Camp Young
 
 

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Camp Young
Headquarters Camp

Camp Young
 By late March 1942, Patton sent out an advance party to establish the first camp in the DTC/C-

   
April 20, 1942 Headquarters
AMA.  A location was found near the small community of Shaver's Summit and named Camp Young, in honor of the army's first chief of staff, Gen. Samuel B. M. Young.  Young, who attained the rank of lieutenant general by his retirement in 1904, was a captain in the Eighth Cavalry in the late 1860s.  The Eighth Cavalry had patrolled Mojave Road, which passed through land encompassed by the camp (King and Casebier 1981).  The land on which Camp Young was established was not totally uninhabited.  Joseph Chiriaco and his family had arrived in the area in 1933 and had built a small store and restaurant, which became known as Shaver's Summit (RP-E, 4 May 1985).  Patton purchased 28 acres from Chiriaco for five dollars per acre and used the land as an airstrip.  The rest of Chiriaco's land soon became encompassed by the massive DTC/C-AMA, although he was never forced to leave.  Chiriaco's property remained in his hands; when interviewed after the war, he emphasized that Patton respected the civil rights of the private landowners in the desert. Soldiers occasionally frequented the small settlement at Shaver's Summit (now known as Chiriaco Summit), one of the few places where they could purchase beer (The Desert Sun, 9 May 1985).

Involved in the initial construction of Camp Young was a newly organized medical battalion from Camp Bowie, Texas.  The unit traveled to California via train and reached Indio in spring 1942.  The battalion was formed to provide medical support to Patton's I Armored Corps and eventually consisted of a field hospital and an ambulance company (Harrison 1988).  Another unit to arrive early at Camp Young was the 773rd Tank Destroyer Battalion, which was also ordered to assist in the construction of the camp.  Along with quartermaster heavy maintenance units, these battalions began laying out the camp. 

Brush was cleared with machetes and placed in large piles to be disposed of later.  After the brush was cleared away, streets were laid out with stakes, and pup tents were pitched for the various companies that would soon be arriving.  During this initial construction, a temporary camp existed nearby, occupied only during the construction phase. Within a couple of weeks, engineering units arrived, bulldozing streets and constructing pyramidal tents and temporary wooden structures (Kennedy 1983: 645).  Water was brought from the MWD aqueduct, power was brought from main power lines extending to Parker Dam, and a small spur line from the railroad was built by the U.S. Engineers (Meller 1946:11).

Camp Young was constructed and laid out as Patton wished.  Accommodations were simple, consisting of pyramidal tents, with few wooden structures being built.  Those that were constructed were temporary in nature, and served as administrative centers or hospitals.  The tents were without electricity and contained only beds (no sheets), foot lockers, and musette bags (Pew 1985).  Other division camps constructed later would follow the pattern of Camp Young. 

 The 773rd Tank Destroyer Battalion described the camp and its surroundings in the following way:

"Camp Young was the world's largest army post and the greatest training
maneuver area in U.S. military history. Eighteen square miles of nothing, in a desert designed for Hell" (as quoted in BLM 1986:14).

The camp was bordered by the Los Angeles MWD Aqueduct (built in 1938) on the north, Cottonwood Springs Road on the west, and Highway 60 on the south.  Located approximately 1 mile from the highway, the camp was isolated, but the infrequent traveler through the area could see the camp when driving along the highway.  The great deal of men and supplies (including tanks) coming into the small town of Indio (roughly 30 miles west of the camp) overtaxed the town's railroad station, and logistical problems resulted (RP-E, 2 July 1975).

The DWB, mentioned above, was taken over by Col. Donald Sanger in May and moved into one of the temporary buildings erected at Camp Young.  The board was officially charged with testing equipment, clothing, procedures, arms, and vehicles, and providing information and recommendations to the AGF and the commanding general of the DTC.  Throughout its life, the DWB succeeded in developing a wide variety of new supplies, as well as making improvements to existing materials.  Of particular note were improvements suggested by the DWB for combat boots, cross-country tires, lubricants for small arms, and cooling systems for many vehicles.  The DWB provided many other recommendations for improvements in equipment and weapons.  The board also received complaints regarding existing equipment and materials.  These complaints were taken under consideration and investigations were made into the source of the problems (Meller 1946: Appendix H). 

As discussed above, Camp Young was the first divisional camp inhabited, and it served as the headquarters for the DTC/C-AMA.  The camp was one of the more permanent facilities and contained the most-improved quarters of the divisional camps.  Men from the 836th Engineer Aviation Battalion, for example, found Camp Young a vast improvement over Camp Rice.  The tents at Camp Young had floors and half walls and were equipped with stoves.  In addition, showers were available, and the battalion had its own PX furnished with beer (Men n.d.).  General Patton lived at Camp Young most of the time during his short stay at the DTC/C-AMA (RP-E, 2 July 1975: J-1).  It is thought that the 3rd Armored Division was the first to occupy Camp Young, as it was the first division in the DTC/C-AMA.  The 6th Armored Division was stationed at Camp Young beginning in November 1942 and probably remained there until March 1943 .  Subsequent units to occupy the camp are not currently known.  Originally bounded on the south by Highway 60/70, the facility included two station hospitals.  There were also several rifle and combat ranges to the south of the camp, on the other side of the highway. 

