Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Western Remount Area Reception and Training Center
(San Carlos War Dog Training Center)

US Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District History (1992)

Location: The site is located 2.5 miles west of San Carlos, in San Mateo County, California.

Site History: The 177.95 lease acre site was established between 15 October 1942 and 7 November 1942 and was known as the Western Remount Area Reception and Training Center.

The site was used by the Army as a dog training center. The improvements to the site are not known.

On 01 November 1944, 177.95 lease acres were declared excess. The site currently consists of single and multi-family homes, roads, parks, and utilities. The area has been densely developed with homes since the early to mid-1950s.

San Mateo Daily Journal Article: San Carlos Went To The Dogs For World War II (28 February 2005) by Joan Levy, Daily Journal Correspondent

One of the five War Dog training camps run by the Army Quartermaster Corps during World War II was right here in San Carlos. The dogs were to be used as scouts, sentries, sled and pack dogs, messengers and mine detection dogs.

At first more than 30 breeds were accepted, but after some experience with the training, the selection became limited to German Shepherds, Belgian Sheep dogs, Doberman Pinschers, farm Collies and Giant Schnauzers. Between 1942 and 1945, over 20,000 dogs were recruited nationwide, but only about 50 percent of those were trained.

The first training camp was established in Virginia in 1942. Camps were then opened at other locations. Col F. W. Koester surveyed the Bay Area for a likely spot, and found the old H & H Ranch, two and a half miles west of San Carlos.

Construction began in October and was completed by December of 1942. This was the only center built exclusively for dog training. Originally the men were billeted in the San Carlos Fire Station House until the construction at the camp was completed. The old Devonshire Country Club was acquired by the city and made available as a service club for camp personnel.

The first shipment of men and dogs arrived in December. The training time ran from eight to 12 weeks. According to military routine, basic training consisted of fundamental obedience skills, such as sit, stay, come, etc. In addition, the dogs were made accustomed to gunfire, riding in military vehicles and wearing gas masks.

Advanced training was specific to the task assigned. The largest demand was for dogs trained for sentry duty. These dogs were worked on a short leash and were taught to give warning on the approach of strangers.

The center at San Carlos was used to train all types of skill categories except sled dogs. This omission may have been due to our noticeable lack of snow. It was also used as a staging area for all dogs being deployed to Asia and the Pacific.

When the Germans began using non-metallic mine devices, it nullified the effect of the mine detection dogs. Training techniques were developed at San Carlos for adapting to the newer type mines.

San Carlos also became a lead installation for training of tactical dogs. These dogs were to be used in the battlefield as silent scouts or messengers.

The watershed land of the San Francisco Water Company and other privately owned open spaces in the county were used for field training.

San Carlos held a maximum of 550 military people, 15 civilians and 1,200 dogs at a time. Over the duration of the war, 4,500 dogs and 2,500 men passed through. Although the Army trained the animals in what became called the K-9 Corps, the dogs were deployed to all branches of the service. Of the 10,425 dogs trained nationwide, only 1,894 saw action overseas.

Many of the others were turned over to the Coast Guard for beach patrol here in the United States.

The San Carlos operation closed in October of 1944. After the war, the dogs were sent for retraining before being returned to their civilian owners. The official view is of patriotic families receiving their furry war heroes home, but certainly not all of the cases ended that happily.

Wikipedia History

During World War II, not long after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the American Kennel Club and a new group calling itself "Dogs for Defense" mobilized dog owners across the country to donate quality animals to the Quartermaster Corps. Dogs donated by a patriotic public to the Army saved the lives of a number of soldiers in combat.

In October 1942, the US Army and “Dogs for Defense” came to San Carlos. The 178 acre site, at the top of today’s Club and Crestview Drives, which was locally known as the H and H Ranch, was selected to become the US Army War Dog Reception and Training Center (also known as Western Remount Area Reception and Training Center). It was established between 15 October 1942 and 7 November 1942.

The first enlisted men for the army post were temporarily housed in the San Carlos Fire Station (located on Laurel Street between San Carlos Ave. and Holly St.) from December 15 to December 28, 1942. Each dog handler was given four dogs to train, and at the end of the course, the trainer selected the best one and shipped out. Dogs were trained for sentry, attack, scout, and messenger roles, and later to detect mines. 1,200 dogs could be accommodated at any one time.

The first army dog platoon to go overseas in the Pacific was the 25th Quartermaster Corps War Dog Platoon, under the command of 1st Lt. Bruce D. Walker. When they left San Carlos, on May 11, 1944, none of the handlers knew what their final destination would be. They left via San Francisco aboard the Liberty Ship SS John Isaacson for assignments in the Pacific Theatre.

The facility closed in October 1944, with approximately 4,500 dogs going through the facility during the war.

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Updated 8 February 2016