DTC History
 
 

menu ssi QuickMenu Save Document

  DTC History

During the opening days of the national emergency created by World War II, a massive training center, designed to prepare American troops for combat in the deserts of North Africa was developed in this area. Today, the relics from this center serve as a reflection of the massive mobilization required for us to win the war against the Axis powers.

Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt told the country that the war effort would be the most tremendous undertaking in the nation’s history. He would soon be proved correct. The cost was tremendous, the stakes even higher: the lives and freedom of millions of people and entire nations. You will get a glimpse of the U.S. military’s response to this threat in the desert of southeastern California.

Beginning in early 1942, more than 19,000 square miles of the Arizona and California desert were developed as a training facility by U.S. Army Ground Forces. The facility was known as the Desert Training Center (DTC). Operating between 1942 and 1944, the training facility eventually expanded far beyond its original scope, and  the 20th of October 1943 became known as the California-Arizona Maneuver Area (C-AMA),  so that there would not be any confusion that this center was also for the use of training troops for other theaters of war, including the South Pacific.  (Figure 1 in Volume I.  Countless reminders of this massive training facility can be found throughout the deserts of Arizona and California today. In both states, remaining features include enormous camps designed to house whole divisions, complex airfields, hospital sites, railroad sidings, supply depots, bivouacs, target ranges, maneuver areas, and tank tracks.

Today, the vast majority of the land encompassed by the DTC is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Since the early 1980s, the BLM has been engaged in an effort to protect, interpret, and manage the sites remaining from this historically significant facility.
 

Conception of the Training Facility
With the United States thrust into World War II by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Patton was promoted to command the newly formed I Armored Corps.  By February, Lt. Gen. Lesley J. McNair, chief of staff of the Army General Headquarters, had developed a plan to combat the Germans in North Africa.   At the same time, McNair realized that the U.S. Army had never fought a large scale war on the type of terrain found in North Africa.  General McNair ordered that a location be found for a training center that would prepare American soldiers for desert warfare.  McNair placed Major General Patton in charge of this project.  Patton recognized the need for desert training in a speech he gave at his first staff meeting with the I Armored Corps:

"The war in Europe is over for us. England will
probably fall this year.  Our first chance to get at
the enemy will be in North Africa.  We cannot train
troops to fight in the desert of North Africa by
training in the swamps of Georgia. I sent a report
to Washington requesting a desert training center
in California.  The California desert can kill
quicker than the enemy. We will lose a lot of men
from heat, but the training will save hundreds of
lives when we get into combat.  I want every officer
and section to start planning on moving all our
troops by rail to California" [as quoted in Williamson
1979:30] .

Patton also understood the importance of training:

"We are in for a long war against a tough enemy.
We must train millions of men to be soldiers.  We
must make them tough in mind and body, and
they must be trained to kill.  As officers we must
give leadership in becoming tough physically and
mentally" [as quoted in Williamson 1979:26].

Although envisioned by General McNair, the training center would soon reflect Patton's penchant for tough training, with realistic situations and Spartan living conditions.  Patton, like many Roman centurions before him, believed that in a successful army "the legionnaires should fear their officers more than the enemy" (Williamson 1979) .

Location of the Training Site
Soon after Patton received command of the I Armored Corps, he and his staff flew to March Field in Riverside, California, to find a suitable place for the training center.  For four days in March, Patton and several members of his staff toured the desert of eastern California and western Arizona by air, on horseback, and on foot. The desert terrain pleased Patton, who thought the region's mountains, vegetation, climate, and dearth of population would make for an ideal place to train troops (D'Este1995:408-409).  From the vantage point of his private plane, Patton looked out upon the millions of acres of uninhabited desert and stated that "The training area is the best I have ever seen. It is desolate and remote.....large enough for any kind of training exercise" (Meller 1946 :3).  The region was judged to be similar to that found in North Africa, except for the fact that the southern California desert contained numerous rugged mountain ranges. The area, although isolated and rugged, could be supplied with water and was accessible by rail facilities (Riverside Press-Enterprise [RP-EL 2 July 1975 :J-1).  Three railroads, in fact, supplied the area : the Union Pacific in the north, Santa Fe in the center, and Southern Pacific in the south.  In addition, there was very little in the way of privately held land (about 1 .5 percent), and most of this land consisted of mining claims. The only local towns of note consisted of Needles (population 5,000 in 1940), Blythe (population 2,340), and Yuma (population 5,325) along the Colorado River, and Indio (population 1,600) to the west.  A few military installations existed on the fringes of what would become the DTC/C-AMA, including March Army Airfield, an army airfield north of Las Vegas (later Nellis Air Force Base), an artillery training area near Indio, a desert test facility near Yuma (later Yuma Proving Ground), Camp Haan in Riverside, an antiaircraft training ground (later Fort Irwin), and Blythe Army Air Field.

The Desert 'paining Center, as the massive facility was designated, originally consisted of that portion of the Mojave Desert from roughly east of Indio to the Colorado River, and from Yuma north to Searchlight (Figure 4).  The facility was to be used not only for training troops, but also for developing tactical doctrine and techniques, as well as testing equipment and developing new items (Howard 1985) .

In the coming desert warfare, Patton maintained that the fundamental tactics of the U .S. Army would remain the same, although many new techniques would be used.  Patton outlined these new methods in an unedited paper entitled "Notes on Tactics and Technique of Desert Warfare (Provisional) ." This paper was widely circulated in the early summer of 1942 and was largely based on what the general had learned during the first few field operations.  Because the desert presented such a different environment than that in which the army was accustomed to fighting, unit movement and security had to be revamped. Initially the DTC's purpose was "to determine the technique of living and moving in the desert and the tactics of desert fighting, particularly when opposed by armored formations, and in the face of inevitable air attack" (Patton 1942a :1).  Perhaps more typically, Patton expressed his true desire for the desert training program :

"Formation and material are of very secondary
importance compared to discipline, the ability
to shoot rapidly and accurately with the proper
weapon at the proper target and the irresistible
desire to close with the enemy with the purpose
of killing and destroying him" [as quoted in Meller
1946:15]. 

The army, in the form of the U .S. Engineers, determined that much of the land upon which the center would be established would have to be acquired by the War Department.  Although the Department of the Interior, which owned the vast majority of the Mojave Desert, agreed to permit the army to use millions of acres, the land for the campsites themselves would be transferred to the jurisdiction of the War Department.  The War Department felt that this was necessary in order to prevent the filing of claims on the land by private individuals.  Approximately 105 million acres, therefore, were acquired by the War Department through transfer or outright purchase (U.S.  Army Office of the Chief of Engineers 1942).  Permits and leases were obtained from various agencies for the remaining land that the DTC/C-AMA would use.

Prior to the establishment of camps, General Patton met with representatives of the railroad companies, as well as the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Los Angeles (see below).  Agreements were worked out with both industries whereby the army would be supplied with transportation and water (Meller 1946 :2) .

In March 1942, the General Headquarters, Army Ground Forces (AGF), realized the need for the testing of equipment under conditions they were likely to face in combat situations. The Desert Warfare Board (DWB ; see below) was established for this task. The commanding general of the DTC was to ensure that the DWB was adequately staffed and performed its duty. Originally, the DWB was commanded by Lt. Col.  Daniel Franklin, at a time when the board was stationed in tents (Meller 1946 :Appendix H) .

Camp Young
By late March 1942, Patton sent out an advance party to establish the first camp in the DTC/C-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 ; Figures 5 and 6). 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 (Figures 7-10).  The tents (Figure 11) 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 ; Figure 12) 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) .

Opening of the DTC
Despite logistical difficulties, the DTC was officially opened on April 30, 1942, with a total of 20 officers (BLM 1984:2). The I Armored Corps was quite under strength at this time, with less than a division in the desert by April (Meller 1946).  The men of the I Armored Corps who were still stationed back east were, meanwhile, boarding trains bound for Indio and Camp Young. Troops generally arrived in troop trains, as the rubber in vehicle tires was too valuable to use in transporting troops via roads.  The units de-trained at small towns such as Indio, as well as at such tiny sidings as Rice and Freda, many of which were simply whistle stops (Third Armored Division 1980:46).

By May 30, there were more than 4,800 enlisted men stationed at Camp Young.  Within four days of their arrival, the troops made their first desert march.  AT the height of its operation the DTC, as a whole, held 190,000 men. The amount of equipment at the camp included: 27,000 vehicles, including tanks and half-tracks 1200 artillery pieces 100,000 tents 400,000 cots & 300,000 gasoline cans.  Patton required all soldiers, including officers, to be able to run 1 mile in 10 minutes with rifles and full packs (BLM 1986).

The training program for Patton's I Armored Corps began immediately, with a six-week program in the early summer. The first few weeks involved small-unit activities that emphasized teamwork and junior officer leadership. The last two weeks involved larger units and focused on the testing of vehicles, weapons, and equipment. Approximately 10,000 men took part in this first exercise, covering 300 miles in seven days. A great deal was learned regarding weapon and vehicle capabilities and limitations during this operation, especially with regard to the 75-mm and 105-mm guns, M3 light tanks, half-tracks, and various trucks (Blake 1987 :23).

