Place Names

MCB Camp Pendleton
aka
MCB Camp Joseph Henry Pendleton

 

 

Of all the Marine Corps bases throughout the world, Camp Pendleton has one of the most intriguing pasts, filled with historical charm and vibrancy. Spanish explorers, colorful politicians, herds of thundering cattle, skillful vaqueros and tough Marines have all contributed to the history of this land.


In 1769, a Spaniard by the name of Capt. Gaspar de Portola led an expeditionary force northward from lower California, seeking to establish Franciscan missions throughout California. On July 20 of that same year, the expedition arrived at a location now known as Camp Pendleton, and as it was the holy day St. Margaret, they baptized the land in the name of Santa Margarita.
During the next 30 years, 21 missions were established, the most productive one being Mission San Luis Rey, just south of the present-day Camp Pendleton. At that time, San Luis Rey Mission had control over the Santa Margarita area.


In 1821, following Mexico’s independence from Spain, the Californios became the new ruling class of California, and many were the first generation descendants of the Portola expedition. The Mexican governor was awarding land grants and ranchos to prominent businessmen, officials and military leaders. In 1841, two brothers by the name of Pio and Andres Pico became the first private owners of Rancho Santa Margarita. More land was later added to the grant, making the name Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores, and that name stayed with the ranch until the Marine Corps acquired it in 1942.


In 1863, a dashing Englishman named John Forster (Pio Pico’s brother-in-law) paid off Pico’s gambling debts in return for the deed to the ranch. During his tenure as owner of the ranch, he expanded the ranch house, which was first built in 1827, and developed the rancho into a thriving cattle industry.


Forster’s heirs, however, were forced to sell the ranch in 1882 because of a string of bad luck, which included a series of droughts and a fence law that forced Forster to construct fencing around the extensive rancho lands. It was purchased by wealthy cattleman James Flood and managed by Irishman Richard O’Neill who was eventually rewarded for his faithful service with half ownership. Under the guidance of O’Neill’s son, Jerome, the ranch began to net a profit of nearly half a million dollars annually, and the house was modernized and furnished to its present form.
In the early 1940s, both the Army and the Marine Corps were looking for land for a large training base. The Army lost interest in the project, but in April of 1942 it was announced that the rancho was about to be transformed into the largest Marine Corps base in the country. The Marine Corps paid $4,239,062 for the rancho and it was named for Major General Joseph H. Pendleton who had long advocated the establishment of a West Coast training base.


On the eve of World War II, the Marine training bases were limited to Quantico, Va., Parris Island, S.C., and San Diego. When expansion of all U.S. armed forces was authorized by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's proclamation of an unlimited national emergency on May 27, 1941, an immediate need for additional amphibious force training facilities led to the construction of Camp Pendleton.

After five months of construction, ranches at Santa Margarita, Las Flores and San Onofre became the West Coast's largest military camp. The first troops to occupy the new Base were the 9th Marine Regiment, who marched from Camp Elliot in San Diego to Camp Pendleton. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the Base on Sept. 25, 1942, and named it in honor of World War I Marine Maj. Gen. Joseph H. Pendleton.


By 1943, the first women Marine reservists arrived to help keep Base administration running smoothly. The Ranch House chapel was restored and opened primarily for their use.


By October 1944, Camp Pendleton was declared a "permanent installation" and by 1946, became the home of the 1st Marine Division.

Korea


During the Korean War, $20 million helped expand and upgrade existing facilities, including the construction of Camp Horno. When Camp Pendleton trained the country's fighting force for the Korean and Vietnam Wars, approximately 200,000 Marines passed through the Base on their way to the Far East.

June 25, 1950

The 25th of June found USS Valley Forge (CV-45), with the destroyers USS Fletcher (DDE-445) and USS Radford (DDE-446), in the South China Sea, one day out of Hong Kong en route to the Philippines. Admiral Struble was in Washington; Admiral Hoskins, upon whom command of the Seventh Fleet had devolved, was at Subic Bay; the carrier's commanding officer, Captain Lester K. Rice, was acting as ComCarDiv-3.

The air group of Valley Forge, Carrier Air Group 5, Commander Harvey P. Lanham, was the first in the Navy to attempt the sustained shipboard operation of jet aircraft. Its complement of 86 planes was made up of two jet fighter squadrons with 30 Grumman F9F-2 Panthers; two piston- engined fighter squadrons equipped with the World War II Vought F4U-4B Corsair; and a piston-engined attack squadron of 14 Douglas AD-4 Skyraiders. Over and above these five squadrons the group contained 14 aircraft, principally ADs, which were specially equipped and modified--"configurated" in current Navy jargon--for photographic, night, and radar missions. The fighter squadrons had enjoyed considerable jet experience prior to receiving their Panthers and moving aboard ship; the group as a whole had conducted extensive training in close support of troops with the Marines at Camp Pendleton, California.

