UCSD exhibit takes aim at life on pre-campus bases

Before freshmen roamed the UCSD campus, the university’s 1,200 acres of pristine coastal woodland were populated by riflemen and soldiers in training who honed their marksmanship skills at the rifle, pistol and skeet ranges on the military bases that predated its founding in 1960.

In anticipation of UCSD’s 50th anniversary in 2010, its Mandeville Special Collections Library is exhibiting the first of several shows with historic photographs, documents and other materials from its archives. The “From Riflemen to Freshmen” is on display on the second floor of Geisel Library on campus through Jan. 3.

Highlights from the exhibit include a photo of 1st Lt. Calvin B. Matthews (who Camp Matthews was named for), Quonset huts (later repurposed as Warren College offices and classrooms), military trainees following a punishing natural obstacle course at Camp Callan, and crew operating an anti-aircraft machine gun, firing at airplane targets.

While women were largely absent from daily life at the military bases, the exhibit does include one photo of a huddle of nurses, WACS and Red Cross workers posing on the beach at Camp Callan.

Also included in the exhibit, courtesy of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Command Museum, are a number of historic artifacts from the military training that took place at Camp Matthews, including a shooting jacket, a first aid pouch, an M1 helmet, an M-1903 Springfield.30 rifle and a rifle scorecard.

Materials were also contributed by Judy P. Schulman.

Camp Matthews (U.S. Marine Corps), Camp Callan (U.S. Army), and Camp Elliot (U.S. Marine Corps, then later the U.S. Navy) had thousands of military personnel training on what is today the UCSD campus. From 1917 to 1964, Camp Matthews (bounded on the east by Regents Road, the north by Voigt Drive and the south by La Jolla Village Drive) served as a Marine rifle training camp for more than 1 million Marine recruits and shooters.

The U.S. Army base’s Camp Callan, located to the west of Camp Matthews on the Torrey Pines Mesa, served as an anti-aircraft artillery replacement training center during World War II (1941-45).

From 1940 to 1946, Marines were also trained for combat during WWII at Camp Elliot, located to the northeast of the campus. The property was decommissioned in 1946 and was then taken over by the U.S. Navy, which continued to use the base for military training until 1961. Today, portions of Camp Elliot are occupied by the UCSD Animal Care Program.

A transition ceremony to honor the U.S. Marine Corps transfer of Camp Matthews to the University of California occurred in 1964. At the ceremony, a monument to Camp Matthews was unveiled adjacent to the main campus flagpole in what is now known as the University Center area of campus.

One of the Marine Corps’ greatest proponents of rifle marksmanship, Maj. Gen. B. A. Hochmuth, commanding general of the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot at the time, fired the ceremonial “last rounds” marking the closing of Camp Matthews.

— Dolores Davies, UCSD

‘From Riflemen to Freshmen’

What: Exhibit chronicles La Jolla’s military history before the founding of the UCSD campus

When: Through Jan. 3, hours vary

Where: Mandeville Special Collections Library, Geisel Library, UCSD

Contact: (858) 534-0667