Camp Funston was located on the Fort Riley military reservation near Junction City, Kansas. The facility, named after Brigadier General Frederick Funston, was the largest of 16 divisional cantonment training camps built during World War I to house and train soldiers for military duty. Construction began in July 1917 and buildings were laid out uniformly in city block squares with main streets and side streets on either side. An estimated 2,800 to 4,000 buildings were constructed at the camp to accommodate more than 40,000 soldiers from the U.S. Army's 89th Division, who were stationed at the facility. The camp cost roughly $10 million to build.
The camp resembled more a city than an army camp. Besides containing housing and training centers the camp offered general stores, theaters, social centers, infirmaries, libraries, schools, workshops, and a coffee roasting house. The sleeping barracks were 43 feet by 140 feet and two stories high. In them were a kitchen, mess hall, company commander’s office, supply rooms, and squad rooms or dormitories. There were 150 beds in each sleeping room, as that was the size of an infantry company in 1917.
Funston’s main purpose was to train soldiers drafted in Midwestern states to fight over seas. Men would spend their hours drilling and learning new military techniques that became popular within World War I. Many officers were brought in from other countries such as France and Britain to train the Midwest soldiers. In their free time soldiers could see a show at the theaters or visit one of the social centers. However many spent their time writing letters home. James H. Dickson, who served in the 356th Infantry Regiment of the 89th Division, wrote this to friends back home: “Eunice don’t be to [sic] long about writing for news is scarce out in Kansas the wind blows it all away.” Another soldier, Otto Bruner, wrote of a concert he saw while at Funston: “Last Thursday night I went to hear a big orchestra from St. Louis there were about eighty in it, it was fine. I also heard Madam Schumann-Heinke sing. I sure like to hear her sing. I don’t know whether I spelt her name right or not but guess you will know who I mean.”
One of the biggest problems faced within the camp was the spread of communicable disease. Although all soldiers were inoculated upon entering the camp, the 1918-1920 influenza pandemic was said to have started within Camp Funston. Soldiers thought to have any communicable disease were immediately quarantined until they either got over the disease or were thought free of it.
After the war Camp Funston became a "mustering-out" center as soldiers prepared to return to civilian life. In 1924 the military decommissioned the 2,000 acre site with the dismantling of the buildings. Today a few foundations remain of the camp and a stone obelisk in honor of “The Men Who Trained at Funston for the Great War.”
Entry: Camp Funston
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: February 2011
Date Modified: November 2016
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.