Most men stationed at Camp Young agreed that it was significantly more "permanent" than other divisional camps within the DTC/C-AMA.  It certainly appears that there were far more temporary buildings constructed at Camp Young than at many other camps.  Administration facilities consisted of 98 buildings.  More than 50 warehouses of various sizes, along with bathhouses, mess halls and kitchens, PXs, and hundreds of latrines, also existed.  Other specialty buildings included a post office,  radio station, coliseum, theater, garages, pump stations, officers' clubs, and various shops.  The pyramidal tent frames totaled more than 3,000, significantly more than at the other camps.  Most of the big shows put on by the USO and other entertainment groups took place at Camp Young.
 


Fifth Tank Destroyer Group:
Orders were published transferring the unit, in its first permanent change of station, to Desert Training Center, Camp Young, California. This was the land of legend, withering heat and mesquite which occasioned the remark credited to a dour, 'burned out Joe,' "Only a coward would ask to be transferred from here to combat."

The "Hellcat" contingent departed from Camp Hood on 20 April 1943 and entrained at Temple, Texas on the morning of 21 April at 0200, arriving at Yuma, Arizona on April 23rd.  Itinerary of the rail movement was: Temple, Brownwood, Sweetwater, El Paso, Douglas, Tucson, and Yuma, the final destination; a distance of approximately 1350 miles. The organization was trucked to Camp Laguna, its new home for the next six months, about 30 miles north of Yuma. Following a period of acclimatization the Group rapidly assumed normal duties and routine operations in preparation for the huge maneuvers scheduled as a climactic phase of the desert training period.

Our present commanding officer, Colonel Leslie E. Jacoby, arrived at Camp Laguna and assumed command of the organization on 2 June 1943. Colonel Jacoby relieved Lt. Col. Joseph K, Gibson, Hq. 8th Motorized Division, who had been designated temporary Group Commander in the absence of Colonel Clinton S. Berrien who was relieved to attend Army & Navy Joint War College, Newport, R.I., 14 May 1943.

Initially the Group was attached to the 8th Motorized Division but was later attached to the 4th Hq, Special Troops, I1l'C, for administrative functions on 7 June 1943. The Group was affiliated with this headquarters until 21 August 1943 when the unit was assigned to the direct control of DTC, Camp Young, California.

Preliminary to Desert Training Center's large scale June - July maneuver the Group and attached battalions, 643rd, 706th and 811th TD Battalions settled down to training in earnest. CPX 's, battalion problems and short maneuvers were planned, supervised, critiqued and participated in by the 5th TD Group in preparation for this critical phase of training.

The Group column left Camp Laguna the afternoon of 27 June and closed in the concentration area at the north end of Palen Pass, California, 28 June. Troops participating with the "RED", or defensive force, consisted of the 8th Infantry Division, 6th Tank: Group with the 742nd. and 743rd Tank Battalions, 5th Tank Destroyer Group with attached Tank Destroyer Battalions,
643rd, 706th and 811th. The "BLUE" offensive force was composed of the 77th Infantry Division, 7th Armored Division, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 76th FA Brigade and 6th Tank Destroyer Group with the 704th, 629th and 607th Tank Destroyer Battalions attached.

The first phase of the maneuvers lasted until July 3rd. The problem embodied the tactics involved in the attack of a fortified position (Palen Pass) defended by the "RED" force. The "BLUE" and "RED11 forces then withdrew to prepare for the second phase of the maneuvers. The concentration area for the "BLUE'' force was in the vicinity of Ogilby, California near Yuma, Arizona. "RED" forces bivouacked in an area just south of Highway 66 in the "Old Woman Mountain., valley. The action for the remainder of the maneuver was featured by the gradual withdrawal of the "RED" forces until the conclusion of the second phase 15 July 1943. Following a critique of the action the 5th TD Group and attached battalions reconcentrated and on 16 July began the return march to Camp Laguna, closing in on 17 July.

The 5th TD Group and attached battalions performed and executed their mission in an exemplary manner throughout the entire period. The 811th TD Battalion, commanded by Major Albert R. Brownfield, displayed superior tactical skill and received commendations from Colonel Jacoby and Major General McMahon to that affect. The "kill" credited to the tank destroyer battalions of the 5th, Tank Destroyer Group during the maneuver period totaled:

Medium Tanks      138           Armored Cars      70
Light Tanks            106          other Vehicles      19
Tank Destroyers      54          Personnel            311

Total Tanks and    298
TD's
With the exception of two Division Field Exercises in the vicinity of "NEVER SWEAT MOUNTAIN" participated in by the Group in conjunction with the 81st Infantry Division at Camp Horn, Arizona in preparation for later DTC maneuvers, which were subsequently canceled, the above concluded the activities in coordinated training at Camp Laguna.

