Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Desert Center Army Air Field
Desert Center AAF, 1 May 1943
Located one mile northeast of the town of Desert Center, this airfield is now the town's local airport. During the days of California-Arizona Maneuver Area (CAMA) it was a sub-base of San Bernardino Army Air Field and served several installations in the area including Camp Young, CAMA headquarters. To reach the airfield, proceed northeast out of Desert Center on California Highway 177 about five miles to an orchard on the right. Just past the orchard is a road to the southeast. Take that road to the airfield. There are numerous World War II foundations and several post-war buildings at the old airfield.
Source: World War II Sites in the United States: A Tour Guide and Directory by Richard E. Osbourne
Desert Center Army Air Field (AAF) was built in the early 1940s was a subbase of Thermal Army Air Field and served as a support base for the Air Technical Service Command. The airfield was located within the Desert Center Division Camp,which encompassed over 34,000 acres (140 km2). Desert Center was one of the areas included in the California Arizona Maneuver Area, used during 1942-44 to train General Patton's armored forces for desert combat prior to it deploying to North Africa.
Desert Center AAF was first known as the Desert Center Airdrome. According to a history of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Airdrome Detachments, a detachment of the 475th Base Headquarters & Air Base Squadron was the first administrative unit stationed at Desert Center, arriving in 15 January 1943. It was described as having 5,500' runways. The field also had taxiways & a parking apron. More than 40 buildings were constructed at the airfield, including an operations building, power house, Link Trainer building, hangar and various supply buildings. The 74th Reconnaissance Group was the first flying unit at the field, arriving in December 1942 while the facility was under construction. It was variously equipped with O-52s, L-1s, L-4s, B-25s, P-39s and P-40s and trained to provide air support and reconnaissance to the Army ground forces training at the desert combat training facility.
Desert Center AAF was officially opened in April 1943. The 3d Airdrome Detachment was activated on 1 August to maintain the installation and assist in the administration and training of tactical organizations stationed at the airfield for training and maneuvers.
The 1 May 1943 edition of the Army of the United States Station List shows the following Army Air Forces units were present at the airfield:
When the training area closed in 1944, the airfield was assigned to the Fourth Air Force, and operational activities decreased greatly. The airfield remained open, however, and was used by B-24 Liberator crews flying training missions from March Field.
In 1946, following the end of World War II, the airfield was turned over to the Army Corps of Engineers, and the buildings were auctioned off to the public.
Base Map
Extract, December 1945 Airfield Directory

Extract, War Department Inventory of Owned, Sponsored and Leased Facilities, December 1945


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Updated 8 March 2016