The legacy of World War II and the role of the community of Bouse in that conflict was commemorated Feb. 8 with the 24th annual Camp Bouse Dedication in Bouse.
Camp Bouse was a training center for American armored units in 1943 and 1944. It was part of the Desert Training Center. The site was selected by Gen. George S. Patton because it was remote and because it was accessible by railroad. More than 10,000 soldiers trained here.
Master of Ceremonies for the Camp Bouse Dedication was David Bull of the Bouse Chamber of Commerce. He said that 1.5 million Americans have died in the nation’s wars, and another 2.8 million were wounded or are still missing.
“Those aren’t just numbers,” he said. “They represent fathers, sons and families. They must not be forgotten.”
Bull said it had been 76 years since Camp Bouse was decommissioned. He added they hadn’t had any veterans who served at Camp Bouse at the dedication ceremonies for the last three years.
The guest speaker for the occasion was Lt. Col. Alicia Johnson, the commander of the Yuma Test Center. A native of Texas who has only been in Arizona for eight months, she said she found Arizonans to be patriotic and supportive of the military and veterans. She said she was impressed with what Bouse residents are doing to remember the service and sacrifices of America’s military personnel.
“I appreciate all that you’re doing,” she said. “I feel truly humbled to be here and see what you’re doing.”
Johnson said several bases were established as part of the Desert Training Center in what was called the California-Arizona Desert Maneuver Area. Of these, the last remaining base is the Yuma Test Center.
“We are developing tomorrow’s technology and equipment,” she said. “We are proud to carry forward Camp Bouse’s training and testing legacy.”
Johnson thanked Bouse residents on behalf of the people she serves with. She also thanked Bull for his efforts, passion and commitment.
In addition to Johnson, members of the Daughters of the American Revolution were on hand to rededicate a plaque that was first installed in 2010.
Students from Bouse Elementary School were on hand to bring in the flags of each of the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. This was a repeat of a performance the students made on Veterans Day at the school.
An honor guard from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion raised the colors and played “Taps” at the close of the ceremony.
The event was followed by lunch at the Bouse Booster Hall.
Camp Bouse trained armored units for combat. Patton knew the harsh desert climate would be perfect for training crews for the harsh conditions they could expect in combat. From Camp Bouse, they went out to fight the Axis forces of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan.
The site was also used to test and train personnel on a top secret device known as the Canal Defense Light. Dubbed the “Gizmo” by the troops, it was a powerful strobing searchlight that was mounted on a specially equipped tank. The idea was that it could be used to temporarily blind German troops during tank assaults.
One of the reasons for the Gizmo was American tanks like the M4 Sherman were outmatched by the German 88mm anti-tank gun. This was an adapted anti-aircraft gun, and it proved to be very effective against Allied tanks. German tanks were also better armored than their American counterparts, and their guns could shoot further and hit harder.
Some 5,500 specially trained and screened volunteers were brought to Camp Bouse to test and train on the Gizmo. They arrived in troop trains from Fort Knox on Oct. 14, 1943.
It all proved to be for nothing. The Gizmo was rendered obsolete when the Germans began equipping their tank and gun crews with sun-filter goggles that could negate its effects.
The idea of monuments to the units that trained at Camp Bouse originated with the late George Wendt of the 526th Armored Infantry Battalion. The first dedication in 1997 honored the 526th AIB. Since then, monuments have been erected to honor the armored units that trained here. Monuments have also been erected to honor the ordinance and quartermaster units that served here, the base hospital and its nurses, and even the camp’s mascot, a mule named “8-Ball.”
The A&C Mercantile in Bouse was also honored for serving as the post office and Post Exchange (PX) for the base.
The Camp Bouse Monument is located at the intersection of Plomosa Road and State Route 72 in Bouse. It’s open to the public. Look for the tanks.