News and Events
IN THE NEWS
New Memorial Pavilion honors Camp Rimini
Nearly 30 people gathered Saturday for the dedication of the Camp Rimini Pavilion west of Helena. The pavilion was made possible through a donation from the David W. and Alice L. Armstrong Jr. Trust. Established in 1936 as a Civilian Conservation Corps camp, Camp Rimini housed up to 200 CCC volunteers working with the U.S. Forest Service. World War II led to the closure of the camp and it was made into an Army War Dog Reception and Training Center and used for training of sled and pack dogs. It accommodated 150 military personnel and more than 700 dogs of various breeds. Much of what was learned is used today in sled dog racing and mushing. Camp Rimini is 9 miles west of Helena on Highway 12 and 4.5 miles south on Rimini Road.
David Armstrong III spoke of his father, David Armstrong Jr., and his dad’s experiences at the camp. “I really like it,” he said of the pavilion which features a bench, shelter top and storyboards about the history of Camp Rimini. “It really brings everything into focus,” Armstrong said, adding he hoped it would be a place where people would come out, walk around and have a picnic. Armstrong Jr. came to Helena in early 1943 to begin training sled and pack dogs at Camp Rimini, one of two sites that produced dogs for the Army’s K-9 Corps during WWII. He led the Army’s training of 850 sled dogs and 100 pack dogs, as well as the GIs as mushers and handlers. He co-founded the annual “Race to the Sky,” which preserves the legacy of the soldiers and dogs who served at Camp Rimini. The race is described as one of the most challenging and beautiful sled dog races in the world. Mark Larson, Armstrong Jr.’s nephew, said he helped his uncle take care of kennels and race dogs for the Race to the Sky after the war.
Larson said his uncle, who was 100 when he died in 2021, would appreciate the new pavilion. “He would like it, especially the fact that it is about the camp and not him,” he said. “It was always about the dogs and it was always not about him.” Rimini was chosen by the Army as a training center because of its superior snow conditions and accessible mountainous terrain. Camp Rimini was one of four temporary World War II posts established by the U.S. Army quartermaster general as war dog reception and training centers under the Dogs for Defense program. The camp accommodated some 150 military personnel and several hundred dogs of various breeds. In addition to the sled dogs, there were pack dogs and guard dogs trained at the camp. During the dry months the dog teams trained pulling stripped car chassis. At the height of activity in 1943, over 150 military and civilian personnel were assigned to the 160-acre post. David Armstrong III thanked volunteers of the Montana Military Museum who “work tirelessly” to preserve military history. He also thanked the East Helena High School welding class and their teacher Casey Harris. These students fabricated the pavilion from a design model built by museum volunteer Dave Cogley. The storyboard panels mounted in the pavilion were designed by media specialist Kathryn Tuss. Armstrong III also thanked the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest and Mandy Alvino, the recreational program lead, adding the Forest Service was instrumental in locating the pavilion on this site under a special use permit. He said he hoped the pavilion would serve as a tribute to those who served. “It is our hope that this pavilion will honor the service of the men of Camp Rimini to their country, and they will not be forgotten,” he said.
Contributors to the Camp Rimini Memorial Pavilion Recognition of Contributions and Support Planning, the design, construction, and installation of the Camp Rimini Memorial Pavilion. This project is funded by an unrestricted grant from David W and Alice L. Armstrong Gift Trust. We recognize the following contributors.
- United States Forest Service, Helena-Lewis and Clark National forest for granting the Special Use Permit for the Pavilion.
- Mandy Alvino, Recreation Program Lead. Helena and Townsend, the Point of Contact on this Project
- East Helena High School, East Helena; Casey Harris, Instructor, for EHHS Welding Class. Students of East Helena High School Welding Class.
- R & R Alignment and Powder coating, Helena, MT
- Fort William Henry Harrison Museum Foundation Officers and Board of Directors
- Volunteers of the Montana Military Museum; David Cogley, Wayne Waters, Mike May, Connie Cole, David Cole, Marge Peterson, Pam Jackson, Ray Read
- Montana Granite Industries, Helena and Great Falls, MT
- Signs Now, Helena, MT
- Powell Concrete Powell Custom Concrete and Design, Helena
- Pavilion Assembly Crew (David Cogley, Wayne Waters, Mike May, Kent Lindsay)
- Bill Ries, Rimini Skid Steer Equipment Support
- Sheryl Olson, Contributor (Co-Director w/ Dave Armstrong of First and subsequent Race to The Sky events
- Pam Beckstrom of the MT Mountain Mushers
- First Special Service Force’s General, Robert Tryon Frederick
- ‘It was just amazing’: 80 years ago 1st Special Service Force paraded down Last Chance Gulch
- Montana’s Participation in World War II
- Victory in Europe (V-E Day)
- Victory over Japan Day (V-J Day)
- Montana’s 163rd Infantry Regiment, 41st Infantry Division
- Camp Rimini War Dog Reception and Training Center
- 70th Anniversary Invasion by North Korea of the Republic of South Korea