Monterey military history: Soldier Field
August 15, 2011
PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - In July 1902 the Army announced plans to construct a post to house an infantry regiment and a squadron of cavalry in Monterey.
Established as the focal point for the new post, Soldier Field was designed to serve as a parade ground, training area and athletic competition field.
In 1902 the Army renamed the new post the Monterey Military Reservation. The name changed to Ord Barracks on July 13, 1903, and to the Presidio of Monterey on Aug. 30, 1904. 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.
Soldier Field served for many years as the showplace for the Presidio’s infantry, cavalry and artillery units. 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 current Infantry School, operated at the Presidio of Monterey from 1907 to 1913.
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, Citizens Military Training Corps and Reserve Officer Training Corps camps in the local area.
Between 1933 and 1938, the Presidio " to include Soldier Field " was the subject of a beautification project designed to provide work for Depression-era relief programs. The State Emergency Relief Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps were very active on the Presidio. The projects were intended to improve both function and the appearance of the Presidio. The crews built stone retaining walls, fences, trails and a drainage system, changed and improved road alignments, and constructed recreational facilities.
While work on Soldier field was under way when he arrived, post commandant Col. Troup Miller directed much of this work. He supervised the leveling of the parade grounds, building a retaining wall around the field with ornamental stone, and constructing permanent seating at the field’s upper end.
During World War II, the Presidio became the temporary headquarters of the III Corps, and served as a reception center until 1944. Temporary barracks and a reception center were constructed on Soldier Field. Asphalt roadways were placed around these buildings over the grass of the parade grounds. The temporary barracks and asphalt were removed in 1975 so the field could be restored to its original condition.
In 1944, the Presidio was declared inactive until it was reopened in 1945, when it served as a staging area for civil affairs Soldiers preparing for the occupation of Japan.
As part of an effort to increase the use of the field, the Presidio of Monterey and the City of Monterey entered into agreement in 1996 to improve Soldier Field. These improvements included leveling the baseball field, adding a sprinkler system and improving drainage.
The project provided more recreational opportunities to both the military and the City of Monterey residents under the joint-use agreement. The Presidio saved money through the city’s improvements and ongoing maintenance while the city added recreation facilities for Monterey citizens.
For more than a century, Soldier Field has provided a scenic backdrop for military functions and sporting events.