Framework

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April 20, 1942: Under the command of Gen George Patton, a U.S. Army tank destroyer unit awaits the start on maneuvers in the desert east of Indio. This photo was published on Page 1 of the April 21, 1942, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: George Watson / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

April 20, 1942: U.S. Army Maj. Gen. George S. Patton in the California desert for training.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: George Watson / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

April 20, 1942: U.S. Army light tanks during training in the California desert.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: George Watson / Watson Family Photo Archive

April 20, 1942: U.S. Army Pvts. Richard Whittle, left, and David Reeves work in a mobile machine shop during training in the California desert.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: George Watson / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

April 20, 1942: U.S. Army soldiers line up for chow during training in the California desert.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: George Watson / Watson Family Photo Archive

April. 20, 1942: U.S. Army troops during training in the California desert.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: George Watson / Watson Family Photo Archive

April 20, 1942: Tents scattered about the desert to house the armored units.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: George Watson / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

April 20, 1942: U.S. Army troops in jeeps during training in the California desert.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: George Watson / Watson Family Photo Archive

April 20, 1942: U.S. Army Maj. Gen. George S. Patton, left, and Lt. Col. Earl C. Horan watch tank maneuvers in the California desert.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: George Watson / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

April 20, 1942: U.S. Army Capt. Richard Jensen, left, and Maj. Gen. George S. Patton Jr. prepare to cook with a tin can stove embedded in Southern California desert sand.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: George Watson / Watson Family Photo Archive

April 20, 1942: U.S. Army Maj. Gen. George S. Patton's headquarters during training exercises in the California desert.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: George Watson / Watson Family Photo Archive

April 20, 1942: U.S. Army troops train in the California desert.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: George Watson / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

April 20, 1942: A light tank is driven over an ocotillo plant during training in the California desert.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: George Watson / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

April 20, 1942: U.S. Army tanks deployed to the California desert for training. Orange marks on print show sections of tanks the U.S. Army censors wanted painted over before publication.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: George Watson / Watson Family Photo Archive

A typed caption attached to the previous tank photo explains the U.S. Army censor's changes to the photo to be made before publication.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: George Watson / Watson Family Photo Archive

April 21, 1942: A copy of the Los Angeles Times photo page showing U.S. Army tanks in the California desert. The bogie wheels inside the tank treads have been painted over - no details showing. This image was a panorama made by assembling two or three prints.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: George Watson / Proquest

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Desert training with Gen. George Patton

April 20, 1942: Los Angeles Times staff photographer George Watson and staff representative Tom Cameron spent the day with Maj. Gen. George S. Patton and the U.S. 3rd Army during training in the California desert.

The next morning Cameron reported in the Los Angeles Times:

DESERT TRAINING CENTER (Indio) April 20. – This huge arid country of cactus, the ocatilla, the sagebrush, juniper and smoke tree, the lizard and the tiny desert rat has come alive in the last few days, its agelong desolation gone with a vengeance…

The “tankers” are here.

Under the command of leathery-visaged Maj. Gen. George Smith Patton Jr., who bossed the American tanks in France in the other World War, the vanguard of a huge armored corps has established itself in the western end of a desert training area embracing 16,200 square miles.

The headquarters camp, which already has carpeted the vicinity of the Metropolitan Aqueduct and the valley highway for several miles, is being transformed into a base camp with wooden-floored tents for personnel and some wooden structures for hospital and other services.

From this base large forces, details on whose numbers and equipment cannot be divulged, will range through this Southern California Sahara that extends 90 miles eastward to the Colorado River and north 180 miles to Searchlight, Nev.

Gen. Patton’s rapidly expanding outfit is here to learn and perfect desert warfare under the toughest, most exacting conditions that can be found or devised.

The outfit comprises American medium and light tanks of the type the British first accepted in Libya with misgivings but later came to praise and bless for their dependability, fire power and all-around superiority.

In November 1942, Gen. Patton and troops trained in the California desert landed in North Africa during Operation Torch.

Several of the images in the above photo gallery were obtained from the Watson Family Photographic Archive. Most of the remaining images were recently scanned from negatives at the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive at UCLA.

In the early days of World War ll, military censorship was very much a part of media war coverage. Before these images were published, they had to be approved by the U.S. Army. One example of this is in the above photo gallery. Parts of  U.S. Army tanks had to be painted over – most likely by Times staff artists – before publication.

Staff photographer George Watson originally worked at the Los Angeles Times from 1917 through 1929. During World War II, Watson returned to the Times when many staff photographers entered military service.

11 Comments

  1. January 27, 2012, 7:49 am

    Can you imagine what the ghost of Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. must be howling about, looking at today's President and SECDEF's changing paradigm in the social shift of the military's composition?

    By: Computer_Expert
  2. January 27, 2012, 12:35 pm

    These are tank destroyers and they took on Rommel's tanks in 1943 in a climatic battle towards the end of that campaign.

    Ed Hopson (ehopson@wyattfirm.com)

    By: ehopson
  3. January 28, 2012, 12:03 pm

    Yeah, to put it in plain language…Patton would be amazed that one of his soldiers' sons became president.

    By: alpha1906@gmail.com
  4. January 29, 2012, 10:20 am

    alpha1906,

    Patton would've been appalled by Obama. He couldn't stand socialists.

    By: kla9532@yahoo.com
  5. January 28, 2012, 12:52 pm

    Takes Guts to take on German Tanks with obsolete technology. When the M3 GMC was fielded it was woefully under armored and inadequate. I hope we never lose the technological edge like this again.

    By: remington7@live.com
  6. January 28, 2012, 9:12 pm

    My father trained with General Patton in Death Valley, He played the trumpet. He landed on Normandy with Gen Patton and the 5th Armored Division and told us a story about hoisting a piano on shore. He served in Luxembourg and returned a few years after the liberation and married his sweetheart, my mother. He recalled his time in Death Valley as the highlight of his life. As children, we visited Death Valley, it wasn't the same, but he gave us a verbal illustation that is portrayed in each of the photos. Must have really been somthing.

    By: anetm@aol.com
  7. December 27, 2012, 4:56 pm

    Patton did not land on Normandy

    By: jayealy@gmail.com
  8. December 27, 2013, 8:52 am

    Well, Patton arrived in Normandy on July 6, 1944. Took over command of the 3rd Army on August 1, 1944.. He did land in Normandy but was not involved on D-Day initial invasion

    By: 57@gmail.com
  9. January 31, 2012, 2:58 pm

    The first photo says "tank destroyers" on it because those are M3 tank destroyers, not mobile artillery.

    By: yeide@mac.com
  10. February 1, 2012, 1:31 am

    Thanks, the caption has been corrected.

    By: Scott Harrison
  11. April 24, 2014, 7:03 pm

    Was told grandfather was cook for general Patton

    By: G.harrington

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