Category Archives: Camp Wolters

General William H. Simpson & The Baker Hotel

William H. SimpsonBefore General William Hood Simpson led the Ninth Army across the Rhine and into Germany in March of 1945, he served for a brief period as Commanding Officer at Camp Wolters from April to October 1941 in Mineral Wells.  According to a recorded interview in 1976 (in the Menger Hotel) with Simpson, he stated that he lived with his wife in the Baker Hotel during his seven-month stay in Mineral Wells.

General Simpson had been a man on the move his entire life.  As a boy, he grew up in and around Weatherford, Texas – only seventeen miles from Mineral Wells.  So during his seven months in Mineral Wells, it must have been a little bit like going home, although he admitted in an interview that the move to Camp Wolters was sudden and it caused him to doubt himself: “I’d really thought my career was ruined to be relieved as assistant commander of a combat division to command a replacement center.” Indeed, it was an interesting move to send a seasoned war General to oversee the basic training of new draftees, only a few months after being promoted to Brigadier General. However, from all accounts of every man and officer at Camp Wolters during his tenure there, Simpson was just the same man that he had been his entire life: engaged, involved, and inspiring. He continued to excel in everything he was tasked with, and as a result he was promoted to Major General in October of 1941.

Simpson LifeSimpson had been inspired at the age of ten by his grandfather Judge Hood (then a prominent judge and lawyer in Texas) to look into going to West Point, because his grandfather noticed how much he enjoyed the war games he played as a boy. So Simpson had his eye on West Point, and at the age of sixteen, he read in the paper that there was a vacant position and that they wanted to appoint someone from Parker County, Texas – which is where he was from. He and only one other boy from the area applied – and he got the appointment. After graduating from West Point in 1909, he served in the Philippines and Mexico (chasing Pancho Villa with Patton) before being promoted to Captain and joining the 33rd Division in World War I. He then got married and served in many interwar period appointments before becoming a Major General and leading the Ninth Army during WWII.

General Simpson was self-confident, tall, lean, bald, and a sharp dresser.  However, when compared to more theatrical war figures like Patton and Montgomery, he was perhaps considered a more understated, less visible leader. Regardless, Simpson’s quiet confidence and steady competence continued to make a strong impression on his commanding officers as he rose in rank.

Simpson During WWIIEisenhower himself stated that he could find no mistake in Simpson’s leadership. “He was,” Eisenhower wrote, “the type of leader American soldiers deserve.”

According to his staff that knew him well, General Simpson was a true leader, the kind of man with a real presence. He was charismatic, warm, sincere and inspiring to his officers and his men, inspiring clarity and focus even during high stress war situations. He was described as a good listener with an understanding smile, quick with praise and encouragement. His temper didn’t flare easily, but everybody knew it when he wasn’t happy, and they worked hard to correct it. Armistead D. Mead, Simpson’s wartime Brigadier General, said that he had “an iron fist in a velvet glove.”

Simpson often walked among his men casually, listening and seeking to understand when they talked about their problems. And when he said he’d look into a situation, he always did, and he always followed up.

“General Simpson’s genius lay in his charismatic manner, his command presence, his ability to listen, his unfailing use of his staff to check things out before making decisions, and his way of making all hands feel that they were important to him and to the army.” – General Armistead D. Mead

Simpson retired in 1946 and was an active member of the San Antonio community where he lived until he passed away in 1980 at age 92.

It has been truly fascinating to learn about this great man whose story is forever intertwined into the history of the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells.

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Camp Wolters

Camp Wolters Infantry Replacement Training Center Mineral Wells Texas Historical PhotoOn September 16, 1940, FDR signed the “Selective Service and Training Act” which established the first peacetime draft in US history.  Then, in November of 1940, workers broke ground on Camp Wolters just outside Mineral Wells, Texas.  It would be the largest of four Infantry Replacement Training Centers in the US during WWII.

When construction  was completed in March of 1941, the camp could accommodate over 20,000 soldiers at any given time.  Many of the newly enlisted men that arrived in Mineral Wells in the spring and summer of 1941 were some of the country’s first WWII draftees.

Weatherford native General William Hood Simpson arrived in April 1941 and served as the Commanding Officer of Camp Wolters until October.  He and his wife actually lived at The Baker Hotel in downtown Mineral Wells during their seven month stay.   Later, in 1945, General Simpson would famously lead the US 9th Army across the Rhine and into Germany.

An original fact sheet about Camp Wolters from the Mineral Wells Chamber of Commerce is below:

Camp Wolters Facts Mineral Wells Texas History

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Video: Camp Wolters & The Baker Hotel 1941

Here is a very rare home video shot in 1941 of an enlisted man and his family, perhaps before he was shipped out.

The first four minutes show the Army Infantry Replacement Training Center at Camp Wolters in Mineral Wells as well as some great footage of the Baker Hotel.

Then the location changes to Hot Springs Arkansas. Does that big white hotel look familiar? It is The Arlington, the hotel that architect Wyatt C. Hedrick used as a model for his design of the Baker Hotel. It’s incredible to see both in the same video.

The scenes that follow are most likely from Little Rock and Camp Robinson in Arkansas.

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