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Camp Dawson, named for Governor Dawson (1905–09), is the West Virginia Army National Guard’s primary training site in West Virginia. In 1908, the legislature authorized the purchase of land to serve as a training base for the Guard. Camp Dawson came into being in 1909 when almost 200 acres were acquired along the Cheat River, just south of Kingwood in Preston County. The camp fell into disuse from the beginning of World War I until 1929 when Carleton C. Pierce became adjutant general. Pierce, who was from nearby Kingwood, was appointed to his post by another resident of Preston County, Governor Conley (1929–33).

During World War II, the U.S. government leased the camp to house prisoners of war, and it became one of two POW camps in West Virginia. Some 175 Italian POWs were sent to Camp Dawson where they were assigned tasks such as building and repairing roads. The prisoners were visited on a regular basis by Italian-Americans who had settled in northern West Virginia and enjoyed picnics and holiday entertainment with them.

Camp Dawson has continued to grow and now totals 4,177 acres. It is used for training a number of units including the 201st Field Artillery, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), and the 229th Engineering Detachment. It includes a $10 million gym facility, several live fire ranges, drop zones and helicopter landing zones, a demolition range, a live-fire shoot house, an airstrip and combat simulators.

Since 1993, the National Guard has operated Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy at Camp Dawson. During a 22-week residential and one year post-residential follow-up program, the academy trains and mentors at-risk youth to become contributing members of society through a quasi-military environment.

In 2016, Camp Dawson received the Secretary of Defense Environmental Award for its natural resources conservation work. It is considered to be among the nation’s top nine earth-friendly military installations.

This Article was written by Kenneth R. Bailey

Last Revised on October 18, 2023

Related Articles


Keefer, Louis E. The West Virginia WWII Home Front: POW: The Italian Prisoners at Camp Dawson. Goldenseal, (Spring 1993).

"Welcome to the Army Training Site," Pamphlet. West Virginia National Guard.

Cite This Article

Bailey, Kenneth R. "Camp Dawson." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 18 October 2023. Web. 20 May 2024.


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