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A small flag carried ashore by the 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines is planted atop Mount Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945. Official U.S. Marine Corps photograph by Staff Sgt. Louis R. Lowery, USMC. Photo: Courtesy of Camp Pendleton Historical Society.
A small flag carried ashore by the 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines is planted atop Mount Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945. Official U.S. Marine Corps photograph by Staff Sgt. Louis R. Lowery, USMC. Photo: Courtesy of Camp Pendleton Historical Society.

The documentary screening raised funds for the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society

By Megan Bianco

For over seven decades Camp Pendleton has been an in-demand location for military training on the West Coast, and for over three decades local film producer Robert Kline has been active in creating documentary features on American war and political history. Naturally, it would make sense for the two SoCal fixtures to eventually cross paths, and now they have with the special anniversary documentary Pendleton at 75: The History of Camp Pendleton.

Kline and his wife and producing partner Stephanie Heredia have created films with subject matter ranging from the Vietnam War, to John F. Kennedy’s and Ronald Reagan’s presidencies. With Pendleton at 75, viewers are treated to a little bit of U.S. history directly related to South Orange County.

On Sept. 25, the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society hosted a special screening of the new documentary at El Adobe de Capistrano, giving over 100 guests a sneak peek of Kline and Heredia’s film. All proceeds from the event were donated to the Historical Society.

Kline gave a quick introduction on his inspiration for producing the documentary.

“I realized that so many movies and shows have been shot at Camp Pendleton on location, but none of them have actually been about Pendleton,” he said.

Heredia mentioned later in an interview that the screening was held on the exact date of Camp Pendleton’s 75th anniversary—the base was opened on Sept. 25, 1942.

The film itself is a collaborative effort of Kline, Heredia, local historian Jan Siegel, editor Scott Arundale, and the Camp Pendleton Historical Society. The doc includes a mix of archival footage, news reel footage, personal photos and new interviews from locals on the base. Viewers discover how the base is named after Maj. Gen. Joseph H. Pendleton and his accomplishments in San Diego; how Basilone Road is a tribute to Sgt. John Basilone; and how the base was originally a cattle ranch before the U.S. Military realized it was the perfect spot for training. Marines would travel to the base from all over the country by train, and after the Vietnam War, refugees would find shelter there. Even famous faces like Franklin D. Roosevelt and John Wayne would pay a visit to the camp during the WWII days.

The documentary is a patriotic homage to all of the hard work and effort the base has accomplished for the country since 1942, with a bit of war history thrown in for good measure. The film includes fun tidbits as well, such as Pendleton and San Juan’s own Swallow’s Inn being featured in the 1986 Clint Eastwood movie Heartbreak Ridge. The documentary also included the story of a famous war horse/equine celebrity named Sgt. Reckless, who made his home at Camp Pendleton. Today, there’s a statue erected of Sgt. Reckless at the Pacific Views Event Center at Pendleton.

Throughout the film, commentators recollect working or living on the base in the past, and how even after so much time, the Marines and Sailors are still just as ready as ever for battle.

The documentary is a bit short at only 50 minutes, but that was intentional, as Kline noted that he “had enough footage to fit a mini-series.”

Kline said he anticipates Pendleton at 75 will have its official release by the end of the year.

With The Vietnam Experience (1989), JFK Remembered (2013) and The Reagans (2014), Pendleton at 75 is another deserved addition to Kline’s and Heredia’s filmographies.

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