(Pittsburg Replacement Depot;
Pittsburg Replacement and Reclassification Depot)
Camp Stoneman, June
1942 (National Archives)
LTC (Ret) Danny
"Through these Portals
Pass the Best Damn Soldiers in the World." This proud inscription
met the eye of each soldier as he passed through the entrance
to the wharves at Camp Stoneman to embark for shipment overseas.
The major Pacific coast World War II staging area under the control
of the San Francisco Port of Embarkation was Camp Stoneman located
in Pittsburg, CA. Camp Stoneman was the largest troop staging
area on the west coast of the United States for units deploying
to the Pacific Theater of Operations. Camp Stoneman was once
the principal "jumping off point" for more than one
million soldiers destined for operations in WW II's Pacific Theater,
and again several years later during the Korean War.
The idea for Camp Stoneman was born soon after Pearl Harbor in
response for the urgent need for a large cantonment area at which
port processing of troops in transit could be housed, fed and
transported. The plans for such a camp were, of course, in the
works of War Plans before the Japanese attack. The main requirement
was that such areas have available three types of transportation--water,
rail and highway. There were two rail lines in the Pittsburg
area, Southern Pacific and Santa Fe. A mile from the camp was
the San Joaquin River, offering a broad water channel into San
Francisco Bay. There also were suitable paved highway routes
in the area.
Construction of Camp Stoneman was authorized by the War Department
on 3 January 1942 and completed by September 1942. The selected
site was formally a tract of land called Los Medanos (The Dunes),
a Mexican patent owned by the Garcia Brothers in 1800 and later
purchased by Colonel Johnathon Drake Stevenson, a celebrated
Civil War leader. By 1901, the tract of land which was to become
Camp Stoneman had been purchased by C. A. Hooper, a developer
with vast interests in ranching and industry. The military had
been negotiating to purchase the C.A. Hooper ranch south of Pittsburg
proper to become Camp Stoneman. The formality of receiving construction
bids was begun on January 24th, and on February 7, the San Francisco
firm of McDonald & Kahn, General Contractors, won the bid
for construction of the camp on a "Rush Order Basis"
and had completed work by September, 1942. It was estimated that
the cost of building Camp Stoneman was $18,410,936.
In 1942, the War Department
acquired a total of 2,841.54 acres consisting of fee acres, easement
acres, license acres, permit acres, and leased acres. The fee
acres were acquired from the City of Pittsburg and from private
owners. The easement acres were acquired from private owners.
The license acres were acquired from Contra Costa County, and
the Division of Highways. The lease acres were obtained from
private owners and the remaining was acquired from the City of
Construction was began on February 11, and completed on September
20. The first troops arrived at the camp on May 25, 1942. The
camp was formally activated on 28 May 1942. About 700 carpenters
and other workers from as far as Oklahoma responded to the task.
Some boarded with local residents. Others lived in trailers and
tents on the waterfront. The first commanding officer was Colonel
Murray H. Ellis, a graduate of Allegheny College in Pennsylvania,
and a cavalry officer. The camp was a permanent base for 125
officers and 2,000 troops. Camp Stoneman could house and mess
over 20,000 troops at a time on its 2,800 acres. Stoneman also
housed German and Italian prisoners of war.
General Frederick Gilbreath, commanding general of the San Francisco
Port of Embarkation requested that the camp be named after George
Stoneman. The camp was named for General George Stoneman on April
5, 1942. George Stoneman (1822-1894) became the 15th governor
of California in 1883. Born in New York, he had graduated from
West Point and had come west under General Stephen Kearny. During
the Civil War he commanded Union troops and won high honors.
He returned to California, and in 1871 began to grow oranges
near Los Angeles. He opposed the railroad interests and was elected
to the first California Railroad Commission, created by the Constitution
of 1879. Three years later he ran as a Democrat for governor
In 1887 he returned to
southern California. He played an active role in founding the
marketing cooperative that became the California Fruit Growers
Exchange (Sunkist). After his house was destroyed by fire, an
event rumored to be the work of his political enemies, Stoneman
was broken financially and in poor health. He returned to New
York State for medical treatment. He died following a stroke
in Buffalo, New York, and is buried in the Bentley Cemetery in
Lakewood, New York. Stoneman has been memorialized by songwriter
Robbie Robertson of The Band, whose 1969 rock and roll song,
"The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down", referred to
one of Stoneman's 1865 raids: "Virgil Caine is the name,
and I served on the Danville train, Till Stoneman's cavalry came
and tore up the tracks again ..."
