Random Recollections
by FQC Gardner

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36. IN COMMAND OF CAMP HAAN

I had been promoted to Major General (temporary) on October 26, 1940.

Upon the completion of my three year tour in Hawaii, I was ordered to take command of Camp Haan, at Riverside, California, the Pacific Coast Antiaircraft Artillery Training Center. We arrived there on October 16, 1941.

There were two Brigades in the Camp, one (the 37th) from the Regular Army and the other (the 101st) from the National Guard. The field training was, in large part, conducted at Camp Maar, in the Mojave Desert, and much of our effort was directed toward the establishment and building up of this camp.

During this period some officials from Cal Tech came down to see me. They were just beginning to conduct some experiments as to the practicability fo firing rockets from artillery guns, and they asked if I would cooperate with them by having one of our AA batteries do some test firings at Camp Maar. I was glad to do so, and such firings were carried on for several months, during which time I had several conferences at Cal Tech with Dr. Millikin and others of the faculty. So far as I know these were the first rockets made and fired in this country.

The Fighter Command was stationed at March Field (across the road from Camp Haan), and in November the Commanding General, March Field, and I agreed, with the approval of the Commanding General Western Defense Command, to have a Joint Air Corps - AA Artillery Exercise at San Francisco and Los Angeles. I was anxious to do this as no one in this country had ever attempted to locate an AA defense in a large city, and there were many problems as to how and where to locate the guns and searchlights (we did not even know what installations existed that needed AA protection), and as to how to establish the necessary communications system, to store the ammunition, and to provide quarters and shelter for the troops required for the AA defense of a large city.

The Brigade Commanders and certain of their staff officers were sent to San Francisco (101st Brigade) and to Los Angeles (37th Brigade) to survey the situation and secure the answers to the problems that had to be met.

We had received but little information about the Japanese situation, but I felt that it might not only be a valuable experience to take along the normal amount of AA ammunition, but that if we were to go to the trouble and expense of moving the two Brigades from Camp Haan to San Francisco and Los Angeles, and installing in each of these cities an AA defense, it would seem reasonable that, under the existing conditions, this defense should be actually capable of instant action, if required, at any time. Headquarters Western Defence Command disapproved the carrying of the ammunition, but after a personal talk with General DeWitt, The Western Defense Commander, he authorized it.

Thus, by a remarkable coincidence, when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred on December 7th, 1941, all the AA units west of the Rocky Mountains were actually in position, ready for action, in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The War Department at once ordered all the AA materiel in the hands of most of the AA organizations in the United States to be shipped, at the earliest practicable date, to the Pacific Coast. The necessity for speed was so emphasized that guns, Fire Control equipment, searchlights, sound locators, and all other AA materiel on hand were loaded onto box cars, flat cars, or any other types of cars immediately available, which started moving westward, with the understanding that the destination of the equipment would be determined and communicated to the railroads while the cars were in route. As a matter of fact, no plans existed as to what installations on the coast required AA defense, or as to the kinds and amounts of the materiel required at any locality.

At the same time orders were issued for two National Guard Brigades to be organized from troops available and to be sent as soon as possible to the Pacific Coast, one (the 39th) to Seattle and the other (the 33rd) to San Diego.

As the various shipments of materiel moved westward they were gradually combined into long trains. Headquarters Western Defense Command had to make a quick decision as to where these trains should be routed to. They decided to send all of them to Camp Haan pending such time as a decision could be made as to the ultimate destination of the equipment. Accordingly the trains of loaded cars began pulling into Camp Haan. It was impossible to determine the point of origin of any individual car or to determine its contents without actually unloading it. No Ordnance Invoices or similar papers were ever received. and so far as I know none were ever prepared. (I have often wondered how The Ordnance property returns were ever settled up.) Much of the equipment was in an unserviceable or incomplete condition and all our efforts were devoted to overhauling and repairing it in the Ordnance Shop and in getting it assembled into tactical units preparatory to shipment to such points as might later be prescribed by Headquarters WD Command.

During the time that I was in command of Camp Haan, and for some months afterwards we lived in a very attractive house on Ribadoux Drive, Riverside, California.


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