Sleepy Hollow’s “Secret” War Mission

Memories of Sleepy Hollow, 1943
By Claude E. Cook
Indianapolis, Indiana, May 2004

On March 24, 1943, Company C, 771st Military Police Battalion, stationed at the Presidio of San Francisco, began providing a guard detail for an ammunition site at Sleepy Hollow, near San Anselmo, known as ASP #2. At that time, San Anselmo had a population of about 6,000. The first group left the Presidio for Sleepy Hollow at 1 p.m. on March 24th. Although there were frequent changes in personnel, the detail usually was made up by a sergeant, a corporal, and 21 privates. There were no officers until May 3 when Lt. Thomas carne out. Lt. Dugan replaced Lt. Thomas the first of June. While at Sleepy Hollow, the detachment was assigned for rations with 305 Ordnance. The guard detail ended, at least as far as the 771st Battalion was concerned, at 10 a.m. on June 30, when Lt. Dugan and 23 enlisted men returned for duty with the company at the Presidio. The only accident during the period happened early on the morning of May 12th when a private shot himself in the foot while on guard. He was admitted to Letterman Hospital at the Presidio at 5 a.m. on the same day. Naturally, there was a great deal of speculation about this incident among the other men, but it was later ruled as accidental.

For most of us, duty at Sleepy Hollow was a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of the Presidio and the city of San Francisco. The camp was situated off the beaten path, on the left side, and about two miles up Butterfield Road. I do not recall any homes being along upper Butterfield Road, which ended about half a mile beyond the camp at a place known to us as “the country club.” Dancing was available there. Drinks were sold to us, unless one of us had recently made a pass at the owner’s daughter. However, perhaps this was just another rumor.

My first tour of duty at Sleepy Hollow began April 23rd and ended May 1st. I was lucky enough, however, to return on May 12th and remain until June 24th. A letter home, dated April 27, 1943; noted 23 of us were on detached service on an abandoned dairy farm with about 45 men from an ordnance outfit. I described the place as “really nice, with a country club right up the road.” Once, someone from the ordnance outfit killed a deer and we ate deer meat for a while. It was a welcome change from the usual army chow.

I no longer remember many details of the camp or dump. We had our own small barrack. As I recall, it was not a usual army barrack building in that it was smaller and entered from the side instead of having a door in each end. Evidently there must have been two barracks, a mess hall, and the usual sanitary facilities. I think most ammunition was stored just north of the camp buildings, between the banks of a nearby small creek and Butterfield Road. At least part of it was stacked in squares about six feet high above ground when I was there. All posts but one were inside the dump or around the perimeter, and manned 24 hours a day. We had enough men so we usually had about 24 hours between four-hour shifts, and had a night off about every five nights. The changing of the guard was done by truck.

One thing I do remember is that the stars seemed much brighter at night when walking guard in Sleepy Hollow. It was very easy to find the Little Dipper, Big Dipper, etc. Another incident I also remember clearly is the following. It was standard practice when being relieved to eject the shell from our shotgun before getting into the rear of the truck. Once, after being relieved, I was sitting in the very rear of the truck. At the next stop, the guard had his finger on the trigger when he attempted to eject his shell, resulting in a loud blast quite near my head. Luckily for me, his gun was pointed straight up. A little more to the left and he would probably have shortened my army career considerably. One officer tried to slip up on us at night, coming from the woods along the opposite side of the creek. A few near misses from the guard’s guns, however, quickly discouraged him from this endeavor.

The one post not connected with the dump was an outpost on top of a nearby ridge or hill about half a mile away across Butterfield Road from the camp. In a June 18 letter home I described it as follows: “…I received your letter just before going on duty so I read it when I got on top of the hill. We have an outpost on top of a small mountain and the only way up it is to walk. Maybe you think you’re not huffing and puffing when you get to the top!” Equipment stored on top included a pup tent, a tommy gun, field glasses, and a field telephone connecting us to the camp below. The outpost was used to watch for fires in the surrounding countryside. I believe duty there was six-hour shifts during daylight hours only. Needless to say, this was my favorite post. To the south were great views of Mt. Tamalpais and the Golden Gate Bridge. I watched the bridge disappear one day when fog rolled in about 3 p.m. While up on the hill June 12th, I answered the phone and learned I had a visitor from the U.S. Navy. It turned out to be a former high school classmate stationed at Treasure Island. After I got off duty, we went to the country club where we had a pleasant visit. We even tried to dance, the girls being kind enough to overlook the fact that our dancing talent was sadly deficient.

Most of the time it was from ten to twenty degrees warmer in Sleepy Hollow than in San Francisco. When headed for San Francisco, we could feel quite a drop in the temperature after cresting the last hill before reaching the Golden Gate Bridge.

My duty at ASP#2 was probably the most enjoyable of my three years in the army. The only drawbacks were having no P.X. and receiving mail only when the company brought it out. This was usually about twice a week. Much off duty time was spent in San Anselmo or San Rafael where the girls were friendly and streets were much less crowded with service men. Originally, I was supposed to return to the Presidio June 26, but received orders to return on the 24th instead. I would have been more than happy to spend the rest of the war at Sleepy Hollow; however, the army had other plans for me. Only six days after leaving I was on my way overseas.

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