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Mississippi Armed Forces Museum Exhibit at GPT

January 19, 2023

GULFPORT, Miss. – Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport recently installed an exhibit from the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum titled United We Play, United We Win: Sports and Recreation at Camp Shelby in World War II. The exhibit can be viewed on the first floor of the Airport across from the United Airlines check-in counter. Continue reading below for more information on the exhibit and Mississippi history behind it. 

United We Play, United We Win:

Sports and Recreation at Camp Shelby in World War II

Located in south Mississippi, Camp Shelby was established as a military training site in 1917 and has operated almost continuously since installation. During World War II, Camp Shelby was the second largest training base in the United States in troop capacity and geographic size. Nine US Army infantry divisions, a detachment of the Women’s Army Corps, and numerous tank destroyer, engineer, independent artillery, and field hospital units trained at the base throughout the war.

While stationed at Camp Shelby, service members took part in various recreational activities to keep both physically and mentally fit. Organized competitive teams, in such sports as baseball, basketball, and football, were formed at company, regimental, and divisional levels. Teams at Camp Shelby competed against one another and played other regional military teams and local civilian teams in tournaments. Service members also engaged in more leisurely sports activities for pure enjoyment and relaxation, including miniature golf, badminton, bowling, and table tennis.

Camp Shelby’s sports arena, known as the Field House, was central to sports on the base and hosted a range of basketball, boxing, and wrestling matches. Special sports exhibitions were often organized at the Field House to keep morale high among troops. In December 1943, famed heavyweight champion, Joe Louis, and welterweights, Sugar Ray Robinson and Jackie Wilson, participated in exhibition matches and gave physical fitness talks. In the same month, the American exhibition basketball team, the Harlem Globetrotters, stopped at Camp Shelby during their tour of the South.

The following photographs featuring wartime sports and recreation belonged to Ernest A. Schleuder, the public relations officer at Camp Shelby during World War II.

About the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum

Through exhibits, videos, and immersive dioramas, within galleries spanning from the War of 1812 to present day, the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum highlights Mississippi’s role in United States military history. Experience the evolution of military strategy and technology, view one-of-a-kind historic artifacts, and share the personal stories of Mississippi’s American heroes.

The Mississippi Armed Forces Museum is located inside historic Camp Shelby, just 60 miles north of the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport. The Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday from 9am-4pm. Admission is always free.