Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Fort Funston: Battery Bluff
(155mm Gun Battery)
The original Battery Bluff (1937-1941). The Fort Funston's rifle range is on the left and its pistol range is also shown to the right. 8 January 1938 (National Archives, College Park, MD).
Battery Bluff
by Al Grobmier, Coast Defense Study Group
In 1937, a new 'temporary' battery of four mobile 155mm guns were constructed on the bluff northwest of Battery Davis and named Battery Bluff. These first Panama mounts and guns were located about 1,200 feet north of Battery Davis's Gun No. 1, close to the edge of the cliffs overlooking the beach. One of its primary missions was to defend Battery Davis against fast and small enemy vessels. There were no fire control stations for this battery. In 1941, due to erosion of the cliff and three years of recession due to normal wave action which was accelerated by severe storms during the winter of 1940-41, the guns (but not the mounts) were moved to the south of Battery Davis, which are the second set of Panama mounts. Due to erosion, the original Panama Mounts of Battery Bluff have slid onto the beach below the bluffs.
A Panama Mount was concrete pedestal at the center of a circular, semi-circular, or three-quarters circular rail supported the gun and its carriage. The gun carriage trail ends rode on the rail, which is also embedded in concrete. The model French made M1917A1 and nearly identical U.S. made M1918 guns used in many Coast Artillery Panama Mount installations was about 19 feet long, weighed about 8,700 pounds and could fire a projectile up to about 19,000 yards (10.9 miles).
Plans in the Park Archives and Record Center show this second 155mm Battery located at the extreme southwestern corner of the post, just west of where the San Francisco Defense Area Site SF-59A barracks are now located. This area was completely graded over by the Veterans' Administration for a planned medical center that was not built. No traces of that battery are visible today.
M1918 GPF Mobile Seacoast Gun at Battery Bluff's second location on lower Fort Funston, 1942. Photo Courtesy of San Francisco Public Library
Battery Bluff
by Justin M. Ruhge
This battery took its name from its location on a bluff above the ocean at Fort Funston in 1937. The Battery consisted of four 155-mm M1918 Mobile Seacoast Guns placed on "Panama" mounts. These guns had their origin in World War I.
During World War I the French 155-mm gun, a heavy tractor-drawn weapon, was put into production with slight modifications by the United States as the Model 1918. Known more commonly in the American service as the GPF for Grand Puissance Filloux, this gun was the most widely used of the mobile artillery pieces adopted for seacoast defense after the war. Although the carriage of the 155 allowed a wider scope of traverse that the average for guns designed for field use, the lateral movement was still insufficient for fire against moving targets. During the 1920s, however, a simple and relatively inexpensive platform was devised, consisting essentially of a segment of curved rail embedded in concrete, along which the gun's twin trails could easily be moved. This type of emplacement was initially developed and tested in the Canal Zone and thus came to be known as the "Panama" mount. The GPF was greatly improved between the two World Wars, mainly to increase its' mobility by providing it with modern wheels and pneumatic tires in place of the old cast-steel wheels. It was used throughout the 1920s and 1930s to train thousands of Organized Reserve Corps (now US Army Reserve) and National Guard's Coast Artillerymen and after Pearl Harbor, was rushed in large numbers to guard unfortified positions along both coasts. Many Panama mounts were constructed along the California Coast for this purpose. The 54th Coast Artillery Regiment (155mm Tractor Drawn) (Colored), an all black unit, manned these guns at many locations along the California Coast using Panama Mounts where available.
The four howitzers at Fort Funston were a temporary installation. They were first located at the north end of Fort Funston on the bluffs. However, when their Panama Mounts began to slide over the bluff into the surf, the battery was moved to a new location at the south end and further inland. This site is now part of the former San Francisco Defense Area Site SF-59A (Administrative Area).
There were no permanent fire control stations for this battery, however, concrete monuments were placed and orientation data determined at three locations.
In 1996, a Panama Mount was still visible in the surf line.
Report of Completed Works - Seacoast Fortifications
Report of Completed Work - Seacoast Fortifications for the second Battery Bluff located at the south end of Fort Funston

Report of Completed Works - Seacoast Fortifications: Second 155mm Seacoast Battery.
The original Battery Bluff's Panama Mount No. 4 with a 270-degree traverse, 23 June 1937. (GGNRA)
Addition Online and Printed Histories:
The Fort Funston Panama Mounts of Battery Bluff
Harbor Defenses of San Francisco - A Field Guide 1890 to 1950
Members of the 54th Coast Artillery Regiment (155mm Tractor Drawn)(Colored) with a 155-mm Gun under camouflage, 1942. Signal Corps No. 9CA-42-1991-PSF, pg. 18, HDSF Photo Album (GOGA 1766-0039)
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Updated 23 June 2017