- Laci Barry Post
A Yankee Army Invades Ft. McClellan and the Hearts of Anniston
Updated: Sep 9, 2020
Before Songbird began in May 1943 and Edwin, Barry, and Sydney ever saw Ft. McClellan, the real-life 27th Division from New York made the fort its temporary home. The National Guard unit from New York was the first to train in the expanded post during World War II.
The 27th Division was made up of 1,200 men and officers under the lead of Major General William N. Haskell. Their time at Ft. McClellan consisted of a 16-week basic training course, combat training, and actual field maneuvers. Perhaps, the men’s fondest memories during their time at the fort were made possible by the city just outside it.
The City of Anniston adopted the Yankee division as their own. Public dances, vaudeville shows, boxing events, city tours, and other activities were held in honor of the men. The people of Anniston were truly sad when the division was deployed to “an unknown destination” on December 19, 1941 just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The 27th arrived in Hawaii in May 1942 and fought in the Pacific until 1945, making them the longest serving National Guard unit of the war. The division fought long and bitter campaigns in the Marshall and Gilbert Islands, Saipan, Guam, and the Philippines before helping with occupational duty in Japan. Their time at Ft. McClellan and their service during World War II will never be forgotten.
"She remembered reading stories in the newspapers of street dances, driving tours, and special suppers for the soldiers, but she had only caught glimpses of the uniformed men on their family trip to Anniston in the late fall. Apparently, the city swarmed with them now as men from all across the country came to the fort for basic training before being shipped overseas. Her dad was right; the community did treat them like heroes."
Songbird, Chapter 2