It’s been a century since 5,000 acres of land in the Massachusetts towns of Ayer, Harvard, Lancaster and Shirley were developed into Camp Devens, training soldiers for service in World War I.
Over the next 100 years, the site welcomed soldiers returning from battle, served as a summer training camp for National Guardsmen, Reservists and ROTC cadets, and became a permanent Army post that became known as Fort Devens.
When a second war enveloped the world, Devens trained nurses, chaplains, cooks and bakers as well as the troops of the 1st, 32nd and 45th Infantry Divisions and the Fourth Women’s Army Corps.
Through the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam era, Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield, Fort Devens continued to serve the nation’s needs. But in 1996, under the Base Realignment And Closing Act, Fort Devens was closed.
Now known simply as Devens, the land remains historically significant for local residents, Massachusetts, and the United States of America.
And it holds an array of memories for the thousands of men and women who were trained and deployed there.
A decade ago, a museum was founded as a repository for a collection of artifacts related to Devens’ service, and an education resource for schools and individuals.
This year, the museum celebrates the 100th anniversary of the creation of Camp Devens with a variety of special events, including a World War I Dinner/Dance Fundraiser at the Bull Run Restaurant on July 15; and 18th Army Band Reunion Concert on the Devens Quadrangle on July 16. Retired members of the 18th Army Band — long stationed at Fort Devens—will join members of other local bands to perform that free afternoon outdoor band concert.
World War I Living History Weekend follows, on August 5 and 6. In August 1917, over 20,000 soldiers were in the midst of training at Camp Devens while war waged in Europe. Visitors are invited to experience displays of US doughboys, along with French and German troops, to see what a WWI encampment looked like, and to admire period vehicles.
To learn more about Devens, the museum and the centennial events, visit fortdevensmuseum.org.