Remembering Camp Shanks in the Hudson Valley: The Rockland County "town" played host to members of the "the Greatest Generation."

May 14, 2023

For about two years, this “town” was the biggest and busiest in Rockland County—and perhaps in all the Hudson Valley. It appeared almost overnight and vanished nearly as quickly.

By David Levine

There’s nothing of it left today, and most of us have never heard of it. But from 1943 until the end of World War II, Camp Shanks was home to more than a million members of “the Greatest Generation.”

The camp was the largest Army port of embarkation in the country. It comprised 2,040 acres in Orangetown, and it served as the staging ground for about 1.3 million troops, including 75 percent of those who took part in the invasion of Normandy. The GIs knew they were headed overseas from here, which is why they nicknamed the camp “Last Stop, USA.”

The Army selected Orangetown because it was served by two railroads and had quick access to nearby piers on the Hudson that could handle large military ships, making it easy to get troops in from bases across the country, down river to New York, and on to Africa and Europe. It was also mostly farmland, which made it relatively simple to transform into an Army base. So, in the fall of 1942, about 300 residents were called to a meeting at the Orangeburg School (now the library) and told that the U.S. government was purchasing their land, which they could buy back at the same price at the end of the war. They had two weeks to get out. One hundred and thirty families lost their homes.

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