The property was comprised of parts of five Mexican land grants: Casmalia, Guadalupe, Mission de la Purisíma, Ranchos Lompoc, and Todo Santos y San Antonio. A sixth grant, Jesus Maria (42 acres), was transferred virtually intact to the Army. With its flat plateau, surrounding hills, numerous nearby canyons, and relative remoteness from populated areas, the Army was convinced that it had found the ideal training location. Construction of the Army camp began in September 1941. Although its completion was still months away, the installation was activated on October 5, and named Camp Cooke in honor of Major General Philip St. George Cooke.
General Cooke was a cavalry officer whose military career spanned almost half a century, beginning with his graduation from West Point in 1827 to his retirement in 1873. He participated in the Mexican War, the Indian Wars, and the Civil War. A native of Virginia, General Cooke remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War. Perhaps his most enduring achievement came when as a colonel during the Mexican War, he led a battalion of Mormons from Missouri to California. The route led by Colonel Cooke in 1847 opened the first wagon route to California, and today the railroad follows much of the early wagon trails.
Almost the entire Central Coast including all the area acquired for Camp Cooke had been home to aboriginal Chumash Indians, but their influence gradually declined in the 19th century. After the overthrow of Spanish rule in 1821, the Mexican government, seeking to protect its empty frontiers through colonization, rewarded its army veterans and their descendants with grants of land. In the years that followed, Anglo ranchers replaced many of the Mexicans as holders of the grants through purchase, intermarriage, or outright chicanery. In the 1850s, Lewis T. Burton began purchasing land north of Santa Barbara and in 1853 became the owner of Rancho Jesus Maria. Since much of the ranch was located on a mesa, the mesa became known as Burton Mesa. By the turn of the century, ownership of Rancho Jesus Maria had transferred to Edwin Jessop Marshall. A wealthy businessman, Marshall added the land to his ranch empire that included holdings in California, Arizona, and Mexico.
Although the construction of Camp Cooke continued well into 1942, troop training did not wait. The 5th Armored Division rolled into camp in February and March, and the steady roar of its tanks and artillery soon became part of the daily scene. From then until the end of the war, other armored and infantry divisions kept up the din before they too left for overseas duty.
Besides the 5th Division, the 6th, 11th, 13th, and 20th Armored Divisions as well as the 86th and 97th Infantry Divisions, and the 2d Filipino Infantry Regiment were all stationed at Cooke at varying times during the war. Also trained at Cooke were an assortment of anti-aircraft artillery, combat engineer, ordnance, and hospital units. Over 400 separate and distinct outfits passed through Camp Cooke.
As the war progressed, German and Italian prisoners of war (the latter organized into Service Units [ISUs]) were quartered at Camp Cooke. Both groups were kept separate from each other in accordance with the Geneva Convention, and worked on the post at various jobs including mechanical and civil engineering services, clerical positions, food service, and the main laundry. To help relieve the severe labor shortage in the commercial market created by wartime exigencies, the German were also put to work in local communities. They worked mostly in agricultural jobs.
A maximum security army disciplinary barracks was constructed on post property in 1946. Confined to the facility were recalcitrant military prisoners from throughout the Army. When Camp Cooke closed in June 1946, personnel at the disciplinary barracks received the additional duty as installation caretakers. Practically the entire camp was then leased for agriculture and grazing.
From August 1950 to February 1953, Camp Cooke was used as a training installation for units slated for combat in Korea, and as a summer training base for many other reserve units. It was during this period that the 40th Infantry Division of the California National Guard mobilized at Camp Cooke and deployed to Japan and later Korea. On February 1, 1953, the camp was again inactivated. Four years later the military would return to Camp Cooke, but this time the Air Force was here to stay.
The disciplinary barracks, meanwhile, was transferred to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to house civilian offenders in August 1959. Today it is known as the United States Penitentiary at Lompoc.
In September of 2000, veterans of the 40th Infantry Division gather an Vandeberg Air Force Base to Dedicate it Korean War Memorial.
In June of 2001, the final remnants of Camp Cooke, including some barracks used by the 40th Infantry Division during its mobilization for the Korean War, were torn down.
With the advent of the missile age in the 1950s, the Air Force recommended transfer of Camp Cooke from the Army for use as a missile training base. Its remote location and proximity to the coast offered a perfect setting for safely launching intermediate range ballistic missiles and intercontinental ballistic missiles (IRBMs/ICBMs) to targets in the Pacific Ocean. These same geographic features were also ideal for launching satellites into polar orbit without overflight of populated land masses during missile liftoff.
