Camp Dunlap

History of Slab City | Camp Dunlap

Camp Dunlap Entrance

Slab City entrance when it was the Marine Base called Camp Dunlap in the 1940′

Slab City Then

Hitler invaded Poland, Austria and Czechoslovakia, threatening other surrounding countries.  The United States was expecting to be called to help.  The Marine Corps decided they needed a training center  for the Artillery Regiments and Anti-aircraft Units near enough so that planes could take off from an Aircraft Carrier near San Diego.  The deserts close to San Diego area were considered ideal.  Anza Borrego, Ocotillo and Niland were all being considered.
1940’s: The editor of the Brawley Imperial County Democrat, F.W. Greer, appealed to President Roosevelt to have the large Marine base established in Niland.  The Marines at that time acquired Rancho Santa Margarita which became Camp Pendleton and so the base at Niland was reduced to a minor base.


Early U.S.Marine Emblem from Wikipedia

Early U.S.Marine Emblem from Wikipedia. Awaiting response from Marine Trademark Division for accurate emblem used in 1942

February 6, 1942: The Navy Department obtained 631.345 acres in Imperial Valley, California, in fee for use as Camp Dunlap Naval Reservation through condemnation proceedings. The Final Judgement stated that the land shall revert to and revest in the State of California if the land is no longer used by the U.S. for national defense purposes. It includes elevations ranging from 40 feet below sea level to 3,000 fee above.

1942: Construction of Camp Dunlap was expected to prepare the Devil Dogs for combat duty. The 114,332 acre tract included an estimated 30 buildings, a water treatment system, 1,000,000-gallon reservoir, distribution system, sewage collection and sewage treatment system, over 8.2 miles of paved streets, recreational areas including a 76 x 165 ft. swimming pool, and concrete fuel tanks. It was completed in 1942 at an estimated cost of nearly $4,000,000 (four million dollars).

Picture of General Robert Dunlap

Camp Dunlap was named after General Robert Dunlap.

March 21, 1942 Saturday: The 11th Naval District headquarters at San Diego officially announced through Lt. Gen Thomas Holcomb, commandant of the Marine Corps, the name of the Marine Corps training base near Niland to be Camp Dunlap in honor of Brig. Gen Robert Henry Dunlap, U.S.M.C.

Robert H. Dunlap was born on December 22, 1879. He was an infantry officer and respected as one of the outstanding artillery experts in the United States Marine Corps.  He  headed an artillery regiment during World War I.  He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps in 1898, with his first action experienced during the Philippine Insurrection, and the Boxer Rebellion.  He was 19 years old. Later he was a member of every Marine expedition in Latin American countries, including the Panama Intervention and the Cuban Occupation. While on leave visiting friends in Cinq-Mars LaPille, France, Gen Dunlap was heading a rescue party  when he was caught in landslide that took his life.  He died on May 19th, 1931.  He was buried at Arlington and memorialized by a building at Quantico.

Jail at the former Camp Dunlap, now Slab City

This building was used as the Jail house and was called the Guard House at Camp Dunlap which is now called The Slabs.

October 1942 thru March 8th, 1946:  the Marine Corps used the 631.345 acre site  as headquarters for Camp Dunlap. Over 185,000 troops received special artillery training over a 3-year wartime high-activity period. There were no barracks in this camp; it was all tents and the servicemen referred to it as Tent City.


Slab City Now:

Slab City is a place where people share music, art, potluck, evening campfires, golf, geocatching, and hot mineral mud soaks.






History of Slab City

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  • Los Angeles District, US Army Corps of Engineers
  • E Clampus Vitus, John P. Squibob Chapter # 1853, Camp Robert H. Dunlap, March 25, 2006
  • Brawley News, March 21, 1942 Sat.