Patton, forever disdainful of officers commanding from the rear echelons, lived at Camp Young and established his headquarters in a simple, temporary, wooden building. His wife lived at the Hotel Indio, where the headquarters was initially set up.  Upon Patton's arrival, however, all I Armored Corps officers lived at Camp Young.  Early into his stay at the DTC/C-AMA, Patton explained to his officers the efficacy of training in such a harsh environment: "If you can work successfully here, in this country, it will be no difficulty at all to kill the assorted sons of bitches you meet in any other country" (Friends of the Museum n.d.).

Shortly after arriving at Camp Young, Patton established additional camps for the other divisions that would be arriving soon. Two other divisional camps were set up, Camp Iron Mountain and a camp near the town of Needles (Las Vegas Review Journal [LVRJ), 24 March 1985 :4A) .

Letter to General Martin Craig from General George s. Patton, Jr. written in May 1942 just after he had opened the Desert Training Center in April:

"I have been having a very interesting time here and for once in my life have gotten all the tactical work that I want.  We have been here twenty-three days to date and have had thirteen major tactical exercises, including some with two nights in the desert….

The chief trouble here, as I suppose everywhere, is with the younger officers who haven’t been at the business long enough to have any self-confidence, but I believe that the vigorous use of a polished toe against their hind ends may eventually induce them to do something besides sit on their asses!

I wish to God we would start killing somebody, somewhere soon, and trust that if we do, you will use your best influence to see that I can take a hand in the killing.  Just to keep my hand in for Marshal Rommel, I have shot one or more jackrabbits every day that I have been here, with a pistol; the best shot being a sitter at ninety paces—which was, of course, luck—but then I have usually been lucky."[2]

By fall 1942, more than seven target ranges, two moving-target ranges, two mechanized-combat ranges, and a normal infantry combat range had been constructed (Patton 1942b :2). As far as Patton was concerned, the tactical mission of the troops at the DTC was to "devise formations for marching and fighting which, while affording control and concentrated fire power [sic], at the same time do not present lucrative air targets" (Patton 1942a:2).

Tactical techniques, as well as strategic methods, were improved upon at the DTC, providing much-needed training for the armored units.  Patton felt that his units were able to move cross country and deploy to attack without presenting a target to aerial bombardment.  In addition, the armored units learned how to go into bivouac and rapidly deploy for combat (Patton 1942b:3).  In keeping with his much celebrated brash and bravado, Patton's presence at the DTC was always felt. His departure every morning was accompanied with a great deal of fanfare.  Patton rode in a different vehicle every day, among them tanks, sedans, halftracks, and jeeps. All of the vehicles, however, left with sirens blaring and Patton's voice over a loudspeaker (Heidtman 1990). Patton established a radio station early in the life of the DTC, which allowed him to instantly communicate with his troops.  Called Special Service Camp Young (SSCY), the radio station could interrupt regular broadcasts with Patton's personal remarks (Los Angeles Times [LAT], 9 May 1985). Apparently, Patton frequently took the opportunity to address his troops, extolling the virtues of one or ranting on the shortcomings of another .

Most of the men assigned to the DTC/C-AMA, including those of the 65th Field Artillery Battalion (Figure 13), had gone through basic training elsewhere and had most likely maneuvered with their units previously.  Training, nonetheless, was rugged. According to Gen. Jacob L. Devers, "This is like training for the 440-yard dash at 600 yards.  Whatever these men come up against after their training here will be easy by comparison" (Yank, 23 September 1942:7).

The training was apparently successful.  The 3rd Armored Division, in retrospect, had the following to say about their training at the DTC :

Desert maneuvers of 1942 probably did more to
toughen the 3rd and prepare it for ultimate combat
than had all previous training.  Stripped of essentials,
the tankers and supporting arms took to the
wide open spaces in mock battle [RP-E, 11 September
1984:B-1) .

A reporter with the army's periodical, Yank, visited the DTC in summer 1942 and provided a confident assessment of the training that was taking place in the Mojave Desert :

Somewhere in the California Desert, under a molten
sun and in a country where the very earth feels
like fire, American armored vehicles are training .
They compose a force terrible in its potentialities .
One sees a small cloud on the fringe of the desert,
and it grows until, with a sound like a thousand
thunderclaps, it sweeps by and beyond, crushing
everything in its path.  It is this force that will
someday leave death in its wake in the sandy
places of Libya, or wherever it may be sent [Yank,
23 September 1942 :5) .

Early Logistical Considerations
In addition to the three camps mentioned above (i.e., Young, Iron Mountain, and Needles), several more were established shortly thereafter.  The number of camps varied, but at its height the facility contained 14 (11 in California and 3 in Arizona).  The camps were generally designed for a full division each, and, therefore, housed up to 15,000 soldiers, and sometimes more. The camps were laid out in rectangular fashion, generally 3 miles in length and 1 mile in width (Figure 14).  In addition to the divisional camps, there were numerous other facilities, such as railheads, hospitals, airfields, and supply depots.  Many logistical problems were overcome during the early days of the DTC. Because of the isolated location of these facilities, water was not readily available.

The City of Los Angeles, however, had constructed a large aqueduct from the Colorado River to a reservoir outside of the city in 1938.  An employee of the MWD (the agency that built and maintained the aqueduct) recalled Patton arriving in his office to acquire water for his camps.  An agreement was worked out, and 15 water points were established along the aqueduct, which allowed water to be diverted into the camps.  Water delivery from the MWD began in May to Camp Young and was followed by several other diversion points to the east for other camps. The water was supplied from the aqueduct through the use of stop logs.  The government was charged 20 dollars per acre-foot for the diversion of the water and 30 dollars where there was evaporation  from open storage (MWD 1942 :24).  At one location, a 500-man shower was built (RP-E, 28 January 1973:C-1-C-8).

Other water sources included the Colorado River at various points, wells at railroad sidings, irrigation canals, municipal water sources, and private wells (Figure 15).

The MWD also provided power to Camp Young, from the Hayfield Pumping Plant (12 miles east), early in 1942.  Power was also provided to a large encampment near Eagle Mountain (most likely Camp Desert Center) sometime in fall 1942 (MWD 1942:30).

Although the DTC was to be spartan in accommodations, with little permanent or even temporary construction, certain facilities were required.  Hospitals, supply depots, railheads, and a communications system were constructed to ensure its smooth operation (XX Corps 1984:7).  Supplying what would soon become an immense facility was, understandably, a problem.  The Southern Pacific Railroad was not equipped to handle the incredible volume of material associated with the U.S.  Army's arrival in the desert.  Charged with handling this flow of material was the Base General Depot, located 5 miles north of San Bernardino.  The depot established railheads at several locations to supply the various divisional camps, which needed large lineups of armored vehicles (Figure 16).   Unfortunately, there was only one track on the main line from Colton to Yuma, and traffic often backed up (Kennedy 1983:646; Meller 1946:Appendix E).

The Southern Pacific Railroad increased tracks in several locations, including at Yuma and Indio, to handle the army's supply requirements.   Improvements were particularly required at these two locations, where several track extensions were built, as were freight yards and other facilities (Meller 1946).

Despite Herculean efforts, most units were well undersupplied, even with vehicles and weapons.  The lack of spare parts, however, seemed to present the greatest supply problem.  Vehicles were not repaired at required intervals primarily because of this lack of parts and equipment. In addition, vehicles were often driven beyond their capabilities.  Rough terrain, along with excessive speeds and overloading, wore on the vehicles immensely.  When Patton's I Corps departed the DTC, for example, more than 230 armored vehicles and 270 general-purpose vehicles were disabled (Blake 1987:28).  The desire on the part of the DTC leadership to emphasize realistic training, however, explains this rough use of vehicles.

Another major logistical problem encountered in the initial phase of the DTC operation was communications.  Originally, the Coachella Valley Home Telephone and Telegraph Company was used by the army, but it soon became overloaded with calls.  The much larger Southern California Telephone Company was eventually requested to supply telephone service to portions of the training facility, and it did so by 1943.  The headquarters for communications was eventually established at the town of Banning, immediately west of the DTC area (Meller 1946 :Appendix C).

An ordnance base was established at the Pomona Fairgrounds, although it is not known if this was the primary ordnance facility (Meller 1946 :Appendix H).  Another, perhaps subordinate, depot was established between Indio and Palm Desert (the latter town did not exist at the time).  This ordnance depot was reportedly 1 mile long, although its exact location is not currently known (Weight 1977).
 

Theater of Operations
Because of the perceived lack of realism in portions of the first maneuvers, a more realistic environment for combat training was established.  Supply points and lines, for example, would be fought over by the opposing forces under the new system.  By January 1943, the entire DTC was ordered to operate like a theater of operations in a combat setting, the first such order in U.S. military history.  This plan was followed to the minutest detail, including the placement and operation of mess halls and troop areas.

The theater included a communications zone and a combat zone (XX Corps 1984 :11).  Within the communications zone were the commanders and service units, all of which surrounded the combat zone (Eleventh Armored Division 1945).  Instead of supply points being established close to the troops, they were pushed out to locations within the communications zone, as they would be in real war.  Although their locations varied, advanced depots were often in Yuma, Needles, and Coachella (Meller 1946 :Appendix H).  The combat zone, which formed the core of the facility, was the location of the actual maneuvers and live-fire exercises.  Several additional divisional camps were constructed during the change to a theater of operations, as was a general hospital at Spadra.  Under the theater of operations setup, divisional camps were essentially the equivalent of rear area camps.  This whole organization was designed to train all units to operate in a theater of war.  Service units located in the communications zone, for example, were trained in their responsibilities to support combat units.  A much more regulated facility was the result.  Daily ration trains, for example, supplied the troops with a regularity that had not formerly existed. Troops and such installations as camps and supply points were moved to the perimeter of the combat zone to permit unencumbered movement (Meller 1946 :39).

