Mar 28

Hard times at Camp Roberts

Undated photo of pontoon bridge training at Camp Roberts. Likely from the 1960s or 70s. ©The Tribune

Boom town or ghost town, Camp Roberts has seen it all.
It was one of the largest military training facilities in the world with a parade ground that spans 14 football fields.
At its peak at the end of World War II the 42,784 acre facility housed 45,000 troops, more than a man per acre, twice the designed capacity, with many living in tents.
In other words, the camp was larger than the entire 1940 county population in of 33,246.
It was a frantic wartime construction project. At the start of 1940, only 5 years earlier, the facility did not exist. The first commanding officer was worked out of a rented office at the Paso Robles Bank of America.
It took an army of 8,000 just to build the facility and according to a story published this week in the Tribune and Sacramento Bee the the camp is in sore need of repair.
Raw sewage bubbles up from shower grates, 70 year old buildings sag, asbestos and lead were common construction ingredients when the facility was built.
Given the billions of dollars spent on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and further billions spent on high tech weapons systems is is a shame that basic living conditions at California's largest National Guard facility have been allowed to deteriorate to this state.
During World War II and again during the Korean War it was a city.
Today the facility is used to train tank and artillery crews as well as rifle marksmanship for the Guard. Today about 1,100 military pass through the facility on a daily basis.
The U.S. Army relinquished the facility to California in 1971 as documented in this article in the then Telegram-Tribune on April 3, 1971. Many of numbers cited above are from the California State Military Museum website and not all match exactly with the article below.

Guard takes Roberts

SIGNING OVER — Lt. Gen. Stanley Larsen of the Sixth Army, left, and Maj. Gen. Glenn Ames of the National Guard, right, sign the license that turned Camp Roberts over to the state military agency during Friday's ceremony. published April 3, 1971/Telegram-Tribune ©The Tribune

Camp Roberts was officially turned over to the California National Guard Friday in a ceremony at the former Army training camp located near the San Luis Obispo – Monterey county line on Highway 101.
The camp at one time housed 36,000 men in its far spread wooden structures. Since 1953, however, it has been closed most of the time. Its main use of late has been for summer training camps.
During the Friday ceremony, Stanley R. Larsen, commanding general of the Sixth Army, and Glenn C. Ames, commanding general of the guard, signed a license that turns over the 43,746 acre camp to the state military agency.
The license gives control to the Guard for a five-year period.
In the event of a national emergency, the camp will revert to Army control immediately.
Camp Roberts opened in 1941 as a major Army training center. Throughout World War II it was an active place. After the war it was quiet until the Korean War began. Most activity at the camp ceased in 1953.
The Guard expects about 12,000 to 14,000 men to get their summer training at Camp Roberts this year. This contrasts with about 25,000 who have come each year recently for two weeks of Army training.
When announcement was made early this year that the Guard would take over operation of Camp Roberts, there was speculation on the fate of Camp San Luis Obispo, another Guard installation in the county.
Guard officials have said there will be no cutback at Camp San Luis Obispo which will continue to operate as before. About 7,000 Guardsmen got training there last year.
Camp Roberts adjoins Hunter Liggett Military Reservation which contains 175,000 acres of rugged land purchased in 1940 from the Hearst Ranch properties.

Parade ground spans 14 football fields at Camp Roberts. This photo dated June 24, 1971. ©The Tribune

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