Camp Essex
 
 

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Camp Essex

Established in 1942, Camp Essex used the nearby Camp Clipper [to the east] as a temporary staging area for divisions when one was moving in and another was moving out.  The 33rd Infantry Division was first assigned to the camp, followed by the 93rd Infantry Division.  The 93rd was an all-black division, at a time when segregation was still in effect in the U.S. Army.  After the departure of the 93rd Division in January 1944, the camp was occupied by Italian POWs in May.  By October, the POWs were gone, and the camp was closed (Mitchell 1964:126-127).  Camp Essex was located close to the small railroad towns of Essex and Fenner, and was bordered on the southwest by Essex Road.  Facilities at the camp included 36 shower buildings, 191 latrine buildings, 149 pyramidal wooden tent frames, an outdoor theater, and a 500,000-gallon water reservoir.  There were apparently several ranges southwest across Essex Road from the camp, although no traces of them are currently apparent.  The camp was also located close to an airfield, to the southeast. [1] 

One of the more visible makeshift airfields was adjacent to Essex Divisional Camp.  This field, unlike the other temporary strips, was designed to handle aircraft as large as A-20 Havocs.  The flying surface was 4,500 feet long and 111 feet wide, and consisted of a light bar-and-rod steel landing mat.  Shoulders measuring 120 feet wide were constructed with compacted sand, and the taxiways and warm-up ramps were made of soil cement and desert mix.  The area was graded and was watered down with commercial trucks, which received water from the Santa Fe Railroad well at Fenner (U.S. Army Air Corps 1942: G1-4C-4).

All manner of airplanes were used, particularly L-1 and L-4 Piper Cubs for surveillance.  C-50 cargo planes were used in several instances, including for troop supply during maneuvers.  Supplies, including ammunition, were parachuted to waiting troops by the C-50s, with mixed results.  Light bomber-ground attack A-20 Havocs were stationed at Blythe Army Air Field, as well as at Camp Essex.  P-40 Warhawks and P-38 Lightnings are also known to have been used at the DTC/C-AMA, as were B-24 Liberators. 

Current Condition
Camp Essex is now split by Interstate 40, which passes immediately north of the headquarters circle.  Diversion features have been constructed north of the highway to prevent washouts. These structures extend across portions of the camp.  An access road (Hidden Hill Road) from the paved Fenner Road extends from east to west across the northern portion of the camp.  There are a few rock-lined walkways and roads in this area.  South of Interstate 40, an abundance of well-defined roads
and walkways can be found.  A large amount of refuse is present in this portion of the camp, including cans, glass, bottle caps, nails, and areas of burned refuse.  The 500,000-gallon water reservoir also remains today.  An interpretive exhibit is located at the rest area along Interstate 40 .
 

[1] The Desert Training Center/California-Arizona Maneuver Area,1942-1944 HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL CONTEXTS; Matt C.  Bischoff


LOCATION: The Camp Essex site is located in an undeveloped region of San Bernardino County, California, approximately 32 miles west of Needles, California. Camp Essex is located within T8N, R16E, Sections 1-3, 10-30, 33, 34 (San Bernardino Meridian); T8N, R17E, Section 3-9, 17-19; T9N, R16E, Sections 22-27, 34-36; and T9N, R17E, Sections 31, 32 and 33. [Army Corps of Engineers]
 

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Hits: [an error occurred while processing this directive] Date of last edit: January 05, 2012 08:22:03 -0800
Copyright: L. Dighera, 2011; All Rights Reserved: LDighera@att.net