The first troops to go through Camp Stoneman on their way to
the Pacific battlefields arrived on May 25, 1942. A little more
than three years later, on August 11, 1945, the millionth man
to go through the Stoneman staging area was plucked from a line
of men filing up to the gangplank, to take part in a brief ceremony.
Three days later Japan surrendered. Over a twelve year existence
covering both WWII and the Korean Conflict, over 1,500,000 troops
were processed and shipped through Camp Stoneman. At the conclusions
of each war, the camp was converted into a separation center,
the function of which was to ensure that returning soldiers could
be sent home as quickly as possible.
In transporting troops to and from the Army docks in San Francisco,
Army harbor boats were employed. The Catalina and Cabrillo, sister
ships, were converted from former excursion boats. A later addition
to the fleet, the Ernie Pyle, was known as the million dollar
ferry, Yerba Buena, when it operated between San Francisco and
Oakland. The usual means of leaving Camp Stoneman was to board
one of the ferries at the Pittsburg waterfront which would carry
the troops to Piers 15 and 45 on the Embarcadero in San Francisco.
It was a three to four-hour boat ride from San Francisco to Camp
Stoneman. Most troops departed the camp by marching down Harbor
Street to the waterfront, where the Army operated a small ferry
fleet. The ferries took the troops to Fort Mason, where they
boarded ships headed for war.
The first unit to be embarked
at Stoneman was a (colored) field artillery regiment from Harlem,
New York. Among the Army division's that staged at Camp Stoneman
were the 1st Cavalry Division, 11th Airborne Division, 40th Infantry
Division, and the 33d, 81st, 93d and 96th Infantry Division's.
The 31st, 43d, 40th and 93d Infantry Division's were inactivated
at Stoneman after World War II while the 2d and 86th Infantry
Divisions redeployed at Camp Stoneman for the invasion of Japan
that never happened.
In addition to almost
346 barracks (63-man), 86 company administrative and storehouses,
8 infirmaries, and dozens of administrative buildings, the 2,500-acre
camp held nine post exchanges, 14 recreation halls, 13 mess halls,
a 24-hour shoe repair and tailoring business, one post office,
a chapel and one stockade. Overall, the camp was a city onto
itself. It had a fire department and observation tower, water
reservoir, bakery, Red Cross station, meat-cutting plant, library,
parking lots and 31 miles of roads. For recreation, Stoneman
boasted two gymnasiums, a baseball diamond, eight basketball
courts, eight boxing rings, and indoor pool and a bowling alley.
Officer and enlisted clubs provided everything from reading rooms
to spaghetti dinners. The camp also contained the largest telephone
center of its day, with 75 phone booths and a bank of operators
who could handle 2,000 long-distance calls a day. Stoneman even
had USO shows featuring stars such as Groucho Marx, Gary Moore,
and Red Skelton. Lucille Ball once donned a swimming suit to
dedicate an enlisted men's club.
Business boomed in Pittsburg,
as did in all "Army towns." During Camp Stoneman's
heyday taverns, theaters, night clubs, taxi stands, clothing
stores, local bus lines, jewelry and novelty shops, photo studios
and similar establishments mushroomed. Most of them flourished-at
least for the duration. Some revived, briefly, during the Korean
Camp Stoneman was the last stop for most soldiers heading overseas
and they were usually processed through the base in three days,
but the usual time frame was four to five days. A unit was known
only by shipment code number. Soon after the men arrived at Camp
Stoneman, they were again given medical examinations to determine
the fitness of each soldier for overseas combat duty. Last minute
dental and medical care, including the updating of immunizations,
was given to those who needed attention. Stoneman had approximately
45 dental chairs that were used sometimes 18 hours a day for
the various types of dental work. Anyone needing eye corrections
were issued two pairs of glasses. Last wills were made and allotments
arranged, and updating personnel files were done.
