I am trying to find where General Patton buried several tanks and other items. They are supposedly still buried in Imperial County, California. Does anyone have any info on their whereabouts? — Treasure Hunter, Brawley
Talk of buried tanks in the desert
must be a lot of lore, because we haven’t even been able to find reference to them except for a small thread on the message boards of The History Channel’s Web site, where someone asked pretty much the same question as the letter writer.
There was no real answer there except someone called it urban legend.
We took a trip to Pioneers’ Museum this week to look through the Imperial County Historical Society’s archives. There were a few references to the U.S. Army’s Desert Training Center, which later became known as the California-Arizona Maneuver Area before it was closed by the Army in 1944.
The Desert Training Center was established, with Gen. George S. Patton as the first commanding officer, as an area to simulate conditions of the North African theater of World War II.
The publications in the museum’s archives make no mention whatsoever of buried tanks.
In fact, from what we can see, there is mention of divisions of the Army in 1944 being responsible solely for the clean-up of the training area, according to the E Clampus Vitus publication “Camp Pilot Knob: 1942-1944.”
“At midnight on April 30, 1944, training at the Desert Training Center ended and with it a significant phase of the epoch of World War II. With deactivation of the California-Arizona Maneuver Area, a concentrated effort began to clean up the area, close the camps, collect, salvage, and ship to outside depots thousands of pieces of equipment and tons of material.”
Also, Patton left the desert before the area was closed, so training went on under other divisions with other equipment and other commanding officers.
As we were leaving the museum, archives curator Lynn Housouer theorized the legend wasn’t likely true considering during wartime the U.S. was trying to salvage and recycle every last piece of metal for the war effort.
We agreed, also thinking that if there were buried tanks, how would you find them?
The person answering the phone at the Gen. George S. Patton Memorial Museum off Interstate 10 east of Indio said the Desert Training Center was sprawled among 18,000 square miles, from Imperial County, to the outskirts of Pomona, to suburban Yuma and half way to Phoenix.
That’s a lot of places to lose a couple of tanks.