Finding General Patton » Sherman Tank, Patton Museum in Indio CA

Sherman Tank at the patton Museum

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On February 5, 1942, Lt. General Lesley J. McNair, Chief of Staff, General Headquarters, gave his approval to a plan developed to stop Germany’s advance in Northern Africa. He designated Major General George S. Patton, Jr. to establish the Desert Training Center for the purpose of training men and machines for action under the harsh conditions of the African deserts.

With staff officers, he flew over a vast expanse of sand and brush weeds in Southern California and portions of Arizona and Nevada. Later, he covered much of the area on foot and on horseback. He decided this was the place to build a force for desert combat. The area selected by General Patton in the California and Arizona deserts encompassed approximately 18,000 square miles, making it the largest military installation and maneuver area in the world.

Patton described the area chosen as: “…the best I have ever seen . . . it is desolate and remote . . . large enough for any kind of training exercises.”

The first troops to arrive at the Desert Training Center described it as “the place God forgot.” It was eventually to become the training ground for more than a million troops in seven armored divisions and thirteen infantry divisions.

General Patton arrived, and the Desert Training Center became operational, in early April 1942. Four days later, he and the troops took their first desert march. Within 15 days, all units at the center had been on a desert march. Within 23 days, he had conducted 13 tactical exercises, including some with two nights in the desert.

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