The Transit of Mercury
Camp Coxcomb, California

09 May 2016


My setup for recording the Transit of Mercury was an Astro-Physics Traveler equipped with a Baader Herschel Wedge, Televue 2x Powermate, and STL-11000M
CCD camera tandem-mounted on an Astro-Physics 1200 GTO German Equatorial alongside a Lunt 152 H-alpha solar telescope with a Point Grey Grasshopper
GiGe video camera.  The cardboard box served as a sunshade for my laptop computer, allowing me to better view the monitor in the sunny conditions. 



The historic location chosen for this outing was in the Mohave Desert of Eastern Riverside County at the former site of Camp Coxcomb, one of several WWII training
facilities under the command of General George S. Patton.  The best preserved artifact at the site of Camp Coxcomb is the stone altar, adjacent to where I set up my
equipment.  It’s tucked away on a lonely desert road at the south end of the camp complex and sits as a poignant reminder of the brave generation of men who
trained there during the epic struggle to liberate the world from brutal totalitarian regimes.

Bronze statue of General Patton and his dog, Willie, at the entrance to the Patton Memorial Museum in Chiraico Summit, CA. Located about 50 miles east of Palm Springs, CA on Interstate 10, this museum is a must-stop for those interested in the history of the WWII Desert Training Centers and Patton's wartime campaigns as well as other WWII memorabilia. The musuem's website can be found at

The plaque (left) placed by the Billy Holcomb Chapter of the E Clampus Vitus organization to commemorate Camp Coxcomb. This monument is located
adjacent to Highway 177 about 17 miles north of Desert Center, CA off the
west side of the road. A very sandy 4WD road heads west from here less
than 2 miles to the camp headquarters site, the remains of which today
have been mostly reclaimed by the desert.


Wording on the E Clampus Vitus plaque at Camp Coxcomb.


A Short History of Camp Coxcomb


In January 1942, the success of the German Army in North Africa led the U.S. War Department to focus training in areas with a desert terrain and environment.
On 5 February 1942, the Chief of Staff, General Headquarters, approved of a Desert Training Center and designated General George S. Patton as the Center's
Commanding General. The total maneuver area encompassed 12 million acres in Southern California and Western Arizona, making it the largest training area in
the U.S. Close to one million troops were trained in this area between 1942 and 1944.

Within the organization of the Desert Training Center (DTC) , the Camp Coxcomb site was established as one of several divisional camps. On 13 May 1942
Real Estate Directive 959 transferred 10,560 acres from the U.S. Department of the Interior to the War Department. This was an implied transfer, therefore the
War Department did not obtain formal permission from the Department of the Interior. In addition, 960 acres were acquired by permit. While it cannot be
independently confirmed, it is assumed that these acres were acquired from the State of California through Revocable Permit No. 12 on 24 March 1942.
Hence, a total of 11,520 acres were acquired for Camp Coxcomb.

The Camp was established during the Spring of 1942 and subsequently occupied by the 7th Armored Division, as well as the 93rd and 95th Infantry Divisions.
Temporary improvements constructed on the site included 39 showers, 165 latrines, 283 tent frames, 35,052 feet of water pipe, two 1000 gpm centrifugal pumps,
and one 4,000 gallon elevated metal water storage tank. Seven firing ranges were also provided. The two permanent features constructed on the site include a
contour map of the Desert Training Center and a stone altar located in a former chapel area.

By March 1943, the North Africa Campaign was in its final stages and the primary mission of the DTC changed. By the middle of 1943, the troops who originally
came for desert training maneuvers, were now deployed worldwide. Therefore, to reflect that change in mission, the name of the Center was changed to the
California-Arizona Maneuver Area (CAMA). The CAMA was to serve as a Theater of Operations to train combat troops, service units and staffs under conditions
similar to those which might be encountered overseas.

The CAMA was enlarged to include both a Communications Zone and Combat Zone, approximately 350 miles wide and 250 miles long. Thousands of soldiers
and equipment arrived by train at the Freda railroad siding as maneuvers continued at Camp Coxcomb. Toward the end of 1943, the need for service units for
overseas duty increased dramatically, leaving little or no support for the CAMA. Without service unit support, commanders made the decision in January of 1944
to suspend operation of the CAMA.

The entire CAMA was declared surplus on 30 March 1944 and the Army formally announced that the CAMA was to be closed by 1 May 1944.

The Camp Coxcomb site was declared surplus on 16 March 1944. The 10,560 acres associated with the implied transfer from the Department of the Interior
were relinquished on 2 September 1949. The permit with the State of California for the use of 960 acres was terminated on 11 November 1944.