Camp Cooke and Vandenberg Air Force Base, 1941–1966

From Armor and Infantry Training to Space and Missile Launches


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About the Book

During World War II, hundreds of military training installations were built throughout the United States to prepare servicemen for the rigors of overseas combat. One such installation was Camp Cooke in California, which since 1957 has become an internationally recognized missile and rocket base renamed Vandenberg Air Force Base. This book examines the history of the camp, starting with its construction. Established some 150 miles north of Los Angeles, Cooke was designed for armored divisions, but by the end of the war hundreds of other specialized organizations trained there. It supported many USO clubs and attracted some of Hollywood’s leading entertainers as well as many from radio and stage. With the outbreak of the Korean War, Cooke supported Army National Guard and reserve units. Its large hospital cared for war evacuees and Army medical cases from other parts of the globe. When it became an Air Force base, America’s first spy satellite program was conducted from there. The intelligence data collected from these missions exploded the myth of a “missile gap” with the Soviet Union. At the height of the Cold War, America’s first ICBM missile equipped with a nuclear warhead was based at Vandenberg.

About the Author(s)

Jeffrey E. Geiger is a retired historian.

Bibliographic Details

Jeffrey E. Geiger
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 284
Bibliographic Info: 102 photos, 5 maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2014
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7855-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1424-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Preface 1
Introduction 7
1. Constructing Camp Cooke 15
2. The Camp in World War II 30
3. The Interwar Years, 1945–1950 69
4. The Camp in the Korean War, 1950–1953 73
5. Organized Entertainment at Camp Cooke 95
6. The Army Departs 147
7. A New Mission 152
Epilogue 190
A. Brig. Gen. Philip St. George Cooke, 1809–1895 193
B. Camp Cooke and the Rancho de Jesus Maria 197
C. Commanders and Commandants 201
D. Known Army Units at Camp Cooke 203
E. Medal of Honor Recipients with Connections to Camp Cooke 210
F. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, 1899–1954 214
G. Vandenberg AFB Launch Facility Status and History 216
Chapter Notes 232
Bibliography 252
Index 259

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Recounts the history of the California base from its origins as Camp Cooke in 1941 to its development as a missile and rocket base”—ProtoView
  • “The book is terrific.”—Actress Elinor Donahue
  • “Mr. Geiger’s book Camp Cooke and Vandenberg Air Force Base, 1941-1966 is a well-researched history of the base in its former life as a training location for the U.S. Army and later a location for space and missile launches for the United States Air Force through the present day.”—Joseph T. Page II