In July 1943, the concept of a communications zone surrounding the combat zone was changed to promote a more realistic situation.  Instead of enveloping  the combat zone, the communications zone was designated as that area west of a north-south line running from Niland, through Desert Center and Cadiz (not shown), to Kelso and Nipton (Figure 17). 

The rest of the DTC was designated a combat zone.  The army also stipulated that no supply points would be within 20 miles of any combat unit.  By November 1943, the headquarters of the communications zone was moved to San Bernardino, California.

Another desired change for the DTC/C-AMA came from Brig. Gen. Edward S. Ott of the Operations Division, AGE Ott recommended expanding the geographical area of the DTC to include portions of the Colorado River, permitting the army to conduct riverine operations (Figure 18).  Ott also suggested that all units arriving at the DTC receive basic training prior to arriving at the facility (Meller 1946:35).

The logistical operation of the DTC continued to present a multitude of challenges.  A great deal of the "behind-the-scenes" operations of the facility took place outside of the actual training area.  San Bernardino was used as an off site logistical center.  In addition to the base general depot, which oversaw the majority of supply, a replacement depot that handled all personnel transfers and replacements was located in the city.  In addition, all rail and motor traffic destined for the DTC was eventually routed and regulated from the base general depot (Meller 1946:Appendix L).

Air Power
From the outset, the command staff of the DTC/C-AMA wanted air support to be an integral part of the training experience in the desert. Although planes were used from virtually the beginning of the DTC/C-AMA, an official air support command was first established at Camp Young.  Subsequently, four other divisional camps received air support commands (Meller 1946).  Unfortunately, like every other type of equipment at the DTC/C-AMA, airplanes were in short supply.  In June 1942, the Second Air Force assumed responsibility for air operations at the DTC. Headquartered at Camp Young, the Second Air Force also assumed responsibility for the many airfields throughout the DTC/C-AMA area (U.S.  Air Force Historical Division n.d.a:1).  In the early months, air units were under the direct command of the AGF and were not allowed to act in their usually autonomous roles.  Air squadrons were primarily assigned supporting roles to the ground contingents, providing tactical support and generally creating a realistic combat environment (Blake 1987:23).   During maneuvers and other training operations, planes were flown low over the troops in order to prepare them for strafing in actual combat.

Airdrome detachments were stationed at various airfields and were under the command of the III Tactical Air Division at Camp Young (U.S.  Army Air Corps 1944 :1).  The III Tactical Air Division was given the responsibility of assisting in the training of tactical air units.  In addition to training, however, each unit was in charge of maintaining its airfield and had little time for anything else (U.S. Army Air Corps 1944:3).

In January 1943, other Army Air Force units were assigned to the DTC.  During the maneuvers of February and March 1943, the IV Air Support Command, which was headquartered at Thermal Army Airfield, oversaw all air units and supplied air support to all divisions and some smaller units.  By April of the same year, an Air Forces Service Command was established at the DTC and assigned to the IV Air Support Command (Meller 1946 :58).

All manner of airplanes were used, particularly L-1 and L-4 Piper Cubs for surveillance.  Patton himself used his own private plane, a Stinson Voyager, or "flying jeep" as the planes were also known.  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 (Figure 28).

There were four main army airfields in the DTC/C-AMA: Rice, Shaver's Summit, Desert Center, and Thermal. In many other locations, the army used existing civilian facilities, such as the airport in Boulder City, Nevada.  In other cases, the army established facilities that were subsequently taken over for civilian use after the end of the war.  For example, an airfield built in Palm Springs by the army became the city's municipal airport after the war (Weight 1977).

In addition to the more permanent airfields, landing strips were created throughout the facility.  Douglas A20 "Havoc" bombersIn most cases, these temporary strips were prepared by clearing vegetation and compacting the sand with water. Usually measuring 1,000 feet long and 100 feet wide, the strips were built in the direction of the prevailing winds and could generally accommodate only small surveillance airplanes (U.S. Army Air Corps 1942 :G1).  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 s.  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).

At the height of DTC/C-AMA operations, when total personnel reached 190,000, only 4,000 of these troops were from the Army Air Forces.  Beginning on December 1, 1943, all air units and installations in the DTC/C-AMA were taken over by the commanding general of the Army Air Forces.  The III Tactical Air Division, which had been overseeing the air operations, came under the control of the Third Air Force. From the AGF's perspective, this was not a welcome change.  The army felt that the headquarters of the DTC/C-AMA must command the entire facility, including all air activities; if not, a great deal of realism would be lost.  According to some, air support became almost nonexistent by 1944 (Meller 1946:43).

By August 1944, after the DTC/C-AMA closure, most of the airfields were assigned to March Field as subbases, and the number of personnel stationed at them decreased (U.S. Air Force Historical Division n.d.b :1-2).

U.S. Preparation for World War II
Encompassing more than 31,500 square miles[1], the DTC/C-AMA was the largest army post and training maneuver area in U.S. military history (Gish 1985).  Of the total of 85 army divisions that served in World War II, 23 trained at the DTC/C-AMA (Pew 1985 :28).  Over 1 million men were trained at the facility, roughly 10 percent of all U .S. servicemen who served in World War II.

The DTC/C-AMA clearly reflects America's commitment to winning the war.  The massive undertaking that the facility represents is an indication of the scale of America's home-front preparations for the war. The DTC/C-AMA was far more than simply a place to conduct desert maneuvers; it included an incredible amount of material and huge numbers of men and women, all spaced in a vast territory.  The size, extent, and varied nature of the DTC/C-AMA show what a massive undertaking this training center was.  The 14 divisional camps spread out over a huge territory are complemented by the incredible diversity of sites related to the facility, including railroad sidings, airfields, hospitals, depots, maneuver areas, ranges, and others.

Daily Life at the DTC/C AMA
Most of the men who trained at the DTC/C-AMA were unaccustomed to desert life. Particularly at the beginning of their rotation into the DTC/C-AMA, men would suffer from heat prostration, cramps, and dehydration.  In an effort to combat this, all soldiers were required to take a salt tablet three times per day.  The men complained of the heat, but what made them far more miserable were the fluctuations in temperature. During the day in the winter months, the temperatures frequently reach 100 degrees, but fell at night down to the 20's.  There were also sand storms, and heavy rains followed by flash floods.  The men's attitudes towards the DTC were over heard to be some where between "giving it back to the Indians" and "The place that God forgot".  The usual tour of duty for units at the DTC/C-AMA was 14 weeks.  The men were required to take a salt tablet 3 times a day, but actually the men ate dozens of salt tablets a day.  After several weeks, the men had been acclimated to the desert, being able to live on a gallon of water a day.  By the time their 14 week training period was over, the men who had trained at the Desert Training Center were the best trained, best conditioned men on the front lines.  In fact, the War Dept. declared that the DTC "offered the very best training possible for the various units of the United States Armed Forces".   Before the invasion of Normandy in June 1944, foreign military guests from France and England came to inspect the training center and see for themselves the training regime the DTC had to offer.   The training regimen was tough.  The leaders of the DTC/C-AMA sought to harden their men:

"Officers and men must be tough, physically and mentally,
and imbued with the desire to close with the enemy and
destroy him" (Headquarters Desert Training Center 1943a :3).

Soldiers were subjected to hand-to-hand combat, live-fire exercises, and night exercises.  Battle-conditioning exercises were to accustom the men to the sound and experience of small arms fire and bursting shells nearby. At least once, each unit was required to conduct a 24-hour exercise with no sleep and little food and water. Troops were driven to the limits of endurance "to find out the leaders and men who can't take it" (Headquarters Desert Training Center 1943a :3). 

The tough training and primitive conditions in which the soldiers lived did not, however, appear to lead to a significantly higher than usual casualty rate.  According to a report covering a 1-month period: [The men's] health was generally good.  Sporadic cases of simple diarrhea occurred.  In one month from August 17 to September 1942 there were seven deaths and 82 severe injuries resulting from the common causes.

Deaths and causes
Accidental, crushed by boxcar rail head 1; skull fracture, motorcycle, 1 ; gunshot wound, 1 ; railroad versus tank, 2.  Suicide: gunshot wound, 1 ; Disease : septicemia, 1; Total deaths 7. Injuries : dislocations 11, burns 1, concussions 8, fractures 54, miscellaneous 2.  Gunshot wounds, accidental 2, venomous snake bites 2, internal injuries 1.  Total injuries 82 [Kennedy 1983 :644]. 

Obviously, one of the toughest aspects of the training regimen was the environment.  California's Mojave Desert is a difficult place to live, under the best circumstances. Temperatures in the summer can exceed 120°F. Inside a tank or other armored vehicle, the temperature was often 20 degrees higher. Perhaps more difficult to deal with, however, were the great fluctuations in temperature.  Although many troops were prepared for the heat, many were not adequately suited for the cold nights that frequently occur in the high desert.  Soldiers complained more about the wind than any other factor. With the predominance of sandy soil throughout the desert, the frequent sandstorms left camps in disarray (Figure 29) and coated everything with dir t and sand.  Soldiers' recollections almost universally mention the presence of sand in their meals (Kennedy 1983 :647).  The 85th Infantry Division was no exception, and the unit's history recalls the dust as follows:

Trucks, armored cars and tanks were swirling
about everywhere churning up great clouds of fine
white powdered dust, and the men who had come
to meet the Custermen [85th Infantry] were covered
with it from their shoes to their helmet liners .
The layers of dust were so thick on their faces that
their features were hardly recognizable [as quoted
in Chamberlin 1990 :22].

