The great state of California is the most populated state in the U.S. and it plays an important role in our nations defense. Below are the military bases in California and a snippet of information about each one.
Map of California Military Bases
Beale Air Force Base
Beale Air Force Base, located near Marysville, California, was established in 1942. When it was first opened, it was called Camp Beale and was named after Edward Fitzgerald Beale, who served as a Navy lieutenant and a brigadier general. During World War II, Camp Beale was used to house German prisoners-of-war, and the prison cells are still on the base. They are preserved as one of the many historical sites on the base. In 1951, Camp Beale became an Air Force base.
Today, Beale Air Force Base covers over 20,000 acres. It is home to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, which is a key unit in collecting essential intelligence for presidential and congressional defensive decisions. The base is home to about 4,000 service members and their families.
Vandenberg Air Force Base
Vandenberg Air Force Base was originally an Army base called Camp Cooke. Established in 1941, Camp Cooke was declared the perfect training site for Army soldiers because of its remote location north of Lompoc, California. It was named after Major General Philip St. George Cooke, who was a Civil War Union general. During World War II, the base was used to train soldiers on how to pilot tanks and other artillery. The camp continued to be used as a training center for soldiers preparing for combat in Korea during the Korean War.
In 1958, Camp Cooke was renamed Vandenberg Air Force Base after General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, who was the second chief of staff for the Air Force. In 1972, Vandenberg Air Force Base was going to be used as the West Coast space shuttle launch site, but it was never actually used. Today, the base is home to over 3,000 Air Force troops.
Camp Roberts, located in central California, is an Army National Guard base. It was named after World War I Medal of Honor recipient Harold W. Roberts. Camp Roberts has also been used by the British Army and is the home of an annual training attended by almost every unit of the California Army National Guard.
Until 2012, all of the buildings originally built in World War II still stood at Camp Roberts. However, they were unsafe due to rodents, asbestos, and lead paint. In 2012, officials in charge of Camp Roberts decided to begin major renovations, and all of the original World War II buildings have been demolished.
Camp San Luis Obispo
Camp San Luis Obispo was built in 1928 and was the California National Guard’s original home. During World War II, the camp was home to over 1,000 officers and almost 20,000 enlisted soldiers. The camp was used as a signal corps training center during the Korean War, and in 1965, Ceusta College was established on the base.
In 1995, the Conservation Corps State Museum was established at Camp San Luis Obispo, which is a display of 1930s-era replicas of barracks, uniforms, tools, and other artifacts of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Today, the camp is home of the California Military Academy, which is used to train members of the National Guard in California and other western states. The academy is also used by the California State Military Reserve.
Fort Hunter Liggett
Fort Hunter Liggett opened in 1941, and was named after General Hunter Liggett, who was an Army Lieutenant General. When it first opened, it was an extension of Camp Roberts, but in 1952, it became a sub-installation of Fort Ord. From about 1970 to about 1990, the fort had two primary purposes. The first was to serve as a training center for infantry, and the second was to serve as the location for the United States Army Combat Developments Experimentation Command.
Fort Hunter Liggett has been used as a filming location for Clear and Present Danger (a film released in 1994 starring Harrison Ford) and We Were Soldiers, (released in 2002). Today, the fort is home to the Army Installation’s Garrison Commander and many other units.
Fort Irwin is an Army base that was originally called the Mojave Anti-Aircraft Range. It opened in 1940. Two years after it opened, the base was renamed Camp Irwin after Major General George LeRoy Irwin. In 1942, Camp Irwin became the Desert Training Center, and in 1944, the base was inactivated. In 1951, Camp Irwin reopened and became the Armored Combat Training Center, where thousands of soldiers trained for combat during the Korean War.
In 1961, the camp was renamed Fort Irwin, and in 1979, it became the National Training Center. It was determined that Fort Irwin was the perfect space for the center because it was far away from densely populated areas, it had airspace that could be restricted solely for military use, and it had wide ranges of land that could be used for different maneuver practices. The National Training Center is still active and successful today.
Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base
In 1942, Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base belonged to the Navy and was used as a Naval Air Station. The base was used as a repair station for naval aircraft and as a training site for the pilots who flew them. The base remained under Navy command until 1977 when it was transferred to the Army and renamed the Los Alamitos Army Airfield. Soon thereafter, the Army gave permission to use the base to the California Army National Guard, and they renamed the base the Los Alamitos Armed Forces Reserve Center.
