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Lights, Camera, Action: Camp Pendleton's History in the Movies

With its vast training areas and prime location along California’s shorelines, Camp Pendleton is well known for producing the finest fighting forces on the West Coast. What Camp Pendleton might be less known for, however, is that it has been a backdrop to some of America’s most famous films. Throughout Camp Pendleton’s history, multiple movie producers have utilized its training grounds over Hollywood sets to recreate authentic war scenes of our Country’s most famous battles.

“[Working with the entertainment industry] gives us an opportunity to showcase assets and capabilities that are available to production companies,” said U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Katesha Washington, Entertainment Media Liaison Office (EMLO). “It allows us also to accomplish our mission of telling the story of Marines.”

Camp Pendleton has an ongoing story to tell that continues each day. Since the base opened, over 20 films have been produced including “Sands of Iwo Jima,” starring, John Wayne. During the filming which also cast 2,000 Marines, producers transformed the installation to resemble the Japanese island also using elements to resemble the volcanic ash from Mt. Suribachi. Additional familiar titles include TNT’s television series, “The Last Ship,” and Columbia Media Corporation’s, “Battle Los Angeles.”

With access to starstruck active-duty Marines and their familiar training grounds, producers are able to create authentic scenes without a need to hire actors or build sets in some cases. But the Marine Corps does not merely reduce production costs without some benefit. In giving Marines opportunities to share the limelight with some of their favorite characters, the Marine Corps legacy is captured by telling its stories and reaching an audience, they might not typically reach.

For over a century, the Marine Corps has helped producers, writers and directors coordinate personnel, aircraft and equipment. “There are several steps leading up to filming a production,” said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Matthew Hilton, also with the EMLO. “We figure out how and if we can or cannot support.”

There have been countless stories told and countless stories yet to be told when it comes to Camp Pendleton’s rich history and tradition. Watching the actions of its Marines and Sailors come to life on the big screen, both fictionally and non-fictionally only serves to preserve the Marine Corps heritage and real-life activities. And remember, the next time you watch your favorite action film, it just might have been filmed on the one and only Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

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Robert Penkwitz - April 20, 2020

Going thru I T R in August at Camp Pendleton equals going thru Boot Camp at P I Experienced both – MCRD San Diego 1951 – MCRD Parris Island – 1953-54 – Try snuggling up to a big hairy spider or rattlesnake at Camp Pendleton – Sure beats the little Sand Fleas I Remember seeing the “snow covered mountains “along Vandergrift Blvd during the filming of “Retreat Hell’
Never got into the movies as an extra – – – Damn – missed my big screen break.

jonathan muhl - April 20, 2020

heartbreak ridge filmed in telega in front of our hooch b co 2nd plt 77 78 saw on screen 64364 on bldg

philip mchugh - April 20, 2020

Hollywood Marines 🙂

Ken Mathis 1959-1963 - April 20, 2020

That was “Halls of Montezuma”. With Richard Widmark. I had forgotten that one. I just did a search on Yahoo and looked at Photos of movies. What trip down memory lane!!

jim angelo - April 20, 2020

I can remember the movie “Battle Cry” with Van Heflin and James Whitmore. I’m not sure if it was before or after, didn’t Van Heflin have a role in “Shane” ? I surmise Joe McCarthy (Sen.) did his job well as Van Heflin was one of “Tail Gunner Joe’s” targets in his pursuit of communism. The movie, Battle Cry, was that about Saipan ? Also, (I can’t remember the name ,, another WWll movie with Richard Boone and Jack Webb. It was about Japanese use of rockets.

Bob Rader - April 20, 2020

When they were filming “Battle Cry,” they asked any of the Oriental-looking Marines to become extras as Japs. The guys lorded that over the rest of us until filming began. Seems they ran the guys up and down the slopes till their asses dragged. About ’55, I was liason from PIO to film crew filming amphibious scenes for the flick “Away All Boats.”

Reinhold Woykowski - April 20, 2020

I work part time at a nursing home and being a Marine myself (1972-1974) I get to talk to the older Marines there. Wow, what a bond we have. We always joke, how many guys do you think joined the Marines just because then seen Gomer Pyle on TV.

Cpl S D Johnsen, Scout, 2d Bt,4th Marines, Magnificent Bastards … - April 20, 2020

Tee Hee ??? i rest my case !!!

Richard Svee - April 20, 2020

I was in C-1-1-1 at Camp San Mateo at Camp Pendleton in the latter part of 1958 when they needed a platoon or more to serve as background in a scene from ‘Gallant Hours ‘, the story of Admiral Halsey starring James Cagney. The scene was where Halsey came to Guadacanal…after the fighting to tell the Marines what a great job they had done.The filming of that little scene took two weeks. They filmed it down in a dried creak bed… about boring…..but they fed us from ‘ their ‘ Geedunk ‘ wagons and boy, that was that food good. Oh…I got some good scene time. My brother said my Mother jumped out of her seat at the movie theater when she saw me.

Nate Bocchino - April 20, 2020

After boot camp in P I . I was shipped out to Camp Pendleton for ITR and Cold WEATHER TRAININGin the Serra Nevada Mts. Then to Japan.3rdMar.Div,9thMarines,1Batt.Alfa co 3rd Plat. North Camp Fugiama. One thing I notice in these films.ESPECIALLY Tom Hanks and Stevan Spielberg Marine Corp Movie! Was that the Marine Corp Hymn was never played. Now one of the proudest moments in my life. Was graduating boot camp as a United States Marine and marching to the Marine Corp Hymn! And these idiots didn’t play it at all. I am 81 and I still get chills when I hear it. And so does every former Marine I know! Pass this on to those two morons and they owe every Marine a apology for that!!

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