One of the nearly 200,000 men who passed through Camp Croft was Joseph Peter Pizzimenti of Detroit, MI. He was a musician in the jazz and marching bands at Croft from 1941 until early 1945. In addition to being a musician, Pizzimenti was a photographer and had permission to take pictures in camp. In 1945, Pizzimenti was shipped to Okinawa and spent the last six months of his service in the South Pacific. He died in 1996. His son, who donated these images to the Spartanburg County Public Libraries, said he always spoke fondly of his Army days in Spartanburg County.
Camp Croft was a World War II training camp located on 20,000 acres in the Delmar-White Stone area of Spartanburg County, South Carolina. Construction began in December 1940, and in ninety days some 600 buildings were ready for the arrival of the first 16,000 men. Training initially lasted for thirteen weeks but was expanded later in the war to 17 weeks. It included all phases of infantry combat. By July 31, 1945, 199,838 men had passed through Camp Croft. During this time there were 483 marriages, 76 baptisms, and 53 funerals.
The camp was named for Major General Edward Croft, born in Greenville, South Carolina in 1874. Croft was an 1896 graduate of the Citadel who went on to serve in World War I as a colonel and brigadier general. He was decorated with the Purple Heart and Silver Star. On May 6, 1933, he was appointed a major general and chief of infantry. Upon retirement in 1937, he returned to Greenville. He died in 1938 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.
Some 3000 foreign-born soldiers became naturalized citizens at Camp Croft. Most notable was Henry Kissinger, who later became secretary of state for President Richard Nixon. Camp Croft was also a prisoner-of-war camp for about 250 Germans.
The city of Spartanburg welcomed the camp and played host to the visiting soldiers. There were six USO clubs in the city. Many churches opened clubrooms with opportunities for worship and entertainment. Families opened their homes, and servicemen were frequent guests to Sunday dinner.
After the war was over, Camp Croft was not converted into a permanent military base, and it fell into disuse. In March 1947, the Spartanburg County Foundation purchased the camp for more than $1 million. A small industrial park was developed in the area of the railroad and the camp’s warehouses. The area where the barracks had been is now a residential neighborhood. Original street names such as Headquarters Loop, Patton Avenue and Pershing Drive are reminders that this area was once a military post.
The state of South Carolina purchased some 7,000 acres of the camp in 1949 for a state park. In 1993, the Army Corps of Engineers began an ordinance of extensive cleanup of explosives from the former camp area. Though closed during this process, the park has reopened and offers many recreational opportunities.
The Spartanburg County Public Libraries is a repository for all U.S. Army Corps of Engineers documentation concerning the cleanup of the Camp Croft area.
The Pizzimenti Collection is kept in the Kennedy Room vault and may be viewed in person upon request. Copies from the collection may be purchased, with certain restrictions. Please contact the Kennedy Room for more information regarding the purchase of prints from this collection.