In November 1956, Secretary of Defense, Charles E. Wilson, directed the transfer of 64,000 acres of North Camp Cooke to the Air Force; two months later the first Air Force unit, the 6591st Support Squadron, was established at Cooke.
By the time the Air Force began ground breaking for the future missile base in May 1957, it had already activated at Cooke the 392d Air Base Group and simultaneously inactivated the 6591st Support Squadron on April 15, 1957. With the activation of the 704th Strategic Missile Wing (Atlas) at Cooke on 1 July, the 392d was assigned to the wing. In mid-July, the 1st Missile Division relocated from Los Angeles to Cooke AFB to supervise wing operations.
The buildup of men and equipment during this time was matched by a significant increase in the number of buildings going up on base. Missile facilities and launch complexes also appeared as tons of concrete and steel gradually transformed the landscape.
Meanwhile, in October 1957 Russia had launched its Sputnik satellite into orbit. The United States Air Force responded to Russian success by accelerating the development of its missile program. It also transferred management responsibilities for Cooke AFB from Air Research and Development Command (ARDC)to the Strategic Air Command (SAC) on January 1, 1958.
Along with the transfer, SAC acquired the three ARDC base organizations and responsibility for attaining initial operational capability (IOC) for the burgeoning U.S. missile force. The command was also directed to conduct training for missile launch crews.
Site activation, and research and development testing of ballistic missiles remained with ARDC. Space launches were to be conducted jointly by both commands. Although the mission at Cooke was now divided between ARDC and SAC, the two commands cultivated a close relationship that was to flourish for the next 35 years.
On October 4, 1958, Cooke AFB was renamed Vandenberg AFB in honor of the late General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, the Air Force's second Chief of Staff.
Renamed Air Force Systems Command (AFSC) on 1 April 1961 and redesignated Air Force Materiel Command after AFSC's merger with Air Force Logistics Command on 1 July 1992.
The first missile launch from Vandenberg AFB was a Thor IRBM on December 16, 1958. Two months later on February 28, 1959, the world's first polar orbiting satellite, Discoverer I, lifted into space from a Thor/Agena booster combination. The Atlas made its debut West Coast flight on September 9. The following month, equipped with a nuclear warhead, Vandenberg became the site of the first ICBM to be placed on alert in the United States.
In 1961, the Titan I entered the inventory at Vandenberg AFB, but a more advanced version with storable propellants, all inertial guidance, and in-silo launch capability--the Titan II--was already in the process of development. More importantly, the solid-propellant, three-stage Minuteman ICBM was under development and began flight tests at Vandenberg in September 1962.
In subsequent years, other launch vehicles followed including the Peacekeeper (MX) ICBM beginning in June 1983, the Titan IV space booster in March 1991, the air-launched Pegasus booster in April 1995, and most recently the Delta II commercial space booster in February 1996. By April 1996, 1,721 orbital and ballistic missiles had lifted off from Vandenberg AFB.
In addition, Vandeberg AFB was the sight of the Air Force's Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) and the Space Shuttle programs. Construction work for MOL began at Space Launch Complex 6 (SLC-6) in March 1966. Three years later, in June 1969, the project was canceled, the victim of cost overruns, completion delays, and emerging new technologies.
After nearly a decade of abandonment, SLC-6 was reactivated and underwent an estimated $4 billion modification program in preparation for the Space Shuttle, beginning in January 1979. Persistent site technical problems, however, and a joint decision by the Air Force and NASA to consolidate Shuttle operations at Cape Canaveral in Florida, following the Challenger tragedy in 1986, resulted in the official termination of the Shuttle program at Vandenberg on December 26, 1989. Today, SLC-6 is used by commercial space launch firms.
For more information concerning the history of Vandenber AFB, CLICK HERE
Army Triangular Division Camp, XXXVI Corps.
Named in honor of General Philip St. George Cooke, a Cavalry officer,
explorer and historian who brought the Mormon Battalion to California
to assist in its conquest by the United States.
Early in 1941 the Army began the development
of Camp Cooke as a tank-training base. This remote area is now
known as Vandenberg Air Force Base. The development of this camp
is thoroughly described in A History of Camp Cooke, 1941 to 1946
by Sgt. W.W. Purkiss, written during the war and located in the
National Archives, San Bruno, California. The following excerpts
from the book describe better than any the opening of this huge
camp eight months before the outbreak of war.
