Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Fort MacArthur
(Fire Control Site Nos. 6, 7 and 8; SCR-296 Radar Set No. 4)
 
 
 
Fort MacArthur History
by California Center for Military History, California Military Department
 
 
 
Fort MacArthur circa 26 November 1937. Upper Reservation (Top) and Lower Reservation (Bottom) (National Archives)
Click the image for a larger image.
 
 

With the exception of maybe the establishment of the Submarine Base at San Pedro, no military post has played such an important role in the development of Los Angeles than that of Fort MacArthur. Named for Lieutenant General Arthur MacArthur, Jr., U.S. Army, Fort MacArthur is located in the heart of San Pedro, California, where its guns once overlooked the port and harbor of Los Angeles.

The history of Fort MacArthur dates back to an executive order issued September 14, 1888, which set aside a strip of land adjacent to the boundary of the newly incorporated city of San Pedro, California. Signed by President Grover Cleveland, the order designated the area of "the old government reservation" to be used as a military reservation. Fort MacArthur, however, would not be known as such until October 31, 1914. Almost two decades would pass before definite steps were taken to convert this coastal area into what is now Fort MacArthur.

The history of the area surrounding Fort MacArthur is as colorful as the annals of the post itself. First mention of the area in recorded history was made in 1542 by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. While chartering the west coast of North America, Cabrillo, a Portuguese navigator, entered in his log a notation that he had sighted "A Bahia dos Humos" or "Bay of Smokes" at this latitude. Some sixty years later, on November 26, 1602, Spanish Explorer Sebastian Vizcaino visited the bay and named the place in honor of Saint Peter, Bishop of Alexandria.

However, it was not until 1769, with Spanish sovereignty threatened by Russian expansion, before Spain made any attempt to colonize the region. In that year, King Charles III of Spain ordered out the first of several expeditions to establish colonies and spread Christianity in the unexplored region. This order would lead to the establishment of the Presidio of San Diego and mission San Diego de Alcala and ultimately a chain of missions across California.

With the establishment of the mission San Gabriel in 1771, Spanish supply ships began making regular use of San Pedro Bay. By the time the Pueblo de Los Angeles was founded some ten years later, the harbor bustled with activity. In the late 1780s a one room adobe shelter was built by Father Serra on the site where the Post Engineer offices now stand. This one room structure was used as a storehouse for supplies and cargo and later became the terminus of the stage line between the port and the Pueblo of Los Angles.

Meanwhile, a soldier from the Portola expedition, Juan Jose Dominguez, petitioned his former commander, Governor Fagas for a grant of land, and in 1784, he was granted the first provisional concession for a rancho outside the mission and pueblo lands. This was to become Rancho San Pedro.

During the intervening years, a controversy developed over a portion of Rancho San Pedro, the area presently known as Palos Verdes, between Dominguez and Dolores Sepulveda, a former Spanish Army Captain, which resulted in a series of court battles and a lengthy litigation which lasted from 1817 to 1846. This petition eventually lead to a small area of "500 varas square" (44.25 acres) being set aside so that all might have access to the embarcadero, or boat landing in and around the harbor.

In 1841, Mexican Governor Juan Bautisto Alvarado attempted to settled the matter and as a result established the major boundaries of the two adjacent Ranchos, and the area which Fort MacArthur occupies today. This decree had confirmed the decision of previous Governor Jose Figueroa, in which the following clause appeared:

"They shall leave free on the beach of San Pedro, 500 varas square to the cardinal points, where houses may be built by persons obtaining permission. None, however, can prevent the use of pasture by those engaged in traffic of horse to the port."

This tract of land was again legally defined and protected by Mexican Governor Pio Pico, who, in 1846, confirmed the private ownership of Rancho de los Palos Verdes but maintained the "500 varas square" requirement at the port of San Pedro. This clause ultimately was the legal cornerstone for the "government reservation" decision upon which President Grover Cleveland based his executive order.

