Training grounds are locations where soldiers, militia, reservists, or volunteers gather for training or drill. But did you know that during World War II, a well-known General had a desert training facility?
During WWII, General Patton had training grounds in the Mojave desert, and tank tracks from the time can still be seen. The area is now part of the Mojave National Preserve, and military debris, as well as compacted soil, can be found.
Who is General George Patton?
George Smith Patton Jr. was a United States Army general who commanded the Seventh United States Army in the Mediterranean theater of World War II, as well as the Third United States Army in France and Germany following the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944.
Patton was born on November 11, 1885, and he attended the Virginia Military Institute as well as the United States Military Academy at West Point. He studied fencing and created the M1913 Cavalry Saber, also known as the Patton Saber. In the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, he competed in the modern pentathlon.
Patton struggled as a child to learn to read and write, but he eventually overcame this and became known as an avid reader in his adult life. He was tutored at home until the age of eleven when he enrolled for six years at Stephen Clark’s School for Boys, a private school in Pasadena.
Patton was described as a bright young man who was well-versed in classical military history, particularly the exploits of Hannibal, Scipio Africanus, Julius Caesar, Joan of Arc, and Napoleon Bonaparte, as well as those of family friend John Singleton Mosby, who visited the Patton home when George was a child. He was an avid horseback rider as well.
On May 26, 1910, at the age of 24, Patton married Beatrice Banning Ayer, the daughter of Boston industrialist Frederick Ayer, in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts. Beatrice Smith, Ruth Ellen, and George Patton IV were their three children. Patton’s wife, Beatrice, died of a ruptured aneurysm on September 30, 1953, after falling while riding her horse in a hunt with her brother and others at the Myopia Hunt Club in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. (Source: Britannica)
What Did The Mojave Desert Training Ground Look Like?
The vast majority of soldiers who trained at the Desert Training Center were unaccustomed to the scorching heat and aridity of the desert environment. In their official journal, the 773rd Tank Destroyer Battalion described the Desert Training Center as 18,000 square miles of nothing in a desert designed for hell.
Rationing of water was strictly enforced. Soldiers received only one canteen of water per day for all of their drinking and bathing needs upon arrival and while on maneuvers. The initial thought was that soldiers could be trained to do so.
They would be able to survive on less water, preparing them for the harsh desert conditions of North Africa.
As a result, many soldiers collapsed during training due to severe heat exhaustion. They were given salt pills, and their water rations were increased to one gallon per day. The soldiers learned to live on the bare necessities.
The desert is lethal, and we must acclimate our soldiers to it. The Desert Training Center transformed young men into tough, hardened soldiers.General George Patton, WWII General
(Source: Bureau of Land Management)