional boxers taught the men hand-to-hand combat. From these raw recruits came the nucleus of the 77th Division. Officially formed before the first draftee arrived in camp, the 77th was to gain recognition for its valor at the Argonne Forest in August of 1918.
After the war effort moved from the European to the Pacific Theater during World War II, the induction center functions were relocated to Fort Dix, N.J. The camp was then developed into a convalescent and rehabilitation hospital in September of 1944. A showcase for the type of treatment the returning wounded veterans would receive, bowling alleys, swimming pools, and tennis courts were added to serve as recreational therapy for the patients at Camp Upton.
Interestingly, the origins of Yaphank, NY may also be gleaned from anecdotal reference to the famous Sergeant Irving Berlin. While at Upton, the source notes, Berlin wrote “Yip, Yip Yaphank,” a military musical based on his life at the camp. The show was produced on Broadway, with Berlin’s fellow soldiers filling the cast. From this show came one of Berlin’s most famous songs, “Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning.”
Longislandgeanology.com adds that between World Wars I and II, the camp was also used by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps; many of the trees on the site are thought to have been planted by these men. It also served as a Prisoner of War Camp, when in May of 1945, 500 German prisoners were transported to Camp Upton. This source also has curated a compelling web archives of historic photos documenting the camp.
As of 2019, the site remains Brookhaven National Laboratory.