Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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