In keeping with the new trend in warfare,
more and more emphasis was placed on the development of armored
forces. New and better training centers for our 'blitz buggies'
were sought. Military leaders, looking over the country for suitable
sites, happened upon the Lompoc-Guadalupe-Santa Maria triangle.
Here terrain, ocean and climate conspired to produce a country
ideally suited for armored forces. In March 1941, the announcement
was made that a military reservation was contemplated in this
area. The idea of Camp Cooke was born.
The first job was to determine the suitability
of the area for military uses. The War Department took options
on most of the land needed. On May 9, 1941, the preliminary survey
to determine the quality of the terrain was begun. The firm of
Leeds, Hill, Barnard and Jowett was awarded the contract. Captain
C. W. Secord, Construction Quartermaster, represented the military
in this pre-spade work.
By June, the War Department had definitely
decided that work was to go ahead. The appropriations for this
and several other camps were asked for in Congress on June 5,
1941. Since the passage of the bill was a foregone conclusion,
bids for the construction were taken from several contractors.
The money for the construction was assured when President Roosevelt
signed a $7,596,948,000 supplementary defense appropriation bill
on the 25th of August. Almost simultaneously the construction
contract was awarded to the firm of McDonald and Kahn Co. and
J. F. Shea Co. of San Francisco. Their bid of $17,382,670 was
the lowest offered. The Leeds, Hill firm was retained as surveying
outfit to supervise the construction of the camp.
In the meantime the War Department started
buying the land already optioned. When they were finished, they
had purchased 122 tracts totaling 92,000 acres. The size of these
tracts ranged all the way from the microscopic to the mammoth,
from the L. C. Sanor tract amounting to .009 acre (just a few
buckets of dirt!) to the Jesus Maria Rancho of 40,930 acres (about
1,000 times the size of Pa's back forty').
The Jesus Maria Rancho had a long and rich
tradition dating back to the grant of land given to a loyal subject
of the King of Spain. It was one of the last strongholds of Old
For many years before its purchase by the
War Department, the J. R. Marshall family had owned it. The area
was used largely for grazing, hunting, a few crops (there used
to be a field of oats in the present warehouse area) - and dude
ranching. 'Marshallia,' now used for officers' homes, was a popular
dude ranch before the war.
Another large tract of land was that of
James B. Rogers, son of Will Rogers. (Chapel 5, on Montana near
California, was originally known as Rogers Chapel, in honor of
the great American gum-chewing-humorist-philosopher.)
Many of the extremely small tracts were
bought in order to secure the right-of-way on the south side of
the Santa Ynez River. Another interesting and important purchase
was the town of Surf. It was bought from the State of California
at a tax delinquent 'fire sale.' Condemnation proceedings were
brought against the owners of 5,000 acres in order to secure their
So take 122 pieces of land (Appendix xvii.),
fit them together in a huge jigsaw puzzle covering 92,000 acres
and you have the Camp Cooke Military Reservation.
On the 11th of September there was a public
dedication ceremony for the Camp.
When one looks over the completed Camp Cooke
today, he is likely to say casually, 'Big, isn't it? Must have
been quite a building project.' But the deeper one goes into the
story of its building, the more one becomes impressed by the fact
that the building of Camp Cooke was another one of these engineering
'impossibles' that the American people were compelled to achieve
in their grim struggle for survival. Truly here was a great achievement
in the face of enormous difficulties.
At first, it was 'dust, dust, dust!' fleets
of caterpillar tractors swung into action clearing away underbrush
and leveling the ground. The fall of 1941 was characterized by
some of he strongest winds on record. After a long, dry summer
the earth was powder dry. Mix with these the ceaseless plowing
of the powerful 'cats' and you have dust storms which are first
cousins to those which made a desert of our Midwest dust bowl.
Howard Cash, who came with a surveying party,
tells of the weird experience of sitting in his truck with dust
swirling so thickly around it that he couldn't see beyond the
windshield, listening to the 'cats' plowing by on all sides. One
tractor driver left his vehicle at noon when he came off shift;
the worker following him wasn't able to find the tractor. The
'cat' was not found till the next morning!
Later it was ' mud, mud, mud!' With the
coming of the rainy season, new problems developed. The hard pan
of Camp Cooke terrain is very uneven. The spots where the hard
pan falls off were filled with soft earth, which gave a deceptively
In the rainy season, these 'potholes' gathered
most of the water and the earth took on a glue-like consistency.
