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Abandon Ship Drill:
Jumping Into History 
Christopher Marsh | Camp Callan Research Project and
Larry Brooks | Del Mar Historical Society

Excerpted from a soon-to-be-published book on the history of Camp Callan, the huge WWII US Army camp on Torrey mesa where Scripps hospitals and Torrey Pines golf course are today. Recruits did the “abandon ship drill” from the old Del Mar pier.

All kinds of tough physical training took place at Camp Callan for the young recruits, from crawling through the mud with machinegun rounds zipping inches above their heads to firing giant cannons. The news they were slated to take part in training to abandon a torpedoed troop ship was met with trepidation, on their minds the question, “How?” The answer from their cadre, “Yer gonna jump off a pier into the ocean, Rookie!”

From the Del Mar pier. Del Mar Historical Society. 
Click on image to enlarge.

The troops climbed into the two-and-a-half ton trucks. The convoy departed camp, headed north on 101 through sleepy Del Mar, turned left at the old Hotel Del Mar, proceeded down the hill toward the quaint Santa Fe Railroad station, stopping finally at the pier. Those trainees who did not know how to swim were herded into the hotel’s big indoor swimming pool for an abbreviated swimming lesson; the rest left their boots in the trucks and marched out to the end of the pier.

The Training Officer gave simple orders, “Put on your lifejackets and tie ‘em tight. Hold your nose with one hand and your nuts with the other. Feet together. Jump!” Hesitation was barely tolerated; refusal to jump was not.

Entering the water was the easy part. Exiting the water was another thing. Despite the heavy surf pushing them into the pilings, they all made it ashore. Elated, they met the non-swimmers emerging from the hotel pool and handed them the wet lifejackets. “Don’t worry ‘bout drownin’, Bud. The 30-foot fall will prob’ly kill you first.”

On one occasion when a group of young trainees balked at jumping, the Training Officer rounded up some of the local kids and asked them to jump first. Since they did it all the time, the kids climbed onto the railing and executed swan dives off the pier into the water below. Bobbing to the surface, the kids shouted up at the trainees, “C’mon, fellas, JUMP! It’s EASY!” The recruits had no choice.
The members of the fairer sex serving at Camp Callan were not exempt from the rigors of physical training. On the chance they may be sent overseas, the nurses, WACs, and Red Cross personnel had to learn the abandon ship technique, too. They were marched onto the pier in oversized fatigues, Mae West life jackets, and bare feet.

“OK, ladies,” cooed the Training Officer, “Let’s make sure that life jacket is good ‘n tight. Here, lemme snug that up fer ya. Up on the rail. I’ll just hold ya to keep ya steady, a’right? Now, hold y’r nose with one hand and cover y’r ... , er hold y’r …, uh, keep y’r legs …. Aw, hell, Ma’m, just jump.” And over they went. There was a war going on, y’ know.

“Aw, hell, Ma’m, just jump.” And over they went.
Del Mar Historical Society.  Click on image to enlarge.


 

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