In 1942, along with a base headquarters, three Marine regiments were developed in tent camps at the Las Pulgas, San Onofre and Cristianitos areas. The intent was that troops using these areas would live under field conditions, carrying with them their tents and other equipment.
Each tent camp had its own combat and qualification range. The ranges were laid out for rifle, machine gun and mortar firing and were situated to facilitate training in small arms combat, the use of grenades and bayonets, and other infantry tactics. During this period the expeditionary airfield (now Marine Corps Air Station) was built, and the boat basin at Del Mar was completed just north of Oceanside to provide a sheltered berthing area.
After the assault on Tarawa in November 1943, training in amphibious operations became a top priority for the Marine Corps. The amphibious training facilities at Camp Pendleton were expanded to 10 times their earlier capacities.
In 1946, Camp Pendleton would become the center of all Marine Corps activities on the West Coast and home to the 1st Marine Division. Quonset huts and hastily erected temporary wooden structures, many still in use, housed Marines here.
With the outbreak of the Korean conflict in 1950, $20 million was spent on Camp Pendleton to expand and upgrade existing facilities, including the construction of Camp Horno. In 1955, the initial Las Flores tank park and maintenance facilities were constructed with more added in 1965.
Between 1958 and 1961, permanent messing, billeting, administrative and training facilities were constructed at the Del Mar (21) Area. The Edson Range rifle qualification complex, an annex of Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, was constructed in two increments on land that had been in agricultural use (Stuart Mesa). All facilities required to support groups of recruits for two weeks of training were provided at this site. In 1972, a special research and development complex was developed west of Interstate 5 across from Edson Range for the MCTSSA.
During the 1970s, dispensaries and dental clinics were upgraded and a modern correctional center and a shopping center at the north end of the base were constructed. Since the mid-1970s, Camp Pendleton’s improvements include more than 5,000 buildings and structures, more than 500 miles of roads, 145 miles of natural gas lines and 952 miles of utility lines. The estimated total value of lands and improvements, including housing, is more than $1.7 billion.
One of the newest improvements is Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, a four-story, 500,000-square-foot facility near the main gate. The 42-bed facility is a teaching hospital that provides outpatient and inpatient care for active-duty service members, their family members, retirees and other eligible beneficiaries.
Services available include internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, ENT (ears, nose and throat), cardiology, pulmonary, audiology, urology, optometry, ophthalmology, gynecology, gastroenterology, allergy, obstetrics, dermatology, orthopedics, sports medicine, mental health, general surgery, nuclear medicine and emergency services.
Additional specialty care is provided at Naval Medical Center San Diego, approximately one hour’s drive from Camp Pendleton or at nearby civilian facilities as needed. Emergency care is available at the hospital on a 24-hour basis.
The first Infantry Immersion Trainer facility opened for daily operation in December 2007. Lodged at the I MEF Battle Simulation Center, it represents 10 years’ worth of science and technology investment by the Office of Naval Research. The IIT facility was built at the request of the commanding general, I MEF, then Lt. Gen. James Mattis, and by elements of the I MEF TEG (Training and Experimentation Group) to serve as a way to inoculate the Marine rifleman with the sights, sounds and smells of the chaotic environment experienced in close-quarters urban warfare.
The high-tech simulation provides a safe environment for learning how to prevent fatal errors before troops are exposed to the real threat.