Clothing and equipment
were inspected, from shoelaces to helmet liners, in order to
correct any defects, shortages, or signs of excessive wear. Shoes
were given special attention, as they were perhaps the most important
item, next to a soldier's weapons. Weapons were checked out by
experts. Each one had to be able to operate without a trace of
malfunction. The troops were lectured on security regulations,
mail censorship, chemical warfare, conduct aboard a troopship
and drills were given on how to abandon a ship. Every soldier
was required to attend a daily first-aid class and to go on at
least one 10-mile hike. Documents indicate that pistols, rifles,
hand grenades, rifle grenades, and rocket launcher grenades (bazooka)
were all fired at the camp as troops did their last minute training
before being, shipped out to the Pacific. A list of Camp Stoneman
training facilities is below.
a. Abandon Ship Training Decks.
b. Bayonet Course.
c. Bivouac and Road March Areas.
d. Dry Land Ship.
e. Dry Range (rifle marksmanship).
f. Gas Chamber
g. Grenade (hand) Throwing Range.
h. Infiltration Course.
i. Known Distant Ranges:
(1) 1,000 inch range (machine
gun, carbine, sub-machine gun and pistol)--50 firing points.
(2) 100-200 yd. rifle range-- 100 firing points.
(3) 100-300 yd. rifle range-- 75 firing points.
j. Miniature Aerial. Target
22 Cal. Antiaircraft Range.
k. Mock Village.
l. Obstacle Courses.
m. Rifle Grenade Range.
n. Rocket Launcher Range.
o, Sanitation Display Area.
p. Training Film Library
At the conclusions of the Second World War and the Korean War,
Camp Stoneman was converted into a separation center, the function
of which was to ensure that returning soldiers could be sent
home as quickly as possible. After World War II, activity at
Camp Stoneman declined. The Korean War rekindled the base for
awhile, but in 1954 it was scheduled to be closed for good. It
took a large part of the town with it.
After the Korean War interlude,
however, rumors of the impending deactivation of the Army post
increased daily. Dismayed residents rallied in a "Save Stoneman"
campaign. Delegations were sent to Washington, D.C., in 1954
in an effort to get legislators and the Army to keep the post
in operation as a permanent installation. The Army had already
made its mind up to close the base. Camp Stoneman was officially
deactivated on 31 August 1954. The transfer and reassignment
station of Camp Stoneman would be moved to Fort Ord in July 1954.
The overseas replacement section also left Stoneman in August
1954 moving to new quarters at the Oakland Army Base.
In 1960, the biggest auction
in Pittsburg's history took place. The GSA sold 750 buildings
for pennies on the pound for removal from the camp. Included
in the sale to some 200 successful bidders were 342 two-story
barracks buildings, 79 one-story administration buildings, offices,
mess halls, officers clubs and infirmaries. All were gone by
the end of 1960. Warehouses, chapels, and other more solidly
constructed buildings were sold with the main garrison land,
which included 1,000 acres.
During the height of its
activities, Camp Stoneman employed 1,475 civilians and additional
military support personnel. It had been estimated the camp's
operation represented a $14,000,000 annual business to Bay Area
firms through the troop processing activities. After the facility
was declared surplus to the needs of the Department of Defense,
all property was disposed of. The final parcels of land were
not disposed of until 1962. Camp Stoneman was officially deactivated
on 31 August 1954. A "corporal's guard" of 10 officers
and 25 soldiers rendered the final salute to the colors at Camp
Stoneman on August 30, 1954, to complete transfer of the base
to inactive status.
The leased acres were
terminated prior to 29 May 1958 with no indication of restoration.
On 29 October 1954, fee acres were reported excess to General
Services Administration (GSA) and were conveyed to the Pittsburg
Unified School District by quitclaim deed on 20 January 1955.
