Camp Tyson (1941-1944) - A World War II training Camp established in 1941 near Paris, Henry County, Tennessee as the nation's only Barrage Balloon Training Center for the Coast Artillery corps. Named Camp Tyson after Brigadier General Lawrence Davis Tyson (Cullum 3019). Camp declared surplus and abandoned in 1944.
Construction on the original 2000 acre camp began on 4 Sep 1941. Brigadier General John B. Maynard assumed command of the post on 16 Feb 1942. The work on the post was completed 14 Mar 1942 and R. H. Hunt Company, Architect/Engineer, and Rock City Strider Construction Company turned the base over to the U. S. Army on that date. Thousands of American servicemen were trained here for Barrage Balloon Service of the Coast Artillery Corps and other commands.
Barrage balloons were helium or hydrogen-filled balloons measuring thirty-five feet in diameter and eighty-five feet in length used to defend ground targets from enemy low flying aircraft. The unmanned balloons themselves had no defensive capabilities but the almost invisible steel cables that anchored them prevented low flying aircraft from entering the areas where they were deployed. The balloons trailed those cables some 9 to 12 thousand feet into the air. The balloons were used during WWII in diverse ways to defend British cities, American coastal defenses, convoys of cargo ships, and the D Day invasion beachheads.
The balloons themselves were made of a two-ply cotton fabric impregnated by synthetic rubber and cost between 5 and 10 thousand dollars each, a cost-effective defense against low flying aircraft. Balloon defenses were paired with searchlights and antiaircraft gun installations for higher flying bomber aircraft.
In December 1941 when war was declared, construction crews employed over eight thousand laborers to erect 450 buildings including wooden barracks, a 400-bed hospital, and a 2,500-seat theater. In March 1942 officers and enlisted men arrived in detachments of five or six thousand men; by the end of the war, Camp Tyson's occupancy ranged from 20-25 thousand soldiers. A 1943 expansion of the camp tripled the original two thousand acres.
Camp Tyson also served as a prisoner of war camp for German and Italian POWs. While at Camp Tyson, Prisoners worked on farms and on the local road system.
On 18 Aug 1944 Camp Tyson was publicly declared surplus and in Oct 1944 the last remaining officer on the post signed it over to the District engineers signaling its closure. On 30 Apr 1945 Bids for the dismantling of the post were announced.
After the war, the H. C. Spinks Clay Company purchased the property in May 1947.
Archaeological Site ID 40HY173. Among the surviving buildings left from World War II were the balloon hangar, the Incinerator building, the motor pool building, and a building now used as an office. Recent satellite images indicate that the motor pool building is now only a slab. The H.C. Splnks Clay Company Inc. owns the site and still uses some of the remaining buildings.
Visited: 8 Sep 2020