If you have traveled I-40 west, you have probably passed by Camp Navajo without giving it a second thought; however, you may not be familiar with the fascinating history of the facility, originally named Navajo Ordnance Depot. Just weeks after Pearl Harbor, the War Department announced the construction of a massive ammunition depot 10 miles west of Flagstaff at Bellemont on U.S. Highway 66. During this period in history, Flagstaff’s population exploded from 5,000 to 20,000. The army rushed the $17 million project to completion, and several thousand Navajo and Hopi construction workers stayed to run the struggling new depot, the key storage facility for the Port of Los Angeles.
Historian John Westerlund will be partnering with Sedona Public Library to lead a walking tour of historic Camp Navajo on Monday, September 11, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. The tour will include three stops: the headquarters building, Indian Village, and the prisoner-of-war camp. There is an optional 200-yard walk to the POW Camp Monument. The tour will also pass by the beautiful Veterans Memorial Cemetery, which recently opened.
Our tour guide, Dr. John Westerlund, is an independent scholar and a historian of the American West. He retired from the U.S. Army in 1994 after a 26-year career as a field officer that included service in Vietnam and three tours in Europe. He completed his doctoral studies in American West history at Northern Arizona University in 2001. He served as a seasonal National Park Service ranger for 11 summers with the Flagstaff Area National Monuments. His book Arizona’s War Town: Flagstaff, Navajo Ordnance Depot, and World War II won several awards for preservation of Southwest culture. He has published numerous articles in The Journal of Arizona History along with articles in French and U.S. defense-related journals. Westerlund has been a “Road Scholar” with Arizona Humanities for over a decade. He currently lives in Flagstaff with his wife, Gail, and is a member of the Flagstaff Corral of Westerners.
To learn more about the history of the area before the tour, it is recommended that you read Westerlund’s book Arizona’s War Town: Flagstaff, Navajo Ordnance Depot and World War II, available in the Yavapai Library Network. Call the library if you need assistance placing a hold.
Normally, Camp Navajo is not open to the public, so don’t miss the opportunity to join us for this tour as we explore the rich history of the Navajo Ordnance Depot and Flagstaff’s role in the war effort. Cost of the tour is $10.00, which is payable at the time of registration and does not include transportation. Form of payment is cash only. Checks and credit cards will NOT be accepted. Registration will close Saturday, September 2. Please contact Cheryl Yeatts, Manager of Sedona Public Library, at 928-284-1603 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Village News appears monthly in The Villager and is also presented on Sedona Biz.
By Cheryl Yeatts
Cheryl Yeatts is Manager of Sedona Public Library in the Village.