Undeveloped Land
In spite of a long history of Euroamerican settlement in the area, much of the land for the new Marine base lay undeveloped in 1940.On 30 December 1940 Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox (the namesake of Camp Lejeune's Camp Knox) approved the site selection for the East Coast divisional training center at New River. Major McQueen and Captain McCaul received Letters of Commendation for having found and recommended the New River area for the training site. Understanding the Marines' need, President Roosevelt responded quickly and in February 1941 authorized an initial outlay of $1.5 million for the survey and purchase of the tract. Congress passed the Fifth Supplemental National Defense Appropriations Act on 5 April 1941, which authorized $14,575,000 for the base's construction.

Significant Construction
Road Construction 1941
October 1941, construction activities at the Marine Barracks at full throttle. This image shows road grading and construction in Regimental Area 4 along “J” Street.

The construction of Camp Lejeune during World War II was perhaps the most significant event in the history of Onslow County since the Civil War.  Despite the fact that hundreds of individuals were displaced in order for construction to proceed, the New River region quickly became the most populous area in the county following the base’s construction. The establishment of Camp Lejeune brought economic prosperity and modernization to Onslow County.  The largest Marine base in the United States, Camp Lejeune also garnered prestige for the state of North Carolina as a whole (Watson 1995:133-134).  The construction of the base was a massive undertaking such as Onslow County had never seen. Three firms out of Charlotte were employed to fill contracts for over $14 million, the largest defense contract ever awarded in the South at that time (Carraway 1946:17-18).  Eight thousand individuals from around the region were employed in the effort that began in April of 1941 and continued throughout the war (Carraway 1946:18-23).