Historic Posts, Camps, Stations and Air Fields:
Amphibious Training Base, Morro Bay
(Morro Bay Section Base, Camp Morro Bay)
Los Angeles District, Corps of Engineers History

The Amphibious Training Base (ATB) was established initially as the Morro Bay Section Base for Navy Patrol Force vessels. The base occupied 250 acres of leased or fee purchased land acquired as follows: On 25 August 1941 a suit in Condemnation proceedings was filed on 108 parcels composing 120 acres. On 29 October 1942 a suit in Condemnation was filed on approximately 130 acres. While the suit was pending, the Navy leased the 130 acres from the State of California. This property was acquired by the State for non payment of taxes, and the land was subject to whatever rights the previous sixteen owners may have had under tax redemption privileges. The Navy Department occupied an adjacent 96.23 acre parcel of non owned and non leased land and constructed improvements thereon. In September 1944, the ATB acquired a parcel of land to be known as the Morro Bay State Park located approximately three miles from the ATB. As of July 1943, the majority of the patrol vessels attached to the Morro Bay Section Base were actually operated from the nearby harbor at Avila, at which a yacht club building and a storehouse had been under lease. The total acreage of the site over the years is unknown.

The ATB was established in 1941 and operated as a Naval Section base until August 1943 when the facilities were turned Over to the U.S. Coast Guard. As of January 1944 an agreement was entered into to have joint operation of the base between the U.S. Coast Guard and the Navy Amphibious Training Command. At this time the Morro Bay Detachment, Landing Craft School was established under the administrative command of the ATB, Coronado, California. In February 1944 the Amphibious Training Base was established at Morro Bay. In April 1945 the ATB absorbed the Morro Bay Detachment of the Landing Craft School.

Improvements to the ATB include two piers, a boat underpass in an existing trestle, roads, training buildings, garages, two 100,000 gallon water storage tanks, various other buildings, a gas chamber, and a magazine storage area.

At the annex at Morro Bay State Park, facility improvements included barracks for 545 men, Bachelor Officers' Quarters for 128 officers, a large galley and mess hall, extensive road and grounds improvement and landscaping, new heating and boiler system and a recreation area.

Duke Energy operates a power plant on the former base.

Source: Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles District
Update: A 26 August 1946 Post Engineer Map of the site identifies the base as "Camp Morro Bay" and have been transferred to the War Department as a sub-post of Fort Ord..
San Luis Obispo County Telegram Tribune
Activities of Morro Bay Amphibious Base Described
Editor's Note: Containing the first official details of the U.S. Naval Amphibious Training Base at Morro Bay, the following article has been complied by Lt. Cmdr. James Bassett, Jr. USNR, public relations officer of the Twelfth Naval district, with headquarters in San Francisco.
"Morro Bay today; the Pacific tomorrow."
That could well be the slogan at Morro Bay, 13 miles from San Luis Obispo, where the old Naval Section Base has become an active camp of Bluejackets, Marines, Coast Guard and Army troops whose daily amphibious training means one word: "Invasion."
The Morro Bay station now is known as the U.S. Naval Amphibious Training Base, Morro Bay, and is a unit operating under Amphibious Training Command, Pacific. Rear Admiral Ralph O. Davis, USN, is commander of the Amphibious Training Command, with headquarters at San Diego. Commander B.A. Hartt, USN, commands the Morro Bay Base.
Working toward a common objective of training men for amphibious warfare, peculiar to the Pacific war theater, the Morro Bay station is dotted with hundreds of uniforms of nearly every branch of the armed forces. Nearby is Camp San Luis Obispo, an army post and home for new divisions which are given training at the Morro Bay base in the role they will play against Japanese islands—a,amphibious landing, storming beaches, transporting men, machines and supplies from ship to shore.
The Army's Camp San Luis Obispo, itself, is sprinkled with Navy and Marine Corps units, one group of 600 Blue jackets and naval officers being trained as a Beach Battalion for operating ashore once landing operations are under way. The Navy's Beach Battalion is commanded by Captain J.C. Webb, USNR.
Every day columns of khaki-clad troops are taken in truck convoys from Camp San Luis Obispo to the Naval Amphibious Training Base at Morro Bay where they are given instructions in embarkation methods, transfer to a simulated ship and disembarkation over the side of a large frame mockups and down rope ladders into landing craft.
Then the Navy's Amphibious trainees — Landing Craft Units — demonstrate boat handling which they have been taught. Through the narrow channel of Morro Bay stream hundreds of landing craft toward the open sea for a rendezvous. At a given time and place they go into action, racing through the swells and surf of the Pacific to the nearby beaches of Estero Bay where "enemy" troops offer simulated resistance by blowing up the beach with land mines, sending a stream of machine gun fire over the heads of troops and throwing up barriers wherever possible to make the "invasion" approximate the real thing.
Hours in the Open Sea
Sometimes the landing craft spend hours in the open sea before starting to land troops. Many men get seasick but most of them become used to it in time. The troops, sometimes Army, Navy and Marine Corps alike swarm through the surf, waist-deep, hitting the beaches in a prone position to be ready with their rifles for the enemy. Small tanks are brought up by the landing craft ploughing through water and sand and blasting through "enemy" installations.
A large building which once was a vacation resort hotel in Estero Bay offers the troops a "fort" which is captured every day. From there the troops roll through the nearby villages and across the highways in mechanized invasion style. Green amphibious troops sometimes require all day to capture the objectives but those who have received the rigorous training for several weeks or months have "taken" the same objectives in a few hours.
Maneuvers are carried out in exacting detail, with the Army, Navy Marine Corps and Coast Guard working as a team. The Coast Guard's main function at Morro Bay is Beach Patrol duty, working with horse-mounted patrol personnel and war-trained dogs. It isn't a picnic and it isn't all fun merely because the amphibious training is mock warfare. Training given the large numbers of Naval personnel, Army troops, Coast Guardsmen and Marines is hard. The combat instructors are men who have had real experience in the South Pacific and are stern in teaching untrained troops who must be hardened to meet the Japs. As soon as one unit is trained and ready for real combat another takes its place.
Jetty Protects Bay
Morro Bay is an excellent location for amphibious training. The small bay is protected by a long jetty which leaves an entrance adjacent to a giant solid fortification known as Morro Rock. When the surf runs too high for the hundreds of small landing craft and the weather is too inclement, a protected beach inside the jetty is used for training. The Navy is spending $1,500,000 for improving the harbor, extending a breakwater and for building necessary pontoon docks, loading piers and mockups as well as for general improvement of the base itself.
At present the Morro Bay base is a village of Quonset huts, 62 of the semi-cylindrical metal structures being used for barracks, shops and utility buildings. The Quonset huts, incidentally, are the same type so familiar in South Pacific Islands which have been captured by similar amphibious trained troops, some of who may have been trained at Morro Bay.
Read more here: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2014/06/17/3115008/us-naval-amphibious-training-base.html#storylink=cpy
Source: San Luis Obispo County Telegran Tribune, 10 June 1944
US Army Corps of Engineers Real Estate/As Built Map, 26 August 1946
Click to view a larger version. (Morro Bay Historical Society)
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Updated 23 June 2017