Fort Custer Training Center, formerly called Fort Custer and Camp Custer, lies on the outskirts of Battle Creek, approximately 14 miles east of Kalamazoo.

Built as Camp Custer in 1917, its original intent was for military training during WW1. During that time, over 100,000 troops were trained and deployed overseas.

On August 17, 1940, the camp was officially re-named Fort Custer, a permanent training base as the U.S headed into WW2. During that war, the base covered a whoppin’ 16,005 acres with quarters for 1,279 Officers and 27,553 enlisted men. Trainees included men that made up the 5th Infantry Division, which arrived in France just after D-Day in 1944.

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The facility was also used as a P.O.W. camp, housing up to 5,000 enemy German soldiers. That ended along with the war in 1945. In the early 1950s, troops were trained for the Korean War and the fort became a draftee induction center.

A sour taste in the fort’s history concerns war amputees. WWII Michigan veterans who lost limbs absolutely refused to visit or go back to the fort – not to see anyone, reminisce, or get nostalgic. They related their own personal horror stories about being laid up in the fort hospital. Their nightmares reminded them of the tracks in the ceiling, where amputees were put on slings and transported from room-to-room as they were pushed down the long hallways and then from building to building.*
(That treatment no longer exists.)

Fort Custer remains to this day one of the Midwest’s most heavily used training facilities. It is also used by the National Guard and other military branches.

Take a look at some old Fort Custer photos below…

(*according to interviews between D. R. Esch and western Michigan WWII amputee veterans between 1995 and 2004.)

Vintage Photos of Fort Custer: 1917-1952


Fort Holmes, Mackinac Island

Fort Wilkins, Then and Now

The Tunnels of Fort Wayne