As the Japanese advanced through South East Asia in early 1942, Australia demanded the return of its experienced infantry divisions from the Middle East. Two brigades of the 8th Division of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force (2nd AIF) were lost in February 1942 with the fall of Singapore, while the third brigade was destroyed piecemeal on the islands of Timor, Ambon and New Britain. The 6th and 7th Divisions of the 2nd AIF were released from the Middle East in early 1942, although two brigades of the 6th were diverted to Ceylon for four months on their journey home. The Australian Government also hoped to bring back the 9th Division of the 2nd AIF, but Churchill objected. As a compromise the US, which had dispatched the US 41st Infantry Division to Australia during March and April 1942, offered to dispatch another division to Australia, if the 9th Division remained in the Middle East.
The second US Division dispatched to Australia was the 32nd “Red Arrow” Infantry Division, formed from National Guard units from Michigan and Wisconsin. It left San Francisco in a single convoy on 22 April 1942, and reached Adelaide on 14 May. The main elements of the 32nd Division at this time included three infantry regiments (126th, 127th, 128th) plus four field artillery (FA) battalions (120th, 121st, 126th, 129th). Other elements included the Division HQ and HQ Company, the Division Artillery HQ and HQ Battery, a Military Police Company, the 114th Engineer Battalion (which replaced the 107th Engineer Battalion, the latter having been dispatched to Ireland before the rest of the Division was ordered to Australia); the 107th Medical Battalion, 107th Quartermaster Battalion, 32 Signal Company, 32nd Cavalry Reconnaissance troop, and the 632nd Tank Destroyer (TD) Battalion, equipped with M-10s. The 32nd Division, along with the 41st Division, later became part of the US 1st Corps under Major General Robert L. Eichelberger.
In July 1942 the 32nd Division was sent from camps near Adelaide to Camp Tambourine, south of Brisbane. A tented camp for 20,000 men was requested on 12 June 1942 by the Chief Engineer, United States Army Forces in Australia (USAFIA), and this was approved by the Allied Works Council (AWC). The site was located south of Brisbane, between Logan Village and Tamborine. The estimated cost was £380,000, and construction of mess halls/kitchens with boiler houses, bath houses, latrines, tank stands and hospital wards were contracted out. Most of the work was divided between five contractors: Stuart Bros, Queensland Building and Engineering (Stronach), PR Ayre, J Hutchinson & Sons, and H. Taylor. Some building was also done by US Army personnel, while the work was directed by Major Willard Farrar, Office of the Base Section Engineer, Base Section 3 (Brisbane), United States Army Services Of Supply (USASOS). The latter organisation had replaced USAFIA on 20 July 1942.
As well as buildings, road access and water supplies were also necessary. In July 1942 Major Farrar requested the upgrading of the roads around the camp’s perimeter for two way traffic (gravelled to 16’, or 4.9m wide); strengthening bridges for 20 ton loads on the Waterford-Tamborine Beenleigh-Tambourine, and [Camp Cable] roads; and the formation of new internal roads within the camp (gravelled to 12’, or 3.7m) wide. This work was carried out by the Queensland Main Roads Commission (MRC). The Department of the Interior was responsible for the water supply, which would be pumped from the Albert River into large tanks, and then be distributed by tanker truck to smaller tanks around the camp. Water mains were later installed to some areas of the camp. Electricity was also eventually installed to some areas.
Camp Cable became one of the largest US training and transit camps in Australia. The number and type of buildings requested fluctuated, but construction began in July, and by mid September 1942, when the work was 80-90% completed, the contractor’s building totals included 110 mess huts of several sizes, 99 bath houses, 217 latrines, 3 pump houses, 128 tank stands, 5 hospital wards and 3 nurses quarters. Another 12 mess huts, 27 bath houses and 2 latrines were built by the US Army. At this stage, mess flooring seems to have been either tamped antbed or timber, with plaster covered bricks in the kitchens. Bathhouse floors were initially bricks grouted with cement mortar, although cement was later used. In addition to the above work, by 1 September 1942, ten curved truss (igloo) buildings had been built at Tamborine, plus four at Logan Village. The latter buildings were serviced by a new railway siding, were 96’ by 104’ (29.3m by 31.6m) with earth floors, and their footprints can still be seen between the main road and the railway at Logan Village, south of Quinzeh Creek Road.
The camp was renamed Camp Cable on 30 August 1942, in honour of Sergeant Gerald Cable of the 126th Infantry regiment, who was the first member of the Division killed in action. During the move from Adelaide to Brisbane, most of Division travelled by rail, but much of their heavy equipment was sent on five Liberty ships. One, the William Dawes, was torpedoed by the Japanese Submarine I-11 off Merimbula, NSW, on 22nd July 1942, and later sank off Bermagui. Sgt Cable was one of five men killed at their gun station.
By 26 October 1942 Stuart Bros had finished their contract, other than some flues, urinals, and hot water systems to some mess halls, and by 22 December 1942 PR Ayre had finished the hospital. During early 1943 additional mess halls, bath houses and latrines were built for newly arrived US troops (147th and 148th FA battalions), and a number of 30’ by 60’ (9.1m by 18.3m) igloos were also built within the camp during 1943. In mid 1943, 3” concrete floors were ordered for 25 mess halls (completed by 28 December 1943).
