World War II Military Temporary Buildings

During World War I and later World War II, the military had to expand rapidly.  The new inductees or volunteers had to be housed, fed, clothed, and trained before they could become soldiers, sailors, airmen, or Marines.   The answer to this massive buildup was temporary buidings.

“The design of military buildings, especially those constructed during periods of mobilization (such as World War II temporary buildings), was determined by operations of line units for training and field use. The smallest administrative line unit of the Army and Marine Corps is the company. For the Navy it is the ship’s company, and for the Army and Navy Air Corps, it was the squadron. Each company required a complement of buildings, most prominently a command post, supply room, day room, mess hall, and from one to four barracks, depending on the size of the structure and strength of the company. These companies of buildings arranged in regimental units formed the nucleus of a camp in both operation and planning. Beyond these several basic types were specialized structures such as regimental theaters or assembly halls, dispensaries, depots, dumps or arsenals, warehouses, post exchanges or commissaries, service clubs, bakeries, laundries, etc. Between the two world wars, the programs of requirement had begun to change. The Series 700 buildings, the number assigned in 1928 by the Construction Division of the Army Quartermaster Corps for mobilization-type construction..” p19  from World War II Temporary Military Buildings:  A Brief History of the Architecture and Planning of Contonments and Training Stations in the United Statges by John Garner.

As late as the 1970s, WWII temporary buildings were still on the National Mall.  The buildings lasted from WWI through WWII and were finally torn down during the Nixon administration.The last of the tempos – the original WWI Navy buildings along Constitution Avenue finally succumbed to the wrecking ball during the Nixon administration.

world war II temporary buildings on the mall

The last of the tempos – the original WWI Navy buildings along Constitution Avenue finally succumbed to the wrecking ball during the Nixon administration. As the ball took its first swing the Navy band was in attendance playing “auld lang syne”. The era of the eyesores had ended and the beginning of the beautification of the site was underway.

The Golden Gate Park National Recreation Area has a number of these buildings. Click here to read more about the construction plans.

WWII enlisted barracks constructed at Ft Cronkite


You can still see a few of these temporary buildings lingering on bases around he United States.  My first post library at Ft Story was supposed to be moved to a new building in 1984. As of 2019, it is still in the same WWII era building although with new windows, restrooms, and several more computers.  The building’s internal configuration is basically the same.

10 thoughts on “World War II Military Temporary Buildings”

  1. I remember the temporary buildings that were on the mall in Washington DC. They were there when my dad and I visited in the mid-1950s. The military offered many of the temporary buildings for free (or for the cost of transporting them) to towns and colleges across the U.S. right after WWII as well. We had several of those on the Iowa State University campus until well into the 1980s. Ours were metal Quonset huts (referred to in as “Bow Huts”), which were used mostly for married student housing and for a few grounds maintenance offices. If I recall correctly, the Public Relations office was also housed in three of them on central campus. They were sturdy and weatherproof, although they were hell to live in on a hot summer day or during a hailstorm.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting, Rolig. I did not know the government gave Quonset huts away. They were named after Quonset Point, RI across Narragansett Bay from Newport. My father was stationed there in the late 60s on the USS Wasp. I saw a Quonset hut out in the desert, west of San Diego, along SR 94. In Barrett’s Junction, there is a cafe and low-end antique shop that is partially constructed from a Quonset hut.


  3. Interesting. I wonder what their intended life span was when constructed?

    In England about 150,000 prefabricated houses (prefabs) were built as an emergency measure right after WW2. They had a life expectancy of 5-10 years. Most were lived in for decades though now only few remain and are listed for preservation.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very good question, Roy. I’ve done some more research and have not found an answer. I did read where they were called temporary because they were constructed from prefabricated materials rather than temporary because they were not expected to last long. For more info, check out this report. (Quality if not very good but it contains a lot of good info.) Interesting to read about their English counterparts here.


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