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Posted: 12/16/2005 4:19:45 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/16/2005 4:20:16 PM EDT by Bostonterrier97]
from:http://www.nps.gov/prsf/coast_defense/harbor_defense_sf/

Harbor Defenses, San Francisco 1891-1948



Endicott Era, 1891-1928 (including the Taft Era and World War I)

As the United States completed its westward expansion and continued to industrialize in the late 1800’s, the government turned its attention to establishing the United States among the world’s great military powers. The Navy expanded to become a truly international force, and the Army assumed responsibility for the defense of the nation’s coasts and ports. President Cleveland established the Endicott Board in 1885 for the purpose of modernizing fortifications. Chaired by Secretary of War William Endicott, the board recommended new defenses at 22 U.S. seaports. The new reinforced-concrete gun batteries that resulted are known as Endicott batteries, and in fact the Endicott Era of coastal defenses lasted 50 years, with some modification, until the end of World War II.

The Endicott Board deemed San Francisco Harbor second only to New York’s in strategic importance. As a result, an extensive series of forts, batteries, and guns were proposed for the harbor entrance, occupying both shores of the Golden Gate. In the Presidio of San Francisco construction began in 1891, when ground was broken for Battery Marcus Miller. On the north side of the Gate, Battery Spencer followed in 1893. Batteries were subsequently built south of the Presidio at Fort Miley (Land’s End), north of the Golden Gate at Forts Baker and Barry, and in the inner-harbor, at Fort McDowell (Angel Island) and Fort Mason.

The Spanish-American War and the Philippine-American War that followed (1898-1902) increased the pace of military spending on the West Coast. In 1905, President Roosevelt asked his Secretary of War William Taft to head a board to update Endicott defenses. The Taft Board recommended further innovations including minefields, electrification, searchlights and telephonic communication. This development culminated in a targeting system, known as fire control, which used widely spaced observation posts scattered along the coast. These posts, called base-end stations, had 3-man crews that provided range, bearing and speed information to artillery crews, who then used this data to triangulate on and target a moving enemy ship.

In 1912, Fort Winfield Scott was formally established on the western portion of the Presidio to serve as a coast artillery post. It contained approximately 63 guns mounted at 15 gun batteries and was the headquarters for all other coast artillery posts in the Bay Area until they were disarmed after World War II.

The Coast Artillery soldiers lived in barracks within marching or driving distance of their gun batteries. Many considered the duty a privilege because it was close to the social life of San Francisco. The officers were trained at the Army’s elite coast artillery school in Fort Monroe, Virginia. The soldiers maintained the massive guns and practiced firing at targets miles out to sea. They received reports on their accuracy from pilots of the Army Air Corps flying overhead. The biplanes flew from Crissy Army Air Station, established in 1921 on the Bay Shore of the Presidio.


World War II Era, 1937-1948


Although airplanes were a minor factor in World War I, their threat prompted the Army to make additions to the defense system, including small, rapid-fire anti-aircraft guns and camouflage. The existing batteries could be covered with vegetation-colored netting, but if detected, they remained vulnerable to aerial bombing. Thus, the next, and last, generation of seacoast guns was mounted under thick concrete shields covered with vegetation to make them virtually invisible from above. Sixteen-inch guns, which fired 2,000 pound projectiles to a maximum range of 25 miles, were intended to keep the newest battleships from reaching striking range. Work on the first battery for guns of this type in the U.S. began in 1936 at Battery Davis in Ft. Funston, south of the Golden Gate. The first test firing took place in 1940, from Battery Townsley in Ft. Cronkhite, north of the Gate and residents of San Francisco complained that the concussion broke their windows!