During their stay in the desert, they saw many sand twisters. But on two occasions they were caught in a freak desert rain and wind storm. These appeared in less than 20 minutes. One of these lasted an hour and left one man dead from a lightning strike and 300 tents destroyed.

Training was constant, every day of the week.  Most men received only three days off per month.  During these furloughs, soldiers would generally travel to the closest city to their camp and enjoy civilian life for a little while (Martin 1991 :6). Some of the more frequent destinations for these soldiers on leave were Los Angeles and the new gaming halls of Las Vegas.  Before the megaresort complex took over the city, such resorts as El Rancho Vegas and the Last Frontier were vacation destinations for soldiers with passes (LM, 24 March 1985 :4A). According to some reports, a black market thrived at the DTC/C-AMA, particularly in alcohol and prostitution (Scull 1985). 

During the infrequent furloughs and breaks in training, the soldiers overwhelmed the small towns in the surrounding areas.  It was common for civilians in Indio to find the few restaurants and single theater overcrowded with soldiers.  The grocery and hardware stores were often cleaned out by supply officers, and virtually all warehouse storage space was full.  The townspeople generally responded hospitably to the great influx of soldiers, and many social organizations attempted to provide some form of entertainment and diversion for the men.  Perhaps a greater problem occurred when the wives of the thousands of servicemen followed their husbands to the desert.  With housing shortages already occurring, many of these women were unable to find shelter of any kind.  Trailers were established adjacent to several towns.  Prostitutes also used trailers to conduct their business, until they were forced to leave by local authorities. 

Segregation was still the order of the day in the World War 11 army. In many towns, black troops were required to eat at separate restaurants.  Apparently, black troops were also overseen by white military police, all of which bred resentment among the black troops.  A riot in an Indio restaurant occurred at one point.  Following the riot, the black troops went back to Camp Young to obtain guns, planning to return to town. The troops were caught by military police on their way back to town, and a major disaster was averted. 

Entertainment would occasionally be brought to the soldiers.  The Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra, for example, played in an open amphitheater at one of the camps on October 11, 1942.  An LAT reporter who was there at the time recalls that "Out in front of the stage, back far as the eye could see, and even further [sic] into the shadows, stood the young men, shoulder to shoulder, thousands upon thousands, their faces all turned to the same spot.  The Symphony was led by Leopold Stokowski in a presentation of Dmitri Shostakovich's `War Symphony"'(RP-E, 28 January 1973 :C-1-C-8). 

Although Red Skelton and Bob Hope, among others,
 Use MS Internet Explorer browser to view video,
 also entertained the troops, most of their leisure time was spent relaxing in their tents playing cards (Figures 30-33).  Each battalion was assigned a post exchange where many items could be obtained, including beer (RP-E, 27 January 1985 :B-1-B-4 ; Figures 34 and 35).  Camp exchanges were organized through Camp Young, and warehouses for their materials were located at Coachella, Freda, Yuma, and Needles (Figure 36).  Entertainment, including a show by Linda Darnell (Figure 37), was provided by U.S.O. Camp Shows, the Hollywood Victory Committee, and U .S.O. Spot Shows.  These entertainment groups were organized and contracted through the DTC/C-AMA Special Service Office (Headquarters Desert Training Center 1943b :10).

The DTC/C-AMA was built so rapidly that there was little time to construct permanent buildings.  Moreover, the army, particularly Patton, wanted soldiers to be trained in the most realistic conditions and be "hardened" as quickly as possible.  As a result of these factors, the camps' only permanent constructions were open-air chapels (known to exist only at Camp Iron Mountain) and large relief maps.  All other structures were temporary in nature, including shower buildings, latrines, wooden tent frames, amphitheaters, water-storage tanks, and firing ranges (BLM 1984; Figures 38-41). 

Food for the soldiers consisted largely of powdered eggs, Spam, canned hash, and canned fruit (LVRJ, 24 March 1985 :4A).  According to some soldiers, however, it was how they ate their food that made it so difficult: "In order to get out of the wind, we would squat down behind tents to eat.  By the time we got the food into our mouths, no matter how short the time, it was always cold.  Then, on top of that, the wind got the grit and sand into our food" (RP-E, 28 January 1973 :C-1-C-8). The standard appeared to be five days of B rations (canned) and three days of A rations (perishable foods). During vers, the soldiers ate a great deal of canned sardines, along with tomatoes, fruit salad, and canned turkey (Third Armored Division 1980 :46).  Apparently, the menus changed throughout the life of the DTC/C-AMA. For a short period of time, all perishable foodstuffs were banned, and only B rations were issued. Later, however, the ban was lifted, and canned food was supplemented with A rations (Blake 1987 :28 ).

Later, while in North Africa, Patton was known to get his troops in line by
threatening to send them back to the DTC if they did not shape up.

Although little information regarding the DTC/C-AMA reached the general public, occasional newspaper stories did trickle back to the civilian world.  A particular company from the 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion of the 3rd Armored Division received a great deal of press coverage for their exploits in training maneuvers. "Gage's Gangsters," as the unit was called, passed into and out of "enemy" lines with impunity, wreaking havoc upon supply lines and then disappearing (Third Armored Division 1980 :48).

Maneuvers
As the primary goal of the DTC/C-AMA was to train soldiers, maneuvers became a key aspect of the facility.  Designed as part of the 14-week training schedule, the maneuvers were the final phase and were intended to put the finishing touches on a division's fighting ability. Maneuvers, like everything at the DTC/C-AMA, were designed to be as realistic as possible, forcing the soldiers to live, move, and fight  under the same conditions that they would encounter in combat.  In addition, the maneuvers were designed to extend personnel and equipment to the limit of their capabilities.  Paved roads were not used during movements, and units were forced to make their own roads in many places.  The men were generally allowed only one canteen of water per day, a great reduction from what they received in camp.  Rations were also quite different than those received in camp. Nonperishable K rations were common and included canned foods, biscuits, powdered eggs, and chocolate bars (Martin 1991 :4).

During the operation of the DTC, a keen eye was kept on the fighting in North Africa.  Lessons learned there were applied to training in the deserts of Arizona and California.  Even after the Germans were driven completely out of North Africa in 1943, tactical and strategic lessons learned from the desert war were applied to the DTC.  These lessons were particularly applied in the conduct of the training maneuvers.

Specific assignments were given to the units maneuvering, which included such things as attacking and defending an organized position, movement to contact, and a meeting engagement.  Critiques were issued to each unit after the maneuver was completed, as were narratives and staff comments.  Umpires were used to ensure that all units obeyed the rules, and they assisted in determining the victor.  It is not known, however, from where these umpires were drawn.  In order to differentiate between the two forces, red or blue paint was applied to the fronts of the vehicles .

Demolition and sabotage were also used extensively, as they would be in a combat situation.   Passes through mountain ranges were destroyed, land mines were placed, tear gas was dropped from the air, and smoke pots were used as screens.  During exercises, one combat team would establish a defensive position, set up targets at the location, and then vacate the area.  The offensive team would attack the position with live ammunition, destroying the targets left by the defensive team (Headquarters Desert Training Center 1943a :4).  As a part of the defensive position, tank ditches, roadblocks, demolitions, mine fields, and other obstacles were placed (Meller 1946:62).

Following the attack and defense of certain positions, the second exercise generally consisted of a maneuver designed to simulate a campaign. These exercises lasted up to 11 days and tested the ability of units to act in unison.  All aspects of a real campaign were incorporated, including administration (Figure 44), supply, maintenance, and evacuation (Meller 1946 :63).   A total of six major maneuvers took place during the life of the DTC/C-AMA. Each of these large-scale (division) maneuvers consisted of a "red" team and a "blue" team.  All units were included in these maneuvers, from armor to service units (Blake 1987 :22).

The reporter with Yank, cited above, with war correspondent Robert Casey, witnessed a portion of one of the early maneuvers, in fall 1942.  An unknown armored column approached the railroad siding at Freda, simulating an attack on an enemy position:

We watched the battle.  First came the armored
infantry, advancing in half-track troop carriers,
leaping from their vehicles, storming enemy
strong points with fixed bayonets, and knocking
out enemy tank destroyers with their 37-mm guns .
Then came their own tank destroyers-75's with
tremendous fire power, mounted on shielded half
tracks, smashing the enemy tank formations sent
out to meet them.  Then came the heavy artillery,
moving up into the front lines to blast the enemy's
fixed positions at point-blank range.  Then came
the swarms of tanks, smashing everything before
them. Then came more infantry in half-tracks to
mop up the ground won by the tanks.  Overhead,
attack bombers and dive bombers annihilated enemy
columns rushing up to close the breach .
Behind came more tanks, more infantry, and the
supply trains-trucks, water carriers, ammunition
carriers, salvage vehicles, ambulances.  The
noise was like the roar of a hundred thunderstorms
[Yank, 23 September 1942:6] .

