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Camp Mathews, the lost infantry school

By: John Gray

In the early 1960’s, I took Marine Corps Military Science while in high school in El Cajon, Ca. Our Instructor was Lt Col Stidhan. His duty station was at Camp Mathews. He taught armor recon. During Spring Break and Summer camp, our high school detachment would receive our down and dirty instruction there. When I joined the Corps in 1966, Camp Mathews was no longer there & we had our rifle range at Edson Range, Camp Pendleton. It’s a real small world, especially in our beloved Corps

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Cpl G. Suniga Plt280 - March 28, 2020

Love the stories and memories of that rifle range. I went through camp Mathews in 1963 plt 280. The morning before we too were told about eating light. Problem was there was never any light breakfast served. To all who posted comments, thank you for sharing your stories.

Jim Barber - March 28, 2020

Like you, I quickly learned to get off base on weekends to avoid getting scooped up for brush fire fighting. Couldn’t afford any place to stay but had an old Mercury that wouldn’t pass base inspection to get a tag (nor could I afford the required insurance). Spent many a chili night in the backseat of that old Merc. The fire situation reminds me of our last week in ITR. We were supposed to get leave to go home and celebrate becoming Marines that weekend. However, there was a fire in the Cleveland National Forrest that borders Camp Pendleton. Our entire company was “volunteered” to join the civilian firefighters who had been fighting the fire for some time. They didn’t put us on the front line, we followed behind, mopping up the small fires that they hadn’t had time to put out. Somehow, the Corps forgot where they put us because we went 2 days without rations. The last night we just stood a fire watch in pairs to make sure nothing started up again and took turns sleeping. It was chilly out and we had no sleeping bags, Fortunately, we had our entrenching tools. We scooped up a shallow hole, body length, in the still hot earth and slept like babies in an electric blanket. The next morning we were gathered up and marched into a firefighters camp. Man, did those guys eat well!!! We had steak and eggs, biscuits and gravy, etc., fresh juices of all kinds and no limit on amount or time. Hopefully someone got a major ass-chewing for failing to supply us when we were out there.

William Border: CPL (0311) 1/9 Vietnam 1965/66 - March 28, 2020

I was honored to be assigned to Plt#157 in 1964, I don’t remember what month we were at Camp Matthews. We were told we would be one of the last platoons to qualify there. We were not housed in the tents, they were being removed. I do remember we were told the morning we were marching up to Camp Matthews, at MCRD to eat a light breakfast because it was going to be hot and a tough hike. We got to the mess hall and what was on the steam tables? Hard boiled eggs, hard fried eggs (with a greenish tent), SOS, and Marine Corps hash. You know the hash that was hamburger with small cubes of potatoes and onions with about 2” of grease floating on top. There wasn’t anything light to eat that I could find, so I just chowed down, fortunately I didn’t get sick.

Some mostly good memories.

FRANK L FERGUSON - March 28, 2020

I joined the Corps in July 1964 and I too was a Camp Mathews Marine. Somethings are still to vivid to forget and to crazy to remember.
After Two tours in Vietnam 1965-1966, 1968 I changed my MOS and was Retired in 1977.

Semper Fi My Brothers.

Marshall DeYoung - March 28, 2020

Had the privilege to qualify there in July 64 with Plt. 350.
Unfortunately the tents were gone and we were put up in an old warehouse. Many memories of “little and big” agony and running up and down the hill behind that was behind that warehouse after chow. When we marched out the gate they closed and locked it we were told. Our DI’s wouldn’t lie would they ?🤣
Semper Fi

Johnny Reyes Jr. ‘58-‘64 - March 28, 2020

At Camp Matthews June-July 1958. I could shoot so I really enjoyed the range. After a couple of days on the firing line, the MTI quit being a SOB and just gave me pointers. I hated duck-walking those dry gullies and ravines. A platoon mate from Iowa had his Mom send him a chocolate birthday cake . Our DI made him with two buddies eat the whole damn thing at the wash racks behind the tent area. I qualified with top score for Plt 242 and still have that small trophy. Stationed at Camp Pendleton during late 50’s I learned never to stay in barracks on weekends during brushfire season. Someone was always picking up a detail to fight brushfires. I’d catch the bus to San Onofre and stay there with not much to do or get on that Greyhound that ran on hwy 101 and go north or south.

MSgt Edd Prothro, USMC Ret. 1964-1984 - March 28, 2020

We marched the beach going up to Camp Matthews instead of returning. Cattle cars took us from MCRD to some beach area parking lot where the surfers all stared at us like we were zombies or something. To this day my wife still gives me a box of See’s Nuts & Chews every year for Christmas. Semper Fi!!

Charles Hill - March 28, 2020

Was at Camp Mathews in 1959. Never will forget the “ANTS” in the tent area, everything was thrown out on the street and we had to go in the tents and kill all the “ANTS”, which lasted about an hour. I retired in 1979. Semper Fi!

Doug Walker, Sgt, ’62 – ’66 - March 28, 2020

My memories of Camp Mathews in 1962 are that it was a welcome break from the stress of Boot Camp at MCRD. For me handling a rifle and shooting was more relaxing than the constant close order drill and harassment during the prior weeks. It was during this time that the Corps was transitioning from the M1 to the M14. At MCRD we had been issued brand-spanking new M14s right out of the crates, still coated in cosmoline. But at Mathews we were issued some pretty old M1s. I remember hitting the rack with my trigger housing group so I could practice a smooth trigger pull. I also remember the threat from the instructors that if we really screwed up we would be made to duck-walk up Little Agony hill with our foot locker on our shoulders. That threat was enough to keep us on our toes and working hard. On the last Sunday at Mathews we were granted a short base liberty at the Camp Visitor Center. My parents brought my girlfriend that day and we all had a nice visit. I felt human again, if only for a little while. Oh by the way, I qualified Expert in both rifle and pistol. Pretty proud of that!

David Murray - March 28, 2020

I did my rifle range at old Camp Mathews in early 1963 in small 8-man tents. Your first day consisted of running the perimeter until you wanted to vomit. It was also the first time a recruit could see visitors on base. My dad was in the area and came with a box of Sees chocolates which I pigged out on at the reception Center. Upon arriving back to my area I was greeted by my WWII/Korea era gunny who unceremoniously punched me in the gut. I caught up with my vomiting platoon right there. The final day of our three week range time included the traditional 20 mile March back to MCRD. Good old days. Semper Fi

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