As World War II approached, the Army made further improvements to the Harbor Defenses of San Francisco. Additional base-end stations, mines, searchlights, and anti-aircraft guns were installed. After Pearl Harbor, the entire Western Defense Command was placed on high alert, but the three West Coast attacks that did occur caused only minor damage. In 1942, a Japanese submarine shelled an oil refinery near Goleta, Southern California, another sub fired upon Ft. Stevens, Oregon, and a balloon launched by the Japanese exploded in forest near Brookings, Oregon. The most important wartime development in coastal defense was radar, which vastly improved enemy detection and fire control around San Francisco Bay.

But World War II was much more than a time of "improvements" to weaponry. A vast change in the nature of warfare also occurred. Of greatest pertinence to harbor defense, the war was fought and ultimately won from the air. New types of warfare included amphibious assault on undefended coasts, carrier-based air attack, high-elevation bombing and atomic warfare. Defending a harbor against ships became a superfluous activity, and even before the war ended, some seacoast guns were scrapped to become new weapons, and soldiers of the heavy artillery were transferred to anti-aircraft or even infantry duties.

Just 2 years after the war, all guns remaining in the seacoast defenses of San Francisco were declared surplus, and the last weapons were removed in 1950. The Coast Artillery was deactivated that same year.
Link Posted: 12/16/2005 4:21:12 PM EDT
Just have 24/7 gay pride parades on each side of the channel...

Will scare away any navy
Link Posted: 12/16/2005 4:26:31 PM EDT
Harbor Defenses, San Francisco World War II



The defense of San Francisco Bay was of paramount importance during World War II. Not only was there a large civilian population and interior agricultural industry to be protected, but there were major military and industrial complexes in the Bay Area that were prime targets for Japanese attack.





Many of the troops and supplies for the Pacific theater passed through the bay and the Golden Gate on their way to the Pacific Theater. Military infrastructure in the area included Fort Mason, which was the port of embarkation for over a million soldiers during the war, and the Presidio, from which the defense of the Pacific Coast was run. Treasure Island and Alameda Naval Air Station were important naval bases. Liberty ships built by the hundreds at the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, California, were loaded with cargo, food, medical supplies, tanks, guns, and construction equipment at the ports of San Francisco and Oakland. Hunter's Point and Mare Island Navy shipyards made ships and landing craft used on the many amphibious landings during the war. The local shipyards also repaired and serviced many of the ships and submarines from the Pacific Theater. Port Chicago was a critical ammunition supply depot. All these vessels had to pass through the narrow Golden Gate Straits.



To protect the crucial Golden Gate and Bay Area harbors, an integrated coastal defense system was constructed. This system of weapons, fire control, mines, nets, and men were all that kept the vital life line from San Francisco bay open to supply the men and women of the Pacific Theater.

Related Article Links

Integrated System of Guns

Mines and Submarine Defenses

Fire Control (Aiming the Guns)

The Men Behind the Guns

Map of World War II Coastal Defense System
Mine field and submarine net configuration based on an illustration by Brian Chin



Link Posted: 12/16/2005 4:28:26 PM EDT
Link Posted: 12/16/2005 5:11:21 PM EDT
With the exception of the guns themselves an awful lot of that complex has been incorporated in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and several museums and complexes are open to the public.
Link Posted: 12/16/2005 5:23:04 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/16/2005 5:24:07 PM EDT by KA3B]
Link Posted: 12/16/2005 5:40:09 PM EDT
My Grandfather's Brother told me a story once of SF Bay during WWII...

He was one of the first crew on the USS Bennington, an Essex class carrier built towards the end of the war. The ship was built on the east coast, I forget where, and on its first cruise it basically high tailed it for the Pacific due to the need for carriers there. The cruise took them through the Panama Canal and up the coast to San Francisco for a refueling before heading for Pearl Harbor. Due to the urgency of getting the ship ready for battle none of the crew had leave as all hands were required to do all the finishing touches to the ship since it had to be fighting the war ASAP. After the quick stop in Alameda they cast off headed for Pearl Harbor. But wait! The submarine nets were still up across the bay and needed to be lowered before the carrier could sail through the gate. So the captain elected to do circles around Alcatraz Island until the nets could be lowered. So the ship circled. Apparently the boats handling the nets had some sort of problem and two hours turned into 6 hours and that turned into 12 hours and by the time they had the nets lowered 24 hours had passed before the carrier was able to head out to sea. He said that after 100 trips around Alcatraz they stopped counting, since the standard operating procedure then was to stay underway in case a Jap sub slipped through and caught a brand new carrier sitting motionless in the bay.