Apparently, this particular maneuver was immense in scope, the largest ever seen by war correspondent Casey :

I saw the German panzers crash through the forest
of French 75's at Longwy. I saw the British
knock the Italian Army out of Libya, and I saw
Rommel knock the British right back to Sollum,
but never in my life have I seen anything equal
this. Why, brother, there were more armored vehicles
in this one action than there were in the
whole first Libyan campaign [Yank, 23 September
1942]. 

Some aspects of a mock battle were detailed in a Yank article.  All aspects of battle were reproduced, including the element of surprise:

One night, for instance, I sat in the operations tent
of one of the Army headquarters.  News of a sham
battle was coming in via field telephone. An enemy
column of armored infantry had been discovered
pushing its way down a narrow corridor of
desert lying between a range of mountains and
the salt flats of Danby Lake.  The situation was
strangely similar to that in Egypt, where Rommel
was limited to a narrow corridor between the
Mediterranean and the impassable salt marshes of
the Qattara Depression.

The Danby Salt Flats were supposed to be
impassable, too.  Heavy vehicles could sink in
them and get lost. But before anyone knew what
had happened, an entire tank destroyer battalion
had suddenly popped up in the middle of the salt
flats, and was blasting the enemy column.  The
enemy didn't even have a chance to take the
covers off its guns, and the umpires ruled that the
whole regiment was destroyed or captured [Yank,
23 September 1942 :61.

Perhaps the largest maneuver to take place was the first mock battle of Palen Pass.  The battle was partly conducted for the benefit of visiting dignitaries, including several state governors.  One of the participants in the battle, Sgt.  Joe Delgado, recalled the action several decades later:

First came the airplanes and strafed hell out of it .
Then the artillery shells began to cover the ground,
next came tanks rumbling into the pass blasting
away and finally streams of troops. There was so
much dust and smoke up there you wouldn't think
anything could be alive for miles. But when we
stopped, and the smoke began to clear, someone
shouted, "Hey look up there, what's that moving?"
And just like nothing at all had been going on, this
old dusty prospector and his burro, looking like
something from the last century, came walking
through all that smoke and dust and debris paying
no attention at all to any of us or all the live
ammunition we'd blasted that pass with [as quoted
in Pew 1985:29]. 

The first fully equipped divisions to maneuver in the desert were the 3rd and the 5th Armored Divisions, under the command of Maj.  Gen. Alvan Gillem.  Each division consisted of 15,000 men and 400 tanks. The maneuver period was between three and four days, after which the division rested and regrouped (BLM 1984).  Because the war in North Africa was still in full swing during the II Corps maneuvers, comparisons were continually made between terrain in that region and the terrain found on the DTC.

During the maneuvers, a headquarters was established to oversee the exercises.  The headquarters was not always at Camp Young, but was usually at one of the divisional camps.  During the II Corps maneuvers, for example, the headquarters was shifted among Iron Mountain for two weeks, Needles for two weeks, and Blythe for two weeks .

Maneuvers conducted by the II Corps serve as a good example of the type of undertaking these operations represented.  Eight exercises were carried out during the duration of the maneuvers, consisting of the following (Meller 1946 :Appendix K):

1.  Meeting engagement. VII Corps with 5th Armored
Division vs.  7th Motorized Division reinforced .

2. Attack of a defensive position. VII Corps with 5th
Armored Division attacking 7th Motorized Division
reinforced, in position.

3.  Advance and delaying action. VII Corps with 5th
Armored Division and 3rd Armored Division
pressing reinforced 7th Motorized Division .

4. CPX. VII Corps with 5th Armored Division and
7th Motorized Division attacking an imaginary
enemy occupying a bridgehead .

5.  Advance and delaying action.  VII Corps with
5th Armored Division and 7th Motorized Division
pressing 3rd Armored Division in delaying
action .

6. Advance and delaying action on different ground.

7. Same as 5 and 6 on different terrain.

8. Meeting of two forces, both in offensive.  VII Corps
with 3rd Armored Division and 7th Motorized
Division (both with mixed armor and infantry) vs.
5th Armored Division strongly reinforced.

The IV Corps (under General Walker) maneuvered in February and March 1943, involving more than 12,098 wheeled vehicles and 3,649 combat vehicles.  During Exercise A, one division was located near Searchlight, one near Yuma, and a third near Desert Center. The units moved toward each other, and engaged late on the first day.  Gasoline supplies were almost exhausted by the second day, however, as supply vehicles had not kept up with the armored columns. During Exercise B, defense of a fortified position was emphasized.

The IV Corps maneuvers, organized at Camp Young, were designed to train air units to perform in conjunction with ground units in a theater of operations. Emphasis was placed on realism, as with the other maneuvers. The maneuver basically consisted of moving individual units to different duty stations as quickly as possible.  The units were not allowed to use any of the improved blacktop roads, but instead had to travel cross country to their destinations.  En route, the units bivouacked and attempted to conceal themselves as much as possible (Figure 45).  A simulated air attack was usually a part of the maneuvers (Turner n.d. :1-A).

During the maneuvers, service units were required to act in conjunction with the combat units to which they were assigned.  The 54th Evacuation Hospital, for example, was required to follow its "Blue Team" during maneuvers in the Wiley Wells and Midway areas during February and March 1943.

Because of greater publicity of the DTC/C-AMA sites in the early 1980s, vandalism also increased.   In response, the BLM decided to take action to better protect and interpret the resources.  In 1976,  Camps Young, Coxcomb, Granite, Iron Mountain, Clipper, and Ibis were closed to artifact collection.[1] 

 

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

[2] Patton In His Own Words, Dennis Showalter


In February 1942, General Patton established the DTC for the U.S. Army.  The center was operational for two years and during this time, the U.S. Army acquired approximately 18,000 acres in southern California, Nevada, and western Arizona for the training center.  For optimum training, General Patton decided that everyone, including Headquarters personnel, would operate and live under simulated war conditions.  Troops experienced the harsh conditions of the desert, living in tents and enduring snakes, scorpions, and tarantulas and sand and dust everywhere and in everything.  Units assigned to the DTC were housed in temporary facilities, generally in what were termed divisional camps, which were designed to accommodate a full division of troops (roughly 15,000 men).  These divisional camps were spread out across the expanse of the DTC, far from population centers, though generally close to railroad lines.  From these camps, the soldiers spent the majority of their time training in the harsh desert environment.  A strict fourteen-week training schedule went from small unit (platoon) activities all the way up through full division exercises.  Finally, units would take part in large-scale maneuvers.  As a part of preparing units for combat situations, maneuvers were a key aspect of the DTC.  They were the final phase, and were intended to put the finishing touches on a division’s fighting ability.  Generally, an entire division would operate against another division, with one on the defensive and the other on the offensive.  Maneuvers, like everything at the DTC, were designed to be as realistic as possible, forcing the soldiers to live, move, and fight under the same conditions that they would encounter in North African combat.  In addition, the maneuvers were designed to extend personnel and equipment to the limit of their capabilities.  Paved roads were not used during movements, and units were forced to make their own roads in many places.  The men were generally allowed only one canteen of water per day, with rations consisting of nonperishable canned foods (C-rations) (Bischoff, 2000; Martin, 1991).

Demolition and sabotage were also used extensively, as they would be in a combat situation.  Land mines were placed, tear gas was dropped from the air, and smoke pots were used as screens.  Other exercises consisted of troop movements designed to simulate a campaign.  These exercises lasted up to eleven days, and tested the ability of units to act in unison.  All aspects of a real campaign were incorporated, and all units were included in these maneuvers, from armor to service units including administration, supply, maintenance, and evacuation (Meller, 1946).

The training program paid special attention to several specific areas such as cross-country movement, reconnaissance, dispersion of vehicles during marches, halts, and bivouacs, aggressive action by dismounted units, antiaircraft defense, camouflage, night operations, battlefield recovery and evacuation of armored vehicles and other heavy equipment, driver training, and hygiene, sanitation, and first aid in the desert (Headquarters Desert Training Center, 1943).

In January 1943, the DTC began to function as a theater of operations in a combat setting in order to allow for the most realistic training possible.   This provided for a communications zone and a combat zone. All service and supply units were placed within the communication zone, separated from combat units, as they would be in real war.  The combat zone was the location of the live-fire exercises and maneuvers.  Divisional camps essentially became the equivalent of a rear area (Bischoff, 2000).

By early 1943, the training center had expanded greatly, with numerous additional facilities and camps established.  In October, the center was renamed the California-Arizona Maneuver Area (CAMA).  The name change reflected how the center had shifted its focus from desert warfare training to a large-scale facility that afforded tough, realistic training.  By the time CAMA was closed in 1944, almost a million men and women, roughly 10 percent of those who served in World War II, had gone through desert combat training there.  Of the total of eighty-five army divisions that served in World War II, twenty-three trained at the DTC/CAMA.  The DTC/CAMA was the largest army post and largest training maneuver area in U.S. military history (Bischoff, 2000).

