During World War II, Camp Edwards and the MMR served several major units and a variety of activities associated with troop training.
In 1941, the 101st Observation Squadron, Massachusetts National Guard, which had been at Jeffries Field, East Boston (present-day Logan International Airport), was inducted into federal service and moved to Otis Field. It served the Ninth Air Force as a reconnaissance unit. Otis Field's first concrete runways were laid in 1942, and were lengthened and widened in 1943 in response to technological developments of U.S. aircraft.
As the primary reconnaissance efforts from MMR involved sea patrols for enemy vessels, the objective of the MMR mission was to provide offshore submarine patrols. The U.S. Army Air Corps' 14th Anti-Submarine Patrol Squadron operated from MMR between 1941 and 1943, and, during 1944, all reconnaissance missions from Otis Field became the responsibility of the U.S. Navy.
The Second Battalion, 64th Coastal Artillery Regiment (Anti-Aircraft) was stationed at Camp Edwards from 1942-44, and comprised the core of the Anti-aircraft Artillery Training Center (AAATC). The AAATC serviced upwards of 42 battalions before it was deactivated and relocated to Florida in June 1944. Anti-aircraft training included firing of guns at aircraft-pulled targets, as well as searchlight training to locate aircraft at night.
First of its kind, the Engineer Amphibian Command (EAC) was activated on June 10, 1942. Renamed as the Amphibious Training Command by the War Department, this command began operating at Camp Edwards under the direction of Brig. Gen. Frank Keating. Amphibious training was conducted with EAC units and combat infantry units, including the famous Texas Division (the 36th) and the 45th Division in the summer of 1942. Among the hallmark missions of this group was the invasion of Martha's Vineyard as the culmination of summer exercises, and testing of the first seasickness pills by the Department of Defense.
The Convalescent Hospital was established at Camp Edwards in 1942 and, in addition to serving wounded coming back from Europe and the Pacific, the hospital became famous for its convalescent trains that crossed the U.S. and for its WAAC training program for New England nurses. More than 2,500 nurses trained at Camp Edwards before going overseas between 1942 and 1944.
In one of the first instances of "urban training," in 1942, Camp Edwards constructed a mock German village on post for use in training exercises.
The East Coast Processing Center was established in October 1943 and represents the first such facility on the East Coast of the U.S. The center housed men who were absent without leave (AWOL) from their units until they were shipped overseas - most men stayed for a month before being shipped out to Europe or the Pacific. Between 1943 and 1945, more than 40,000 men were processed through this center.
Shortly after the Allies' North African campaign began in 1944, the U.S. Army built a prisoner of war (POW) camp for captured German soldiers at Camp Edwards. The POW camp, located at the south end of the runway, housed up to 2,000 POWs at a given time, many of whom were from Rommel's famed Afrika Korps. The prisoners worked around Camp Edwards much of the time, but were also sent to work in the area's farms and cranberry fields. German prisoners also assisted in salvaging millions of board-feet of lumber after the Otis vicinity was devastated by a hurricane in September 1944. The 1114th SCU maintained security and managed the camp throughout the war. By the end of the war, the camp had received, processed, and repatriated up to 5,000 POWs.
Finally, Camp Edwards housed one of the larger Temporary Separation Centers for discharging Soldiers - more than 12,900 men were discharged from Camp Edwards in 1945-46.