MCRD San Diego

December 19, 1914, Colonel Joseph H. Pendleton reported by telegram to Marine Corps Headquarters that the Marine Barracks, San Diego, had been established that day. After World War II, the principal activity on the Marine Corps Base proper was that of the recruit depot. Official cognizance was taken of this fact in the form of re-designation of the base, effective January 1, 1948, as the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego.

The Marine Corps Recruit Depot at San Diego and its allied installations in the San Diego area have stood ready, with the rest of the Marine Corps, to do their part in honoring the tradition of their service as being “the first to fight.”


1600 Henderson Ave San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 524-8762

MCRD San Diego, is located on 506 acres in downtown San Diego.  San Diego is indeed a military town – with several large Navy and Marine Corps installations calling San Diego County home. If arriving by car from the I-5, take the clearly marked exits for the Depot. The main entrance is on Witherby Street, which crosses under Pacific Highway as it approaches the base from the East. Alternate gated entrance points are on Washington Street to the South, and Barnett Avenue to the North. Welcome Aboard video website.

View Larger Map


A few weeks after establishing Camp Howard on North Island in San Diego, Col. Joseph Pendleton, on September 6, 1914, was the guest speaker at the U. S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego. The subject of his speech was “San Diego, An Ideal Location for a Permanent Marine Corps Base.” The drive behind his lecture was the unsatisfactory conditions and the less than convenient location of his men and staff at Camp Howard. About this same time, Col. Pendleton wrote to the Commandant of the Marine Corps at Washington D. C. about the deplorable conditions at Camp Howard and presented the idea of the possible establishment of a permanent Marine Corps base in San Diego.

The Navy General Board approved the establishment of a base on January 8, 1916 and the Marine Corps’ base on the bay tidelands called the Dutch Flats was authorized by a Navalappropriation bill of August 29, 1916, in large part due to the efforts of Congressman William Kettner. Groundbreaking on 232 acres took place on March 2, 1919. Construction and occupation of the base took place from 1919 through 1926. On December 1, 1921, Pendleton (now a General), placed it into commission as the Marine Advanced Expeditionary Base, San Diego. In 1923, the Marine Recruit Depot for the west coast relocated from Mare Island Navy Shipyards in Vallejo, Calif., to its new home at the San Diego Marine Base. On 1 March 1924, the base that had been developed as a result of the vision and efforts of General Pendleton became, officially,
Marine Corps Base, San Diego, and would be known by that name for the next twenty-four years.

The base now consisted of approximately 388 acres, of which some 367 acres had beenreclaimed tidal area. Throughout World War II, the principal activity of the base, recruit training overshadowed all other functions. After the war, the recruit training detachment remained the principal tenant. Marine Corps Base San Diego has been home to the 4th, 6th and 10th Marine Regiments, the Fleet Marine Force and the 2nd Marine Division. However, the main focus of the base has always been training and “the making of Marines.” On 1 January 1948, Marine Corps Base, San Diego was officially renamed Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego. The Recruit Training Command grew from three to eight battalions to handle the troop requirements for the Korean War. More than 700 Quonset huts were erected to handle the influx of recruits, some of which are still standing today. The Vietnam War caused the next period of major expansion. A 100-tent cantonment had to be erected to handle the overflow of recruits. Five new recruit barracks, a new dining hall, new bowling alley, a new Regional Dental and Medical Clinic were constructed on the depot.

In the 1970’s the focus increased to include the recruiting effort and the Depot became Headquarters, Western Recruiting Region.

Today the Recruit Depot provides its nation’s Corps with basically trained Marines to fight in the current conflicts in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The depot has the responsibility to train all male recruits who reside west of the Mississippi River to serve at the call of the nation.

Known for its unique Spanish colonial revival style appearance, the overall site and specific building plans were developed by renowned architect, Bertram Goodhue, who also designed the buildings built in San Diego’s Balboa Park for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. Twenty-five of the Depot’s buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Thirteen buildings have been named for famous Marines, such a Daly Barracks, Pendleton Hall, McDougall Hall, and Day Hall.

Today, the depot has 388 acres and 25 buildings listed on the national register of historic places.


MCRD San Diego’s main mission is the initial training of enlisted male recruits living west of the Mississippi River. Over 21,000 recruits are trained each year. The Depot also is the home to the Marine Corps’ Recruiter School and Western Recruiting Region’s Drill Instructors School.

Physical restrictions have allowed for few changes at the Recruit Depot in recent years, but training procedures and techniques have been modified to take in the recruit prospects and produce the highest quality graduate, a basic Marine. Drill instructors have been chosen with extreme care and thoroughly indoctrinated in the procedures required to assure the proper mental and physical training of each recruit. The drill instructor utilizes example and other leadership techniques to gradually bring his platoon from the recruit status to that of a Marine ready for whatever may be required of him. The San Diego Recruit Depot produces Marines possessed of the best of past experience together with the mental and physical dexterity provided by the latest Marine instructional techniques and equipment.

As always, the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at San Diego and its allied installations in the San Diego area have stood ready, with the rest of the Marine Corps, to do their part in honoring the tradition of their service as being “the first to fight.”