Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
California/Arizona Maneuver Area
(Desert Training Center)

This was the largest Army base in the world covering some 18,000 square miles. It stretched from the outskirts of Pomona, California eastward to within 50 miles of Phoenix, Arizona, southward to the suburbs of Yuma, Arizona and northward into the southern tip of Nevada. It existed primarily to train U.S. forces in desert warfare for the North African campaign.

Native Californian Major General George Smith Patton, Jr., commander of the I Armored Corps, was responsible for selecting this site in early 1942. As a native of southern California he knew the area well from his youth and from having participated in Army maneuvers here and in the Mojave Desert in the 1930s. Patton chose the small town of Desert Center, population 19, as his headquarters. At that time the training base was called "Desert Training Center" and had not yet reached it maximum size. Six months later it was given the CAMA name, and by November 1943, it had reached its maximum size after several expansions. Patton and his advanced team designated various locations within the area where tent camps would be built to house individual units. The camps were situated so that each unit could train individually without interfering with the other. Airfields, hospitals, supply depots and sites for other support services were selected as was a corps maneuvering area. The plan was that each division and or major unit would train in its own area, and near the end of its training period would participate in a corps (two divisions or more) exercise in the corps maneuvering area at Palen Pass. Upon completion of the corps exercise, the trained units would leave CAMA, and new units would arrive to begin their training and the process repeated.

The area chosen in the Mojave Desert was ultimately 350 miles wide and 250 miles deep. On 20 June 1942 the War Department acquired the land from the Department of the Interior by Public Land Order No. 1. The area included several sections in Riverside County, ranging from Indio, California to Arizona and from Las Vegas to Yuma. On May 12, 1942, by announcement of General Orders No. 7, the Desert Training Center was named Camp Young. On January 27, 1943, by announcement of General Orders No. 8, Camp Young "proper" (3,279.89 acres) became the Headquarters of the Desert Training Center/California-Arizona Maneuver Area (DTC/CAMA). By November 1943 CAMA had enlarged and included Camp Young, Camp Coxcomb, Camp Iron Mountain, Camp Granite, Camp Essex (later renamed Camp Clipper), Camp Ibis, Camp Hyder, Camp Horn, Camp Laguna, Camp Pilot Knob, Camp Bouse and several bombing and artillery ranges.

CAMA was divided into a Communication Zone and a Combat Zone. The Communications Zone surrounds and entirely encloses the Combat Zone. Those areas within the perimeter of the Communication Zone are not really maneuver areas. Camp Young was located outside the Combat Zone, within the Communication Zone (Desert Area Recreation Survey, Geography of Desert Training Center 1943).

General Patton, who was independently wealthy, purchased some commercial radio broadcasting equipment with his own funds and set up his own radio station within CAMA. The station broadcasted music and news most of the time except when Patton wanted to address the troops. He kept a microphone at his desk and another by his bed and broke into the programming whenever it suited him.

Patton's I Armored Corps trained here from April to August 1942 and then departed to participate in the invasion of North Africa which occurred in November 1942. As Patton and his.troops moved out, the II Armored Corps, under Major General Alvan Gillem, Jr., moved in. They trained at CAMA until October and their place was taken by the IV Armored Corps. They were followed in successive order by the IX Corps, XV Corps, IV Corps and X Corps.

When the Allied victory came in North Africa, the need for desert-trained units faded and in May 1944, CAMA was closed. Most of the sites can be visited, but some are difficult to reach. In most cases the only things that remain at the camp sites are streets, sidewalks, building foundations, patterns of hand-laid rocks for various purposes and trash dumps. Monuments have been erected at some of the camp sites and there are areas within CAMA that are fenced off with danger signs warning of unexploded ordnance. The following is a list of the California elements of CAMA.

Source: World War II Sites in the United States: A Tour Guide and Directory by Richard E. Osbourne
Desert Training Center/California-Arizona Maneuver Area (CAMA) by Justin M. Ruhge

During the early days of World War II, the War Department recognized a need to train its troops under conditions similar to the rough terrain and harsh climates they would encounter and to develop and test equipment, doctrine and tactics for desert warfare. In 1942 the Desert Training Center (DTC) was created to fulfill this requirement. This simulated theater of operations became the largest military training ground in the history of military maneuvers.

