The Pillboxes of Camp White (Oregon) 03-Jan-2019

During World War II, Camp George A. White, situated just north of Medford, Oregon, served as the training center for the U.S. Army’s 91st and 96th Infantry Divisions.  At its height, Camp White held 40,000 soldiers and was the second largest city in Oregon.  In 1946, the Army dismantled the camp and sold all its property to local residents.  When the camp was active, the Beagle Range, on the east and north sides of Upper Table Rock, was used to conduct live-fire exercises on the manning and capturing of concrete pillboxes. The ones here were designed to roughly simulate German coastal fortifications in Europe (think D-Day).  Remnants of 25 of these pillboxes are clustered south and west of the intersection of Highway 234 and Antioch Road.  Fourteen are on land acquired by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 2009 (the Table Rock Management Area) and eleven are located on private lands inside or adjacent to the management area.  The pillboxes generally measure 20 by 30 feet and are clearly visible on aerial imagery.

Curious to see some of this little piece of military history, I enlisted The LovedOne for a morning stroll around 13 of the 14 the pillboxes on public land.  Having spent a fair share of my career wandering around military ranges, both old and new, it was heartening to know that a survey in 2010 revealed no evidence of unexploded ordnance in this area. o_O  Although the winter weather wasn’t ideal for snapshots, it was excellent for dissuading ticks, poison oak, and rattlesnakes! The presence of these, plus the weather, plus the tough training, may be why Camp White was known (probably not affectionately) as the Alcatraz of Boot Camps. Our morning stroll here was, on the other hand, a pleasant and fascinating encounter with a piece of both local and national history. 😀

The BLM is considering adding some trails and parking to facilitate visits to these historic structures. At present, however, parking is along Antioch Road and the hiking is all cross-country. There’s a simple barbed wire gate on the west side of Antioch Road about 0.5 miles south of the intersection of Highway 234 and Antioch Road (or about 2 miles north of the intersection of Antioch and Modoc Roads). Parking is very limited along Antioch Road but there’s room for 1-2 cars about 100 feet or so south of the barbed wire gate. The pillboxes you can see on the east side of Antioch Road are on private property.

Pillbox #1
Pillbox #3
Pillbox #4
Pillbox #9
Pillbox #10
Pillbox #12
Hasty construction still standing after 77 years
But all of the roofs have collapsed
An embrasure interior guarded by leafless poison oak
Field of fire
Impact of a large caliber round
Embrasure exterior with bullet craters
Stepped embrasure detail
Interior wall detail
Heading back on the remains of the old access road
Our track (solid yellow line); pillboxes on public land (red circles); pillboxes on private land (red crosses); management area boundary (dotted orange line)
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6 comments

  1. What a fascinating bit of history! This hike of yours vaguely reminds me of all the fortifications dating from World War II that surround the Golden Gate Bridge.

    1. The 91st Division was being trained for D-Day (but got sent to Italy instead 🙄 ). These pillboxes were built to “simulate” the German fortifications on the D-Day invasion beaches. Those German ones looked like the old U.S. coastal artillery position around San Francisco and elsewhere along the Pacific Coast.

  2. Interesting, thanks for sharing. I’ve lived in the Rogue Valley for over 20 years and never knew these were out there.

    1. You can see some of them from Antioch Road but your immediate thought is that they’re some kind of old stock tank, not a military structure. I hope the BLM finds the funds to build a parking area and a few trails so it’s a little easier to visit them.

  3. There’s a simple barbed wire gate along Antioch Road 0.5 miles south of the intersection of Highway 234 and Antioch Road (where Rainey’s Corner Market is). Or 2 miles north of the intersection of Antioch and Modoc Road (the Upper Table Rock Trailhead is on Modoc Road). This is the way to the old road through the pillboxes. Parking is limited along Antioch Road but there’s room for 1-2 cars 100 feet or so south of the barbed wire gate. You can see pillboxes #3 & #4 from the road.

  4. Typically you include directions to your hikes. This article did not. I’d like to check them out. Where’s your starting point?

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