Camp Pendleton Museums & Tours
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Museums & Tours

In order to visit the three Command Museums aboard base, submit your written request to the addresses listed below. When comming on base, be ready to show identification, proof of insurance, proof of registration, a letter of confirmation, and to be searched at the gate.

He stated in his personal oral history memoirs that "in those days there were no brand laws in the state of California and I doubt if there were any in Texas, so he left that brand on those cattle and used it. He had the irons made and used that brand on the Santa Margarita Ranch." Baumgartner also states that the "O" in the brand did not stand for anything involving the O’Neill name.

When the Marine Corps acquired the rancho, the brand was painted on all the vehicles and even carved into tables and chairs used at the Ranch House when it was briefly used as an officers club.
Billy McGee, a rancher, roping a calf in Rancho Santa Margarita corrals. (1920s) 
(left to right) Richard O'Neill, John Baumgartner and James Flood
Military Police motorcycle detachment. (1946-47)
It is featured on the masthead of the base newspaper, found on folders and informal correspondence, and on signs throughout Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, yet few know that the mysterious symbol was a cattle brand.

Before this vast expanse of hills and valleys became property of the U.S. government, it was a thriving cattle ranch known as the Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores, and the cattle roaming the hills sported the brand. When the Marine Corps acquired the property in 1942, it was given permission to use the brand as the Camp Pendleton logo, hence retaining a visible tie to the past. One of the former owners of the rancho, John J. Baumgartner Jr., kept the brand and used it on his ranch in San Juan Bautista, Calif., until his death.

John J. Baumgartner, owner of the brand and grandson of Richard O’Neill, recalled that Richard O’Neill purchased the ranch from James Flood in 1882 and soon thereafter traveled to Texas to buy several thousand head of cattle for the Santa Margarita Ranch.

Regardless of its origin, the brand is a constant reminder of the rough-and-tumble days of San Diego County’s largest rancho, and retains a visible tie to the past. For those interested in the various historical sites on Camp Pendleton, a self-guided tour is included in this publication.
The man behind the name

Pendleton’s service included duty in the jungles of Nicaragua, Santa Domingo, Guam, and the Philippines, in addition to several stateside and shipboard tours.
Following the purchase of the vast rancho, the new West Coast Marine Corps training base would be named for Major General Joseph Henry Pendleton, who had pioneered Marine Corps activities in the San Diego area during his 46 years of distinguished service from 1878 to 1924.

Born in Rochester, Penn., on June 2, 1860, "Uncle Joe" Pendleton, as he would later be known, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps on July 1, 1884.

Pendleton’s service included duty in the jungles of Nicaragua, Santa Domingo, Guam, and the Philippines, in addition to several stateside and shipboard tours. In 1914, the 4th Regiment was reactivated and Pendleton was ordered to organize and command this expeditionary force. Pendleton and his regiment served on board the USS South Dakota and Jupiter, when it withdrew to land at Camp Howard, North Island, San Diego on July 10, 1914.

With the arrival of Pendleton’s regiment in San Diego, his love affair with the area began. He immediately recognized the value of San Diego with its good weather and harbor as an ideal choice for the Marine Corps’ Advance Base Force to be stationed on the West Coast.
Pendleton openly advocated a major Marine Corps installation in San Diego from his first stay on North Island until his retirement 10 years later. Between July 1914 and June 1916, Pendleton and his regiment improved facilities at North Island while the Marines made a favorable impression on the San Diego Community. Meanwhile, visits of high-ranking dignitaries to various expositions during this period helped to win government support for a large Marine base at San Diego.

Pendleton himself bought a house in Coronado near the harbor and became active in the civic affairs of the city. He served as mayor of Coronado from 1928—1930. Married to the former Mary Helen Fay, he died in San Diego at the age of 81.
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The Marine Corps Mechanized Command Museum
This is  the largest properly restored vehicle museum in the Marine Corps. Located in Building 2612 on Vandegrift Blvd at the base of Rattlesnake Canyon, this museum of working Marine Corps transport and battle vehicles interpret the history of Marine usage since 1942. The collection includes a large selection of Viet Nam and Desert Storm era vehicles and a Vietnamese road marker pointing the way to Hue City. The museum is open during the week and can also be opened by special arrangement.
Master Gunnery Sgt. James King officially retired from the United States Marine Corps after more than 30 years of exemplary service.

Master Gunnery Sgt. James King’s career in the Marine Corps and the growth of the museum had a lot in common. They both flourished under King’s enthusiasm, dedication and a burning desire to preserve, in tangible form, the legacy and history of the vehicles and weapon systems used in the Marine Corps from WWII through Desert Storm.

King began as a student in the Marine Corps in 1978 and excelled at every class and school to which he was sent. The student soon became the instructor. As an instructor he became respected for his thoroughness, knowledge, teaching ability and insistence that every project and assignment be completed correctly.

In the fall of 1998, a small vehicle known as a Mechanical Mule caught King’s eye. It had been hidden for years in the tall grass of Camp Pendleton, was in an advanced state of deterioration and had probably not been operational since the Vietnam War. Designed as an infantry ammunition light cargo vehicle, King viewed the Mule as a classic military vehicle that should not be forgotten. A bet with one of his superiors as to whether he could ever get the vehicle running again was the first step in a long sequence of events and restorations. His efforts culminated in the opening of Camp Pendleton’s Command Mechanized Museum in 2002.

The supervisor told King, "If you can get it running, I’ll retire!" His supervisor rode the Mule at his retirement ceremony.
The Ranch House Complex
The Complex includes the Ranch House Chapel, the oldest structure on base, the Bunkhouse Museum, dedicated in 1965 by Col James Roosevelt, and the Ranch House, built in the mid 1800s. It was the home of Pio Pico, last Mexican governor of California, and succeeding owners Don Juan Forster, the O'Neills, Floods, Baumgartners and, finally, the United States Government. Historic artifacts at the Complex document pre-history through Mission and Rancho periods to the 1942 purchase of Camp Pendleton and present times. Exhibits include early ranch equipment, photographs of President Roosevelt's historic visit, antiques donated by Anthony Quinn during the filming of "Guadalcanal Diary" in 1943 and furnishings of the Rancho period.

The historic Ranch House, Museum and Chapel
The historic Ranch House, Museum and Chapel are listed as a National Historic Site and California State Historical Landmark. It is through the gracious hospitality of the Commanding General residing in the home that tours are made available. Tours are booked for Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m. between the last week in September to the end of May.

Send tour appointment requests in writing to:

Attn History and Museums Office
Marine Corps Base
Box 555019
Camp Pendleton CA 92055-5019

You may fax your tour request to: Attn: History & Museums (760) 725-5011

For information about base wide tours visit the Community Relations website.

The World War II and Korea LVT Museum
Located in Building 21561 in the base's boat basin and is maintained by the Assault Amphibious School Battalion. To visit the vintage amphibious tracked vehicles, related artifacts and informational displays contact the school at 725-2195. The museum is normally open Tuesdays through Sundays in the early afternoons.

On May 5, 2010 the museum hosted the retirement celebration for Major Trent M. Marecz, after 23 years of service in the United States Marine Corps. He was the first Marine to incorporate Amphib Vehicles into his Retirement Ceremony.