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Thread: [BAJA] 70 Yr. Anniv. of Baja Pole Line Road (near Mexicali/Laguna Salada)

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    Default [BAJA] 70 Yr. Anniv. of Baja Pole Line Road (near Mexicali/Laguna Salada)

    My Wife and I will be hosting a 4WD run along a HISTORIC 4WD trail called the Pole Line Road. It was constructed in 1942 through an alliance between Mexico and the United States in order that the USA would be allerted to Axis presence in the Sea of Cortez.

    4WD Run Information - November 19-21 (or 23rd San Felipe), 2011

    Published article on the actual route...

    Additional Information:

    Mexico and the Defense of California

    American concern for the security of Mexico was intimately related to the extent and proximity of any threat to United States territory. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the security of Baja California became a matter of acute interest to the United States. Just as lend-lease was a manifestation of American interest in the security of Mexico, so the measures taken by General DeWitt and General Cardenas, singly and jointly for the defense of the United States' southwest and Mexico's northwest were concrete expressions of Mexican cooperation in the defense of the United States.

    There were three fields of activity in which the defense of California involved joint action with Mexico: first, the placing of aircraft detector stations in Baja California; second, the building of airfields and highways there; and third, the formulation of joint plans by General DeWitt and General Cardenas.

    The proposal to establish radar stations in Baja California grew out of a study made by the GHQ Air Force early in 1941, disclosing that vital areas in the southwest, near the Mexican boundary, could not be adequately covered either by a ground observation system or by radar detectors in American territory. "An enemy desiring to attack Southern California," a later Air Forces report stated, "may be expected to be aware of the limitations of our Aircraft Warning Service, and will make his approach over or from Mexican territory. " 74 The Air Forces therefore recommended taking steps to obtain Mexico's permission to establish at least two detector stations in Baja California. These views were brought to the attention of the War Plans Division sometime in April. Without denying the merits of the proposal, the War Plans Division informed the Army Air Forces that the moment was not propitious for discussing the subject with the Mexican staff representatives, then in Wash-



    ington. The Air Forces continued to agitate the matter during the next three months, only to receive the same reply: "The War Department considers it inadvisable to submit to the Mexican representatives a request to station detachments of U.S. Army armed and uniformed forces in Mexican territory, as it is convinced that the Mexican Government would reject such a request at this time." 75 In framing the War Plans Division reply, Colonel Ridgway, then serving as one of the American staff representatives, noted, "there is no probability of securing Mexican consent . . . at least until an Axis attack is delivered or imminent." 76

    No action was taken until 3 December 1941, four days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, when the American staff representatives presented their Mexican colleagues with a proposal for an immediate reconnaissance of Sonora and Baja California for the purpose of locating sites for radar stations. Although it was agreed that the necessity of using the installations might never arise, the American representatives nevertheless proposed that the preliminary steps be taken at once and that small mixed groups of United States officers and Mexicans, in civilian clothes, should survey the area within two hundred miles of the border for access roads and radar sites.77 An appeal on 8 December brought a reply from President Avila Camacho the same day giving full permission to make the reconnaissance and install the radar stations. To the original purpose the Air Staff had, however, added that of investigating rumors of Japanese airfields and fuel caches. A separate party under Maj. A. P. Ebright conducted the Air Staff survey, entering Mexico on 16 December. An attempt by the War Department to identify the Ebright mission with the radar station reconnaissance no doubt contributed to the initial confusion and suspicion that attended it.78 Although no signs of enemy activity were uncovered, the Ebright party remained in Mexico until the end of January to investigate suitable sites for landing fields, to report on the availability of water and other supplies along the route of communications from the border south, and in general to add to the Army's store of information about the area.79 As the immediate post-Pearl Harbor frenzy subsided and as the scope and positions of the Ebright mission became clarified,



    General DeWitt's Western Defense Command headquarters gave it firmer support against the continued skepticism at the headquarters of the Southern California Sector.80 Meanwhile, other groups had crossed the border, and had tentatively chosen sites for radar detector stations at Punta Salispuedes, 20 miles northwest of Ensenada; Punta San Jacinto, 125 miles south of Ensenada; and Punta Diggs on the northeast coast of the peninsula.

