I heard about Camp Adair from the time I was very small. Living in Dallas, Oregon in the 1950s and 1960s, my family would often go on the dreaded Sunday afternoon drives in the countryside. I always brought along a book, but my head came up every time I’d hear, “They’re from Camp Adair.” It was interesting to see convoys of military vehicles driving by, as I had no connection with the military at all.
So, many years later when I moved to Adair Village, I wondered whether there might be some information about the camp that was famous in the mid-valley area—and beyond. About that time, the city took possession of a couple of WWII-era buildings that had sat on private property for decades. The city council agreed to pay for moving the buildings to city property and stabilize them with interior walls, a new door and windows, and a new roof. Not long after that I sat on the city’s ad hoc Historic Resources Committee. For the next year we met and provided the council with a recommendation for what to do with the buildings.
During that time, I learned a lot! First, that by the time I sat in the back seat of my parents’ car and heard that “they’re from Camp Adair” Camp Adair had not existed for 20+ years. In the intervening period, there had been a Naval Hospital, and there still existed at the time the Adair Air Force Station (AAFS). Soon, the Air Force would leave, and the many acres of land that had been seized for Camp Adair would be parceled out as local, county, state, and federal lands, and a great deal that fell into private ownership. The housing that had gone up for those who were stationed at the AAFS was sold to individuals, including me in 1999.
I learned that Camp Adair had been considered the second-largest city in Oregon because 40,000 people, or more, lived, trained, and worked there during WWII. I learned that Camp Adair had housed prisoners of war, and that it had become known to the soldiers who trained there as “Swamp Adair” because the low ground often flooded. I learned that the Naval Hospital had beds for up to 3,600 patients, but that it never reached capacity. I learned that the hospital buildings were renovated into living quarters for soldiers returning home and studying at nearby colleges. I learned that it was an Air Force “station” because it could only be called and Air Force “base” if there was a place to land planes. I learned that the large, gray, cement “block building” that can still be seen in Adair Village housed computers taking up whole rooms and was part of the NORAD system, watching for incoming missiles during the Cold War.
There is so much information about the history of the Adair Area that it was decided to building an Interpretive Center for the Adair Area for the purpose of discovering and preserving this rich local history and making it available for anyone who’s interested. I’m still learning about Camp Adair and all the rest after having worked for twelve years with Adair Living History. And I hope never to stop.