It?s not ancient history, but archaeologists are adding the Vietnam-era war games staged by Marine Corps Reserves to the complex story of Annadel State Park.
?It?s part of the cultural landscape,? said Breck Parkman, a senior state parks archaeologist, who has been collecting spent cartridges, C-ration cannisters and shell clips for the past decade. ?The Marine Corps Reserves is the last chapter of this history.?
Annadel, a state park since 1970, was prized by Pomo Indians as long as 8,000 years ago for its abundance of obsidian used to shape arrowheads, spears and knives. Obsidian flakes still cover several hillsides.
Beginning in the 1870s, stone masons quarried basalt rock that built St. Rose Church and the Railroad Square depot in Santa Rosa and repaved San Francisco after the 1906 quake. They left behind a narrow-gauge railroad, tools and wheelbarrows.
More recently Annadel was a ranch and hop farm, and homestead sites are still readily visible. Now it?s a popular state park used last year by 97,000 hikers, runners, bicyclists and equestrians.
?It?s a working-class history,? Parkman said. ?This park has a lot of history without a lot of names. We don?t have important people living here, no Gen. Vallejo or Jack London or William Randolph Hearst.?
Instead it is a land shaped by blue-collar hands.
?I can picture on a hot summer day a Marine hiking up and down hills with a 50-pound pack and a rifle on his shoulder,? Parkman said.
Last week, in a short walk through Live Oak Meadow, where purple lupine was blooming, one shell casing was found half buried in the trail and another was sitting on top of fresh dirt left by a gopher.
They are among the 50 shell casings Parkman has found in areas of the 5,000-acre park. They eventually will be part of a history display in the new park center that is under construction.
The casings are left over from the two dozen times between 1961 and 1969 that Annadel was used for training by a Marine Reserve unit headquartered in the North Bay.
?We used it as a place to go to practice our war games, that sort of thing,? said Roy Nonella of Santa Rosa, who as a lieutenant was in charge of L Company, Third Battalion, 23rd Marines. ?We never used live ammunition of any kind.?
There were, however, low-flying cargo planes dropping provisions, helicopters, soldiers dug into hillsides with machine guns and night maneuvers.
The Santa Rosa company, which was never activated, was based at the Naval Air Station and would march or be taken by trucks from there to what was then Annadel Farms.
?It was quite an experience; it was no picnic,? said Joe Imwalle, who was a member of the Reserves. ?It was night training. We had to check ourselves for ticks, there were tick problems.?
It was also a time when Sonoma County was much less populated and Annadel was remote. ?There was nothing up there. It was rough territory, it was steep, it was a wilderness up there, still is,? Imwalle said.
Parkman also is broadening the context beyond military training, tying it into the Cold War and the Vietnam War as well. ?The Vietnam War was one of the biggest influences shaping our lives and politics,? Parkman said.
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