80 years ago today, Imperial Japanese planes launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii that claimed the lives of 2,403 American service members and wounded 1,178 more. The attack led to America's involvement in World War II and the creation of what is now known as the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground (YPG).
YPG Heritage Center Curator Bill Heidner reflected while serving as keynote speaker at American Legion Post 19's annual Pearl Harbor Day Memorial Breakfast Dec. 7, 2021.
YPG is the last active Army installation within the massive Desert Maneuver Area stood up in the wake of American entry into the war. Twenty divisions of Soldiers trained at places like Camp Laguna in preparation for combat in North Africa, before ultimately being deployed to Europe.
The war effort was greatly aided by the M2 Treadway Bridge, the Army's first modern tactical pontoon bridge, which was rapidly tested at Yuma Test Branch. Allied combat engineers would erect thousands of these temporary bridges over the course of the war.
After the declaration of war on Dec. 8, 1941, the 158 Infantry Battalion was detached from the 45th Division and sent to Panama to reinforce the defenses of the Panama Canal Zone.
They arrived on Jan. 2, 1942 and were one of four infantry regiments on the Panama defense forces.
Sgt. 1st Class George Ferguson, a Yuman, worked with the Panama Defense Force to conduct tests of commercial machetes against the M1917 Bolo Knife.
The Army would order Collins Legitimus machetes in 18 and 24 inch configurations for testing thoughout the thick-green tropical region.
“The test results that they wrote up and presented to the Army Quartermaster Corps would become known as the first ever tropics regions test,” Heidner explained. “A mission that today at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground we still maintain.”
As a result, the Collins Legitimus machete remains standard issue for the Army.