Land used for a reserve center were conveyed to GSA on 15 May
1964 and later turned over to private individuals by quitclaim
deed. The remaining fee acres were sold to various individuals
and city and state agencies between 1959 and 1962
The main cantonment area of Camp Stoneman has been developed
extensively since its use by the Department of Defense. The area
now consists mainly of residential homes, light industry, office
buildings and Los Medanos College. The southern section of the
former Camp Stoneman Rifle Range has been converted into an 18-hole
public golf course. Other areas of the former rifle range have
been developed into Stoneman Park. The Camp Stoneman Wharf Facility
continues to function as a privately-owned warehouse facility
on the waterfront.
was uploaded 13 February 2012
Corps of Engineers
The Camp Stoneman site is located in Northern
California, in Contra Costa County, in the City of Pittsburg,
40 miles northeast of the city of San Francisco. The site was
used as a staging area and rifle range for troop training by
the United States Army, and was established as a Class I installation
(later used as a personnel replacement and reclassification depot).
The site was also used as a facility of the San Francisco Port
of Embarkation, known as the West Garrison Area of Camp Stoneman.
The site was also known as Camp Stoneman
Military Reservation; Camp Stoneman Military Reservation, Contra
Costa; Pittsburg Staging Area; Central Valley Project; Camp Stoneman,
Pittsburg; Rancho Los Medanos; Pittsburg Replacement Depot; Pittsburg
Replacement and Reclassification Depot; Camp Stoneman Replacement
& Reclassification Depot & Rifle Range; Camp Stoneman
West Garrison Rifle Range; Camp Stoneman Rifle Range; Camp Stoneman
U.S. Army Reserve Center; Camp Stoneman Military Reservation
Pittsburg; and West Garrison Rifle Range, Camp Stoneman, CA.
In 1942, the War Department acquired 1831.41
fee acres, 5.61 easement acres, 0.33 license acre, 0.03 permit
acre, and 1004.16 leased acres. The total acreage acquired was
2841.54. Of the fee acres, 17.07 were acquired from the City
of Pittsburg and 1814.34 were acquired from the private owners.
The easement acres were acquired from private owners. Of the
license acres, 0.28 was acquired from Contra Costa County, and
the remaining 0.05 was acquired from private owners. The 0.03
permit acre was acquired from the State of California, Division
of Highways. Of the lease acres, 897.01 were obtained from private
owners and the remaining 107.15 were acquired from the City of
The 1004.16 leased acres were terminated
prior to 29 May 1958 (no indication of restoration). On 29 October
1954, a total of 1.46 fee acres were reported excess to General
Services Administration (GSA), and were conveyed to the Pittsburg
Unified School District by quit claim deed on 20 January 1955.
A total of 8.94 fee acres (used for a reserve center) were conveyed
to GSA on 15 May 1964 and later turned over to private individuals
by quit claim deed. The remaining 1821.01 fee acres were sold
to various individuals and city and state agencies between 1959
and 1962. There is no information regarding restoration for the
Camp Stoneman Barracks,
June 1942 (National Archives)
Though the sound
of thousands of marching feet is but a memory today, not so very
long ago Camp Stoneman was the principal "jumping off point"
for more than one million American soldiers destined for military
operations in the Second World War's Pacific Theater, and again
several years later during the Korean War. Consisting of more
than 2,500 sprawling acres, Camp Stoneman sprang to life near
the town of Pittsburg in 1942 to act as the San Francisco Port
of Embarkation's primary troop staging center. The function of
the post was to receive and rapidly process troops for overseas
service by completing paperwork and -updating records, arranging
for last minute training, providing medical and dental care,
and issuing and servicing equipment.
