Batteries Erwin and Eubanks, Harbor Defenses of Los Angeles
by Justin Ruhge
Fort MacArthur was the only fort in California at which railroad
guns were stationed. 14-inch and 8-inch guns were sent there to
provide added firepower to protect the harbor entrance and also
provide protection for the remote parts of the California coast
where the guns could be sent on coastal railroads. In October
1925 the first 14-inch railroad gun arrived at Fort MacArthur.
In 1926, a single emplacement for the gun and its carriage was
constructed on the Lower Reservation that allowed the gun to rest
on a permanent surveyed location, which provided 360 degrees traverse.
In June 1930, the second 14-inch gun arrived. In 1937, two emplacements
were constructed for the guns on the Lower Reservation and the
1926 emplacement abandoned.
The battery formed by both guns was named
Battery Erwin. The battery was transferred to the Army in April
1942. The installation cost $28,000. Later canvas buildings were
added to cover the guns. These could be moved away quickly when
The two guns were 50-caliber, 715.2 inches
long, Model 1920 MII, Nos. 7 and 10, manufactured at Watervliet
Arsenal. They were mounted in 1938 on the permanent emplacements
on the special railroad carriages Model 1920 MII, Nos. 1 and 4
manufactured by the Watervliet Arsenal.
Each gun and carriage cost $430,000. The
gun, carriage and flatcar on which it was mounted weighed 365
tons. The flatcar had 14 axles, 8 in front and 6 in the rear to
distribute the loads on the rails. The 14-inch gun could fire
a 1,560-pound projectile 27 miles. The guns came with a support
train of about 18 cars that were pulled by Sterling engines.
Four of the 14-inch guns and their trains
were manufactured. Two went to Fort MacArthur and two were stationed
at Fort Grant at the Pacific Ocean end of the Panama Canal.
The 1926 emplacement has been covered over.
The 1937 emplacements were destroyed in the early 1980s.
Due to the restrictions on gunfire from
the 14-inch guns at Fort MacArthur, the two railroad guns were
moved to Point Don south of San Clemente in June 1936 and to Naples
near Goleta in September 1940 so that the 3rd Coast Artillery
could practice firing these guns without destroying nearby residential
property. Rail spurs were built and the guns faced out to sea.
Traverse was limited to the 3.5 degrees built into the carriage.
In these locations the concussions from firing were so great that
the flatcars sometimes jumped right off the tracks.
On December 27, 1941, two 8-inch railroad
guns arrived at Fort MacArthur. 29 of these gun trains were built
in 1941 to 1942. These two guns were stationed at Manhattan Beach
between 18th and 19th Streets (At the present day site of Live
Oak Park) on a spur track, which was built along with magazines
between February and August 1942. The guns were fired on the flatcars
with outrigger supports for stabilization rather than using permanent
emplacements as with the 14-inch guns. Two roll away camouflage
houses were built to protect each gun. This installation cost
$47,000. These 8-inch guns could fire a 260-pound shell 18.7 miles.
This two-gun battery was named Battery Eubanks.
Reference: A detailed description
of the 8-inch and 14-inch railway guns is presented in British
and American Artillery of World War 2 by Ian V. Hogg, 1978, pgs.
175 to 181.
The 14-inch M1920 railway gun was the
last large caliber railway gun to be deployed by the U.S. Army.
It was an upgrade of the Navy 14"/50 caliber railway gun.
After the close of World War I, the US Army wanted to incorporate
the lessons learned from other railway gun mounts and fulfill
coastal artillery requirements for hitting a moving target. An
effort to design a more universal mount for the Navy's Mk. IV
14"/50 caliber gun was undertaken.
The primary difference from the earlier
Navy versions lies in the M1920 carriage, which could be raised
and lowered. Prepositioned fixed mounts were installed at the
forts, and the gun's rail trucks could be taken out from under
the frame. After the removal of the rail trucks, the gun was
lowered and bolted onto a pivot point for 360 degree movement.
The M1920 carriage made the gun much more flexible. It allowed
for the standard practice of using a curved piece of rail to
traverse the gun, and it enabled the gun to be used in a fixed
Two guns were deployed to Fort MacArthur.
The remaining two guns were deployed to Fort Grant and Fort Randolph
in the Panama Canal Zone. The two guns deployed to the Panama
Canal Zone could be moved to either coast on the Panama Canal
The Mk.IV gun was manufactured in two models:
M1920MI centerline of breechblock mechanism
canted 16 degrees counterclockwise to fit recoil band.
M1920MII breech mechanism is set straight
in relation to axis of tube.
Sighting and fire control equipment:
The following sighting equipment
was used with the gun:
M1 fire adjustment board
M1 plotting and relocating board
M1A1 range correction board
M7 spotting board
M1A1 height finder
M1910 azimuth instrument
M8 helium filling kit
M1 gunners quadrant
M1918 aiming rule
M1 prediction scale
firing tables- 14-m-1, 14-e-3, 14-g-2.
M1917MI panoramic telescope
M1922 panoramic telescope
M1 generating unit (mounted on the forward
M1 powder car
M1 projectile car
M2 fire control car
M1918 repair car
All four guns were cut up for scrap in 1946.
Battery Erwin's northern
emplacement 9 July 1941. The gun is under camouflage netting.
The five box cars are the support cars described above. Image
was taken by the California National Guard's 115th Observation
Squadron. (National Archives and Records Administration)
Battery Erwin 9 July
1941. The guns are under camouflage netting. The five box cars
at each emplacement are support cars described above. Image was
taken by the California National Guard's 115th Observation Squadron.
(National Archives and Records Administration)