Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields:
Camp Arcadia
(Ross Field)
History (2005)
by Justin Rughe

Ross Field was a permanent military reservation located on the site of the former Baldwin Race Track at Arcadia, Los Angeles County about 16 miles northeast of Los Angeles.
It was initially known as the Army Balloon School.

The Field was established on June 3, 1918 and acquired on 1920. Ross Field had the School for Enlisted Balloon Specialists, the School for Balloon Company Commanders and Observers. The student capacity was 2,150. The field covered 185 acres.

Ross Field was constructed at a cost of $403,500 through June 30, 1919. Numerous non-divisional units were stationed at the Field.

While at Camp Arcadia, the California National Guard's 143rd Field Artillery Regiment was "adopted" by actress Mary Pickford. Ms. Pickford took her duties seriously as Honorary Colonel of the Regiment, and the 143rd was known as "Mary Pickford's Fighting Six Hundred".

With an airfield being established in June 3, 1918, the Balloon School at Camp Arcadia was started by balloon companies from Camp John Wise in San Antonio, Texas. On June 25th, 1918, the 37th Balloon Company Commanded by 2nd Lieutenant John H. Bishop and the 38th Balloon Company, Commanded by 2nd Lieutenant Benjamin B. Cassiday, left Camp John Wise for Camp Arcadia to provide men and equipment for the School that was being started.

The School was named in November 1919 after Lieutenant Cleo J. Ross of the Army's Air Service. He was an observer with the 8th Balloon Company. While aloft on September 26th, with Lieutenant Herbert Hudnut at Brabant, France, a German Fokker attacked them and their balloon burst into flames. Lieutenant Ross delayed his jump until Lieutenant Hudnut was clear. After Lieutenant Ross left the basket, burning balloon parts dropped on his opened parachute and he fell from several thousand feet. Lieutenant Ross was the only balloon pilot or observer to be killed in action. He was buried in France, near where he fell.

The local publications show that the balloon school was still operating in April 1919. After that time all balloon activities were consolidated to Brooks Field, in San Antonio and later to Scott Field.

John H. Hoeppel, who served in the U.S. Army at the School and later became the Congressman from the area, was instrumental in having this Army land transferred to Los Angeles County in 1933. His original plan was to have the land developed as a municipal park. He was unable to interest the City at that time so he approached the County with the idea and was able to help convince General Douglas MacArthur, then Army Chief of Staff, to approve the transfer of 183 acres of the Ross Field Balloon School to the County without cost for the development of the park.

References: The Army Balloon School by Richard Des Chenes, Camp John Wise Aerostation, San Antonio, Texas.

California High School Cadets Annual Training at Camp Arcadia
In 1918 and 1919, the California High School Cadets, now California Cadet Corps, held its annual training at Camp Arcadia. The articles below date from 1918. At some point in 1919, probably the 1919-1920 school year, many of the units of the CHSC were taken over by the recently formed Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC).
Unit Stationed at Camp Arcadia/Ross Field
Order of Battle of United States Land Forces in the World War (1931-1949)
World War I
1st - 3rd, 13th, 15th, 21st, 23rd, 25th, 37th, 38th, 51st, 52nd and 64th - 66th Balloon Companies
School for Enlisted Ballonn Specialists
School for Balloon Company Commanders and Observers
California State Budget Documents 1918-1919  California High School Cadets Annual Training
US Army Order of Battle 1919-1941 1919-1920
3rd Balloon Company
US Army Order of Battle 1919-1941 1919-1922
1st, 2nd, 13th, 15th and 16th Balloon Companies
US Army Order of Battle 1919-1941 1919-1930
Annual Training Units (Actual dates unspecified):
Headquarters, 549th Balloon Group (Organized Reserves)
333rd - 336th, 373rd - 376th Balloon Companies (Organized Reserves)
346th Balloon Service Company (Organized Reserves)
Additional Online Information
Army Balloon School
US Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District History
Sources: Richard DesChênes, Camp John Wise Aerostation Historian
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Updated 3 July 2017