Historic California Posts, Camps Stations and Airfields
Camp Robert H. Dunlap
Main Gate, Camp Robert H. Dunlap
With the start of World War II in 1939, the United States began the preparation to improve its defense capabilities despite its offical police of "neutrality". The Marine Corps decided they needed a training center for field and anti-aircraft artillery units of Fleet Marine Force, Pacific and that was near enough so that aircraft could take off from an aircraft carrier near San Diego. The deserts close to San Diego area were considered ideal. Anza Borrego, Ocotillo and Niland were all being considered.
The editor of the Brawley Imperial County Democrat, F.W. Greer, appealed to President Roosevelt to have the large Marine Corps base established in Niland. The Marine Corps at that time acquired Rancho Santa Margarita which became Camp Joseph T. Pendleton and so the base at Niland would become a supporting artillery training area.
The Navy Department obtained 631.345 acres in fee through condemnation proceedings on 6 February 1942. The Final Judgment stated that the land shall revert to and revest in the State of California if the land is no longer used by the U.S. for national defense purposes. The 11th Naval District headquarters at San Diego officially announced through Lt. Gen Thomas Holcomb, commandant of the Marine Corps, the name of the Marine Corps training base near Niland to be Camp Robert H. Dunlap in honor of Brig. Gen Robert Henry Dunlap, U.S.M.C.
Construction of Camp Dunlap was completed and the camp commissioned on 15 October 1942. Improvements included an estimated 30 buildings, a water treatment system, distribution system, sewage collection and treatment system, over 8.2 miles of paved streets, recreational areas including a 76 x 165 foot foot swimming pool, and concrete fuel tanks. The 631.345 acre site was used by the Marine Corps as headquarters and cantonment area for the 114,332 acre Camp Dunlap Naval Reservation at which over 185,000 troops received special field and anti-aircraft artillery training over a 3-year wartime high-activity period. After the war, military operations at this location wound down, but a "fair sized" contingent was said to remain until 1949. A skeleton crew was maintained until the base was dismantled in 1956.
The land was determined to be no longer required by the Department of Defense and conveyed to the State of California by quitclaim deed dated 6 October 1961. The deed did not contain any restrictions, a recapture clause, or any restoration provisions. All of the former Camp Dunlap buildings have been removed. The remaining slabs are not proposed for removal. The base was located at the present-day location of Slab City (also known as The Slabs)

Source: Los Angeles District, US Army Corps of Engineers