Paris, Tenn.-Pre-Orders are now being taken for the book, “As If They Were Ours: The Story of Camp Tyson, America’s Only Barrage Balloon Training Facility”. The book was written by Shannon McFarlin of Paris and is being published by Merriam Press.
The Henry County Tourism Authority Monday morning authorized an initial order of 400 books. The Tourism Authority’s predecessor, the Henry County Tennessee River Resort Act board, contracted with McFarlin for the book to be written.
The manuscript is with the publisher along with numerous photos that will be included in the book. The cover is a photo of several Camp Tyson soldiers, including the late James Wilson of Paris, standing in front of an inflated barrage balloon.
Camp Tyson was the only barrage balloon training facility in the United States and was located in the tiny town of Routon, Tenn., a few miles outside of Paris. Camp Tyson was unique and historic for several reasons:
–As the only such facility in the U.S., the soldiers who served there had an experience unlike any other soldiers anywhere.
–Camp Tyson was responsible for the transformation of Paris from a small town to a city, with its influx of hundreds more construction workers, soldiers and their families and subsequent modernization of its infrastructure to accommodate its new citizens.
–Because of Camp Tyson, Paris had an experience unlike most towns in that the camp became engrained in the lives of Henry Countians. Most every home in Paris had a soldier and his family as well as construction workers and their families living with them during the lengthy construction phase of the camp.
–Of special significance, Camp Tyson was the home of the all-black 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, which was the first battalion to rush onto the beaches on D-Day. They were trained for that battle at Camp Tyson and their accomplishments have been largely unheralded. McFarlin was able to track down several of the African-American soldiers who were trained there and were at D-Day.
–Additionally, both Italian and German prisoners of war were held there during and after the war. McFarlin interviewed former soldiers who remembered the German and Italian prisoners.
McFarlin interviewed over 100 people for the book, including former soldiers who served there, people who worked there, people who housed soldiers while the camp was being built, people who ran area businesses associated with the camp and couples who met because of the camp and later married.
Most of the book is written from first-person interviews. Additionally, McFarlin received many documents never before seen as a result of a Freedom Of Information Act request, as well as many documents from the Library of Congress and other government sources.
The book chronicles the history of the camp, from its construction through its use during the war, the closure of the camp and its subsequent purchase by the Spinks Clay Co.
McFarlin holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in public history from Murray State University. She presently is News Director for WENK/WTPR in Paris and Union City; and writes for Paris! Magazine.
Previously, McFarlin worked as a reporter for newspapers in Ohio. She won first place in Investigative Reporting in the Ohio Associated Press contest in 1991 and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize that year. She won the Hellman Hammett Award from Human Rights Watch in 2000 and is listed in Who’s Who Among American Women.
Preliminary estimates from Merriam Publishing is that the book will cost $20. You can pre-order the book by calling the Paris-Henry County Chamber of Commerce office at 731-642-3431 or emailing the office at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Cover of book depicts the late James Wilson, center, among the soldiers standing in front of a barrage balloon at Camp Tyson.