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From the Archives: WWII Army recruits began arriving at Camp Callan 80 years ago

In 1941 the first Army recruits arrived at Camp Callan, the huge WWII training camp on Torrey Pines mesa where part of the U.C. San Diego campus, research facilities and the Torrey Pines Golf Course now lie. At its peak camp housed about 40,000 Army personnel. The last soldier left Camp Callan in December 1945.

From The San Diego Union, Friday, March 7, 1941:

First Trainees At S.D. Camp

269 Illinois Men Arrive at Callan

Fresh from the frozen midwest, 269 men stepped from a special Santa Fe train yesterday into the bright California sunshine — the first contingent of trainees under the selective service act to arrive at Camp Callan on Torrey Pines Mesa.

They left Ft. Sheridan, Ill, several days ago in a driving snowstorm. They arrived in San Diego in a shower of oranges.

The men detrained at the Guerra siding, scene of many similar episodes during World war days.

In their not-tailored-to-measure uniforms—and carrying raincoats over their arms—they put into effect what little military training they received at their induction centers, and fell into ranks. Maj. C.A. Stevenson had charge of the trainees during their trip from Ft. Sheridan.

Here and there a selectee clung to a trombone or trumpet case—supplementary material for the camp band, for which a nucleus of 28 pieces is expected to arrive soon.

Pages from the San Diego Union newspaper

March 7, 1941 front page of The San Diego Union.


From a sound truck near the siding, the amplified tones of “California Here I come” greeted the midwesterners, Col. F.P. Ardaway, camp commanding officer, welcomed the men.


“You are fortunate in being assigned to this replacement center,” Col. Hardaway said. “The work will be hard here and you will train intensively during the three months you remain at Camp Callan to fit yourselves for duty with the regiments you will eventually join. It is up to each one of you to get a good start.

“I know you will put forth your best efforts, and I can count on you to make Camp Callan one of the best replacement centers in the country.

“Some of you will remain at Camp Callan as instructors to train future selectees,” Col. Hardaway continued. “Others will join different regiments after the three months of basic training. The work will be hard, but nevertheless, there will be time for relaxation and diversion.


Vice Mayor Albert Flowers greeted the recruits on behalf of the city, promising them the city’s hospitality. Maj. Edgar Culnan, chamber of commerce military affairs committee vice chairman, extended greetings of San Diego’s civilian population.

San Diego-grown oranges were distributed to the trainees by Mrs. Faith miller of the chamber of commerce staff, and the men received pamphlets describing “502 places to see in San Diego.”

The selectees were transported to the camp, 4 1/2 miles away from the siding, by a convoy of army trucks. They were assigned to barracks where they proceeded to make themselves at home, and by noon, the new soldiers were ready for their first mess call at the camp.