In 2000, the Los Alamitos Armed Forces Reserve Center became the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Center. The base was the starting point for the 14th season of CBS’s The Amazing Race, and it also hosts the “Race on the Base” (a collection of charity races) every year. The base is also home to an 18-hole golf course that is open to the public.
Military Ocean Terminal Concord
In 1942, the Concord Naval Weapons Station (now called the Military Ocean Terminal Concord) opened as an ammunition storage depot during World War II. The Concord Naval Weapons Station was the site of the biggest home-front disaster in World War II, the Port Chicago Naval Magazine Explosion. In 1944, 3.5 million pounds of ammunition exploded and killed 320 soldiers, injured another 390, and caused over $12 million in property damage. Today, the site of the explosion is the home of the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial Site.
In 2008, control of the Military Ocean Terminal Concord transferred from the Navy to the Army. Today, the mission of the Military Ocean Terminal Concord is to distribute ammunition safely between the east and west coasts.
Naval Base Point Loma
In 1852, President Millard Fillmore granted the U.S. Army 1,400 acres at the southern end of Point Loma. It remained in Army control until 1959 when the Army transferred the base to Navy control. Under Naval command, Point Loma became home to the Navy Submarine Support Facility. In 1998, in an effort to consolidate naval ports used during the Cold War, six Navy installations were combined and became the Naval Base Point Loma.
Parks Reserve Forces Training Area
During World War II, the Parks Reserve Forces Training Area was used by the Navy for a west coast replacement and recuperation center for soldiers returning from combat overseas. When it first opened, the base was called Camp Parks, named after Rear Admiral Charles W. Parks, who was the Navy Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks during World War I. After World War II, the base was abandoned, and the Navy leased the land to Alameda County to be used as the Santa Rita Jail.
In 1951, in the midst of the Korean War, the Air Force took over the base and rebuilt it. In 1959, control of the base was transferred to the Army, and in 1973, it was renamed the Parks Reserve Forces Training Area and was placed on semi-active status. Today, the Parks Reserve Forces Training Area is still in semi-active mobilization. It is under command of the U.S. Army Reserve and is being maintained and saved for use in case of natural disaster or war.
Presidio of Monterey
In 1902, the Army went looking for places to establish more posts in the western United States and realized that they already owned land in Monterey, California, that could be used for a new base. They named it the Monterey Military Reserve but changed the name shortly after and called it the Presidio of Monterey. The base was home to the Army School of Musketry until 1913. In 1917, nearby land was purchased and was called the Gigling Reservation, used as a training center for the Presidio of Monterey. In 1940, the Gigling Reservation became a base of its own and was renamed Fort Ord.
The Military Intelligence Service Language School was established at the Presidio of Monterey in 1946, and in 1947, it was renamed the Army Language School. The Army Language School remained there throughout the Cold War.
San Joaquin Depot
In 1942, the San Joaquin Depot was established as a California Quartermaster Depot Substation. During World War II, the depot sent military posts in the western United States all the military supplies they needed. After the war, the responsibilities of the San Joaquin Depot expanded, and they began sending supplies to Air Force and Army bases overseas.
Today, the San Joaquin Depot still serves as the primary point for distribution of military supplies, including food, uniforms, and repair supplies, to military facilities in the Pacific and the western United States.
Sierra Army Depot
The Sierra Army Depot opened in 1942 and was used as a storage facility. The Army decided that it would be the perfect place to store vital supplies because it was close to the coast but far enough inland that the Japanese military wouldn’t be able to access or attack it. During the Korean War, the responsibilities of the Sierra Army Depot expanded to include the supplying of weapons and ammunition.
From the Vietnam War to Operation Enduring Freedom, the mission of the Sierra Army Depot has remained the same, and the base has served as a vital source for shipping military supplies overseas.
Edwards Air Force Base
Edwards Air Force Base was established by Lieutenant Colonel Henry H. Arnold in 1932. When the land was first acquired, it was used as a bombing range because it was far from populated areas. In 1938, Henry H. Arnold became the Air Force Chief of the Air Corps, and he decided that the Edwards Air Force Base would begin to focus on research and development of planes for the Air Force. During the 1970s, the base played a key role in space shuttle testing, but the site was soon moved to Florida.
Today, Edwards Air Force Base is the second largest Air Force Base and is still used for flight testing.
Los Angeles Air Force Base
Los Angeles Air Force Base was built in the early 1960s when the Air Force wanted to consolidate their Space Systems Division and their Research and Development Center of the Aerospace Corporation. In order to do this, the Air Force bought land near an aircraft plant owned by the Navy. The consolidated properties became the Los Angeles Air Force Base in 1964.