When anything heavy passed over, it sank as though in quicksand.
(Ranchers before the war lost many cattle in these 'potholes.')
The contractors lost their huge tractors. Chester Garrison, of
the post engineers, tells of several tractor drivers who had to
spring to safety as their tractors slowly sank out of sight in
This created one of the major problems,
which had to be solved before the Camp itself could be built.
Not only had the ground to be leveled, but also it was necessary
to build up a firm base for buildings and motor parks.
It took sweating, digging, hauling (and
cussing) to do the job. Thousands of tons of shale rock were dug
out of the countryside, at the many shale pits. (There is an old
shale pit on the side of the back road to Lompoc, at the foot
of the big hill.) Fleets of trucks hauled the shale from dawn
to dusk. Gradually areas were made ready for building operations.
Many of the motor pools on the right side of New Mexico (the road
to Surf) have eight to ten feet of shale rock for bases.
By early October an army of construction
workers swarmed over the Burton Mesa and buildings sprang up like
mushrooms. At the peak of activity, there were over 4,000 construction
workers on the job. They lived anywhere and everywhere: there
was a large 'tent city' near the main gate: trailer camps were
scattered here and there: many commuted between camp and Lompoc,
or Santa Maria, or anywhere one could toss his hat.
Rain or shine, dust or fog, hell or high
water, the work went ahead. Weather at its worst (of course, the
weather is NEVER very bad in California - California Chamber of
Commerce) did nothing more than delay work momentarily. By October
28, the project was announced as 12 per cent complete.
In early October the first contingent of
the military moved in. The SCU in Camp Cooke was activated October
5, 1941. (It was then known as the CASC, Corps Area Service Command.)
The advance party was a group of 11 enlisted men (all NCO's) and
one officer, Captain Roswald Smith. This was a signal construction
They set up camp in 'Blue Gum Terrace' in
a group of blue-gum eucalyptus trees opposite the intersection
of Wyoming and Ocean View (area 14) several hundred yards west
of the road. Here then was the SCU's first camp headquarters.
Until early November, the staff of headquarters occupied offices
in the Chamber of Commerce building in Santa Maria. The Corps
Area Engineers had their offices in the Rubel Building in Santa
At Blue Gum they lived the rugged life,
bunking in tents, sans hot or cold running water, sans central
heating, sans shower bath - but with plenty of cross-ventilation,
a nice fresh breeze off the Pacific! The PX set up shop in a small
shack called the 'Officer's Club.' There was a combination frame
and tent Mess Hall. Cooking was done on an open field range. Mixed
with the food were liberal portions of sand.
All the available water had to be trucked
from Lompoc. Hot water for shaving was heated over the open fire.
Baths were something out of this world. Passes were issued so
the men could go to neighboring towns to take baths. Incidentally
the men found a perfect alibi for overstaying passes. During one
of Camp Cooke's infrequent fogs (??!) it would be almost impossible
to find one's way back to the area.
Landmarks were constantly shifting with the rapid advance of Camp construction. A bewildering number of paths crisscrossed over the fields. Very confusing! But very convenient for the boy hard-put to explain a few hours of AWOL.
None of the original contingent remains
at Camp Cooke, although many will remember Major Peterson, CWO
Breton, and M/Sgt Moriarty who left here recently. These three
came to Camp Cooke during the first few weeks of its life.
On October 15, 1941, Lieutenant Colonel
John B. Madden assumed the duties of commanding officer. On November
20, the first flag-raising ceremony was held in Camp Cooke, with
a eucalyptus tree serving as flagpole. In November Colonel Madden
moved into the half-completed Headquarters building with his staff.
The Corps Area Engineers, under Colonel Bres, moved into the building,
which now houses Civilian and Military Personnel. In December
the enlisted men regretfully (?) left their well ventilated home
in Blue Gum Terrace and moved into barracks in area 9. By then
the detachment had grown to 80 men.
Incidentally the first building completed
in Camp Cooke was the present Supply Building, then occupied by
building contractors. The present B&B Studio was then a first
aid shack for construction workers.
In November, building went on apace
if the date was known ahead of time by Washington, every effort
was made to be ready by the end of 1941, for war!
In early January 1942, the second of Camp
Cooke's four commanding officers, Lieutenant Colonel Carle H.
