California State Military Department
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Preserving California's Military Heritage
Historic California Posts:
Camp Kohler
(Sacramento Assembly Center, Walegra Engineer Depot)

 
Camp Kohler 1943 (Army Corps of Engineers)
 
A World War II Signal Corps Replacement Center, located north of Sacramento, was dedicated on December 1, 1942 It was named for Lieutenant Frederick L. Kohler of Oakland, a Signal Corps officer, who was killed in China on March 14, 1942. In incorporated what was originally the Sacramento Assembly Center (see below.) In 1944 the depot was chosen by the 4th Air Force, even though there was no airfield here, to be an in transit depot for Army Air Forces personnel and equipment being transferred from Europe to the Pacific. The post also had a large lumber storage and distribution center under the control of the Chief of Engineers which was known as the Walegra Engineer Depot. The sudden end to the war in the Pacific made this operation short-lived.The 1945, inventory of Army installations also lists the camp as an Army Air Forces Overseas Replacement Depot. On March 1, 1946, Camp Kohler was abandoned as a Signal Corps training center. On March 19, however. it was announced that the post would he taken over by the Army Corps of Engineers. On September 26, 1947, plans were made to offer the post's buildings for sale to veterans.
 
Sacramento Assembly Center, California
Oblique aerial view of the Sacramento Assembly Center. (National Park Service)

Constructed at a migrant workers camp 15 miles northeast of downtown Sacramento, this assembly center was also known as Walerga. It was occupied for 52 days, from May 6 to June 26, and held a total of 4,770 persons, with at maximum at one time of 4,739. Evacuees were from Sacramento and San Joaquin counties. Aerial photographs indicate there were 11 blocks with over 225 buildings; one block was likely devoted to the military police and administration. Once the center was closed, it was turned over to the Army Signal Corps and became the basis of Camp Kohler.

Sacramento Assembly Center (National Archives)

The assembly center area is now bisected by Interstate 80 and covered by recent housing subdivisions in what is now the "Foothill Farms- North Highlands" area of Sacramento. There is a historical marker, a ramada, and a small grove of cherry trees at a small neighborhood park and playground (Walerga Park) at the northwest corner of Palm Avenue and College Oak Drive, within what once was the assembly center The monument incorporates a small concrete slab that may be a remnant assembly center foundation.
 
 
The Destruction of Camp Kohler
From the History of the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District
 
On June 20, 1947, while the auxiliary was on duty, the Fire District experienced its first general alarm. Camille Smith initially reported the fire as being located at Madison and Oak. Smith’s crew was on Truck 5. Truck 3 also responded from the main station. No fire was actually found at that location, but a serious fire was seen burning north of Camp Kohler, a federal detention center which held Japanese citizens during World War II. Truck 3 went into Camp Kohler and joined other fire units already trying to stop the fire before it hit nearby buildings. After about 30 minutes, our units were withdrawn from the Camp to fight the fire, which had jumped the main road and was spreading into our District.
 
By this time, all of our equipment was committed to the fire. Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s Office called several times to report numerous fires in other locations. The other reports represented spots from the main fire and they all eventually burned together.
 
Every effort was made to get ahead of the main fire, but their efforts were fruitless as a strong north wind carried pieces of burning tar paper for miles. Eventually, 11 homes, many out buildings, Earl’s Service Station, considerable livestock and most of Camp Kohler were destroyed. Several firefighters, including some of the women, received first and second degree burns. The fire raged for four hours before it was brought under control. Equipment from 10 fire departments fought the fire and property loss was estimated at $150,000.


Known Units at Camp Kohler
 
Western Signal Corps Replacement Training Center
1st Signal Training Battalion
3d Signal Training Battalion
4th Signal Training Battalion
3181st Signal Battalion
1051st Army Air Forces Base Unit (Overseas Replacement Depot)
 
Photo Credit: National Archive and Records Administration and US National Park Service

Source:Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites by J. Burton, M. Farrell, F. Lord, and R. Lord

 

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