The Air Force Space Command’s Missile Systems Center headquarters is currently located at the Los Angeles Air Force Base, and the base is home to over 15,000 officers, veterans, civilians, active duty service men and women, and their families.
March Joint Air Reserve Base
In 1918, the Alessandro Flying Training Field was established and was one of the first airfields opened by the U.S. Military. A month after it opened, the airfield was renamed the March Field, in honor of 2nd Lieutenant Peyton C. March Jr., who was the son of the Army Chief of Staff. He died in a plane crash just 15 days into his military service. Throughout the post-war era, the airfield was used for tactical, continental, and strategic air command. In 1996, March Air Force Base became the March Air Reserve Base. It was the first time in 78 years that the base was not occupied by active-duty military men and women.
Travis Air Force Base
The Travis Air Force Base was established in 1942. It was named after Brigadier General Robert F. Travis, who died in a plane crash while he was transporting nuclear weapons. For a majority of the base’s history, Military Air Transport Service had command over the base, and it became known as the “Gateway to the Pacific.”
Today, the Travis Air Force Base is home to the Air Mobility Command and the 615th Contingency Response Wing. The base is also the site of the Jimmy Doolittle Air and Space Museum, which is one of the west coast’s largest displays of military airplanes.
NAWS China Lake
Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake was originally established in 1943 as the Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS). The base’s primary function was to work on the research and development of new weapons, and it also served as a training site where soldiers would learn to use the new weapons. Weapons invented at the NOTS included the air-intercept missile 9 sidewinder, the shrike, the joint stand-off weapon, and the joint direct attack munition. In 1967, the NOTS became the Naval Weapons Center, and in 1992, it became the NAWS China Lake.
As a NAWS base, NAWS China Lake’s mission is to continue naval research, development, and testing, just as it has done from its inception in the 1940s.
Naval Base Coronado as actually a consolidated Navy base. The base includes eight different military facilities. In 1997, the facilities were combined under one command that now covers 57,000 acres. The bases included in the Naval base Coronado are the Naval Air Station North Island, the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, the Naval Outlying Landing Field Imperial Beach, the Naval Auxiliary Landing Field San Clemente Island, the Silver Strand Training Complex, the SERE Training Facility Warner Springs, the Camp Michael Monsoor Mountain Warfare Training Facility, and Camp Morena. The NB Coronado employs over 36,000 active duty servicemembers and civilians, which makes the base the largest employer in San Diego County.
Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore was commissioned in 1961. In 1998, it was chosen to be the West Coast site for the newest strike-fighter aircraft called the Super Hornet. With the arrival of the Super Hornet, the base grew to accommodate over 90 more aircrafts, and 1,850 more active duty service members and 3,000 of their family members.
Today, the NAS Lemoore is the main base for the Navy’s fighter and attack capabilities on the west coast, and there are still over 150 Super Hornets based at the NAS Lemoore.
Naval Postgraduate School Monterey
The Naval Postgraduate School was originally established in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1909. Curriculum for the school was developed by the superintendent of the Naval Academy, and the Naval Postgraduate School offered courses in gunnery, electrical, civil and marine engineering, radio telegraphy, and naval constructions. What had started as a small two-room school with 10 students and 2 instructors was now an accredited university.
By 1942, it was moved across the country to Monterey, California, and found a new home in the world-renowned Hotel Del Monte. The move from Maryland to California constituted one of the largest moves in the history of American academia since the Naval Postgraduate School moved over 600 students and faculty and over 1,000 pounds of research equipment and books across the whole country.
In 2009, the school celebrated its 100 anniversary, and the Naval Postgraduate School still provides accredited graduate degrees to men and women serving in the Navy.
NAS North Island
In 1917, Naval Air Station (NAS) San Diego was built, and in 1955, it was renamed NAS North Island. The base is considered the “Birthplace of Naval Aviation.” Before World War I, Glenn Curtiss established a flight school on the base, and it was used by both the Army and the Navy. During World War I, Glen Martin, a world renowned aircraft designer, flew over the base and executed the first parachute jump on the base. The base was used as a key location for base support in the pacific during World War II.
Today, the NAS North Island is home to many naval units, some of which include the La Posta Mountain Warfare Training Facility, the Naval Auxiliary Landing Facility, and the Naval Aviation Depot, which is the largest employer in San Diego.
