October 14, 1943: U.S. Army Begins Transforming Parts of Dolly Sods

Sunset over Dolly Sods

On October 14, 1943, the U.S. Army began transforming parts of Dolly Sods into an artillery range. Troops from across the eastern United States were trained at what the Army named the “West Virginia Maneuver Area” in preparation for combat in World War II. Dolly Sods—a rugged and stunningly beautiful mountainous area located at the intersection of Grant, Randolph, and Tucker counties—was chosen because it resembled the European landscape. It also was virtually unpopulated and allowed clear sight lines for artillery training. At the same time, the Army conducted a rock-climbing school at nearby Seneca Rocks in Pendleton County and taught pack mule techniques and mountaineering skills.

The training at Dolly Sods ended several weeks after D-Day in 1944. Remnants of the Army munitions can still be found at Dolly Sods Wilderness Area. Although most of the ordinance was cleared out in 1997, some unexploded rounds can still be found to this day. Hikers, campers, and picnickers at Dolly Sods are warned about the potential dangers of unexploded ordnance, a startling reminder of the artillery training from seven decades before.