On December 29, 1917, Army recruits began arriving at the train station in Raritan, New Jersey. They had been dispatched by their local draft boards to the Raritan Ordinance Base, arriving with one-way tickets from places like Little Compton, Rhode Island and Albany, New York, and from as far away as Minnesota and Michigan. Approximately 4000 draft boards were ordered to send qualified recruits to this location.
|New York Times headline, 30 December 1917|
The first few recruits to arrive inquired of the townsfolk as to the location of the base. "No base here", was the reply. In fact, there was no military installation of any kind in the Boro of Raritan. Upon examination of the recruits official orders, the locals began to doubt themselves. Maybe there was a base here after all - certainly the generals in Washington couldn't be mistaken, after all, there's a war on!
|Raritan Station Circa 1906|
|30 December 1917, New York Tribune|
|Somerset Street Raritan Circa 1905|
|31 December 1917 Asbury Park Press|
|31 December 1917 Courier News|
General Crozier finally realized that the Raritan Ordinance base was not in Raritan at all, but was on a 2000 acre parcel along the Raritan River in Metuchen. What was worse was the base was still under construction and was nowhere near being completed!
|Camp Raritan, Bonhamtown, NJ circa 1918|
Crozier blamed the mistake on a subordinate, but he still had to answer to a congressional committee on the matter, and in particular to Senator Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, whose home was in Raritan:
"While we are a hospitable people and welcome strangers, we have been a little embarrassed at not being able to provide the military base these misguided soldiers expected to find. My fellow townsmen have arranged to entertain the soldiers who are already there, but if more are coming they'd like to know about it in advance!"