Historic California Posts, Camps,
Stations and Airfields
Western Signal Corps School, Davis
(University of California College
Members of the U.S. Army's
Signal Corps took over classrooms at UC Davis from Jan. 1, 1943,
through October 1944. An estimated 1,800 specialists were trained
in radio operations and repair before undergoing team training
in their specialties with combat units. (Special Collections,
University of California Library, Davis)
From 1943-1944, in the midst of World
War II, the UC College of Agriculture at Davis (now the University
of California, Davis) was closed and converted to a training
facility for the Western Signal Corps School (WSCS). During the
fall of 1942 the U.S. Army negotiated with university President
Robert Sproul for the use of the Davis campus as a military training
school. On January 1, 1943 the entire Davis campus was officially
converted into a training facility for the WSCS.
Article: Yolo at war: Signal Corps Took Over At Davis Campus
(6 November 2013)
by Lauren Keene
For nearly two years during World War
II, the UC Davis campus assumed an alternative identity.
The transformation began in the fall of
1942. By then, the war had more than halved the population at
the campus then known as the University of California
School of Agriculture at Davis as both students and faculty
volunteered or were drafted for military service.
With the new selective service law
now amended to reach into the teenage group for military service
and with present registration falling as a result of the new
law, it is expected that classes will be so disrupted after the
first of the year as to make their continuation on the Davis
campus almost inadvisable, if not impossible, The Davis
Enterprise reported on November 27, 1942, in an article titled
Davis Campus May Become Army Camp.
President (Robert) Sproul, it was
said, is in Washington conferring with Army officials and a statement
of fact is expected to be issued upon his arrival home,
the article continued. Unconfirmed rumors are to the effect
the co-eds will be removed from the Davis campus to Berkeley
for their subjects and the entire campus then devoted to military
training. Only those engaged in important research
would be allowed to remain.
By December 31, it was official.
Signal Corps To Take Over Campus
Feb. 1; Combined With Kohler, The Enterprise reported on
January 1, 1943, referring to Camp
Kohler, the Signal Corps Replacement Center and briefly
a Japanese internment camp located east of Sacramento
in what is now known as Citrus Heights.
Called the Western Signal Corps School,
the Davis site became one of just three such training facilities
in the United States and the only one located out west, with
the others based in Fort Monmouth, N.J., and Camp Crowder, Mo.
Plans called for the Davis campus to be
used for training in specialist courses, primarily involving
radio communications. There also was a need for space to simulate
So probably land was very important,
said Ann Foley Scheuring, author of Abundant Harvest,
the definitive history of UC Davis. Soldier students had hundreds,
if not thousands, of acres of land available to them, in addition
to campus buildings.
Instruction began during the final week
of January 1943, The Enterprise reported, with a class
of approximately 100 students receiving instruction in low- and
high-speed radio operator courses.
Specialist instruction at the school
will be divided into radio and wire. Under radio will be radio
operators, both low- and high-speed, and radio repairmen, both
ground and air-borne equipment. Under the wire will be teletype
installer-repairmen and repeatermen.
They received their training in three
phases, starting with basic training at replacement training
centers like Camp Kohler. Those showing high aptitude and special
proficiency were selected for advanced training at specialized
schools such as the WSCS in Davis, where they are taught
such subjects as radio, telegraph operation, radio repair, etc.,
before undergoing team training in their specialties with combat
A sidebar article announced that the general
public would be excluded from campus effective Feb. 6, with all
entrances closed except for the First Street gateway, Davis police
Capt. William W. Wadman said. A sentry house was to be constructed
at that entrance, where visitors other than employees and soldiers
will be required to state their business before admission
The Signal Corps made full use of the
campus, taking charge of the administration, horticulture, dairy
industry, agriculture engineering, animal sciences and chemistry
buildings as well as Rec Hall and naming them after former chief
Signal Corps officers, The Enterprise reported on March 5, 1943.
Students lived in the dormitories, fraternity houses and even
occupied a downtown hotel.
New arrivals received a student guide
informing them of events such as weekly Saturday inspections
(Dont forget to wash your ears!), campus services
(including 45-cent haircuts at the barber shop and laundry service
for $1.50 per month) and free-time activities (15-cent movies
on campus or round-trip tickets from Davis to San Francisco for
Of particular importance was the campus
gym, because a lot of these guys had to be toughened up
for military action, Scheuring said.
Some of the remaining coaches including
Crip Toomey, Woody Wilson, Vern Hickey, Myron Schall and Herman
Montgomery apparently were happy to oblige, putting
in long days in the gym giving the SC personnel a real toughening-up
workout, according to an Aug. 30, 1943, write-up
in the California Aggie News.
The Davis campus still was home to scientific
research namely, early work on the chemistry of
uranium for what later would become the Manhattan Project,
the effort to create the first atomic bombs that led to the wars
end in the Pacific, Scheuring wrote in Abundant Harvest.
Research was led by Herbert A. Young,
then chairman of the chemistry department, who later transferred
to the national Manhattan Project headquarters in Oak Ridge,
By all accounts, the Davis community and
Signal Corps student soldiers lived in peaceful coexistence
except for, perhaps, the sounds of bugle calls coming from a
loudspeaker installed on the roof of the administration building
and pointed toward College Park.
The Enterprise ran a prominent article
about the calls on Feb. 26, 1943, informing its readers that
Bugle Calls Come From Recordings.
According to the newspaper, the calls
starting with First Call at 5:45 a.m. and ending with
Taps at 11 p.m. were not from a live instrument, but a
phonograph record with reproducers attached to the recording
located in the Administration building. The loudspeaker
emitted 20 different calls throughout the day, all of which were
expected to be memorized by the student soldiers.
While bugle sounds were not necessarily
new to the city, given prior ROTC training at Davis, its
clarion tones at the wee small hours of the morning or at Taps
time are something unusual, The Enterprise reported.
The article continued: However,
it is expected everyone will become accustomed to it as they
are to train whistles, auto horns noonday, fire sirens and many
other noises. To those who find the bugle calls a continuing
annoyance the admonition given to the lady who complained in
Florida, some while ago, is good advice and makes the burden
According to that tale, the Florida woman,
after writing a letter of complaint to her local newspaper that
bugle calls from a nearby military camp were disturbing her sleep,
received a swift response from an officer who suggested
to the lady that instead of complaining she get down on her knees
every day and thank God the soldiers were there and that they
were American soldiers.
The Signal Corps occupied the Davis campus
for just under two years, shutting down for good in October 1944
after training an an estimated 1,800 men for active duty, according
to Scheurings Abundant Harvest. A farewell
dinner was held Sept. 2, 1944, with attendees given an Italian-themed
dinner menu that featured this inscription:
The seconds gripe and even buck,
And think the firsts have all the luck,
The trolley tracks the firsts
A golden leaf is the captains
A gleam of silver makes the heart of
any major quicken,
The next guy on the list has passion
only for a chicken,
Take them in any order, chickens, gold
and silver leaves or bar,
Its only human nature for each
one to want a star
Its only human nature too that
were the best of friends,
And our life is no different
all good things must end,
But let us harbor no regrets
or pain nor any sorrow,
Lets drink a toast to happiness
on a peaceful, bright tomorrow.
It must have been a pleasant training
place for a lot of the soldiers, Scheuring surmised, noting
the Davis campus tranquil, semi-rural surroundings, with
animals on site and nearby cities to visit. It wasnt
a bad assignment.
Data Card - Post, Camp, Station or Air Field
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