 


The Corps broadened its capabilities during the 1980's from "amphibious" to "expeditionary" by combining infantry, armor, supply and air power. Troops and equipment could now be deployed halfway around the world in only days as part of a self-sustaining air-ground team. This successful use of military power has been demonstrated through Marine Corps operations in Grenada, Panama, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti Afghanistan and Iraq.
Camp Pendleton has continued to grow through renovations, replacing its original tent camps with more than 2,600 buildings and 500 miles of roads.


Efforts today continue to preserve the rich heritage of Camp Pendleton's founders and the more than 230 years of Marine Corps history. The original ranch house is now a museum and has been declared a National Historic Site.
Some of the Base's streets and sites have been named in honor of military war heroes and battles. The geographic locations formally christened by Spanish explorers and missionaries continue that heritage. A ranch cattle brand, Pendleton's logo, can be seen throughout the Base.

 

 

 

There were 74,000 Marines on active duty, only 9,000 in the 1st
Marine Division, on 25 June 1950, when the North Korean army
launched its attack against the Republic of Korea. General Douglas
MacArthur, who headed the United Nations defense of the Korean
peninsula, called for emergency assistance to shore up his beleaguered
perimeter around the southern port of Pusan.
In response, the 1st Division pieced together the 5th Regimental
Combat Team in only four days. Combined with a Marine air group
from El Toro, it sailed from San
Diego two days later as the 1st
Provisional Marine Brigade. The
remainder of the division, brought
up to strength by hastily gathered
reinforcements from posts and stations
throughout the country,
followed in mid-August.
As the 1st Marine Division
made its successful landing at
Inchon and began to push northward
up the Korean peninsula,
Camp Pendleton geared up to train
and deploy a steady stream of replacements,
even while it served as
a training base for the newly reactivated
3d Marine Division. Anew,
Asian-style combat town was
erected. To better prepare Marines
to fight in the harsh Korean winters
and mountains, Camp
Pendleton acquired a satellite training
camp at Pickle Meadows in the
High Sierras. By the time the
conflict ended in June 1953, mor e
than 200,000 Marines passed
through Camp Pendleton on their
way to the Far East.
When the 1st Marine Division
returned to Camp Pendleton in
1955 it brought with it an unusual
member—Reckless, a Korean
mare purchased at the Seoul racetrack
in 1952 by the commander of the 5th Marines’ recoilless rifle
platoon. She had endeared herself to her Marines by steadfastly
carrying ammunition to front line positions, often under fire. During
the static phases of the conflict, she became so familiar with her route
that she would make it unattended. Twice wounded, her Marines
promoted her to corporal and then sergeant.
In the warm safety of Camp Pendleton, Reckless began to raise
a family. First came Fearless in 1957. Two years later, a second foal
arrived and the 5th Marines commander held a naming contest
with himself as the judge. When none of the submissions measured
up to his expectations, he selected his own and Dauntless joined the
lineage. Rank hath its privileges.
Even without major conflicts, Camp Pendleton Marines and sailors
remained busy. The transplacement program regularly sent 1st Marine Division infantry battalions on 13-month deployments with the 3d
Marine Division on Okinawa. With it, the concept of regimental
integrity began to blur. Abattalion from the 5th Marines would join
the 9th Marines on Okinawa for a year and might return home as a
battalion in the 1st Marines.
During the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, the first airlifted reinforcing
unit to land at Guantanamo Bay was the 2d Battalion, 1st Marines
from Camp Pendleton. The day after it arrived, 11,000 additional
Marines of the 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, mostly from Camp
Pendleton, departed San Diego by ship for the crisis area.
Conflict for Marines in the Pacific erupted again in February1965,
when elements of the 3d Marine Division from Okinawa landed near
Danang to assist the Vietnamese
government in its struggle with the
Viet Cong. Unlike the emergency
created by the North Korean attack
15 years earlier, the nature of the
Vietnamese insurgency permitted a
phased troop buildup. The 7th
Marines departed Camp Pendleton
for Okinawa in May. By November,
most of the 1st Marine Division had
followed, and by May 1966, the division
was in combat near Chu Lai,
RVN.
Life at Camp Pendleton assumed
a role familiar to those who remembered
the World War II or Korean
eras. The 5th Marine Division that
first unfurled it colors at the base in
1944 was reactivated in 1966. Soon
its Marines were training in the hills
and canyons vacated by the 1st
Division. Two 5th Marine Division
infantry regiments, the 26th and
27th and its artillery regiment, the
13th Marines, saw combat in
Vietnam.
A Staging Battalion replaced
the Training and Replacement
Command of the 1940s and 1950s,
but its mission was similar—prepare
new Marines for duty with units in combat. Adifferent enemy
called for different preparations. In De Luz Canyon, where
Marines had once learned how to attack Japanese pillboxes, a
Vietnamese village arose, complete with 400 feet of hidden
tunnels and actors to simulate friendly, hostile and ambivalent
villagers. Unlike previous wars, separating the good guys from
the bad was a key to success.
Initially, the Staging Battalion replacements headed west by ship
at a rate of about 1,250 per month. As air transportation became available
and the in-country troop strength grew, they were flown to
Vietnam at a rate of 165 per day. In one year during the height of the
conflict, more than 88,000 Marines and sailors completed a 15-day
training cycle and departed for Vietnam.
The 1st Marine Division returned to Camp Pendleton in 1971, but that did not end the Vietnam chapter of base history. In April 1975,
Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees began filling tent camps in the
northern reaches of the base while waiting final resettlement in communities
throughout the United States. Over 16,000 men, women
and children arrived in just the first month. Marines and Sailors prepared
meals, provided medical treatment, and even opened schools
meant to introduce refugees to their new country. It was a warm,
compassionate end to long hardships and the start of a better life.
As much as we might wish otherwise, Marines and Sailors trained
at Camp Pendleton continue to serve in harm’s way while supporting
our national interests. They fought in Desert Storm to free Kuwait,
and today to bring freedom to Iraq and Afghanistan. Others are forward
deployed aboard amphibious
ready group ships.
However, as Camp Pendleton
continues to fulfill its role, it also
struggles to retain its vital training
areas. Seventeen miles of uninterrupted
Southern California
coastline and 125,000 acres of underdeveloped
land have not gone
unnoticed. Little by little, portions
of the base have been chipped away,
—84 acres for a nuclear power
plant, 1.5 miles of coastline for a
public beach. Each is a good reason,
but in total a dangerous assault
on the base mission. Acurrent
initiative, if successful, would permit
a highway to slice through the
northern part of the camp. Little
by little … the battles continue.
In 2007, some 60,000 military
personnel and civilians report to
work on Camp Pendleton daily.
They may not think about it, but
they are carrying on in the tradition
of the hundreds of thousands
who preceded them in the 65 years
the Marine Corps has owned the
base. Though they have a proud
legacy, it is only a small segment of
the recorded history of this land, which dates from the arrival of the
Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola in 1769. Under the flags of Spain,
Mexico and the United States, and while serving as a mission, a working
ranch, and an amphibious training base: The land we know as
Camp Pendleton has earned an important place in history. It is unique
in Southern California coastal property in that Portola would undoubtedly
recognize much of it if he could see it today.
As Camp Pendleton continues to prepare Marines and Sailors to
answer their country’s call, it retains its links to its past. It’s a story
worth telling and a heritage worth preserving. S|F
Col. Rothwell is President of the Camp Pendleton Historical Society, a non-profit corporation
dedicated to helping preserve and tell the camp’s proud history. If you are interested
in learning more about the Camp Pendleton Historical Society and helping it achieve its
goals, please visit its Web site at camppendletonhistoricalsociety.org.