-Gator
Link Posted: 12/16/2005 5:55:03 PM EDT
It's well worth clambering around these one afternoon if you're in the area. The guns have been cut up for scrap, but the bunkers are still there. It's a nice hike and the views are spectacular.
Link Posted: 12/16/2005 8:30:59 PM EDT
+1

Most of them are locked up but some of them have been breached by mischief makers or the steel door hardware has just rusted away and you can get inside a couple of them, unless they have been repaired in the last several years. Bring a flashlight, concrete doesn't let much light in.
Link Posted: 12/17/2005 12:27:13 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/17/2005 12:30:32 AM EDT by mattja]
I took this pic in October. I'm pretty sure that's Battery Spencer on top of the hill there.


Link Posted: 12/17/2005 12:53:05 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Bostonterrier97:

Just 2 years after the war, all guns remaining in the seacoast defenses of San Francisco were declared surplus, and the last weapons were removed in 1950. The Coast Artillery was deactivated that same year.



That seems remarkably short-sighted.
Link Posted: 12/17/2005 4:56:34 AM EDT

Originally Posted By KS_Physicist:

Originally Posted By Bostonterrier97:

Just 2 years after the war, all guns remaining in the seacoast defenses of San Francisco were declared surplus, and the last weapons were removed in 1950. The Coast Artillery was deactivated that same year.



That seems remarkably short-sighted.



We need to reactivate the coastal defense guns and the battleships.
Link Posted: 12/17/2005 10:39:45 PM EDT

Originally Posted By KS_Physicist:

Originally Posted By Bostonterrier97:

Just 2 years after the war, all guns remaining in the seacoast defenses of San Francisco were declared surplus, and the last weapons were removed in 1950. The Coast Artillery was deactivated that same year.



That seems remarkably short-sighted.



And whose surface ships were they worried about getting within 20 miles of San Francisco? or any other coastal point for that matter?
Link Posted: 12/20/2005 10:28:13 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/20/2005 10:28:49 AM EDT by ASUsax]

Originally Posted By PaDanby:

Originally Posted By KS_Physicist:

Originally Posted By Bostonterrier97:

Just 2 years after the war, all guns remaining in the seacoast defenses of San Francisco were declared surplus, and the last weapons were removed in 1950. The Coast Artillery was deactivated that same year.



That seems remarkably short-sighted.



And whose surface ships were they worried about getting within 20 miles of San Francisco? or any other coastal point for that matter?



It would be nice to have at least one intact as a museum.

There's a very nice museum in Rio De Janerio, right on Copacabana Beach. It's neat to visit.



ETA: Small pic, all I could find.
Link Posted: 12/20/2005 12:23:41 PM EDT
Good post.

Check out the Coast Defense Study Group
Link Posted: 12/20/2005 8:13:08 PM EDT
IIRC there are a few guns left at a few places for display pieces. Several batteries (structures not guns) are still in place and visitable in San Pedro, (OK thats the ex-Upper Reservation Ft. MacArthur, Los Angeles harbor area)
Link Posted: 12/21/2005 5:13:24 AM EDT

Originally Posted By PaDanby:
IIRC there are a few guns left at a few places for display pieces. Several batteries (structures not guns) are still in place and visitable in San Pedro, (OK thats the ex-Upper Reservation Ft. MacArthur, Los Angeles harbor area)



I've seen the installations, but never the guns.

There is a Coastal defense fort intact in Hawaii that I've been to.
Link Posted: 12/21/2005 6:27:14 AM EDT
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