    With all this activity going on, the issue that had threatened the negotiations over staging fields the previous summer-whether Mexico would permit the entry and stationing of armed and uniformed American soldiers promised to become a hardy perennial. On the earlier occasion, it had been solved by accepting the Mexican position, and when the proposal for the reconnaissance of Baja California was presented to the staff representatives on 3 December the wearing of civilian clothes by the soldiers making the survey was accepted by the American representatives as inescapable. The first draft of the instructions for `the reconnaissance, drawn up on 9 December for the Chief of the Army Air Forces, stated, "United States personnel will be limited to officers and they will wear civilian clothing," but at the suggestion of G-2, and with the concurrence of Colonel Ridgway, this particular restriction was deleted.81 Because of the United States' belligerent status, it was no longer appropriate. General DeWitt was especially insistent that no soldiers cross into Mexico unless in uniform and armed, but the point was not raised with Mexican representatives in Washington. Consequently, the Ebright group was turned back at the border and not permitted to cross until the men changed into civilian clothing and left their weapons behind. Sometimes, depending on the attitude of the local Mexican commanders, American parties were permitted to enter the country in uniform, but never under arms, and not even the excellent personal relations that existed between General DeWitt and General Cardenas could bring about a definite acceptance of the American view. The War Department as well as the Department of State took the position that, unsatisfactory though it might be to send American soldiers into Mexico in civilian clothes and without arms, to arrive at an impasse with Mexico and risk having permission to install the radar sets refused would be even more undesirable. Accordingly, on 20 December General DeWitt was authorized to accede to Mexican wishes in the matter. His efforts to obtain a less dangerous and more face-saving solution

    '03 1/2 Tomb Raider #815

    4" Pro-Comp Stage I Lift w/100,000 mi.+ - MX 6 Shocks - 33" TrXus MTs - K&N F.I.P.K. w/AEM Synthetic Filter - All J Products Interior Rack - Garvin TC - Smittybuilt PreRunner Bumper - KC 150w Daylighters

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    continued but met with slight success.82 After the summer of 1942 this particular issue ceased to be a matter of record. The establishment of the radar stations, a diminution of American activity in Baja California, and the withdrawal of American personnel were probably responsible.

    Two of the radar stations were set up and began operations during the first week in June 1942 and the third a month later. At each, one officer and twenty-five enlisted men were stationed to operate the set and train Mexican military personnel in its use. The equipment itself was turned over to the Mexican Army under lend-lease. By the end of August the Mexican troops had taken over the operation of the sets, and the Americans had withdrawn except for a small detachment of five men and one officer at each station.83 The coverage provided by the three sets was far from complete, but even as early as October 1942 the War Department was breathing more easily and saw no need to install additional equipment. 84 By the summer of 1943 retrenchment had become the order of the day in Baja California. All Americans were withdrawn from the radar stations except for one officer and three enlisted men, who were left in Ensenada primarily for liaison purposes. All requests for additional equipment had to be refused. By mid-May 1944 the Commanding General, Fourth Air Force, reported that he no longer considered the three radar stations necessary for the defense of California and, much to the dismay of both Navies, who wished to have the sets in operation for air-sea rescue work, operations ceased about the first of June. When, at a meeting of the defense commission, Admiral Johnson protested against a Mexican Army proposal to move the equipment to Mexico City, General Henry was obliged to state that the War Department's policy of retrenchment remained unchanged but that there would be no objection to the Navy's supplying and maintaining the operation of the sets. For the remainder of the war, the Army had no further responsibility in the matter. One station resumed operation with gasoline and oil supplied by the Navy. The



    other two were moved away.85 During the two years they had been in operation, the stations performed a useful function. They had closed all but a small gap in the network around the San Diego-Los Angeles area. Anticipated language difficulties failed to materialize to any great extent, and valuable training in the use of highly technical equipment was given our Mexican ally.

    As part of the general scheme of filling in the gaps in the defenses of California after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Fourth Air Force had strongly urged the building of three landing fields for pursuit planes in Baja California and two staging fields, one near Rosario and the other near La Paz. Time, and authority to use the fields for operations, were the important considerations. Both the War Department and the joint defense commission, when formally constituted, were agreed upon the desirability of the proposal, which the commission adopted as its Fourth Recommendation on 10 April 1942.86 After some backing and filling a joint survey got well under way and recommended three sites as primary airdromes-El Cipres, six miles south of Ensenada; Camalu, just south of San Jacinto; and Trinidad, about eighteen miles south of La Ventura. 87 Later, four other fields were surveyed. For three weeks at the end of June and in early July the War Department, on the advice of the joint defense commission, called a halt to all activity in connection with the airfields in order to give Mexican opinion time to crystallize and to give General Cardenas an opportunity to make a decision. After authority was given to proceed with the plans and estimates for the original five airfields, General Cardenas and especially General Juan Felipe Rico, the local Mexican commander, took hold of the project with enthusiasm and pushed not only the airfields but also a connecting highway down the peninsula. General DeWitt promised any help in materials and equipment that General Rico might need. The United States, General DeWitt thought, was committed to assist both projects, the roads as well as the airfields.88

    By the beginning of 1943, the War Department had begun to cool, although the Fourth Air Force still urged that the three northern fields, at El



    Cipres, Camalu, and Trinidad, be constructed and tied to San Diego by connecting roads. In March the War Department rejected General Rico's request for materials and equipment for the construction of the airfields. The Mexican section of the joint commission thus found itself in the position, in August, of arguing in favor of the United States Army undertaking a defense construction project on Mexican soil, while the American section was opposed. With the War Department unwilling to provide the construction materials because of the urgent needs of more active theaters of operations, the discussion became academic.89

