WWII U.S. Army M-4 Tanks at California Desert Training Center
This photo was taken by a U.S. Army Signal Corps photographer at Freda, California, a siding on the Santa Fe rail line to Phoenix, where troops and equipment were delivered to the Desert Training Center near Camp Young. You can see rows of M-4 Sherman tanks and other vehicles ready to take part in training exercises in the early days of World War II.
In March of 1942, the War Department sent Gen. George Patton Jr. to establish the Desert Training Center in order to improve the readiness of American forces for armored warfare in general and warfare in North Africa in particular. Patton only stayed a few months, leaving in July 1942 to prepare for Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa that represented the first major U.S. ground operation of World War II.
The first troops arrived at Desert Training Center in mid-April 1942 followed by the first full division, the "Bayou Blitz," 3rd Armored Division, on 26 July 1942. To save rubber, the Division and all its equipment was shipped on 30 trains from Camp Polk, Louisiana. During the four-day journey, the troops stopped for rest in small towns across west Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. At their destination in Rice, California, and the Freda siding, the soldiers stepped into a brilliantly sunlit desert of sand and rock with the July temperature near 130 degrees. Even before the maneuver training started, they were being acclimated to North African conditions.