We started today’s trip on US 60, but at Hope, AZ we headed due west on AZ 62. We had a surprise when we got to Bouse, AZ. There was a military memorial along the highway with an M60 Patton tank and a self-propelled howitzer. I did a loop around the block so we could stop to see what it was about. In addition to the armored vehicles, there is a row of monuments that are dedicated to each of the units that made up the 9th Tank Group. The memorial tells the story of Camp Bouse that was located about 20 miles north of Bouse. It was one of 12 bases set up by General Patton to form the Desert Training Center in 1942. Camp Bouse was the home of the 9th tank group which consisted of six tank battalions, one armored infantry battalion, an ordnance company and a station hospital. The group trained in absolute secrecy mainly at night. The light device consisted of a high powered search light, mounted in an armored housing on a tank. Its purpose was to temporarily blind the enemy at night. The role of the 526th Infantry was to defend the operations of the CD tanks and attack if security of the tanks was being threatened. One of the battalions of the group fought in the Battle of the Bulge and probably supported the 87th ID during that time.
Our next stop of the day was the Poston War Relocation Center just east of Parker, AZ. Ever since I visited the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Idaho and Manzanar WRC in California last year, I’ve been intrigued by the events that lead to the relocation and internment of American citizens of Japanese ancestry during WWII. As we travel the west, I plan to stop at as many as I can fit into the travel schedule. Poston or the Colorado River Relocation Center was one of 12 such center spread through out the west. The massive relocation of American citizens was authorized by Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942. Nothing remains of the Poston WRC, but a monument has been erected by that marks the site where 17,867 persons of Japanese ancestry were interned from May 1942 to November 1945. All persons of Japanese descent living on west coast farms, businesses, towns, cities, and states were forcibly evacuated by the United States military on the grounds that they posed a threat to national security. Each of the WRC’s that I visited tells the story of how the Japanese American were forced to pick up and leave their home with what they could fit in a suitcase and travel into some of the worst areas of the west to settle into these newly built camps. Despite the hardships of life in the desert, they were able to eventually transform the camps into home by building schools, planting gardens, and organizing day to day life to be as close to a small town as possible. Unfortunately, they were always fenced in, some of the camps like Manzanar had guard towers to watch over them 24/7. The freedom of movement that we all take for granted was not possible for the internees for the 3+ years they spent in the camp. What is even more surprising is the patriotism shown by many of the males who enlisted in the Army serving with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in the European Theater. For their accomplishments in 223 days of combat, they became one of the most decorated units in United States military history. Among the many awards and decorations received by the men of the 442 RCT are 1 Medal of Honor, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 560 Silver Star Medals, over 4,000 Bronze Stars, 9,486 Purple Hearts, and 7 Presidential Unit Citations.
After lunch along the Colorado River, we crossed it a Parker and headed into the Mojave Desert. Where ever you enter the Peoples Republic of California, you are subject to an agricultural inspection. Today it was from a nice employee of the Department of Agriculture who just asked questions about where we were coming from, what fresh fruits and vegetables we had on board and if we were carrying any firewood. No physical inspection this time. Across the street from the inspection station is Vidal Junction with a couple of cafés. One had a giant chicken on the roof and the other had life size bison. One of the cafés seems to out of business and is for sale. We’ve been through this intersection going a different direction in 2012 on our Time to Work, Time to Play Time to Serve tour. Down the road to the west from Vidal Junction is the shoe fence. For some reason people started to leave shoes and other objects on a fence that surrounds a burned out building in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Not sure why, but these thing seem to catch on. We’ve seen probably a half dozen shoe trees or fences in our travels.
We were headed to Twentynine Palms to spend the night. The desert along the way is littered with abandoned shacks, cabins, and houses as well as some that people are living in. They are on what look to be 4 or 5 acre plots. Many have been stripped of contents as well as doors, windows, and anything else that is useful. I’d like to find out what the story is for this area. We did arrive at the Twentynine Palms Mobile Home and RV Resort fairly early and decided to go into town for dinner. It’s pretty clear that this is a Marine town as it is loaded with barber shops that have big signs offering Marine haircuts and not to be prejudicial to our Leatherneck friends nearly as many tattoo parlors. We ate dinner at Rocky’s New York pizza and had the specialty, pizza. There was a platoon size group of young men in the restaurant with what was obviously the platoon leader having dinner. I spoke to the lieutenant and he said they were his Marines for the next couple of days before they headed out to new duty assignments. It was a going away party held by the lieutenant and his wife. They group was well behaved and made you feel proud that they are representing us to the rest of the world. Thanks for your service and God speed in your next assignment Marines.