Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Camp Essex
(Camp Clipper)
 
 
Part of the Desert Training Center's California-Arizona Maneuver Area, Camp Clipper was also known as Camp Essex, the post was 42 miles west of Needles and is adjacent to Interstate Highway 40 and northwest of the town of Essex. There were actually two sites here, a temporary camp site used first by the 33rd Infantry Division and a second and more permanent camp used later by the 93rd Infantry Division.
 
Source: World War II Sites in the United States: A Tour Guide and Directory by Richard E. Osbourne
 
Camp Clipper Corps of Engineers History
 
Camp Clipper, a temporary camp, was located adjacent to and west of the encampment area on the site formally acquired for Camp Essex. Camp Clipper was occupied by the 33rd Infantry Division before Camp Essex was prepared.

On 13 December 1943, the U.S. Department of the Interior transferred, by means of a use permit, 21,537.78 acres to the War Department in lieu of a formal real estate directive. An additional 8,998.72 acres was granted by eight other permits. No documentation pertaining to these permits could be found. Therefore, the dates and parties associated with these permit acquisitions cannot be determined. However, they were most likely secured from the State of California, the Southern Pacific Company and other private landowners between 1942 and 1943. Thus, a total of 30,536.50 acres was acquired for Camp Essex. Previous to the formal acquisition of Camp Essex, a portion of the total area was known as Camp Clipper, J09CA701000. No formal records could be found regarding the acquisition or relinquishment of Camp Clipper, thus Camp Clipper is a duplicate and is covered under Camp Essex.
 
14 firing ranges were located on the site, to the west of the Camp Essex encampment area, on the abandoned Camp Clipper encampment area.
 
Source: Los Angeles District, US Army Corps of Engineers
 
Camp Essex Corps of Engineers History
 
In January 1942, the success of the German Army in North Africa led the U.S. War Department to focus U.S. Army training efforts in areas with a desert terrain and environment. On 5 February 1942, the Chief of Staff, General Headquarters, approved of a Desert Training Center and designated General George S. Patton as the Center's Commanding General. The total maneuver area encompassed 12 million acres in Southern California and Western Arizona, making it the largest training area in the U.S. Close to one million troops trained in this area between 1942 and 1944.

Within the organization of the Desert Training Center, the Camp Essex site was established as one of the several divisional camps. Therefore, on 13 December 1943, the U.S. Department of the Interior transferred, by means of a use permit, 21,537.78 acres to the War Department in lieu of a formal real estate directive. An additional 8,998.72 acres was granted by permit. The dates and parties associated with these permit acquisitions cannot be determined. They were most likely secured from the Southern Pacific Company, the State of California, and private landowners between 1942 and 1943.

The camp was established during 1942 and subsequently occupied by the 93rd Infantry Division among others. Camp Clipper, a temporary camp, was located adjacent to and west of the encampment area on the site formally acquired for Camp Essex. Camp Clipper was occupied by the 33rd Infantry Division before Camp Essex was prepared.

Temporary improvements constructed on the Camp Essex site consisted of 24 enlisted men's shower buildings, 12 officer's shower buildings, 191 latrines, 149 pyramidal tent frames, an outdoor theater, two 740-foot-deep wells, and a 50,000 gallon water storage tank. In addition, 14 firing ranges were prepared. All were located on the abandoned Camp Clipper encampment area. The only permanent structure constructed on the site was a 500,000 gallon concrete reservoir.
By March 1943, the North Africa Campaign was in its final stages and the primary mission of the DTC changed. By the middle of 1943, the troops who originally came for desert training maneuvers, were now deployed worldwide. Therefore, to reflect that change in mission, the name of the Center was changed to the California-Arizona Maneuver Area (CAMA). The CAMA served as a Theater of Operations to train combat troops, service units and staffs under conditions similar to those which might be encountered overseas. The CAMA was enlarged to include both a Communications Zone and Combat Zone, approximately 350 miles wide and 250 miles long.

Toward the end of 1943, the need for service units for overseas duty increased dramatically, leaving little or no support for the CAMA. Without service unit support, commanders made the decision in January of 1944 to suspend operation of the CAMA. The entire CAMA was declared surplus on 30 March 1944 and the Army formally announced that the CAMA was to be closed by 1 May 1944.

Camp Essex was declared surplus on 16 March 1944. On 7 February 1945, 21,537.78 acres were relinquished back to the U.S. Department of the Interior. On 1 June 1949, this acreage was formally retransferred to the Department of the Interior. A permit for 40 acres was terminated on 18 August 1944. On 13 November 1944, six permits totalling 7,678.72 acres, most likely with the Southern Pacific Company, were terminated. Two other permits for 1,280 acres, probably with the State of California, was terminated on 8 March 1945.

According to a BLM report, 14 firing range areas are located within the boundaries of the camp. No incident reports have been handled for the area, however, local residents have found unexploded mortars several miles to the southeast of the site, in an uninhabited area that may have been one of the firing ranges associated with Camp Essex.

The infrastructure of the camp is difficult to identify and most of the area has been obscured by desert vegetation and surface erosion. The roads within the camp are sandy and at several points have been overgrown by vegetation. Few of the major access roads into the camp area are visible and most are impassable except by 4-wheel drive vehicles. The rock work which outlined roads and trails is in varying degrees of deterioration. In most areas, the rock work is barely visible.

The air strip associated with Camp Essex and the tie-down area are still in good condition. However, fuel cans and the remains of lighting equipment still litter the area. The only permanent structure reportedly on the site was a 500,000 gallon concrete reservoir located south of Division Headquarters. This reservoir, however, could not be found. The BLM manages the majority of the land within the camp area.

The northern portion of the camp is primarily owned by the Southern Pacific Land Company and the State of California. In the southeast portion of the camp site in the vicinity of the airstrip, is partially owned by private parties. The entire site is currently undeveloped.
 
Source: Los Angeles District, US Army Corps of Engineers
 
Army Units Assigned to Camp Clipper

 Data Source

Date(s)

 Unit(s)
 Army of the United States Station List  1 June 1943
16th Special Service Company (AGF)
2nd Service Platoon
605th Engineer Camouflage Battalion (AGF)
Company C
 
Army Units Assigned to Camp Essex

 Data Source

Date(s)

 Unit(s)
 Army of the United States Station List  1 June 1943
356th Engineer General Service Regiment (AGF)
Company A
Company E
AAF - Army Air Forces units AGF - Army Ground Forces ASF - Army Service Forces units WDC - Western Defense Command
 
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