 

June 25, 1950

The 25th of June found USS Valley Forge (CV-45), with the destroyers USS Fletcher (DDE-445) and USS Radford (DDE-446), in the South China Sea, one day out of Hong Kong en route to the Philippines. Admiral Struble was in Washington; Admiral Hoskins, upon whom command of the Seventh Fleet had devolved, was at Subic Bay; the carrier's commanding officer, Captain Lester K. Rice, was acting as ComCarDiv-3.

The air group of Valley Forge, Carrier Air Group 5, Commander Harvey P. Lanham, was the first in the Navy to attempt the sustained shipboard operation of jet aircraft. Its complement of 86 planes was made up of two jet fighter squadrons with 30 Grumman F9F-2 Panthers; two piston- engined fighter squadrons equipped with the World War II Vought F4U-4B Corsair; and a piston-engined attack squadron of 14 Douglas AD-4 Skyraiders. Over and above these five squadrons the group contained 14 aircraft, principally ADs, which were specially equipped and modified--"configurated" in current Navy jargon--for photographic, night, and radar missions. The fighter squadrons had enjoyed considerable jet experience prior to receiving their Panthers and moving aboard ship; the group as a whole had conducted extensive training in close support of troops with the Marines at Camp Pendleton, California.

The submarine force under the operational control of Commander Seventh Fleet, administratively organized as Task Unit 70.9, consisted of four fleet submarines and a submarine rescue vessel; its principal activity had been in antisubmarine warfare training exercises with units of the Fleet and of Naval Forces Far East. One of the four boats, USS Remora (SS-487), was at Yokosuka on loan to ComNavFE; USS Cabezon (SS-334) was at sea en route from the Philippines to Hong Kong; USS Segundo (SS-398), with Commander Francis W. Scanland, the task unit commander, was at Sangley Point in the Philippines; USS Catfish (SS-339) was at Subic Bay.

