Fort ord BW scene 2

Barracks, Fort Ord, 1999 (photo by Author)

Though it began its life as a satellite post of the U.S. Army’s Presidio at Monterey, Fort Ord, located along California’s Monterey Bay, expanded over the course of World War II from a smallish artillery range to become the largest Army post in California.

When it was still Camp Ord, the post was the site of the January 1940 Army-Navy maneuvers that proved one of the first critical tests of US amphibious attack doctrine and of the military’s readiness to defend US shores against foreign assault. While there were the inevitable errors on both sides, the exercise proved the difficulty of defense against a determined assault, and the need to develop tactics that did not come in time to save American holdings in the Philippines, on Guam or Wake Island.

After the maneuvers and responding to the expanding conflicts in Europe and Asia, the Army reactivated the 7th Infantry Division, which had hung up its colors in the drawdown after World War I, and named Major General Joseph “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell as its commander. Stilwell

Once the war began, both the size and the activity of the base grew quickly. On the beaches, dunes, and fields along the stretch of highway between Monterey and Santa Cruz, Ord trained six full infantry divisions, an independent brigade, four engineer regiments, and two amphibious groups. By the end of the war, the base had expanded to cover 43 square miles of coastline and the lower Salinas Valley.

The barracks buildings in the photo, ostensibly temporary and for use in the war only, were still standing a half century later when the base was declared excess to needs by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.


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