Army Bases

Presidio of Monterey, California

The military has played a vital role on the Monterey Peninsula since the area was claimed for Spain by Sebastian Vizcaino in 1602. Vizcaino named the Bay Monterey, in honor of his benefactor, Gaspar de Zuniga y Acevedo, Conde de Monterrey, then viceroy of New Spain (Mexico). The Monterey Bay area was colonized by a small Spanish expedition that reached Monterey Bay in May 1770. Captain Don Gaspar de Portola commanded the military component of this expedition, and Franciscan Father Junipero Serra was in charge of the religious element. Portola officially took possession of Alta (Upper) California for Spain, and Serra celebrated a thanksgiving mass, on June 3, 1770. Portola established a presidio (fort) and mission at the southern end of Monterey Bay the same day, in accordance with his orders to “erect a fort to occupy and defend the port from attacks by the Russians, who are about to invade us.” The Monterey presidio was one of four presidios and 21 missions established by Spain in California.

The original Presidio consisted of a square of adobe buildings located near Lake El Estero in the vicinity of what is now downtown Monterey. The fort’s original mission, the Royal Presidio Chapel, has remained in constant use since Serra established it in 1770. The original Presidio was protected by 11 cannons located above the port in a small “V” shaped gun emplacement, called El Castillo, built in 1792 on land now belonging to the present Presidio of Monterey. The original Presidio fell into disrepair, as Mexican rule replaced that of Spain in California in 1822.

Fort Mervine

Commodore John Drake Sloat, commanding the U.S. Pacific Squadron, seized Monterey in July 1846, during the Mexican-American War. He landed unopposed with a small force in Monterey and claimed the territory and the Presidio for the United States. Sloat left a small garrison of Marines and seamen who began improving defenses, above the former El Castillo, to better protect the town and the harbor. The new defenses were named Fort Mervine in honor of Captain William Mervine, who commanded one of the ships in Sloat’s squadron.

Company F, 3rd Artillery Regiment arrived in Monterey in January 1847, and the U.S. Army then assumed from the Navy responsibility for the continuing construction of Fort Mervine. Two of the artillery lieutenants, William Tecumseh Sherman and E.O.C. Ord, plus Engineer Lieutenant Henry W. Halleck, were destined to become prominent generals during the Civil War, assisted with the project.

During its early history, this fortification seemed to have many names, including Fort Halleck, Fort Savannah, and the Monterey Redoubt. In 1852, the Monterey Redoubt was renamed the Monterey Ordnance Depot and used as a military storehouse until 1856 when it was abandoned. In 1865, the small post was reopened and renamed, Ord Barracks for s short time before being abandoned a second time in 1866, although the U.S. Government “reserved” for possible future use a 140-acre military reservation surrounding the redoubt.

The Modern Presidio of Monterey

Near the end of the Philippine Insurrection in 1902, the Army recognized it needed additional forts, particularly on the West Coast. As possible sites were being surveyed, the Army “discovered” that it already owned a large area in Monterey that would be suitable for a military post. In July 1902, the Army announced plans to build a cantonment area and station one infantry regiment at Monterey. The 15th Infantry Regiment, which had fought in China and the Philippines, arrived in Monterey in September 1902 and began building the cantonment area around what is now known as Soldier Field. The 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, “Buffalo Soldiers,” arrived shortly thereafter and built four cavalry barracks above Soldier Field.

In 1902, the Army renamed the new post the Monterey Military Reservation. The name changed to Ord Barracks on 13 July 1903, and to the Presidio of Monterey (POM) on 30 August 1904. Various infantry regiments rotated to the Presidio of Monterey, including the 15th Infantry (1902-1906), 20th Infantry (1906-1909), and 12th Infantry (1909-1917), frequently with supporting cavalry and artillery elements. The Army School of Musketry, the forerunner of the Infantry School, operated at the Presidio of Monterey from 1907 to 1913. In 1917, the U.S. War Department purchased a nearby parcel of 15,609.5 acres of land, called the Gigling Reservation, to use as training areas for Presidio of Monterey troops. This post, supplemented by additional acreage, was renamed Fort Ord on Aug. 15, 1940.

The 11th Cavalry Regiment was posted at the Presidio from 1919 to 1940, and the 2nd Battalion, 76th Field Artillery Regiment, from 1922 to 1940. During the summer months, Presidio soldiers organized and led Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Citizens’ Military Training Corps (CMTC), and Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) camps in the local area.

In 1940, the Presidio became the temporary headquarters of the III Corps, and served as a reception center until 1944. Declared inactive in late 1944, the Presidio was reopened in 1945 and served as a Civil Affairs Staging and Holding Area (CASA) for civil affairs soldiers preparing for the occupation of Japan.

Military Intelligence Service Language School

The Defense Language Institute traces its roots to the eve of America’s entry into World War II, when the U.S. Army established the Fourth U.S. Army Intelligence School at the Presidio of San Francisco to teach the Japanese language. Classes at the secret school began November 1, 1941, with four instructors and 60 students in an abandoned airplane hangar at Crissy Field. The students were mostly second-generation Japanese-Americans (Nisei) from the West Coast. Nisei Hall is named in honor of these earliest students, whose heroism is portrayed in the Institute’s Yankee Samurai exhibit. The headquarters building and academic library bear the names of the first commandant, Colonel Kai E. Rasmussen, and the first director of academic training, John F. Aiso.

During the war, the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS), as it came to be called, grew dramatically. When Japanese-Americans on the West Coast were moved into internment camps in 1942, the school moved to Camp Savage, Minnesota. By 1944 the school had outgrown these facilities and moved to nearby Fort Snelling. More than 6,000 graduates served throughout the Pacific Theater during the war and the subsequent occupation of Japan. Three academic buildings are named for Nisei graduates who fell in action: George Nakamura, Frank Hachiya, and Y. “Terry” Mizutari.

