Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Camp Coxcomb
(Coxcomb Divisional Camp)
 

Part of the Desert Training Center's California-Arizona Maneuver Area, it was located east of Indio and occupied, at different times, home to the 7th Armored, 93rd Infantry and 95th Infantry Divisions. Camp Coxcomb, located at Freda, California, was established at this site in the spring of 1942. It was one of twelve such camps built in the Southwestern deserts to harden and train United States troops for service on the battlefields of World War II. The Desert Training Center was a simulated theater of operations that included portions of California, Arizona and Nevada. The other camps were Young, Granite, Iron Mountain, Ibis, Clipper, Pilot Knob, Laguna, Horn, Hyder, Bouse and Rice.

A total of 13 infantry divisions and 7 armored divisions plus numerous smaller units were trained in this harsh environment. The training center was in operation for almost 2 years and was closed early in 1944 when the last units were shipped overseas. During the brief period of operation over one million American soldiers were trained for combat.

There is a monument is dedicated to all the soldiers that served here, and especially for those who gave their lives in battle, ending the Holocaust & defeating the armed forces of Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and imperial Japan.
 
The camp was 15 miles north of Desert Center. To reach the site take California Highway177 northeast out of Desert Center. After 177 makes a 45 degree turn to the left watch for a ranch house on the right, then a hard surface road soon afterwards on the left. Take that road westward to its end which is the southern perimeter of the old camp.
 
Corps of Engineers History
 
In January 1942, the success of the German Army in North Africa led the U.S. War Department to focus training 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 were trained in this area between 1942 and 1944.

Within the organization of the Desert Training Center (DTC) , the Camp Coxcomb site was established as one of several divisional camps. On 13 May 1942 Real Estate Directive 959 transferred 10,560 acres from the U.S. Department of the Interior to the War Department. This was an implied transfer, therefore the War Department did not obtain formal permission from the Department of the Interior. In addition, 960 acres were acquired by permit. While it cannot be independently confirmed, it is assumed that these acres were acquired from the State of California through Revocable Permit No. 12 on 24 March 1942. Hence, a total of 11,520 acres were acquired for Camp Coxcomb.

The Camp was established during the Spring of 1942 and subsequently occupied by the 7th Armored Division, as well as the 93rd and 95th Infantry Divisions. Temporary improvements constructed on the site included 39 showers, 165 latrines, 283 tent frames, 35,052 feet of water pipe, two 1000 gpm centrifugal pumps, and one 4,000 gallon elevated metal water storage tank. Seven firing ranges were also provided. The two permanent features constructed on the site include a contour map of the Desert Training Center and a stone altar located in a former chapel area.

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 was to serve 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. Thousands of soldiers and equipment arrived by train at the Freda railroad siding as maneuvers continued at Camp Coxcomb. 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.

The Camp Coxcomb site was declared surplus on 16 March 1944. The 10,560 acres associated with the implied transfer from the Department of the Interior were relinquished on 2 September 1949. The permit with the State of California for the use of 960 acres was terminated on 11 November 1944.

The original roadway network has deteriorated a great deal due to scouring by erosion and the emergence of natural vegetation. Many portions of the roadway network are now impassable. The altar structure at Camp Coxcomb remains in good condition. Maintenance has been routinely done to stabilize the outer edges of these structures. The contour map has deteriorated appreciably. Most of the wooden signs, which identified camps and significant features of the center, are no longer legible. The concrete protective surface used to hold the topographic features in shape has been broken. As a result, erosion has taken its toll on the map surface. A six-foot high fence was constructed around this map in 1984 by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to preserve what remains of this feature. However, neither this nor any other remains or structures constitutes a hazard.

Other remnants of the Camp include rock designs of military insignia and the stone work which lines the camp roads and walkways. Throughout the camp, a few artifacts of camp life can be found including eating utensils, ration cans and bottles. In addition, a few trash or latrine pits were found in the encampment area.

According to a BLM report, seven firing range areas are located on the Camp Coxcomb site. These accommodated small arms practice. All of these ranges are within the boundaries of the camp. Historical reports also suggest that landmines and grenades were used in the area.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) placed warning signs on the project site, however, the signs were removed several years ago. The BLM has not handled any incident reports in the past several years on the Camp Coxcomb site. Site preservation and protection are primary concerns of the BLM. Therefore, they do not want any surface disturbance at or restoration of the site. However, if a condition constitutes a genuine hazard they would be willing to accept appropriate restoration activities on the site. The BLM requested that they be notified of any contemplated activity on the project site.

Today, the majority of the site is undeveloped, scrub-covered foothills. The Colorado River Aqueduct passes through a portion of the site. Approximately 8,563 acres of the site is currently owned by the U.S. Department of the Interior and under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management. Approximately 2,957 acres of the site is owned by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and various private parties.- In addition, historical records indicate that approximately 50 mining claims have been located on the Camp Coxcomb site.
 
Army Units Assigned to Camp Coxcomb

 Data Source

Date(s)

 Unit(s)
 Army of the United States Station List  1 June 1943
Band (31st Armored Regiment) (AGF)
7th Armored Division
Headquarters and Headquarters Company
Service Company
147th Armored Signal Company
87th Armored Reconnaisance Battalion
31st Armored Regiment (less Band)
40th Armored Regiment (less Band)
33rd Armored Egineer Battalion
48th Armored Infantry Regiment
434th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
440th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
489th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
Division Trains
Headquarters and Headquarters Company
Maintenance Battalion
Quartermaster Battalion
77th Armored Medical Battalion
4th Cavalry Regiment (Mechanized)(AGF)
531st Coast Artillery Battalion (Anti-Aircraft) (Automatic Weapons) (Mobile (Separate) (AGF)
AAF - Army Air Forces units AGF - Army Ground Forces ASF - Army Service Forces units WDC - Western Defense Command
 
 
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Updated 8 February 2016