Camp Devens was established on September 5, 1917 as a temporary cantonment for training soldiers during World War I. It was a reception center for war selectees and became a demobilization center after the war. Two divisions (the 76th and the 12th) were activated and trained at Devens during the war. Robert Goddard briefly used the post for his rocket operations in 1929. The camp became a permanent installation in 1931 and was named Fort Devens the following year. A few years later, Fort Devens Army Airfield was established.
In 1940, at the onset of World War II, Fort Devens was designated a reception center for all men in New England who would serve one year as draftees. A massive $25 million building project was begun, including more than 1200 wooden buildings and an airfield. The 1st, 32nd, and 45th Divisions trained at Devens during the war. Devens also housed a prisoner of war camp for German and Italian prisoners from 1944 to 1946. It was designated as early as 1942 for detaining "enemy aliens" of Italian, German and Japanese birth.
It was the home of the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), less 1st Battalion (based in Germany), from 1968 until the Group's move to Fort Carson, Colorado in 1995.
After the war, it was not uncommon for soldiers to train on local beaches firing artillery rounds and other things into the sea. These rounds were blanks due to the fact that they were usually firing into the Cape Cod Canal entranceway. During the Cold War, Camp Edwards remained active and continued training troops. During the Korean War, the base was activated and levels approaching World War II were again seen at the base. In 1958, the Atomic Energy Commission recommended that nuclear processing be conducted at the camp but that never took place.
The old T.B. hospital at Fort Devens was part of a Civil Defense program : "Massachusetts Training Center for Emergency Hospital Management Training Program".