Belt, assumed the duties of post commander (promoted to full colonel
The water treatment and filtration plant
was completed on March 21, 1942. A saltwater barrier was also
built in the Santa Ynez River to protect the water supply. The
water supply had to support a peak population of 38,000, quite
a sizable city for the 1940s.
The sewage plant was placed in operation
on February 9, 1942.
Most of the roads to the camp either had
to be built from scratch or rebuilt to handle the heavy weight
and volume of traffic in and out of the camp. Rail spurs had to
be built from the Southern Pacific tracks at the coast into the
warehouse area. The spurs were completed in February 1942.
At this time the part of the camp along
California Avenue was completed plus the station hospital and
Area 13. A total of $17 million was spent on this first half.
An additional $2.4 million was spent on roads. Government funds
were also provided to construct USO facilities in Lompoc and Santa
Maria. Santa Maria opened in March 1, 1942 and Lompoc on August
Test ranges were laid out from one end of
the base to another. 90-mm anti-aircraft, 105-mm artillery, Sherman
Tank, bazooka, machine gun, rifle and pistol ranges and remote
target ranges. Urban villages were set up for realistic door-to-door
In August 1942, construction of the second
part of the camp began in Areas 14,15,16 and 17, at a cost of
$15 million and doubling the housing capacity of the camp. Work
was completed in March 1943.
The camp was organized and managed by the
1908 Service Command Unit of the 9th Service Command, Fort Douglas,
Utah. The commanding general was Major General David McCoach Jr.
The Camp newspaper was called The Clarion, which began in 1942.
Camp Cooke was ready to swing into full-scale
production of the world's best soldiers.
The camp's primary training function was
for armored tank divisions. The first such division to arrive
was the 5th Armored Division, with its Sherman Tanks, which arrived
in February 1942 and left in March 1943. Six months were spent
in training on Camp Cooke's Burton Mesa and three at the southern
California Desert Training Center.
The 5th (Victory) Infantry Division was
activated October 1, 1942 at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Its commander
was Major General Jack W. Heard. Upon departing Camp Cooke in
February 1943, the command was transferred to Major General Lunsford
E. Oliver. The Division reached France in August 1944. Fighting
across France for the month the division reached the Our River
and entered Germany on September 11. In November the 5th Armored
Division along with the 90th Infantry Division crossed the Moselle
River. The Division fought through Germany and by V-E Day, it
was the one closest to Berlin.
The second division to arrive at Camp Cooke
was the 6th Armored Division, with its Sherman Tanks, called "Super-Sixth".
The Sixth was activated at Fort Knox, KY. on February 15, 1942.
They arrived at Camp Cooke in February and March of 1943 after
five months at the Desert Training Center. The division trained
at Camp Cook for a year and left for England in January and February
1944 where they took part in the Normandy invasion of France.
They landed on Omaha Beach in July 1944. They took part in the
fighting in France and then rushed to relieve the 101st Airborne
Division at the Battle of the Bulge with the Third Army. After
23 days of fighting the German army withdrew on January 26, 1945.
Bastogne was secured. During 1945, the Sixth along with the Fourth
Armored Divisions crossed the Kyle and Moselle Rivers and overran
Kassel, Weimar, Jena and Gotha. At the end of the war the division
was pulled back to Weimar and then returned to the States and
The commanding General of the Sixth from
February 1942 to May 1943 was Major General William H. H. Morris.
Major General Robert W. Grow replaced him and commanded the Division
In May 1944 the 11th Armored Division, with
its Sherman Tanks, began training at Camp Cooke. It was called
"The Thunderbolt Division". It was the first to use
the portable flamethrowers.
In October the 97th Infantry Division known
as "The Trident Division" arrived at Camp Cooke. Its
commander was Brigadier General M. B. Halsey. The 97th was originally
organized during World War I at Camp Cody, N.M. in September 1918.
The 97th left early in 1945.
November 23, 1944 saw the arrival of the
86th (Black Hawk) Infantry Division. Long caravans of Army Vehicles
transported them from Camp San Luis. Their commander was Major
General Harris M. Melasky.
The 13th and 20th Armored Divisions began
to arrive in August of 1945.
