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Carlisle Barracks had reached a tipping point back in fall 1948.

An increase in training requirements would mean an almost three-fold surge in enrollment at the Military Police School from 700 to 2,000 students, The Sentinel reported on Sept. 18, 1948. That number was beyond the training and housing capacity of the post, prompting the Army chief of staff to announce the transfer of the police school to Camp Gordon, Georgia.

“Complete details have not been completed ... but tentative plans call for completion of the move by the middle of November,” the newspaper article read.

It was more than three years after the end of World War II and Carlisle Barracks was in a state of transition between the heyday of the Medical Field Service School and the arrival of the U.S. Army War College in 1951.

The Sentinel reported how the removal of the Military Police School would leave just the Armed Forces Information School and the Army Chaplain’s School at Carlisle Barracks.

The newspaper described Camp Gordon as a wartime post that closed up after the demobilization of much of the Army. The reactivated installation would also host training groups of the Engineer School and parts of the Signal and Ordnance schools.

“Due to the absence of any family accommodations at Camp Gordon, it is expected that most of the families of school personnel now in the Carlisle area will remain here for several months until quarters can be found at the new location [in Georgia],” The Sentinel reported.

The lack of housing on and off Carlisle Barracks was a recurring problem in the early postwar years. This demand probably led to the June 1952 decision to break ground on the College Arms housing project intended primarily for war college students and their families.

Though roomy and modern when built, the three-bedroom homes were considered so small and cramped by the 1980s that they went by the nickname “Smurf Village” by officers living there.

Shuffling of schools

In May 1946, about a year after Nazi Germany surrendered, the new School for Government of Occupied Areas opened on the campus of Carlisle Barracks. The Sentinel reported how this school had a faculty of about 20 individuals who were expected to train about 2,400 officers and civilians in about 18 months.

However, large class sizes and an accelerated curriculum made it possible for the government school to complete its mission in just five months. In late October, The Sentinel reported that while the government school will close up shop, three other Army schools were assigned to Carlisle Barracks.

Brig. Gen. Wiliston Palmer was garrison commander in late 1946 when orders came down on the transfer of the Provost Marshal General’s School from Texas to Carlisle.

“Then came word of the War Department’s decision to send also the Chaplains School and the Adjutant General’s School, both now at Fort Oglethorpe [Georgia],” The Sentinel reported.

Set to open Nov. 15, the provost school had a permanent staff of 65 officers, 40 enlisted men and about 100 civilians. Its purpose was to train officers and enlisted men in all phases of military police work from recruit training to advanced criminal investigation.

Meanwhile the Chaplains School was set to open on Feb. 1, 1947 while the adjutant general’s school had no definitive date but was expected to open in either late winter or early spring 1947. The adjutant general’s school focused on instruction in basic and advanced administration and included courses in record-keeping and office machine operations.

“The assigning of these new schools to Carlisle Barracks means that it is the intention in Washington to make this post an Army center,” Palmer told Army post and town representatives during a meeting of the Inter-Community Council. “It also means that Carlisle Barracks is not to be closed under the new Army economy program that is shutting down scores of posts.”

About two weeks later, on Nov. 9, 1946, The Sentinel reported how the transfer of three Army schools in such a short period virtually swamped the local USO club office with requests for housing.

The housing agency received so many applications from Army personnel that it became necessary for the USO to cross out the names of civilians from the waiting list. The civilians included local college and law school students who were married and wanted to move their wives to Carlisle to set up households.

Club director Capt. Victor Wright reported that 181 names were added to the waiting list because of the three new schools. “He has been the busiest man in town, jotting down the names and room requirements with one hand and phoning to landlords with the other,” The Sentinel said of Wright.

On Dec. 5, 1946, The Sentinel reported the housing shortage was getting worse by the day according to Maj. Paul McPherran, the garrison public relations officer. The situation was compounded by military personnel not obeying directives.

“All personnel on being assigned to Carlisle Barracks are advised against bringing their families here due to the housing shortage,” McPherran said. “But despite the warning many families come along.

“In many cases the families ... have no alternative for a variety of reasons,” McPherran said. “Others come along regardless and take the chance of squeezing in some place.”

The Sentinel mentioned how 10 families – all new arrivals – were temporarily stranded the night of Dec. 4, 1946 but ultimately found room in local farmhouses.

Enter the Smurfs

The demand for housing became critical again after the U.S. Army War College moved to the Carlisle Barracks in summer 1951. On June 23, 1952, the Army broke ground on the College Arms housing project.

Carlisle Barracks in recent years published a brief history of housing on post. It mentioned that Brig. Gen. Arthur Trudeau was instrumental in getting the war college moved to Carlisle Barracks and in setting up new quarters for students and their families.

The federal government budgeted $925,700 toward the construction of homes – 10 to 12 of which were ready for occupancy by Sept. 1, 1952.

“By the next academic year, one hundred small white houses dotted the northeast section of post,” the history reads. “Those College Arms homes, numbering 501 to 600, lined all or parts of today’s Wright and Forbes Avenues and Liggett, Davis, Craig, Pershing, Butler, Sumner and Patton roads.”

Around 1960, half the homes were expanded from three-bedroom 1,265-square-foot structures to four-bedroom 1,570-square-foot structures, but near the end of their time on post the homes were considered woefully undersized for most senior officers and their families.

The Smurf Village homes have since been demolished and replaced by more roomy duplex houses.

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News Reporter

History and education reporter for The Sentinel.