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Needles Field Office

World War II Desert Training Center, California-Arizona Maneuver Area


Historical photo of tanks in action at the World War II Desert Training Center.  BLM Photo Photo General George Patton.  BLM Photo

In the earliest days of World War II, when this Nation was thrust into the greatest global conflict the world has ever seen, the War Department realized the necessity for troops well trained under harsh conditions to withstand the rigors of battle over rough terrain and in inhospitable climates. 

Thus, the Desert Training Center, California-Arizona Maneuver Area (DTC-CAMA) was created in 1942.  This simulated theater of operation was the largest military training ground in the history of military maneuvers.  These young troops would carry that early training on to victory in the sands of North Africa, the mud and mire to Europe, the ice and snow of Alaska, and even into the Pacific jungles

A site near Shavers Summit (now known as Chiriaco Summit) between Indio and Desert Center, was selected as the headquarters of the Desert Training Center (DTC). This site, called Camp Young, was the world's largest Army post.


Map showing general overview of various camps 

Detailed area map of the training center camps

Printable Patton Brochure

Major General George S. Patton Jr. came to Camp Young as the first Commanding General of the Desert Training Center. His first orders were to select other areas within the desert that would be suitable for the large-scale maneuvers necessary to prepare American soldiers for combat against the German Afrika Korps in the North African desert. Ten other camps were established in an area stretching from Boulder City, Nevada to the Mexican border, and from Phoenix, Arizona to Pomona, California.

After General Patton was sent to North Africa, the name of the training center was changed to the California-Arizona Maneuver Area (CAMA). Twenty separate divisions consisting of more than one million men trained here.

When the direction of the war shifted to the Allies' favor in 1944, the camps, plagued by shortage of supplies and equipment, were closed, thus ending the largest simulated theater of operations in the history of military maneuvers.

Although most of the structures were removed, much of the infrastructure, including rock-lined streets, staging areas, flag circles, and tent areas remain

Historical photo of a chapel at Iron Mountain Camp.  BLM PhotoTHE CAMPS TODAY

Now the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), charged with managing the public lands on which the camps lie, is engaged in an effort to protect and interpret them.

Camp Iron Mountain, designated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern in 1980, is perhaps the best known and certainly the best preserved of all the camps. The area has been fenced to provide protection from vehicular traffic. Despite the ravages of time, a contour map, many rock mosaics, two alters, and numerous rock alignments along roads and walkways have survived.

Do´s and Don´ts - To protect these resources, vehicle use within all Camps, except Camp Pilot Knob will be limited to designated routes of travel.   Vehicle use in Camp Pilot Knob will be limited to Sidewinder Road.

Historical photo of a camp during World War II.  BLM Photo

LOOKING TOWARD
THE FUTURE

The BLM has made a dedicated effort in preserving the remaining features at these historically significant sites through protection and interpretation for the benefit of future generations. Much more was here, but thoughtless visitors have stolen the remains which were easy to carry. When you visit these or other historic sites in the desert, please leave all historic objects as you found them, so they can be enjoyed by those who follow you. These sites and artifacts are protected by Federal and State law, with substantial penalties for violators.

 

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Collecting artifacts or use of metal detectors in DTC sites is unlawful and a violation of 43CFR 8365.1-5(a)(1).
The discharge or use of firearms and the use of metal detectors at all Patton Camps is prohibited.


If you'd like to visit the memorial it is located on I-10, west of Desert Center or call: 

General Patton Memorial 
#2 Chiriaco Rd. 
Chiriaco Summit,  CA  92201 
(760)227-3483 

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Fast Facts

  • Largest military training area in the world: 18,000 sq. miles of land
  • 1 million troops trained in camps from 1942-1944 
      
  • 1st Commanding General: Major General George S. Patton Jr. 
     
  • Camps closed in 1944 due to the shift of war to Allies' favor and shortage of supplies and equiptment
     
  • The General George S. Patton Memorial Museum opened in 1988
  • The BLM now manages the lands that the camps lie on

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Bureau of Land Management
Needles Field Office
1303 S. Hwy 95
Needles, CA 92363
Phone: (760) 326-7000
Fax: (760) 326-7099
Office Hours: 7:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., M-F
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