The Land Beneath Us – Tour of Tullahoma, Tennessee
To celebrate the release of The Land Beneath Us, I’m conducting a photo tour of locations from the novel that I saw on my research trips to England, Normandy, Tennessee and more.
From the previous books in the Sunrise at Normandy series:
- Tour of London Part 1
- Tour of London, Part 2
- Tour: D-Day at Sea (includes photos of the Isle of Wight and crossing the English Channel)
- Tour of Omaha Beach
- Tour of the Queen Mary (sister ship of the Queen Elizabeth)
From The Land Beneath Us:
In 1940, Tullahoma, Tennessee was a small Southern town of 4500 people. That year the US Army began construction of Camp Peay, which was officially activated as an Army training camp on 10 January 1941 and renamed Camp Forrest after Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest—not without controversy. At Camp Forrest’s peak during WWII, Tullahoma’s population swelled to 75,000, straining housing, the phone, water, and postal services, and more.
When I visited Nashville for a conference in September 2018, I took a side trip to Tullahoma to get a feel for the town. My first stop (after lunch) was at the historic Couch’s store. When I inquired whether the antique postcards by the cash register were for sale, the lovely lady behind the counter gave the traditional Southern greeting to a California girl—“You’re not from around here, are you?” I hadn’t even said “like” or “totally.” It turned out I was speaking to Candy Couch, great-granddaughter of “Daddy Billy” Couch, a Tullahoma legend, and daughter of Bob Couch, a gifted photographer and a World War II Navy veteran.
Candy showed true Southern hospitality to me. For at least an hour, she told me stories and showed me old photos and even left her store (without locking the door!) to show me photos and artifacts next door. What a treat! So much of her information made it into The Land Beneath Us, and I’m truly indebted to her.
Here are some views of Tullahoma’s downtown.
Some beautiful Tullahoma churches.
This is the train depot, which plays a pivotal role in the story. According to Candy Couch, the depot used to lie a block to the south, directly in front of the family store. However, the freight trains often blocked a major intersection, so they moved it to its current location right before World War II.
Few of the buildings for Camp Forrest remain today, and the trees have completely taken over. Using maps, I found the locations of the library and hospital. Also, there are nice monuments to Camp Forrest and to the 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions that trained at Camp Forrest.
If you’d like to see some historical photos of Camp Forrest, please visit my Pinterest board.
If you’d like more information on Camp Forrest and life in Tullahoma during World War II, please see Elizabeth Taylor’s excellent books, Images of America: Camp Forrest (which really helped in the writing of this novel) and her brand-new book, Voices of Camp Forrest in World War II. She kindly sent me a copy, and it’s full of fascinating photos and stories!
Please come back tomorrow, when I’ll share the first group of photos from Pointe du Hoc in Normandy.