Army Language School

In 1946, after World War II, the MISLS moved to the Presidio of Monterey. It added Russian, Chinese, Korean, Arabic, and six other languages to its curriculum, and was renamed the Army Language School in 1947. The school expanded rapidly in 1947–48 to meet the requirements of America’s global commitments during the Cold War. Instructors, including native speakers of more than thirty languages and dialects, were recruited from all over the world. Russian became the largest language program, followed by Chinese, Korean, and German. After the Korean War (1950–53), the school developed a national reputation for excellence in foreign language education. The Army Language School led the way with the audio-lingual method and the application of educational technology such as the language laboratory.

In the 1950s, the U.S. Air Force met most of its foreign language training requirements through contract programs at universities such as Yale, Cornell, Indiana, and Syracuse. During this period, the U.S. Navy taught foreign languages at the Naval Intelligence School in Washington, D.C.

In 1963, to promote efficiency and economy, the three Service language programs were consolidated into the Defense Foreign Language Program and the former Army Language School commandant, Colonel James L. Collins, Jr., became the Institute’s first director. The Army Language School became the DLI West Coast Branch, and the foreign language department at the Naval Intelligence School became the DLI East Coast Branch and headquarters for the program. The Air Force programs were phased out by 1970 and the U.S. Air Force English Language School for foreign military personnel at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, became the Defense Language Institute English Language Center.

During the peak of American involvement in Vietnam (1965–73), the DLI stepped up the pace of language training. While regular language training continued unabated, more than 20,000 service personnel studied Vietnamese through the DLI’s programs, many taking a special eight-week military adviser “survival” course. From 1966 to 1973, the Institute also operated DLI Support Command, later renamed the DLI Southwest Branch to teach Vietnamese using contract instructors at Biggs Air Force Base near Fort Bliss, Texas. Dozens of the DLI’s graduates gave their lives during the war. Four student dormitories today bear the names of graduates who died in that conflict: Chief Petty Officer Frank W. Bomar († 1970), Sergeant First Class Alfred H. Combs († 1965), Marine Gunnery Sergeant George P. Kendall, Jr.(† 1968), and Staff Sergeant Herbert Smith, Jr. († 1965).

Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center

When the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command was established in 1973, DLI was placed under its control. In 1974 the Institute’s headquarters and all resident language training were consolidated at the West Coast Branch and renamed the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC). The Institute continued to operate a small contract foreign language training program in Washington, D.C. and in 1976, all English language training operations were returned to the U.S. Air Force, which operates DLIELC to this day. With the advent of the All-Volunteer Forces and the opening of most specialties to women, the character of the student population underwent a gradual change.

Since the end of the Vietnam War, the Institute has experienced an exciting period of growth and change. The DLIFLC won academic accreditation in 1979, and in 1981 the position of Academic Dean (later called Provost) was reestablished. A joint-service General Officer Steering Committee was established in 1981 to advise on all aspects of the Defense Foreign Language Program. This function is now performed by the Defense Language Steering Committee. In the early 1980s, a rise in student input forced the Institute to open two temporary branches: a branch for Air Force enlisted students of Russian at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas (1981–1987), and another for Army enlisted students of Russian, German, Korean, and Spanish at the Presidio of San Francisco (1982–1988). The increase in student input also resulted in an extensive facilities expansion program on the Presidio. Support to command language programs worldwide grew, with greater availability of programs such as Gateway and Headstart.

For many years, DLIFLC was a tenant activity on the Presidio of Monterey, and the Presidio was a sub-installation of the nearby Fort Ord. When Fort Ord closed on 30 September 1994, the Presidio of Monterey again became a separate installation under TRADOC. It retained some military family housing and support facilities at the former Fort Ord, such as the Post Exchange and Commissary in the 740-acre Ord Military Community. When the Army established the Installation Management Agency, on 1 October 2003, the Presidio of Monterey Garrison was separated from TRADOC, although the garrison continued to support the main tenant, DLIFLC. On 24 October 2006, all Army garrisons were realigned under the US Army Installation Management Command to provide better service throughout the Army.

In 1993, 1995, and again in 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, in recognition of the contributions of DLIFLC to national security, rejected suggestions that the Institute be moved or closed and recommended that its mission be continued at the Presidio of Monterey. In December 2001, the U.S. Congress gave DLIFLC authority to grant an Associate of Arts in Foreign Language degree. Since DLIFLC first began awarding associate degrees in May 2002, the institute has granted over 3,500 degrees in foreign languages.

In recent years, the Institute has taken on challenging new missions, including support for arms control treaty verification, the War on Drugs, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Restore Hope, and Operations Enduring Freedom and Noble Eagle. In response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, DLIFLC created the Emerging Languages Task Force which serves as the Institute’s quick-response language team that provides rapid solutions to current and emerging mission needs for the Global War on Terrorism.

The DLIFLC continues to evolve and expand its language course offerings in the wake of the end of the Cold War and to support the Global War on Terrorism. To accomplish this mission more instructors were recruited and new instructional materials and tests were written. Teaching methodology became more and more proficiency-oriented and new steps were taken to further increase proficiency of graduates with the introduction of the Proficiency Enhancement Plan (PEP). In the more difficult languages, (Category 3 and 4), PEP decreased the student-faculty ratio from 10:2 to 6:2. In easier language categories, (Category 1 and 2), PEP decreased the student-faculty ratio from 10:2 to 8:2. The Institute also developed a new series of the Defense Language Proficiency Test, the DLPT 5, delivered through the Web.

The Presidio offers privatized housing.