US Army Corps
of Engineers Los Angeles District History (1994)
On 12 August 1944, the Department of Agriculture
transferred, by means of a use permit, 12,390 acres of the Inyo
National Forest to the War Department for use as the Saline Valley
Air to Air Gunnery Range. On 28 September 1944, the Department
of the Interior transferred by means of a use permit, an additional
575,312.69 acres for the Range. This acreage includes 34,406
acres of the Death Valley National Monument. The War Department
acquired 3,080 acres in implied and secured leases. By 9 October
1944, an additional 217.31 acres were acquired by permit. Thus,
a total of 591,000 acres was acquired by lease, and permit for
the Saline Valley Air to Air Gunnery Range.
The site served as an aerial gunnery range, an auxiliary to Muroc
Army Air Field providing a remote area where air to air gunnery
practice could be carried out safely. Aerial gunners in B-24s
fired .50 caliber machine guns at target tow planes with sleeve
targets. The Army did not construct any improvements on the .gunnery
range, but public roads to the site were closed during use of
The Saline Valley Air to Air Gunnery Range
was declared surplus on 8 February 1946 and the War Department
left the site on 21 February 1946. The permit for 217.31 acres
was terminated on 28 February 1946. The 12,390 acres of the Inyo
National Forest, were retransferred to the Department of Agriculture
on 4 June 1947. The 575,312.69 acres, which included 34,406 acres
of the Death Valley National Monument, were retransferred to
the Department of the Interior on 24 July 1947. The implied and
secured leasehold interests in 3,080 acres were terminated on
various dates in late 1947. The Bureau of Land Management has
issued many mining claims in the past, but the area has been
inactive for many years. There are currently no permanent residents
in the Saline Valley. However, there are several campgrounds
and hot springs in the area that are accessed by marginally improved
dirt roads. The Bureau of Land Management is currently in the
process of designating a large portion of the site, now under
its jurisdiction, as a wilderness area. Furthermore, the entire
site may be part of an extended Death Valley National Park, pending
approval of the California Desert Protection Act.
US Army Corps
of Engineers Los Angeles District History (1993)
Location: The former site is located approximately 20
miles east of Independence, California between the eastern side
of the Inyo Mountains and Death Valley National Monument. The
site is accessed from U.S. 395 by the Big Pine - Death Valley
Road to Saline Valley Road.
Site History: The War Department acquired this 591,000
acre site by transfers from the Department of Agriculture and
the Department of Interior by leases and permits. Prior to War
Department acquisition, the area supported scattered lead, talc,
copper, tungsten, silver and gold mining operations. Small limited
agricultural operations were very limited and only suitable for
grazing livestock. Since the site was made an aerial gunnery
range, no improvements were made to the site.
This range, which served as an auxiliary to Muroc Army Air Field,
provided a remote area where aerial gunners could safely practice.
In mock attacks, B-24s would typically swoop down and their aerial
gunners would fire .50 caliber machine guns on target towplanes,
typically A-24s towing sleeve targets. The A-24s would fly straight
line tracks simulating military enemy aircraft, at an altitude
of 12,000 feet. The site was declared surplus on 8 February 1946.
The acreage transferred by the Department of Agriculture and
Interior was retransferred on 4 June and 24 July 1947, respectively.
The leasehold interests were terminated on various dates in late
1947. The permit for acreage was terminated on 28 February 1946.
Small portions of the former site are still part of the Inyo
National Forest and Death Valley National Monument. The majority
of the site is under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management.
A few primitive camp sites have been prepared on the Saline Valley
floor, various mining claims have been granted on BLM land. Roughly,
one-third of the site has recently been designated as a wilderness
area and vehicular access is limited.
The locations of .50 caliber machine gun shells and cartridges
were identified and confirmed by Mr. Steve Smith, Recreation/Wilderness
Staff Chief of the Bureau of Land Management, California Desert
District-Ridgecrest Resource Area. Most are concentrated on the
rugged highlands of the Saline Range, as indicated on the site
Map. Scattered shells have been found throughout wash areas on
the Saline Valley floor. various miners in the area remember
Army Air Force use of the site during World War II and have found
several hundred live and spent .50 caliber rounds since the war.
These rounds, however, are not easily found today because they
have been scavenged by the public.
Miners have also found .50 caliber rounds in the portion of site
which is part of Death Valley National Monument. The BLM has
not received any reports of injury or death resulting from detonation
of live .50 caliber ammunition found in the Saline Valley. In
addition to the ammunition, at least two aircraft crash sites
were confirmed by Mr. Smith. One is the remains of a B-24 which
crash landed in a dry lake bed in October 1944. After the war,
the wings and tail section of the bomber were cut up into sections
and salvaged, however, some debris of the bomber remains. In
1957, one of the .50 caliber machine guns was found by a camper
in the area. It was deeply rusted and the barrel bent from the
1,000 foot fall from the airplane. It is not known whether the
aircraft's other machine gun was found.
Department Inventory of Owned, Sponsored and Leased Facilities,
Saline Bombing Range
Mobilization (Quartermaster Corps 700-Series
or Corps of Engineers 800-Series):
Theater of Operations:
Cost to Government Since 1 July 1940:
acreage in the public domain.
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