A 1945 map shows that the main part of Camp Cable was located between Quinzeh Creek Road (then called Sandell Avenue) in the north, and Plunkett Road (then called Boice Road) in the south. There was also a hospital just south of the Albert River, on the east side of the Waterford-Tamborine Road (McKenny Boulevarde). The distance between Quinzeh Creek Road and the Albert River is about 11km as the crow flies. Most of the camp lay between McKenny Boulevarde in the west, and Steele’s Road (Schroeder Drive) in the east.
The HQ area was south of Camp Cable Road (Quinn Boulevarde) at its intersection with the Waterford-Tamborine Rd. An internal road, Haggestadt Road, continued east through the camp from this intersection, to join Schroeder. Further south, Wentland Lane crossed southwest-northeast from McKenny to Schroeder, while further south again Andrews Road headed east from McKenny, crossed Schroeder, and continued until it met Boice Avenue to the northeast of Plunkett Railway Station, where there was another igloo warehouse. This area east of Schroeder was also part of the camp. Another internal road, Hootman Drive, headed south from Haggestadt, past Wentland, to join Andrews. Hootman was located between McKenny Boulevarde and the Canungra Branch railway line, which ran down through the eastern side of the camp. Keast Circle looped east from near the southern end of Hootman, to Andrews Road. A large area west of the main camp, reaching almost to Jimboomba, was also requisitioned for military use.
The three infantry regiments were located on the west side of the camp (from north to south: the 128th, 127th and 126th). The four FA battalions were camped east of the Canungra railway line (from north to south: 129th, 126th, 120th; and the 121st was located between Boice Road and Andrews Road, east of Schroeder). The 632 TD Battalion was located east of Schroeder road, along Andrews Road. The 155th Station Hospital was located south of the Albert River. Divisional Signals and the Reconnaissance troop were located north of Quinn Boulevarde, with the Quartermaster Battalion located halfway between the HQ and Logan Village. Tennis courts and an open air picture theatre were located south of the HQ, along with a 1000 yard rifle range, pillboxes, and a grenade range, with split trenches and dugouts.
The 32nd Division did not have time for much training at Camp Cable; in late September 1942 the Divisional HQ and two regimental combat teams, based on the 126th and 128th regiments, were sent to Port Moresby with only one artillery piece. They were followed by the 127th regiment in mid November. After sustaining heavy casualties from combat and sickness in the attack on Buna (taken early January 1943), the 32nd Division returned to Camp Cable in March and April 1943, where it rested and trained its replacements in jungle fighting tactics. In late October 1943, the division returned to New Guinea.
Another US unit which almost called Camp Cable home was the 1st Marine Division. Desperately in need of rest after their efforts at Guadalcanal, some men of the Division were shipped to Brisbane in late December 1942. However, General Vandegrift was concerned about the presence of mosquitoes at Camp Cable, and he sought a cooler location for his Division to recover. As a result the Marines were sent to Melbourne in January 1943, as portrayed in Episode 3 of the miniseries “The Pacific”.
Other units at Camp Cable reportedly included some Paratroopers, as well as Cavalry Troops from Panama. A Chemical War Services unit was testing flamethrowers at the camp by November 1942, and by October 1944 the US 85th Station Hospital was present at Camp Cable. Famous visitors to Camp Cable included General Douglas MacArthur, and Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt visited on 9 September 1943.
All construction work was halted by the US in March 1944. Camp Cable was handed over to the Australian Army in August 1944, and the hospital was handed over in February 1945. The 5th Australian Reinforcement Deport (ARD) took possession of part of the camp site in January 1945, the remainder in May, and the hospital (which became the 22 Australian Camp Hospital) in July 1945.
In June 1945 there were about 5000 personnel in the camp, and in September 1945 a number of areas of the camp were still in use, including the railway yards, the HQ area and the hospital. However, the Military Post Office at Camp Cable closed 11 January 1946. In the late 1940s local farmers received compensation for damage, with complaints including damaged fencing; loss of timber; rubbish dump removal; the reinstatement of waterholes that had been drained to eradicate mosquitoes; concrete slabs; latrine pits; drains; roads; gravelled areas; rifle ranges, trenches, foxholes, pillboxes, dugouts, a grenade range, and barbed wire entanglements. Unexploded ammunition (UXO) issues continued to haunt the area into the 1990s.
The north end of the camp has since been subdivided and the remainder, utilised as a pine tree plantation since the 1960s, is also earmarked for development. Three memorials are located at the intersection of Camp Cable Road and the Waterford-Tamborine Road. One is to the 32nd’s mascot, a dog named Vicksburg (born in the city of that name in Mississippi), which was killed in a road accident at Southport, (the old memorial was claimed the accident was on 8 October 1942; a new memorial says 1944). Another is to Sergeant Robert Dannenberg, killed in action in December 1942. The largest memorial is a stone cairn that reads simply: “USA Camp Cable They Passed This Way, 1942-44”.