    In the field of joint planning, the Mexican experience took a contrary course to that of Canadian-United States planning. In the case of the latter a basic plan was drawn up by the Permanent Joint Board, and local joint plans, more detailed and specific, were subsequently completed in accordance with its general principles. With Mexico, on the other hand, the only joint plan completed during the war was the DeWitt-Cardenas plan of February-March 1942 for the defense of the Pacific coastal region. When later the joint defense commission undertook to draw up a plan, two of the members-Admiral Johnson and General Castillo Najera-understood that the commission was supposed to base its plan on the DeWitt-Cardenas agreements. A casual observer would perhaps have seen little in the local situation to indicate much success for the Western Defense Command planners. The local Mexican commanders either were uncertain of their authority to commit the federal government or were reluctant to accept instructions from Mexico City; the difficulties and delays in obtaining full permission for a reconnaissance in Baja California were inauspicious. But such an observer would have been wrong. Actually, the Mexican commanders made clear their willingness and desire to cooperate, and if they were reluctant to place their names to a document committing them to joint action, they made it plain by word of mouth that in an emergency they would call on General DeWitt to send American troops into Mexico.

    In its final shape the plan represented a compromise between an earlier draft drawn up by General DeWitt's headquarters and one presented by General Cardenas.90 It provided for the patrol and defense of the two coastal areas-Mexican and American-by the forces of the respective countries, for an exchange of information between the two forces, and for the passage of troops of either country through the territory of the other; and it permitted



    the forces of either country to operate in the other, in uniform and under arms. There were several provisions that failed to meet with the approval of General Cardenas. The Mexican commander could not agree to the control and operation of airfields and radar stations in Mexico by American personnel, and insisted that the forces of one country operating in the territory of the other be under the commander in whose area they were operating.91 Both generals agreed that the plan was sound from a "military standpoint" and that "the question from a nationalistic standpoint is one for the decision of the two governments." 92 The points on which the two commanders could not agree were accordingly turned over to the joint defense commission.

    The American section thought it best to defer consideration of a general, basic plan until such specific matters as the radar stations and airfields were agreed upon, and when the draft of a basic plan was presented by Col. Lemuel Mathewson at the meeting of 21 April 1942, it was patterned after the Canada-United States Basic Defense Plan of 1940.93 Little progress had been made when Admiral Johnson, becoming chairman of the American section, suggested a fresh start and a new approach. This was in December 1942. The new scheme-to draw up a plan of collaboration, in ratification of the agreements reached by the commission, instead of a defense plan-was no more easily agreed upon than the old. General Henry, recently appointed senior Army member, took over the job of drafting a new plan in collaboration with General Alamillo of the Mexican section. Discussion during the meetings the following summer and fall reveal what seem to be a measure of impatience and perhaps satiation. The question of command proved to be the stumbling block, and by April 1944 General Henry was ready to abandon the attempt to write an acceptable plan. Finally, after more than two years of effort, the commission decided upon a "statement of general principles . . . which might serve as a basis for other plans of collaboration between any two nations." 94

    In a broader sense, the wartime collaboration between the United States and Mexico cannot be measured adequately by the activity in Baja California, by the joint planning of General DeWitt and General Cardenas, by the deliberations of the defense commission, or by the airfields provided from Tampico to Tapachula. All of these might well have created dissension. But



    from the early wartime experience came a closer bond between the two countries. The commendable combat record of the Mexican 201st Fighter Squadron on Luzon, the Mexican airmen who gave their lives in the same cause for which American fliers died, these were the true measure of the cooperation that began in 1941. There were indications that ties so strongly forged would not be lightly dropped. Although the joint defense commission had not been formally designated as a permanent body, plans were made at a staff conference in March 1945, at which the American members of the commission represented the United States, to continue the defense commission in the postwar years. The mutual confidence and respect between the two countries that developed out of their wartime association are proof that the New World can still serve as a beacon for the Old.
    '03 1/2 Tomb Raider #815

    4" Pro-Comp Stage I Lift w/100,000 mi.+ - MX 6 Shocks - 33" TrXus MTs - K&N F.I.P.K. w/AEM Synthetic Filter - All J Products Interior Rack - Garvin TC - Smittybuilt PreRunner Bumper - KC 150w Daylighters

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    Photos of region

    Native American Hunting Blind

    Basketball Hill Bypass

    '03 1/2 Tomb Raider #815

    4" Pro-Comp Stage I Lift w/100,000 mi.+ - MX 6 Shocks - 33" TrXus MTs - K&N F.I.P.K. w/AEM Synthetic Filter - All J Products Interior Rack - Garvin TC - Smittybuilt PreRunner Bumper - KC 150w Daylighters

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