Though it was the U.S. Army’s first attempt at desert-warfare training, the DTC/CAMA proved useful in a variety of ways.  The vast expanses of the desert allowed the Army to move across long distances, in realistic preparation for what they would have to accomplish in Europe.  Because of the isolation of the area, movements were unencumbered by towns or civilians, and live-fire exercises could be conducted without fear of harming nearby citizens.  The terrain permitted varied training, and almost no obstacles interfered with freedom of maneuvers.  Units went cross-country, climbed and defended and attacked positions in mountains, with few constraints.  Highways were placed off limits for tactical movements, except when moving troops through narrow defiles (Meller, 1946).  According to the War Department, the DTC/CAMA “offered the very best training possible for the various units of the United States Armed Forces” (as quoted in BLM, 1998).  The soldiers were taught how to survive the elements, which often were their worst enemies in combat, and several commanders remarked that the men at the DTC/CAMA were in top physical condition.

Although General Patton’s legacy and contribution is well publicized, many other top commanders from World War II served at the facility.  Patton himself left the facility in summer 1942, to lead a portion of the Allied invasion of North Africa known as Operation Torch.  Following Patton’s departure, several successive Armored Corps as well as individual divisions and smaller units cycled through the DTC.  [Draft Historic Properties Treatment Plan Rice Solar Energy Project November 2011]

 


General George Simpson Patton, Jr.
November 11, 1885 George Simpson Patton, Jr., was born into a wealthy ranching family in San Marino in southern California. 

UNLIKE many war heroes who had no intention of ever becoming famous, George Patton decided during childhood that his goal in life was to be a hero.  This noble aim was first inspired by listening to his father read aloud for  hours about the exploits of the heroes of ancient Greece.  Homer's Iliad and Odyssey were particular favourites  of young Georgie, who could recite lines from both texts long before he could even lift a sword.  These classic  images were filled out by recent war stories of living soldiers, particularly those of John Singleton ''Ranger'' Mosby.  John often visited the Patton house and would entertain Georgie for hours with tales of his Civil War adventures.  With this steady diet of combat regalia, Georgie was convinced that the profession of arms was his calling.

Young George didn't want to be just any soldier; he had his sights fixed on becoming a combat general.  He had  one major obstacle to overcome, however.  Though he was obviously intelligent (his knowledge of classical literature was encyclopaedic and he had learned to read military topographic maps by the age of 7), George  didn't learn to read until he was twelve years old.  It was only at age twelve when George was sent off to Stephen Cutter Clark's Classical School that he began to catch up on his academic skills; he managed to find plenty of time for athletics as well.  While at school, the path toward his goal became focused he planned on attending West Point as the next major step in the pursuit of his general's stars.

When he graduated from high school, however, there were no appointments open to West Point in his home state of  California, so he enrolled at his father's alma mater, Virginia Military Institute.  As a first year "rat" at VMI, young Patton did quite well despite his late start at formal learning.  However, spelling and punctuation  were to give him problems throughout his life.  An appointment to West Point opened the next year and George was  awarded it.  He reported to ''Beast Barracks'' in 1904.  During his career at the Point, George developed into an expert fencer.  His football career suffered due to his aggressiveness he suffered three broken noses and two broken arms playing end.  Due to deficiencies in mathematics, he had to spend an extra year at West Point, but this deficiency was no detriment to his superb military skills which gained him the cadet adjutancy his final year.  When he graduated in the class of 1909 he ranked 46th out of a class of 103.  As would befit one with a love of heroics, Lieutenant Patton chose the cavalry as his special branch, no doubt picturing himself leading hell-for-leather charges against the enemy.  He also married Bee Ayer, whom he met while at the Point, in 1910.  The next two years saw the dashing young cavalry of officer become one of the Army's best polo players.

Patton also represented the United States in the 1912 Olympics at Stockholm in the Modern Pentathlon.  This event, which includes five traditional military skills shooting, fencing, swimming, riding, and running was considered a rigorous test of those skills most necessary for an officer.  Patton did quite well, but lost points on perhaps his best event shooting.  The competitors were allowed to choose whatever pistol they wished, and most used .22 revolvers.  Patton, however, felt that he should use a true military weapon, which at that time was a .38 revolver.  Consequently, Patton's handgun punched larger holes in the target, which probably cost him points in the shooting finals since he supposedly missed with one round; in actuality the "missing" round had passed through a cluster of holes he had already put in the target.  Still, Patton finished fifth overall, an excellent finish in an event traditionally dominated by European marksmen.

After the Olympics, Patton kept busy by visiting the French cavalry school as an observer and studying French sword drill.  The latter studies helped him become the U.S. Army's Master of the Sword when he was assigned to teach the use of the blade to fellow officers. Patton, also designed a new U. S cavalry saber the M1913 and authored a training manual for its use, the Army's Saber Regulations 1914.  Patton's future fame as a general was based on his emphasis on aggressive attack.  True to that form, the Patton saber was designed to serve better on  the offensive.  He also eliminated the parry manoeuvre from his manual since he thought it made the user too vulnerable to attack.

These activities kept Patton busy, but he wanted to go to war, so when World War I started in 1914, Patton asked permission to serve with the French cavalry, but the War Department turned him down.  In 1915 Lt. Patton was sent to Fort Bliss along the Mexican border where he led routine cavalry patrols until 1916 when he accompanied General Pershing as an aide on his punitive expedition against Pancho Villa into Mexico.   While on a foraging mission for the expeditionary force, Patton killed General Cardenas, the head of Villa's bodyguard, and another Villista using the single-action Colt he had purchased in March, 1915.  This revolver would become a Patton trademark during World War II.  As a result of this action, Patton was promoted to first lieutenant.  He also added two notches to his revolver, notches which he would later show to the King and Queen of Great Britain during World War II while recounting to them his adventures as a young officer.

After the United States declared war on Germany, Gen. Pershing, who had been impressed with Patton in Mexico, promoted him to captain and asked him to command his headquarters troop.  When Pershing and his staff arrived in England, Patton and his cavalrymen became the first foreign troops to ever be quartered in the Tower of London.  Soon, however, Pershing and Patton were in France, where George requested transfer to a combat command.  His request was granted and Patton became the first American assigned to the new U. S Tank Corps.   With his usual impetuousness, Patton treaded to victory with the British tankers at Cambrai, the world's first major tank battle.  A short time later he went through the French tank course.  Using his newly acquired knowledge of tanks, Patton organized the American tank school at Langres, France, and trained the first 500 American tankers.  During the next few months, Patton received two promotions to lieutenant colonel.  Prior to the battle of St.Mihiel, his tankers carried out reconnaissance missions. During the battle itself, Lt. Col. Patton foreshadowed his later armoured thrusts as he pushed deep into enemy territory ahead of the American infantry with his primitive Renault tanks, receiving a Silver Star for his efforts.

During the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, Patton led his tankers into battle once again but was wounded by machine gun fire while looking for help to rescue some tanks which were mired in the mud.  For the Meuse-Argonne operations, Patton received a Purple Heart, a Distinguished Service Cross and a promotion to colonel.  While Col. Patton was recuperating, However, the war ended. He resumed to the U.S. a few months later to command the U.S. Tank Corps.

Although Patton was an outspoken advocate of the tank as a modern combat weapon, he found that Congress was not willing to appropriate funds to build a large armoured force.  Still, he carried out experiments to improve radio communications between tanks and helped invent the co-axial tank mount for cannon and machine gun.  Despite all of his efforts, however, Patton reverted to his regular rank of captain in 1920.  The Tank Corps was dissolved as a separate entity at the same time, with the tanks being assigned to the infantry.  Patton was almost immediately promoted to the permanent rank of major and returned to the cavalry and polo.

Finding himself with time on his hands in the early 1920s, Patton decided to acquire another useful military skill he learned to fly.  He also displayed his valour off the battlefield in several episodes during these years.  Typical of such actions was when he saw three men abducting a woman.  Though on his way to a formal dinner and wearing a tuxedo, he leaped out of the car and drew his pistol to rescue her.  He carried out another rescue of three boys from a capsized boat in Salem Harbor, which won him the Congressional Life Saving Medal, Second Class.

By 1925, Patton was serving in Hawaii.  After Hawaii he finished out the 1920s in Washington, where he pressed for getting increased armour assigned along with horse cavalry the two would complement each other depending on the mission and the terrain.  At the time, his arguments made very good sense.  He kept fighting for more and better armoured vehicles, too.  By 1935 Patton had risen to the permanent rank of lieutenant colonel and had returned to Hawaii, this time sailing all the way there on his own boat.  While in Hawaii, Patton warned of possible problems from spies among the civilian Japanese population.

Posted to Fort Clark in Texas, Patton, who believed that the U.S. would be involved in a war before long, rigorously trained the men under his command.  As the 1930s drew to a close, Patton took command of Fort Myer.  When the German Blitzkrieg was unleashed on Europe, he finally convinced Congress that the U.S. needed a more powerful armoured striking force and Patton finally got his star.  He was promoted to brigadier general and put in command of the new armoured brigade, which he had to create by training the men in obsolete tanks.

As Patton's force expanded, it became the 2nd Armoured Division and Patton earned the rank of major general.  Patton's famous "blood and guts" speeches of World War II began at this time in an amphitheater he had built to accommodate the entire division.  His ability to turn up unexpectedly anywhere in the divisional training area became legendary at this time, too, as it would later in the 3rd Army.  Using his Stinson Voyager he often commanded on manoeuvre while flying overhead where he could observe the entire area.  Much of the credit for light observation planes coming into use in the Army can be attributed to this training technique of Patton's.  He soon turned the 2nd Armoured Division into a formidable fighting implement, at one point keeping them in the field almost constantly for 17 weeks.