In April 1944, Camp Cooke was designated
a camp for German Prisoners of War. Construction of a separate
fenced camp was begun in the Northeastern area of the camp. The
first group of 587 prisoners arrived on June 16, 1944. For the
week the guard duty for this group was handled by the Camp's Military
Police Detachment. On June 26, 1944, the Prisoner of War Guard
Detachment of Camp Cooke was activated by General Order 144, Headquarters,
and 9th Service Command. In general, the ration of guards to POWs
was 1 to 15.
Under Camp Cooke were organized 16 branch
camps that placed prisoners up to 200 miles away, where they were
needed to help plant crops and harvest them as well as do road
work. They replaced the men who were fighting in Europe and the
Pacific. The number of prisoners varied but reached a peak of
8,700 in January 1946.
Under the Geneva Convention for Prisoners
of War, the prisoners had to be housed and fed in equivalent conditions
as their captors. Prisoners could not be used for defense-associated
In Camp Cooke, the prisoners worked as labor
battalions, clean-up details, and kitchen police. In all camps
they were paid 80 cents per day for which they received camp script
with which to purchase incidental items at the camp PX. The work
of the prisoners helped pay the cost of housing the prisoners
and helped the farm community with their labor shortages.
The prisoner host camps and the branch camps
were closed in June 1946 and the prisoners turned over to the
European armies who put them to work in their countries until
their troops could return from war duties. Some prisoners did
not return to their countries until the early 1950s.
The 11th "Thunderbolt Division"
was activated on August 15, 1942 at Camp Polk, La. It was stationed
also at Camp Barkeley, Texas and then went through intensive desert
training in the Desert Training Center before coming to Cooke.
After leaving Camp Cooke in September 1944,
the 11th Armored Division landed on the Normandy beaches in December
and plunged directly into the "Battle of the Bulge."
In January 1945, the division teamed with the 6th Armored Division
and fought through Belgium, France and Luxembourg. It then joined
the 4th Armored Division and entered Germany. By March it crossed
the Rhine River and took Leipzig. The division ended its campaign
at Linz Austria on the Danube River where it remained until returned
to the U.S. and deactivated in December 1945.
The Division was commanded by three generals
during its lifetime: Major General Edward H. Brooks, August 1942
to March 1944; Brigadier General Charles S. Kilburn, March 1944
to March 1945; and Major General Holmes E. Dager, March 1945 to
the end of the war.
The 86th Infantry Division was reactivated
for use in December 1942. It received most of its training in
other camps. Camp Cooke was used as an assembly point and outfitting
center just prior to its going overseas. The division went to
the European Theater of Operation in February 1945. The division
had two commanders: Major General Alexander E. Anderson, from
September to December 1942; Major General Harris M. Melasky from
January 1943 to the end of the war.
The 86th saw 42 days of combat duty in Europe.
It fought its way across Germany and reached Perwang, Austria
by the end of the war. It was the first to be redeployed after
the war with occupation duties in the Pacific and finally ending
up in the Philippines.
The 97th Infantry Division was activated
at Camp Swift, Texas in February 1943 and assigned to the Third
Army. The Division came to Camp Cooke by way of four other camps
where it received most of its training. It arrived at Camp Cooke
on November 1, 1944 and left for Europe in February 1945.
The division had two commanding generals:
Brigadier General Louis A Craig, February 4 to December 31, 1943;
Brigadier General Milton B. Halsey, January 1, 1944 to the end
of the war.
When the 97th reached Germany, it went into
action to eliminate the Ruhr Pocket opposite the town of Dusseldorf.
It crossed the Rhine River on April 3, 1945. It fought its way
across Germany and met up with the Russian Army near Luditz, Czechoslovakia.
The 97th was returned to the U.S. following
the 86th and was redeployed to occupation duties on Honshu, Japan.
V-E Day came on May 6, 1945 and V-J Day
was proclaimed on September 2, 1945.
The 13th Armored Division (Black Cat) was
redeployed from Europe to Camp Cooke in September 1945 to prepare
it for combat in the invasion of Japan. It's tanks and equipment
were sent ahead while the Division took 60 days leave. In the
meantime, the Japanese surrendered and the 13th was inactivated
in November 1945. Prior to this visit, the 13th had never been
at Camp Cooke.
The 20th Armored Division was redeployed
from Europe to Camp Cooke in September 1945 to prepare it for
combat in the invasion of Japan. This division had never trained
at Camp Cooke before. With the surrender of Japan the 20th, like
the 13th, began to discharge its troops. By March 1946, the remnants
of the 20th were transferred to Camp Hood, Texas where the Division
was to be absorbed into the 2nd Armored Division.
