Salt Lake Army Air Force Jeep Ranges

Location: West of the Salt Lake City Airport on the flat, open land north of I-80.
What's Out There: The Jeep Ranges are two large triangles made of tall, earthen berms. They're equilateral triangles with rounded corners, and point south.

What It Is: As the US entered World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor, there was a lot of fear about potential Japanese attacks along the West Coast. Along with constructing fortifications to protect important areas (I've visited sites near San Francisco and Seward, Alaska), planners also looked to locate important supply and training bases in the interior of the country, out of reach of carrier-based planes.

In Utah, this led to the construction of a number of military installations, including the Clearfield Naval Depot, expansion of Hill Field, and the Salt Lake Army Air Base. The Salt Lake Base was used for initial training of new recruits. The major base area is what is now the township of Kearns in western Salt Lake County. Most of that area was dismantled and developed into tract housing after the war ended.
The area north of I-80 and west of the Salt Lake Airport was the gunnery training range for the air base. Here, new airmen would receive their initial training on various weapons prior to the beginning of flight training. Installations included towers for shotgun firing; machine gun, rifle, and pistol ranges; and even included plans for a ball turret trainer called a Poorman's range, although this may have never been constructed.

A truck-mounted turret trainer at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas.
The jeep range, though, was something more interesting than regular target or even skeet shooting. It was used to train gunners about to be sent out in bombers. A scale-model fighter was towed around the triangle by an unmanned jeep to provide students with opportunities of simulating and responding to a fighter attack.
Trainee using a jeep range. Source: US Government Photo via Wikipedia.

The triangular berm protected the jeep from getting shot up during training. In addition to purchasing the range area itself, the Army also purchased an easement over a huge area to the north (down-range) to ensure that they could operate safely.


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