It was here at Camp Laguna, amid the sand dunes, rattle snakes, and 140 degree temperature that "Hellcat" observed its first Organization Day on 1 September 1943. The usual ceremonial holiday and program was the order of the day. The activities, while not elaborate, were certainly ambitious due to the compact athletic schedule arranged by the over-zealous recreation
officer. One event weary contestant wryly observed, "My Gawd, this is worse than the AGF Physical, and they say this is a day of rest!" Little did the unit know that impending events would see the next Organization Day being observed in far distant climes and under decidedly different circumstances.

Special Orders 63, Letter, Hq, AGF, Washington, D.C., 14 October 1943, Subject: Exchange of Units in DTC, ordered the 5th TD Group and 811th TD Battalion to Camp Gruber, Oklahoma. The Group closed Camp Laguna on 13 November 1943 and spent four joyful days at East Yards, Yuma, leaving there 17 November, arriving at Braggs, Oklahoma (Camp Gruber) 20 November.  [History of the Fifth Tank Destroyer Group]
 

Retrospection
Camp young was the first DTC camp to be activated. The 743rd Tank Battalion, minus tanks, had arrived at the Desert Training Center and were to be stationed at Camp Young, a desolate stretch of sand, cactus and greasewood just north of the old Highway 60-70 [Today, Interstate 10] about three miles west of an abandoned general store and gasoline filling station called Desert Center. We were shown an area marked out by wooden stakes in the sand which was to be our new home and set about the erection of tents, digging latrines, etc. which was the Army in the desert's equivalent of building a home.

A day or so later an entire train load of flatcars pulled into the temporary siding on the spur line that led into the main camp area. This spur line and the entire camp have long ago been demolished but you can still see the scars in the desert from the freeway that has replaced the old highway. We were informed that our new tanks had arrived.

There they were about 100 brand-new M-4 medium tanks, fresh from the Detroit Tank Arsenal. They were called "General Shermans" and we thought they were the most beautiful, deadly-looking things we had ever seen.

There were, I believe, five separate versions: the M-4 and the M-4A1 through the M-4A4. Each version weighed about the same - approximately 36 tons fully loaded, with a long-barreled 75mm high velocity main gun and two .30 caliber machine guns, very heavy armor and could go about 24 MPH in ideal terrain. There was plenty of that in the desert.

They were chained to flatcars, two to a car, and had left the plant fully equipped, guns and all, but prepared for overseas shipment, which meant gallons of cosmoline - a thick, greasy, tallow-like preservative - and with every single opening sealed up with heavy olive-drab tape. What a job it was cleaning them up and preparing them for operation!

Each platoon in the Company (3) had to clean and prepare their own tanks (5). There were five Companies in the Battalion, plus a few headquarters tanks for the Battalion Commander (a lieutenant colonel) and his staff, plus a bunch of jeeps, 6 x 6 trucks, scout cars and half-tracks, so there was a considerable amount of wiping, scraping and washing in special solvents to be done.

 

Naming
Lt. Gen. Samuel B. M. Young
January 9, 1840 - September 2, 1924

The Desert Training Center Headquarters was named in honor of Lt. Gen. Samuel B. M. Young (an Indian fighter who had served in this region and who was the first Army Chief of Staff) on May 12, 1942whiteAs a Captain he served with distinction with the Army of the Potomac and later with the 8th Cavalry along the Mojave Road in California and Arizona. He commanded a brigade during the Spanish-American War in Cuba and later in the Philippine Islands where he was appointed military governor of northwest Luzon. In 1901 he was named President of the War College Board and went on to serve as the first President of the Army War College. In 1903 he was appointed the first Chief of Staff of the Army, a position he held until his retirement in 1904.


Current Condition

Camp Young today looking east toward airport
  Camp Young street layout today
  Site of hospital east of Chiriaco Summit Airport

 construction of the highway and, later, a pipeline, destroyed a large portion of the southern part of the camp.  Power lines have been constructed on the northern portion of the camp, and erosion has taken a toll on camp roads and walkways.  In addition, because of its relative accessibility, Camp Young has been scoured for artifacts.  Numerous artifacts from Camp Young, as well as other camps, are housed at the General Patton Memorial Museum in Chiriaco Summit.  Several rock-lined walkways can still be found at Camp Young.  A fair amount of World War II-era refuse can also be found.   White painted rocks were used as borders for entrance and service roads, some of which are still extant.  Portions of concrete foundations can be found, as can a few segments of paved roads. 

Two station hospitals were operated at Camp Young.  Each of these had 250 beds.  The locations of these hospitals are currently unknown. 

Interstate 10 passes through the southwestern corner of the camp today.   [1] 
 

 
  Hospital

 

 

 

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

 

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Copyright: L. Dighera, 2011; All Rights Reserved: LDighera@att.net