They also carried the stamp of high morale and drive for which Patton's units were to become famous.  Even Patton's wife Bee got in on the act by writing The March Song of the Armoured Force for the unit.

As the armoured forces expanded, so did Patton's responsibilities as he was given command of the Ist U. S. Armoured Corps.  While plans for Operation Torch (the Allied invasion of North Africa) progressed early in 1942, Patton was sent to the American southwest to train his tankers for desert warfare.  Patton drove the tankers hard, sometimes expecting them to go without sleep for 36 hours at a stretch, but they learned their craft his tankers would be used to deliver the first American jolt to the Germans.

He would follow the family tradition set by his grandfather and father, and attend the Virginia Military Institute.   In 1909 Patton graduated from West Point as a 2nd lieutenant.  During the punitive expedition against Pancho Villa in 1916, Patton served as an aide to Gen. John J.  "Blackjack" Pershing, and made his first combat kill.  During World War I, Gen. Pershing sent Patton to Armor School where Patton joined the newly formed Tank Corps.  Patton again served on Pershing's staff, and was wounded in battle for the first time in 1918.  Armor had recently been used in battle for the first time.  After the war, Patton returned to service in the cavalry, but in 1940, he was selected as brigadier general in the newly formed 2nd Armored Division.  By April 1941, Patton was promoted to major general and given command of the division, which was at the time stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia (D'Este 1995).  Shortly after this promotion, Patton led his division in maneuvers in Louisiana.

On December 21, 1945, Gen. Patton died of a broken neck suffered in an auto accident.  As he had instructed in his will, he is buried with his men at the American Cemetery at Hamm, Luxemburg.

Watch General Patton home movies.

Read Patton's thoughts about his Desert Training Center

 


The Journal of Arizona History; Autumn 1985 issue

THE DESERT TRAINING CENTER/CALIFORNIA-ARIZONA MANEUVER AREA by George,W. Howard

Units had, upon arrival, rations for three days as well as a number of other supplies, including extra five-gallon containers. Water ration was based on an allowance of one gallon per individual per day for three days.  Then began twenty-five months of intense training with the concentration at first solely on desert operations and later on activities within a Theater of Operations.

The troops' first reaction to the environment was distinctly unfavorable, and there is very little indication that this first impression ever changed. Some called it "The place that God forgot," and this was only April. Camp Young, the base camp, made a lasting impression on the troops, as indicated in a story about the real reason our armored forces made such a strong comeback after getting in trouble at Faid Pass in North Africa. Patton is said to have told the troops:

"You men get in there and fight, or by God I'll send you back to Camp Young."9
No administrative duties were to be performed within tactical units during training hours. He wanted the troops conditioned physically to operate for protracted periods in the desert with a minimum of food and water and without a material decrease in combat efficiency. A four-phase training program was planned in which there was to be emphasis first on the individual, squad, and platoon; second, on the company and battery; third, on the battalion; and fourth, on the combat team. After this training was complete, he wanted to develop teamwork between armored troops and air and ground troops. Upon completion of the training period there was to be a combined field exercise for several days involving a movement of approximately 300 miles through the desert.11

Despite serious business at hand, there was room for humor at the Desert Training Center. Colonel Sanger was instrumental in founding "The Ancient Flea-Bitten and Honorable Order of Desert Rats," of which General Patton was the Chief Rodent and Colonel Sanger the Deputy Chief Rodent. Certificates of membership signed by Patton or Sanger are on the walls of many veterans who served in the desert during the DTC/C-AMA. Upon its closing, the Order languished but was revived by the Yuma Test Branch and later by the Yuma Proving Ground.

Tension was high in the spring of 1942. The West Coast was placed under "yellow alert" when news arrived that a Japanese Task Force was prowling the Pacific and capable of attack. Under orders of the Western Defense Command, the staff of the Desert Training Center prepared for any eventuality. On 31 May all units of the DTC were placed on continuous alert. Ammunition was on hand and a plan for deployment was prepared. Combat units were to proceed with General Patton's organization to wherever they might be needed. Military police, a black truck outfit, and miscellaneous service troops were to be left at Camp Young. In the absence of General Patton, Colonel Donald B. Sanger, President of the Desert Warfare Board, was to command the troops in the area. The precautions were taken secretly and did not alarm the civilian populace. After the battle of Midway on 7 June 1942, the scare was over.17

Living and training in the desert presented severe hardships, and the men needed occasional relaxation. The closest town for the first shipment of troops was Indio, with its population of about 1600 and no bus line. Later, as more troops arrived, bus transportation was established and regular trips were made. But Indio could not accommodate peak loads. Night baseball leagues were established and various USO shows visited the area. Caravans were run to large towns such as Los Angeles and Phoenix. General Patton and Colonel Pickering, his chief of staff, worked hard at maintaining good public relations with the local town leaders, even inviting certain people out to witness exercises. This type of effort was continued by the subsequent commanders.

In the "Strictly Personal" column of the Indio News for Friday, 16 June 1942, the following item appeared: "As one of a crowd of 400 men did you ever try to get a dance with one of a crowd(?) of 14 girls?" Mrs. Margaret Deneen, USO Director, in commenting on the fiasco stated:

"Many of those fellers hadn't been to town for weeks. They stood in line for showers, they stood in line for hair-cuts, they stood in line for shoe shines and they paid good and scarce money to have uniforms cleaned and pressed. And then the poor kids had to stand around up here, their faces getting longer and longer when we finally had to admit there just weren't going to be any more dancing partners .... "
The failure to integrate entertainment facilities caused severe morale problems for black troops since the towns bordering the DTC were so small. Facilities in most towns were finally provided, but not until there was much frustration for the troops. In Indio, which was the closest town, it was not until the second week in June that the Executive Council of the USO started to form a general overall plan for troop recreation.24 A temporary USO clubroom for black soldiers was opened at a local school and a number of Indio's prominent black citizens assisted in the operation of the club.25

All the towns on the periphery of the training area suffered some traumatic effects from the influx of military personnel. Yuma had a particularly unfortunate introduction to the troops. In the latter part of 1942 this town of slightly over 5000 was "visited" by 3000 troops from the 6th Division on a Saturday night. A continuous line of trucks drove down Main Street. Soldiers jumped out and filled the sidewalks and streets. They cleaned out the restaurants and newsstands. They took over the theater, and there were very few military police to help the local police. It was a wild night in Yuma.27 Reaction to the onslaught was swift. Local businessmen formed a "Committee for Servicemen," and a clubhouse was opened on 12 Decernber.28 Hostesses came from the service clubs, ladies organizations, and churches.

With so many troops seeking recreation it was surprising how little difficulty was caused by rowdiness. Towns like Phoenix and Las Vegas were off limits at various times. Las Vegas was placed off limits after an altercation between troops and police. One soldier was killed and three others were wounded when some 300 troops became boisterous and rioted against local and military police attempting to quiet them.29

There was only one serious incident at Indio, the town which provided recreation for troops over a longer period than any other in the area. The owner of the Palms Cafe attempted to stop an argument involving several black soldiers. The men left after making serious threats. They returned to camp, broke into the motor pool at Palms Village, and absconded with four trucks. They also broke into the arsenal and obtained submachine guns, .30 caliber carbines, and rifles. A warning was quickly transmitted to Chief of Police P.E. Ackley in Indio that about fifty or sixty black troops were headed his way. Chief Ackley and one of his deputies equipped themselves with tear gas bombs and staked out the Palms Cafe. Three of the four trucks made it to town, one having broken down on the way. The vehicles parked near the chief's car; the men jumped out of the trucks and headed for the cafe. The majority of them were armed. The chief meanwhile had slipped into the cafe by a side door and had taken a position with his back to the wall at one side of the cafe as five black soldiers entered, followed immediately by a large group. They advanced to the window of the kitchen, facing the cafe owner, the leader of the group cradling a submachine gun in his arm. Chief Ackley immediately ordered, "Break it up, boys," as his deputy entered the cafe. The deputy was ordered to act as a rear guard and prevent any more of the men from entering through the side door.

With Ackley's command there was dead silence. The soldiers who had been voicing threats fell quiet, according to Chief Ackley's account. He was acutely concerned, realizing that the troops must have been deadly serious to have stolen the equipment and run the risk of sure punishment. The silence indicated that they were hesitant to take the final step. It was during this period of tension that two Army scout cars arrived, and .50 caliber and .30 caliber machine guns were trained on the trucks and the soldiers inside and outside the cafe. M.P. jeep patrols soon pulled up and blocked the highway from both sides.

Responding to a command from the officer in charge of the scout cars, the troops filed out of the cafe. The M.P.s got all of them into their trucks, and under heavy guard they were escorted out of town about five miles. There the highway was blocked, and the men were disarmed and taken to the Camp Young stockade.30

Proximity to the Mexican border created certain medical problems, the chief being the high inc idence of venereal disease. At one time every enlisted man crossing the border was required to use a lactic upon returning to the United States.31 Stations were set up at each of the border crossings administered by medical personnel. Their insistence that all personnel passing from the latrine at the crossing station take a prophylactic caused some embarrassment to the Engineer of the Armored Force on one occasion. He had visited Mexicali for dinner on a Saturday evening, and when he returned, he stopped at the latrine in the basement of the crossing-station where all enlisted personnel were forced to go in order to cross. There was so much business as the colonel was starting to leave that the corpsmen did not even look up from their jobs. When the colonel stepped past the medic, he was rudely seized by a large M.P. and shoved back into line. After a very short identification period, the furious colonel was released, but this case of mistaken identity caused great glee among some of the junior officers accompanying him.

