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Cultural Resources Management

Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune

"Integrating the past with the future."

Read More: Relocation of Local Landowners & Land Rights Relinquished
Relocation of Local Landowners
relocation of local landowners
Figure 6. Civilians living within the area designated for Camp Lejeune were required to evacuate. Their property was appraised and checks distributed. Lonnie Spicer (center) owned 32.2. acres in the area for which he received $1,487.06 from U.S. Navy officials in 1941 (Murrell 2001).

From April through October 1941 the federal government acquired land in 14 separate transactions, including condemnations. More than 600 families, most of whom lived on small tobacco farms, had to be relocated from the property. Each of the 14 parcels was assigned a letter designation, A through N. Parcels A (Tent Camp, later Camp Geiger), B (Montford Point, later Camp Johnson), and C (Hadnot Point) were purchased in April 1941 and were the first to be developed. In late summer 1941 the Marine Corps also acquired 8,000 acres of land on the southern bank of the Neuse River to construct for East Coast aviation the counterpart to the division training center at New River. Its first expected occupant, the 1st MAW, however, deployed from Quantico during December 1941 for the West Coast before the base was commissioned as Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, on 20 May 1942. Marine Barracks New River provided the Marine Corps for the first time with an area large enough to train a division, under conditions as realistic as possible, in the general amphibious warfare skills that were sure to be needed in a global conflict.

Land Rights Relinquished
1941 African American Cemetery
December 1941 image of an African American cemetery located within the periphery of the Marine Barracks. Several such cemeteries existed in the area at the time of the base’s construction. Some graves were moved, while others, such as the Verona Loop Cemetery, were left in situ.

For Camp Lejeune to become a reality, hundreds of individuals who were living within the area encompassed by the new base were forced to relinquish rights to their land and property. Many residents of the area, which was predominantly rural and agricultural, had lived there for generations and established productive farms. Some had established small businesses, such as the tourist cabins that were beginning to appear around Paradise Point in the 1930s.  Churches and cemeteries dotted the landscape.  The needs of the national military, however, required that all of these places be emptied. Approximately 720 families living within the New River region had to vacate (Watson 1995:135). Those residing in the northern part of the planned base were given an evacuation deadline of June 1, 1941 (Onslow County News and Views 1941b) while those in other areas that were not slated for immediate construction had until early fall of that year (Onslow County News and Views 1941c). Throughout 1941, the US Navy conducted appraisals of land and structural property across the area planned for the base in order to compensate the owners (Onslow County News and Views 1941d). There was also the task of documenting and removing hundreds of graves, some of which were solitary burials and others full-fledged cemeteries, in order to make way for military training. Whites were subsequently re-interred in nearby Montfort Point and blacks in Verona (Onslow County Old Cemetery Society 1997). The North Carolina Defense Relocation Corporation helped displaced individuals find new farms in Onslow and nearby counties.  The organization also provided temporary housing for both white and black residents of what was to become Camp Lejeune (Onslow County News and Views 1941f).  Compensation was slow in arriving, especially for those whose principal investment was their land. While some, such as Lonnie Spicer (Figure 6), received compensation in the same year that they evacuated, most waited two years before they received their checks (Brown 1960:187). Although it created much needed jobs and economic development, the transformation that came with the creation of Camp Lejeune was nonetheless difficult for many residents of Onslow County. The effect in Jacksonville of the base’s creation was felt immediately. Census figures illustrate the incredible surge in population that the county experienced. In 1940, the census counted 17,939 in Onslow County.  By the end of the decade, that number had more than doubled to 42,157 (Watson 1995:105).