NB Ventura County – NAS Point Mugu
During World War II, NAS Point Mugu was a base started by the Navy for use as an anti-aircraft training center. After the war, the base was more fully developed as a missile testing facility. Most of the missiles developed in the 1950s and 1960s were tested at Point Mugu.
While Ronald Reagan was President of the United States, he used the airfield on NAS Point Mugu when visiting his ranch in Santa Barbara, and when he died in 2004, his funeral was held at the base.
NB Ventura County – NCBC Port Hueneme
The Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) Port Hueneme was built in 1942. It was originally meant to be temporary base to train soldiers during World War II, but after the war, it became a permanent Navy installation. During the Korean War, all equipment and supplies used by the Navy were kept and shipped from NCBC Port Hueneme. Today, the base is home to U.S. Navy Seabee Museum, which is one of 15 museums at Naval Base Ventura County.
NB San Diego
Naval Base San Diego was established in 1918 and was expanding substantially during World War II to accommodate training schools and units. NB San Diego was designated as a repair base, and spent the war fixing more than 5,000 ships. After World War II, the base was a key base in providing logistical support for active duty Naval ships.
Today, the Naval Base San Diego is one of the largest Navy bases. It covers 977 acres of land and 326 acres of water; it’s home to 50 ships and 13 piers; and it houses over 26,000 active duty military members and civilians.
MCAGCC 29 Palms
The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC) 29 Palms was established in 1942 as a Naval auxiliary war station. The base was originally meant to be a temporary base used for World War II, but when the Korean War broke out, the Marine Corps needed more ranges for live-fire training and decided to make MCAGCC 29 Palms an official base. The base has seen constant growth and expansion since its beginnings in 1942 with the most recent proposal for expansion in 2008. The MCAGCC 29 Palms has been featured in episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, Home Improvement, and the 2005 production of Doom.
In 1942, the Marine Corps Logistics Base (MCLB) was established when the Navy leased it to the Marine Corps to use as a storage site during World War II. By the end of the war, the responsibilities and needs of the base had outgrown the facilities on the base, and so the Marine Corps leased buildings belonging to the Army. The new annexes were located about seven miles from the original MCLB. In 1978, the main mission of the MCLB Barstow shifted and the base became a broad logistics support base.
Today, the base is composed of three different sites, two called Nebo Annex and Yermo Annex, and a firing range that covers over 2,000 acres. The base continues to be one of the most important facilities in the Marine Corps.
MCB Camp Pendleton
Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton was established in the early 1940s when the Marine Corps went looking for a new location for a training base. When World War II started, only three bases were allowed to be used for training, and one of those bases was Camp Pendleton. In 1943, the first women serving in the Marine Corps were stationed at Camp Pendleton to make sure everything ran smoothly. Camp Pendleton has continued to grow and expand, becoming the expeditionary base it is today.
Although all the buildings at MCB Camp Pendleton have been replaced by modern buildings with modern military technology, the ranch house that originally occupied Camp Pendleton can be toured as a historical site.
When the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar was first established in 1917, it was used to train young soldiers before they were sent to combat in Europe. During World War II, the base was used as a firing range for artillery and machine gun training. In 1947, the Marine Corps base was transferred to a Naval Air Station and stayed that way until 1993 when it was transferred back to the Marine Corps.
Today, MCAS Miramar is home to the Miramar National Cemetery, the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum, and the Miramar Airshow.
MCRD San Diego
The Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego was established in 1916. During World War II, the recruiting and training activity on the base overshadowed any other military duties carried out on the base, and that has been the primary mission and function the MCRD San Diego ever since. Today, all male Marine Corps recruits who live west of the Mississippi River fulfil their basic training at the MCRD San Diego.
Mountain Warfare Training Center
In 1951, the Mountain Warfare Training Center was established for cold weather training for soldiers being deployed to Korea during the Korean War. The Mountain Warfare Training Center is one of the Marine Corps’ most remote and isolated bases, and it is still used for cold weather training. Today, the training center is the home of the Sweetwater Airstrip, Mt. Shasta, and the Hawthorne Army Depot, which is used for live-fire training.
Coast Guard Stations in California
California was once home to twenty Coast Guard Stations, with twelve of those stations still active. One of the active stations is called Humboldt Bay. The station was originally built in 1878, rebuilt in 1936, and has been a life-saving station throughout its history. In 1979, Humboldt Bay became a National Historic Place but still continues to be used as a life-saving station by the California Coast Guard.