In late 1941, it was clear that the German military was overrunning Europe and that the United States' involvement was imminent. To train U.S. soldiers to fight the German Afrikakorps, 18,000 square miles in the southeastern California and western Arizona desert was selected to prepare the men on the hazards and difficulty in fighting a desert war. In early 1942, Patton said in a speech to his troops:

"The war in Europe is over for us. England will probably fall this year. Our first chance to get at the enemy will be in North Africa. We cannot train troops to fight in the desert of North Africa by training in the swamps of Georgia. I sent a report to Washington requesting a desert training center in California. The California desert can kill quicker than the enemy. We will lose a lot of men from the heat, but training will save hundreds of lives when we get into combat. I want every officer and section to start planning on moving all our troops by rail to California."

The massive training area stretched from Indio eastward 150 miles to an area 60 miles west of Phoenix, and from Yuma northward 300 miles to Searchlight, Nevada.

The area was selected for a number of reasons;

1. Over 98% of the land was state or federally owned (only 1.5% was held privately).

2. The land was remote and rugged, and largely uninhabited which made for an excellent large scale training area.

3. An existing aqueduct system (running from the Colorado River to Los Angeles) could easily supply the troops with water.

4. The terrain and weather resembled that found in North Africa.

5. The massive area was already supplied by three railroads that could be utilized by the Army to deliver daily rations- Union Pacific in the north, Santa Fe in the center portion, and Southern Pacific in the south.

Patton commanded the Desert Training Center from March-August, 1942, at which time he was dispatched to North Africa to fight the Germans. Afterwards, DTC was run under various commanders until its close in 1944.

The training ground was divided into three areas; Maneuver Area "A" covered 10,200 miles in southeastern California and the southern tip of Nevada; Area "B" covered 6,300 miles in western Arizona; Area "C" covered an additional 1,500 square miles in northwestern Arizona.

Thirty miles east of Indio was Camp Young, the DTC's headquarters facility. Camp Young worked as the administrative camp and oversaw all the operations of the other divisional camps. The camps in California (Area A) are: Camp Coxcomb, Camp Iron Mountain, Camp Granite, Camp Rice, Camp Ibis, Camp Pilot Knob, Camp Essex and Camp Clipper.

Additionally, there were four airfields that gave air support to Army divisions within the Desert Training Center; Rice Army Airfield, Blythe Army Airfield, Desert Center Army Airfield, and Thermal Army Airfield. These airfields flew reconnaissance and dive-bombing missions in coordination with Army divisions training at DTC.

The camps in Arizona (Area B) are; Camp Hyder, Camp Horn, Camp Bouse and Camp Laguna.

There were also a number of Quartermaster Supply Depots and Railroad Sidings at Freda, Goffs, Cadiz, Danby, Fenner and Glamis in California, and at Araby, Dateland, Bouse, Wickenburg and Yuma in Arizona.

Most of the men who trained with their units prior to arriving at Desert Training Center had enjoyed running water, showers, and swamp-cooled barracks. However, the purpose at Desert Training Center was to introduce the men to the harsh desert conditions found in real combat. There was dust and dirt that made its way into every article of clothing, weapons and equipment. Aside from the snakes, scorpions and cactus, men had to endure the below-freezing winter temperatures as well as the sweltering 115 degree summer days.

The role of DTC was to train men in combat conditions. The majority of their time was spent in the field on maneuvers for days and weeks on end. The large size of the training area made it possible for the infantry and armor divisions at each camp to make 1-3 week long excursions into the desert using live ordinance (from small arms to heavy artillery and tank rounds) without the risk of running into each other. These long excursions were to simulate life at the front line, and the men were given a daily amount of water to drink, ate rations, slept in sleeping bags on the rocky desert floor, and were lucky to have enough water left over to wash their face.

Maneuvers typically consisted of divisions (roughly 15,000 men each in size) fighting each other in mock battles. Instead of utilizing paved public roads, few of which ran through the DTC area anyway, the infantry and armored divisions traveled overland, making their own roads and paths through the barren desert. Even though most of the remnants and debris left behind was cleaned up at war's end, today one can still see the traces of full divisions moving over the desert in the forms of tank tracks, food cans, gas and oil cans, glass bottles, brass shell casings, etc... In the areas of mock battles one can still see foxholes, rock embankments, trenches and concrete bunkers.

A typical training schedule for a division was:

Week 1  -individual and squad training.

Week 2 -company or battery training

Week 3 -battalion training

Week 4 -regimental training

Weeks 5--7 -divisional field exercises

Weeks 8-13 -corps maneuvers

At any given time there were approximately 180,000 soldiers training at the various camps during their 3-4 month training. There were over 38,000 vehicles; jeeps, trucks, half-tracks and tanks. Each division's mechanics was responsible for the maintenance of the vehicles and when that division left, the vehicles were then passed off to the new division arriving at camp. By the time the DTC drew to a close, most were in deplorable condition.

After the German defeat in North Africa in May 1943, desert training was no longer a necessity as combat moved onto the European continent. As a result, all of the camps were closed by April, 1944. Once closed, Army Quartermaster units were sent in to dismantle the tents and other camp fixtures, and to clean up the left behind trash and debris. All of the equipment and vehicles were then loaded onto trains and taken away. 

Of the 87 divisions the Army formed during WWII, 20 divisions (13 infantry and 7 armored) trained at Desert Training Center.

A listing of which divisions trained at which camp;





Camp Hyder

77th Infantry Division

104th Infantry Division

April-September 1943

November 1943

Camp Horn

81st Infantry Division

104th Infantry Division

July-November 1943

Nov. 1943-February 1944

Camp Bouse

9th Tank Group

10th Tank Group

August 1943-March 1944

Nov. 1943-April 1944

Camp Laguna

8th Infantry Division

79th Infantry Division

80th Infantry Division

6th Armored Division

March-August 1943

August-December 1943

Dec 1943-March 1944

Oct 1942-March 1943



Camp Young

DTC Headquarters

March 1942-April 1944

Camp Coxcomb

7th Armored Division

6th Infantry Division

85th Infantry Division

95th Infantry Division

March-August 1943

November 1942-Feb 1943

August-October 1943

Oct 1943-February 1944

Camp Rice

5th Armored Division

August-November 1942

Camp Granite

104th Infantry Division

90th Infantry Division

76th Field Artillery

March 1944

September-Dec 1943

April-August 1943

Camp Iron Mountain

3rd Armored Division

4th Armored Division

191st Field Artillery Battalion

July-November 1942

November 1942-June 1943

June-October 1942

Camp Clipper

33rd infantry Division

April-July 1943

Camp Essex

93rd Infantry Division

July-October 1943

Camp Ibis

4th Armored Division

9th Armored Division

11th Armored Division

February-June 1943

June-October 1943

October 1943-March 1944

Camp Pilot Knob

7th Infantry Division

85th Infantry Division

August-October 1942

June-July 1943