Consisting of eleven divisional camps, the DTC, later to become the California-Arizona Maneuver Area (CAMA), eventually stretched from Indio, California eastward almost to Prescott, Arizona, and from Yuma, Arizona northward to Searchlight, Nevada, covering approximately 18,000 square miles.
The first commanding officer was none other than Major General George S. Patton, Jr. He initiated an intense program of training designed to test both men and equipment. Augmenting the rigors of the desert, his methods and ideals instilled a sense of discipline in over one million men who passed through the DTC-CAMA before its closure in 1944.
On February 5, 1942, Lieutenant General Lesley J. McNair, Chief of Staff, General Headquarters, gave his approval and designated Major General George S. Patton, Jr. of the First (I) Corps, as Commanding General of the DTC. General Patton was ordered to reconnoiter southeastern California and western Arizona for a suitable site. The General and his staff arrived at March Field, Riverside, California on March 4, 1942 and spent the next three days evaluating areas in California, Nevada and Arizona.
During his stay he arranged for water, electricity, telephone connections and railroad support. General Patton selected a location approximately 25 miles east of Indio, at Shaver's Summit (now known as Chiriaco Summit) for his base camp. Additional sites for divisional camps were selected in the vicinity of Desert Center, Iron Mountain and Needles over which he wanted jurisdiction, though he did not contemplate construction at that time.
The base camp received its name designation on May 12, 1942. It was named for Lieutenant General S. B. M. Young, who had campaigned in the region and later became the first Army Chief of Staff.
The DTC officially opened on April 30, 1942 with its three separate maneuver areas, A., B and C. Though General Patton developed and prepared for the first full scale DTC Maneuvers, he was not to command them. The situation in North Africa required his presence and he was called back to Washington and then ordered overseas. He was followed shortly by the first group of DTC trainees who faced General Erwin Rommel's desert formations in North Africa.
Major General Walton H. Walker assumed command of the DTC on August 2, 1942, and General Alvan Gillem, Jr. later relieved him. By March 1943 the North African campaign was in its final stages and the primary mission of the DTC, to train troops in desert survival and tactics, no longer applied. Future deployments would be to other parts of the world and training would have to be geared to other worldwide commitments.
Under Major General Charles H. White, the DTC was enlarged and military strength of the Center soared until it reached almost 190,000 men. The name of the Center was changed by War Department directive to the CAMA as mentioned earlier. By November 1943, the support of its worldwide commitment, the CAMA had grown to include the headquarters at Camp Young, Camp Coxcomb, Camp Iron Mountain, Camp Granite, Camp Clipper (Essex), Camp Ibis and Camp Pilot Knob in California, and Camp Hyder, Camp Horn, Camp Laguna and Camp Bouse in Arizona. These were all tent camps with the pyramid shaped desert tan tents laid out in city street fashion with street names.
One of the first units to be transferred to the DTC was the 773rd Tank Destroyer Battalion.
The primary equipment used in maneuvers was the U.S. Grant M3 Tank, the M-4 Sherman Tank, 105-mm and 155-mm artillery, self-propelled artillery, and 90-mm antiaircraft guns and small arms.
Armored Divisions assigned were the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th, and 11th. Infantry Divisions assigned were the 6th, 7th, 8th, 33rd, 77th, 89th, 81st, 85th, 90th, 93rd, 95th and 104th.
Army airfields associated with the DTC were Blythe Army Air Field, Gary Field for primary training at Blythe, Desert Center Army Airfield, Rice Army Airfield, IBUS Landing Strip, Gila Bend Army Airfield, Datelan Army Airfield, Yuma Army Airfield and Kingman Army Airfield. Some of these were used for combined arms operations against simulated forces.
Maneuvers continued as the numbered corps rotated through the CAMA en route to theaters of operations around the world. The 10th Corps directed the last maneuvers held at the CAMA. At midnight on April 30, 1944, training at the DTC ended and with it a significant phase of the epoch of World War II.
With cleanup of the camps after the war, the disturbed areas quickly returned to the desert as the sand and brush covered them.
References: The Desert Training Center and CAMA, Army Ground Forces Historical Study No. 15, 1946, by Sgt. Sidney L. Meller; Desert Training Center California-Arizona Maneuver Area Interpretive Plan, 1986, United States Department of the Interior, California Desert District; Patton's Desert Training Center by John W. Kennedy, John S. Lynch, and Robert L. Wooley, 1982, Journal of the Council on America's Military past, No. 47. Imperial, Riverside, San Bernardino Counties
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Updated 8 February 2016