Marines made an amphibious landing in San Diego in 1846 from USS Savannah and USS Congress during the Mexican–American War. Marines made a presence in San Diego again in July 1914, but ground was not broken for a permanent base until 2 March 1919, after Joseph Henry Pendleton (for whom Camp Pendleton was later named) successfully fought for a base in the area. By 1921, the base was formally commissioned and in 1923, it became the primary recruiting center for the west coast. During World War II, the base almost exclusively dealt with recruiting. In 1948, the base was formally named Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.
The museum is in Building 26 and is open to the public and free.