There is a lot of lore surrounding Marine Corps’ base Twentynine Palms, to include “Lake Bandini.” At the beginning of the Korean conflict, the Marines decided they needed more live fire ranges. Just north of Camp Pendleton, was an abandoned Army glider base called Condor Field.
Deemed “uninhabitable” by other branches, the Marine Corps made it the crown jewel of their training. However, there is nothing regal about this base. Front and center is a water treatment plant that smells awful. This is a desert base, and as a result, water conservation is paramount. The dry air pulls the moisture, and consequently, the smell further than it would in a more temperate location. This results in a gagging odor that looms as a cloud of depression over the isolated base. Particularly, over the unfortunate souls running their PT tests on the nearby track.
TV ads show mountains of Bandini
In the 1970’s, the Bandini Fertilizer Company ran a series of television ads. The regional commercials featured a 100 ft tall mountain of manure, targeting the farmers of the Southern California area. Grapes, almonds, and oranges are all huge cash crops in the area. However, it took on a different meaning in 29 Palms. The Marines coined “Lake Bandini” as a nickname, and it stuck.
To this day, the locals still refer to it as such. Some thought it was named for a heroic Marine or Sailor, as most things on bases usually are. To the contrary, it is a glorious form of belligerence. The running jokes include t-shirts for the “Lake Bandini Swim Team” and threats to make troops fill their canteens there. Also, it’s popular to Photoshop more scenic locations as postcards. Nevertheless, the putrid odor is a distinct memory of all who have trained at this base.
More obscure 29 Palms lore
The base is located in the middle of the harsh Mojave Desert; the same desert the Manson Family infamously prowled for their victims. Charles Manson believed the region contained the gates to hell. Fueling this rumor was the local agriculture. For instance, the usual Joshua Tree. It only grows in certain parts of the the American Southwest. Old sayings make the claim Joshua Trees are only found on opposite ends of the earth. Marking the gates of Heaven and Hell, respectively. However, there is no reference to the Joshua Tree in the Bible, and they do not grow in Israel. Historians agree they were named by the Mormon settlers who first ventured westward into the area. This has not dissuaded occult enthusiasts from flocking to the region to try to find a supernatural experience.
Furthermore, the Chemehuevi Indian Cemetery is located about 7 miles outside the base’s front gate. A Native-American burial ground that was mistakenly sold to a railway, angering many. The land was deeded back to the government, who then designated it for protection. However, many believe the insult did not come without consequences.
It is also claimed the base once had 29 palm trees planted in rows outside the main gate. Allegedly, a drunken Staff Sergeant had sawed them down late one night after founding out about his wife’s infidelity. Certainly not the best way to take your anger out, but the legend remains. There was also an official report conjecturing the city of 29 Palms was briefly the meth capital of the country.
Undoubtedly, this is one of the most unusual bases in the world. Sound off with what obscure military phrases we should cover next! You can also check out the article we wrote way back when about the Top 5 Marine Corps duty stations.