One of the special organizations on the
Camp was the Army 2nd Filipino-American Infantry Regiment. It,
along with the 1st Regiment, comprised some 7,000 Filipino-American
soldiers. The 1st Regiment was formed at Camp San Luis Obispo
in 1942 and many soldiers in the 2nd Regiment trained at Camp
Cooke, Camp Hunter Liggett and Camp Roberts before heading to
the South Pacific where they joined other Army troops to reconquer
and occupy the Philippines. Before leaving, each soldier received
one of the traditional bolo knives. The regiment was shipped to
New Guinea in May 1944 and then on to the Philippines. Colonel
Charles Clifford was the Regimental Commander at Camp Cooke.
The Camp was placed on caretaker status
in late 1946. The Camp had a peak population of about 36,000 in
June 1943. During the course of Cooke's life, close to 400 separate
and distinct outfits moved in and out of the camp. Only the regiments
or battalions are listed in the Appendix. Upward of 175,000 personnel
were stationed at Camp Cooke. All the personnel records were shipped
to the 9th Service Command Division when the Camp was closed.
All excess supplies were buried in the many canyons on the Camp
property. The Camp property was leased for agriculture and grazing."
Part of the Camp became an Army disciplinary
barracks, now the United States Penitentiary, Lompoc. The installation
played an important role in the post-war years while Camp Cooke
Camp Cooke was reactivated in August 1950
after the outbreak of the Korean War and Burton Mesa once more
echoed to the sounds of war. Its rejuvenation lasted exactly two
and a half years. Encouraged by the truce negotiations at Panmunjon
and prodded by the discovery of oil on the north post (Union Oil
still owned the mineral rights under the Jesus Maria Rancho),
the army inactivated Camp Cooke in February 1953 and turned it
over again to the disciplinary barracks "house-keepers."
Far more details on Camp Cooke can be found
in the reference document.
Camp Cooke received a new lease on life
when the Air Force transferred it from the Army in September 1956.
In June 1957, North Camp Cooke, approximately 65,000 acres, was
renamed Cooke Air Force Base.
Over the years most of the original Camp Cooke has been replaced by modern Air Force facilities. A Patton Tank monument is a reminder that the Base had another beginning and role in the history of the Base, which was renamed Vandenberg Air Force Base October 4, 1958.
Reference: The History of Camp
Cooke, 1941 to 1946, Compiled by Wesley W. Purkiss Sgt. 1908 SCU.
National Archives Record Group 338. History of Vandenberg Air
Force Base, From Cooke to Vandenberg, From Tanks to Missiles,
by Dr. Martin Hagopian, Command Historian, Headquarters Twentieth
Air Force, June 30, 1993. "Camp Cooke Clarion, 1942 to 1946".
|Army of the United States Station List||1 June 1943||
|Army of the United States Station List||7 April 1945||
|Army of the United States Station List||7 April 1946||
|Tagus Ranch, Tulare County||220||29 Jul 1944||13 Feb 1946|
|Chino, San Bernardino County||513||6 Oct 1944||1 Apr 1945|
|Goleta, Santa Barbara County||247||20 Oct 1944||
|Boswell Ranch, Corcoran, Kings County||499||1 Dec 1944||5 Oct 1945|
|Tulare Fairgrounds, Tulare County||245||11 Dec 1944||24 Jan 1946|
|Shafter, Kern County||588||18 Dec 1944||5 Oct 1945|
|Lamont, Kings County||946||18 Dec 1944 / 7 Jan 1946||5 Oct 1945 / 23 Mar 1946|
|Lakelands, Corcoran, Kings County||631||14 May 1945 / 3 Jan 1946||5 Oct 1945 / 16 Feb 46|
|Tipton, Tulare County||397||24 May 1945||4 Feb 1946|
|Saticoy, Ventura County||437||27 May 1945||after 1946|
|Old River, Kern County||Unknown||18 Oct 1945||6 Jan 1946|
|Buttonwillow, Kern County||Unknown||24 Oct 1945||14 Jan 1946|
|Delano, Kern County||Unknown||24 Oct 1945||26 Mar 1946|
|Tachi Farms, Corcoran, Kings County||Unknown||21 Nov 1945||2 Jan 1946|
|Lemoore, Fresno County||Unknown||8 Dec 1945||11 Apr 1946|
|Rankin Field, Tulare County||Unknown||Unknown||Unknown|