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History of Yuma Proving Ground – Part One, First 100 Years


Early History of the Yuma Proving Ground –


The U.S. Army has been in Yuma since 1850.

The Army built the original Fort Yuma on a hill, overlooking the Yuma Crossing of the Colorado River.

Soldiers at Fort Yuma protected that important crossing, which thousands of travelers used each year.

The first Fort Yuma operated until 1883.

A second facility, the Yuma Quartermaster Depot, was built next to the Colorado River in 1865.

The Depot acted as a supply base for Army posts throughout Arizona and part of New Mexico.

Supplies were delivered to the depot by riverboats.  Those supplies were then transported to various military outposts by wagon.

The Depot operated for eighteen years. After it closed, Army personnel didn’t settle in Yuma until World War II.


World War II –


From the Yuma Proving Ground website

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Yuma Test Branch in 1943, near the present site of the proving ground.

That site is below Laguna Dam on the Colorado River.

The Army saw it as most desirable spot in the whole country to test portable combat bridges.

That was because of the Colorado River’s heavy and swift current.  It gave engineers the chance to learn about controlling large water flows.

In late 1944, the Army grew rice and hemp along the Colorado River.

This created realistic conditions for testing troop and vehicle movements, in preparation for the expected invasion of Japan.

Photo of rice field by Fabien Burque

Camp Laguna –


When the test branch began operating, the Army also established Camp Laguna a few miles to the west.

The purpose of Camp Laguna was to train troops in mechanized warfare.

Camp Laguna was one of twelve major U.S. Army desert training camps in the California-Arizona Maneuver Area (CAMA).

This 18,000 square mile CAMA area, chosen by General George S. Patton, became the training ground for over one million soldiers.

Upward of 15,000 troops stayed at Camp Laguna at any one time, for periods often lasting six months.

Soldiers trained at Camp Laguna to prepare for a severe life of combat in the deserts of North Africa, and other World War II combat fronts.

The Army deactivated and demolished Camp Laguna in 1944.


Part Two will cover Yuma Proving Ground’s history from 1944 – 1971.


Information is from the History Page of the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground website.

Click here to see the Yuma Proving Ground website.


Feature image from Andrea Piacquadio

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