Out in the field the instructions to the Commanding General of the Desert Training Center emphasized that "training was to emphasize operations with reduced water supply." Apparently there had been an opinion, undoubtedly by those without experience in desert operation, including General Patton, that men operating in the desert could be taught to overcome their need for water and that only a small amount (initially ordered by General Patton to be a canteen-full) would he adequate for their daily needs. This resulted in what was probably the most serious physical problem con- fronting men in the Desert Training Center. It was only after many heat casualties and deaths, plus studies conducted by the Quartermaster Corps, and protests by local physicians and knowledgeable individuals, that the command at C-AMA grasped that the human body cannot be forced to do the impossible. It is of interest to note that the doctrine of the Israeli Defense Force (1970) requires that "During an 8-hour exercise day, 8 liters of fluid for drinking should be given to every soldier."34

Perhaps the greatest problems in making the 10,000 square-mile-area, and later the 17,800 square-mile-area, workable as a training center lay in the areas of signal, transportation, and maintenance. There were practically no telephone wire facilities available. Just to get connections with Camp Young drained most of the available equipment from the Southern California Telephone Company. Eleven different communications companies, ranging from the Coachella Valley Home Telephone and Telegraph Company to the Western Union Telegraph Company, finally served the area. Signal troops labored continuously in the construction and maintenance of communications in the vast area. At the time of the organization of the Communications Zone, delinquent telephone bills on 15 February 1943 amounted to some $65,000.35. In order to appreciate the magnitude of this operation one might consider what it took to put the area back in shape after C-AMA was closed. Estimated dismantlement work by Signal Corps troops included the removal of 112,000 poles, 14,500 cross-arms, and 6000 miles of wire, together with the associated hardware.  

Ultimately the DTC trained over 1 million men, or 20 out of the total of 87 divisions the Army used during WWII. At midnight on April 30-May 1st 1944, the DTC-CAMA was closed. The severe lack of support troops for tactical units caused this closure. It takes 8-10 support people to keep 1 tactical person in the field. This ratio was much less divided at the DTC, however. The camps were then dismantled by combat troops with the help of 1,300 Italian prisoners of war from Palm Springs and Yuma.
Source: California Desert Cultural Resources

All officers and troops benefited from their stay in the desert. The Commanding Generals were the ones with the highest praise for the training, and they considered it invaluable. The last Commanding General of C-AMA, Major General J. W. Anderson wrote, "I can't think of an experience that has been more valuable to me or to my staff than our period of service in the desert in welding that staff together and fitting us - that is, the staff - for what may be its function in the not too distant future."31.

 

What is The Desert Battalion?
By Crane Wilbur

In the spring of 1942, Miss Betty Lasky, daughter of Jesse Lasky, the x?X?X?X motion picture producer, returned from a trip to the desert and immediately went into conference with her friend, Mrs. Edward G. Robinson. While on the desert Miss Lasky had visited several Army camps and had found that the officers in command were more or less worried about the moral of their men. Not about their fighting moral, that was top-notch and has been ever since; but here were thousands upon thousands of young Americans transported far away from their homes and set down in isolated training camps in the middle of nowhere. These boys were well fed and they were physically fit' they worked hard and they were eager to get into the real fight, but months of training in the desert camp with little or no leave possible was having a bad effect. Many of the men had become moody and hard to manage, many were actually suffering from homesickness and a hunger for the feminine companionship they had been used to all their lives. They were young, they were human -- they were willing to take the supreme risk -- but they needed encouragement as well as commands. To quote a Hungarian writer who has put it better than most: "Heroes, poets, beggars, kings -- fight, conquer, struggle, starve -- if only a women is good to them."

Miss Lasky had an idea, and on returning to Hollywood her first thought was to take it to Mrs. Robinson. The idea was to organize a volunteer group of young women who would supply this so necessary feminine touch at Saturday night dances to be given in the recreation halls located at the various desert army camps. They began with fifty girls recruited from among their friends; they chartered two busses and made a week-end journey to an Army dance that had been arranged for the soldiers of Camp Young, Desert Training Center, at that time under the command of General George S. Patton of whom we have heard such thrilling things in North Africa and Sicily.

The dance for the men of Camp Young was a great success and from that moment the Desert Battalion began to grow. Now they have a calling list of over four hundred and fifty members. These young women are from many walks of life but in the main they are girls who work for a living. As the Battalion has very little money in its treasury, each girl must pay her own round trip bus fare to the desert. The charter fee for one trip when shared among them all amounts to an average of three dollars and fifty cents for each one who makes the trip. Not a large sum, but it leaves a considerable hole in the pay check of a stenographer. The girls are recruited by a weekly five minute broadcast conducted by Lenita Lane Wilbur, the time being contributed through the courtesy of Warner Brothers K.F.W.B. The Battalion has also broadcast two half-hour shows from this same ** asts, backed by the girls of the Battalion, written and produced by Crane Wilbur, that tell a running story of the adventures of four young women on their trips to the desert dances. This series will be continued.

Since the initial dances for the soldiers of Camp Young in July of 1942 the Desert Battalion has made many trips to the desert, recording an average of at least two per month. Among the camps visited not one but a number of times are Camp Yong, Santa Ana Air Base, Blythe Army Air Academy, Camp Roberts, Victorville Army Air Basse, Palm Springs--not during "the season" but in the summer if you please--Twenty-nine Pal ms Air Academy, Hemet Fifth Army Air Corps Training Field, Yuma Army Air Base, Thermal Army Air Base and others.

Frequently they have made these journeys in summer desert temperatures that hovered between 120 and 130 degrees. As there are nearly always three or four soldiers to every girl present at a dance, cutting in is the rule of the evening, and that means that a girl must dance continuously with little chance to rest. (It has become necessary for the group leaders and chaperones of the Desert Battalion to take courses in first aid, particularly that part of it that applies to the treatment of heat exhaustion and sunstroke.) Despite the hardships they have encountered, the long hot trips, the inconveniences and discomforts attendant upon a trek into the real desert, these girls have never relaxed in their enthusiasm, in their original intention to show the men of our fighting forces that the women of America really do care.

The following message addressed in care of Mrs. Robinson and written on a officer's notebook will perhaps give some idea of what the Army thinks of The Desert Battalion:

"With the A. E. F. "Somewhere in Africa,
"Nov. 21st, 1942.

"Dear Girls of the Battalion'

"First opportunity to write, but we have not forgotten you in the least. You have probably read about what our outfit did here. We are in the vicinity of Casablanca. Some of our boys have been decorated and others won promotions during battle. All the boys you knew are not with us but they have not died in vain. We think of you all for the great job you did for us in the States. We will do a job here, unafraid, until the final victory.

"With best wishes, your pal,
"Major Kenneth E. Von Burkirk,
"Headquarters Western Task Force."

The "feminine battalion" of so-called "brigadears," was composed of women between the ages of 18 and 25. During the week these young women contributed to the war effort on the home front, where they worked in offices, factories and war plants. On weekends they paid their own bus fare and traveled to desolate military bases, where they danced non-stop for hours in the sweltering heat with lonesome G.I.'s.

Women volunteering for the battalion worked under strict guidelines: they had chaperones; were not allowed to drink alcoholic beverages; were not allowed to engage in any sexual activity including kissing; and they had to promise not to divulge military information. Over the course of the organization's two year existence, the 600 young women of the Desert Battalion covered some 350-thousand miles.
 


Heimark:
During the war, business boomed for Rudy Heimark in Indio.  He became the distributor for the Schlitz Brewing Company in the early 1940s when General Patton’s desert training center was located nearby at Chiriaco Summit.  

It was a "fluke" that Rudy Heimark became involved in the beer distribution business in Indio, according to Rudy’s son Don.  Indio in the 1930s was a "rip-snorting" town, full of construction crews working on the Los Angeles River Aqueduct.  There were seven saloons in the small town.  Rudy was a citrus farmer and had purchased an old truck to transport produce to market in Los Angeles.  One day in 1937, Rudy stopped to help a driver whose truck had broken down along the road.  The driver was hauling draught beer from the Rainier Brewery.  To save the beer from spoiling in the desert heat, Rudy loaded it onto the farm truck and delivered it to the retailer in Indio who expressed an interest in developing a business relationship with him.

Local saloon owners had also encouraged Rudy to load his emptied "bob-tail" flatbed truck with beer for the return trip from the produce market.  Soon, Rudy was hauling more beer than produce, according to his son Gene Heimark.  Today, Rudy’s sons Don and Gene are the owners of Triangle Distributing in Santa Fe Springs and Heimark Distributing in Indio, respectively.

During the war, business boomed for Rudy Heimark in Indio. He became the distributor for the Schlitz Brewing Company in the early 1940s when General Patton’s desert training center was located nearby at Chiriaco Summit. Humane government war officials made sure beer continued to flow to soldiers, those stationed overseas as well as those training in the U. S.   Humane government war officials made sure beer continued to flow to soldiers, those stationed overseas as well as those training in the U. S.

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).

Back to top of page
 

 
Hits: [an error occurred while processing this directive] Date of last edit: January 04, 2012 13:35:09 -0800
© Copyright: L. Dighera, 2011; All Rights Reserved: LDighera@att.net