Boot Camp at the Lake

The World War II Years of Farragut

By Jana Kemp

Photos Courtesy of Farragut State Park Archives

“Farragut State Park is one of the places we visited this year,” I said to my uncle, Robert Kemp, on our way to a family reunion in rural Minnesota in the late 1990s. To my surprise he replied, “I trained there.”

This sparked animated praise from me about how impressed I was that such a huge naval facility (more than seven hundred buildings, plus roads and training grounds) at Bayview on the southern tip of Lake Pend Oreille could be built in eleven months to train more than 290,000 men over a four-year period, after which nearly everything was torn down. I said it was particularly impressive considering that with today’s modern engineering skills and equipment, we can’t even seem to get one road built in less than three to five years.

I didn’t learn much more that day about my uncle’s experiences at Farragut Naval Training Station (FNTS), an inland Navy boot camp from 1942 to 1946, because we were nearly to our destination, and because he’s a man of few words. But recently, it struck me that as a friend of Idaho’s state parks, it was high time I got more of the story. With some prodding and much laughter between my uncle and me, this winter he shared more information about his time at Farragut, which I’ve supplemented with further research.

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