The submarine rescue ship USS Florikan (ASR-9)  was at Guam, where she was about to be relieved by USS Greenlet (ASR-10). No submarine tender was stationed in the Western Pacific, but limited quantities of spare parts and torpedo warheads were available from the destroyer tender USS Piedmont (AD-17) at Subic Bay.

Patrol plane activity in the Western Pacific, another Seventh Fleet monopoly, was centralized at Guam under control of Commander Fleet Air Wing 1, Captain Etheridge Grant, who served also as Commander Task Unit 70.6 and Commander Fleet Air Guam.  For long-range search and reconnaissance in the theater Captain Grant had at his disposal two squadrons of patrol aircraft. Patrol Squadron 28, a heavy landplane squadron with nine PB4Y-2 Privateers, the single-tailed Navy modification of the Liberator, was based at Agana, Guam. At Sangley Point, Luzon, Patrol Squadron 47 operated nine Martin PBM-5 Mariner flying boats. In addition to these two squadrons and their supporting organizations, Fleet Air Wing 1 had a small seaplane tender, USS Suisun (AVP-53), which on 25 June was moored in Tanapag Harbor, Saipan.

For Captain Grant the impending crisis would not prove wholly unfamiliar, for the outbreak of war in December 1941 had found him commanding a seaplane tender USS William B. Preston (AVD-7) in the Philippines. But his situation on 25 June was a somewhat scrambled one, for a second Mariner squadron, VP 46, was moving into the area as relief for VP 47, and the take-over process had already begun. Homeward bound, their tour in distant parts completed, the PBM's of VP 47 were widely dispersed. Two were at Yokosuka on temporary duty with Commander Naval Forces Far East,  two were at Sangley Point, two were in the air and on their way, and three had already reached Pearl Harbor.

Such then was America's Western Pacific naval strength in June of 1950. Combat units assigned to ComNavFE and Commander Seventh Fleet totaled one carrier, two cruisers, three destroyer divisions, two patrol squadrons, and a handful of submarines. Not only was this a limited force with which to support a war on the Asiatic mainland: its southward deployment, with the principal base facilities at Guam and Luzon, made it ill-prepared for a campaign in Korea.

Yet if forces, bases, and plans alike seemed inadequate to the challenge of Communist aggression, there were certain mitigating factors. To employ force, whether for police action or for war, on the far side of an ocean, is to conduct an exercise in maritime power for which fighting strength, bases, and shipping are essential. Unplanned for though the emergency was, a sufficient concentration was still possible. The occupation forces in Japan contained a large fraction--four of ten Army divisions--of American ground strength. FEAF's air strength was by no means inconsiderable. Naval forces in the Far East could be reinforced, from the west coast in the first instance, in time from elsewhere. Limited though the fleet bases were in the narrow sense, in the larger context the base was Japan, and the metropolis of Asia offered many advantages in the form of airfields, staging areas, industrial strength, and skilled labor.  Additionally, and by no means least, there existed and was available a sizable Japanese merchant marine, which could help to provide the carrying capacity without which control of the seas is meaningless, and which could be employed to project the armies and their supplies to the far shore.

The war in Korea, moreover, was in a sense a suburban war, and one must go back to 1898 to find in the American experience a parallel to this proximity of base and combat areas. The distances between Key West and Cuba and between Sasebo and Pusan are much the same. It could be argued, perhaps, that Admiral Joy's situation presented certain parallels to that of Admiral Cervera, but there was at least one notable difference: in 1950, despite the withdrawal of the entire occupation force, the populace of Japan proved reliable; in 1898, despite the presence of a Spanish army, the populace of Cuba did not. Doubtless to the Communists Korea seemed the most promising spot for aggression. In many ways it was also the area where the United States could best extemporize a reply.

June 26, 1950

Korean_War

Upholding their long tradition as America’s force-in-readiness, the Marines have usually been among the first troops to see action on a foreign shore. Thus it might have been asked what was holding them back at a time when Army troops in Korea were hard-pressed.

The answer is that the Marines actually were the first United States ground forces to get into the fight after completing the long voyage from the American mainland. There were no Marine units of any size in the Far East at the outset of the invasion. But not an hour was lost at the task of assembling an air-ground team at Camp Pendleton, California, and collecting the shipping.

The spirit of impatience animating the Marine Corps is shown by an entry on the desk calendar of General Clifton B. Cates under the date of 26 June 1950. This was the day after the news of the invasion reached Washington, and the Commandant commented:

“SecNav’s policy meeting called off. Nuts.”

 

 Gen Clifton B. Cates ltr to authors, 7 Apr 54 (Cates, 7 Apr 54).