Six decades later, families still await WWII pay

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When they were told to get off their western Kentucky farmland in 1941 to make room for a sprawling World War II training camp, hundreds of families were given as little as two weeks to get everything out. Over the years, they say, they were cheated out of an agreement to buy back their land after the war and denied a stake in a government windfall: the discovery of massive deposits of gas and oil.

Now, those same families and their heirs are battling the U.S. government for what they say is their fair share of more than $30 million in profits. A judge's preliminary ruling in their favor raised the prospect of a settlement two years ago, but even a famed mediator — former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor — was unable to resolve the conflict.

"They don't get around to paying you quickly when they owe you money," said 83-year-old William Griggs, who had just graduated from high school in May 1942, when his grandfather and other small farmers were told to move off their land.

"Everybody was disappointed," he said. "But we were patriotic."

Interviews with residents, historical documents and court records tell the story behind what attorneys say may be the nation's last remaining land dispute from World War II, a huge expanse of farmland that became Camp Breckinridge.

The camp, spanning 36,000 acres across Union, Henderson and Webster counties, was one of a handful of inland camps built to train soldiers far from the threat of coastal attacks.

More than 1,000 people were forced off the land, either through negotiated sales or through condemnation proceedings. Their 522 properties ranged in size from 50 acres to 250 acres...

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