Camp Stoneman, named after George
Stoneman, a Civil War cavalry commander and early Governor
of California, had a lifespan of only 12 years, being activated
on May 28, 1942, and decommissioned on August 30,1954. Most troops
staging at the post before transportation overseas arrived aboard
trains which steamed directly into the installation on spurs
from both the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific mainlines. Although
soldiers sometimes traveled to pier side at Fort Mason by truck
convoy, most often they traveled by water via the Army's small
ferry fleet. This fleet consisted of the former excursion boats
Catalina and Cabrillo and the one million-dollar ferry Yerba
Buena, which changed its name late in the war to the "Ernie
The day-to-day operation of Camp Stoneman
was a tremendous task. In addition to receiving, processing and
embarking thousands of troops each week, waiting soldiers were
housed and fed, medical and dental examinations and corrective
work conducted, clothing, equipment and records put in proper
order, final training provided, and numerous other odds and ends
taken care of. Delays and mistakes resulted in problems at embarkation
piers and overseas areas, so maximum attention was directed toward
ensuring everything was done right At Camp Stoneman, there was
no time for a second try.
Camp Stoneman consisted of more than 800
cream and khaki-colored buildings, capable of accommodating 20,000
troops at peak capacity. The average length of a stay for troops
bound overseas was one to two weeks. When soldiers returned at
the conclusion of World War 11 and the Korean Conflict, the average
person was cleared out in less than 48 hours. A number of conveniences
were maintained at the installation for use by the soldiers who
were often restricted to post during their entire stay. The camp
boasted three motion picture theaters, a ten-thousand seat outdoor
theater, weekly USO shows throughout much of World War II, eight
well-stocked branches of the Post Exchange, a huge service dub,
and much more. USO show entertainers included Hollywood stars
such as Groucho Marx, Garry Moore and Red Skelton. As specified
by Army Regulations, profits from Post Exchange sales (which
were considerable due so mammoth purchases by soldiers seeking
to "stock up before going overseas) were used to finance
projects for the enjoyment of the soldiers.
the Army Transport Ernie Pyle
In an effort to ensure that only physically
fit troops were sent for overseas duty everyone underwent complete
medical examinations upon arrival at Camp Stoneman. This included
a battery of inoculations to prevent diseases peculiar to Pacific
destinations. An array of 45 dentists chairs were kept busy on
an 18-hour schedule that saw many examinations conducted and
When the Second World War and the Korean
Conflict each drew to a close, Camp Stoneman switched gears to
become a separation center. Returning troopships were discharged
at Fort Mason where soldiers were greeted by entertainers, an
Army band, Red Cross volunteers passing out donuts, and coffee,
and relatives and friends. The soldiers were then loaded aboard
a ferry for the three-hour ride to Camp Stoneman.
Various "welcome home" signs
greeted them along the way. A sign proclaiming "Welcome
Home - Well Done" had been erected on Angel Wand, another
on the side of the C&H sugar refinery passed by ferries near
Crockett and yet another gracing the Southern Pacific Railroad
bridge between Martinez and Benicia. Upon reaching the decorated
Pittsburg docks, a "welcome home" private cabin cruiser
pulled along side ferries of returning hoops. The complement
of "wavers" aboard each boat included local high school
students, female GI's from Camp Stoneman, and other local civilians.
Camp Stoneman's primary mission had changed
to one ensuring that returning soldiers returned to their homes
as soon as possible. Although maximum use was made of the rail
transportation mode, some lucky soldiers were able to travel
home by air aboard C-47 transports from nearby McClellan Field.
Many soldiers residing on the West Coast reboarded transports
due to shortages of ground transportation. A big benefit of this
innovation was that it allowed many returnees to spend the Christmas
of 1945 with their families rather than awaiting transportation
at a military post
The largest telephone center in the world
was operated at Camp Stoneman in 1945, consisting of 75 phone
booths capable of handling 2,000 operator-assisted long distance
telephone calls each day. One of the first spots visited by soldiers
returning from overseas duty, telephone service was operated
on a 24-hour basis. A telegraph office was also located on base,
with the must frequent message being, "Arrived safely, be
Female soldiers at
Camp Stoneman, 1952
Although Camp Stoneman's lifetime was
relatively brief, it touched the lives of hundreds of thousands
of Americans and helped bring two wars to successful conclusion.
Nearly all the old buildings which once made up the post are
gone now, but the many men and women who operated it as a marvel
of modern efficiency can truly state, "Mission Accomplished."
Units at Camp Stoneman
World War II
23rd Army Air Forces Base Unit (AAF Command
Group, Non-Divisional Unit)