Interesting enough, the first time the area was used as a military base of operation was during the Mexican War. On 6 August, 1846, Commodore Robert F. Stockton in the frigate CONGRESS put ashore the vessel's Marines under First Lieutenant Jacob Zeilin. They seized San Pedro and set up a small fortification in the area before a mixed body of sailors and Marines set out to from there to capture the Mexican capital city of Los Angeles. This area would again play a role in military history in the famous battle of "Old Woman's Gun."

During the Mexican War the city of Los Angeles was very much a Mexican pueblo, its outward appearance seemed untouched by the war with America. As the American flag replaced the Mexican flag over Los Angeles, the United States government would subsequently recognize the 44.25 acres at San Pedro as a military reservation.

Following the war, in 1851, entrepreneur Phineas Banning built a small wharf and warehouse in San Pedro. By 1854, Banning had developed a thriving business in handling the majority of the freight and passenger service between Los Angeles and the port. However, when a gale severely damaged the wharf and destroyed his warehouse, in 1858, he decided to abandon his San Pedro facility and founded the small village of New San Pedro (later to become the city of Wilmington) for the purpose of landing goods for Los Angeles.

The new area grew slowly, but received considerable impetus at the outbreak of the Civil War. Troops were soon quartered in the new town at Camp Drum (1) and in 1868 a railroad was laid between Wilmington and Los Angeles. The Southern Pacific Railroad, in 1869, purchased the small railroad and extended it from Wilmington to San Pedro, with its terminus at Banning's wharf.

By the time the Army abandoned Drum Barracks, Wilmington had grown to be an important seaport terminal. The harbor also continued to grow in importance. By the turn of the century the need for a deep-water port became self evident.

Prior to the 1890s the city and port of San Pedro was not much of a place –the port of San Pedro was nothing more than a collection of shacks and adobe buildings on the shores of a harbor that was little better than an open roadstead, exposed to contrary winds and extremely shallow. Wilmington was not much better. Yet this desolate looking place would eventually end up as Los Angeles Harbor, the largest manmade port in the world.

Returning to 1888, at the request of the War Department, the president had designated the "500 varas square" at the port of San Pedro as an unnamed military reservation. Under that directive, the area surrounding San Pedro Bay was set aside as a military reservation dedicated to the defense of the expanding harbor. In 1906 a Board of Fortifications report estimated the cost of fortifying the port at $2 million. Four years later, in 1910, a breakwater protecting the harbor entrance was completed and additional land on the slopes of San Pedro Hill behind Point Fermin (which would soon become the Upper Reservation) was purchased for $249,000 from William G. Kerchoff and George H. Peck by the Federal government. The purchase was made under the fortification program outlined by the Taft Board Report of 1906.

However, it was not until October 31, 1914 before construction of a "permanent harbor defense" installation would actually begin and be named Fort MacArthur for Lieutenant General Arthur MacArthur, Jr. (2)

Fort MacArthur was comprised of three parcels of land –the original section, later known as the "Middle Reservation"; an area on Point Fermin, later known as the "Upper Reservation"; and a small plot on Terminal Point called Deadman's Island. (3) The Middle Reservation would later be expanded to take in much of the area along the bluffs to the south, and the Fort would also acquire other property, including a parcel fronting on Cabrillo Beach, known as the "Lower Reservation", and parcels at White Point and Point Vicente.

August 1914 had brought about the long-awaited completion of the Panama Canal. The opening of the Panama Canal promised to alter the course of shipping in the Western Hemisphere and to make the Port of Los Angeles a favored location over all other California ports. Unfortunately, World War I started in Europe that same month.

With war clouds looming on the horizon, and world tensions heightening, War Department planners foresaw the need to provide adequate harbor defense for the fast growing area. Troubles in the Far East, and tensions heightening in Europe caused War Department planners in 1908 to project a strong harbor defensive installation at Fort MacArthur. However, when World War I started, Fort MacArthur had not yet begun its construction, and defense of the harbor became a major concern.

Back in 1906, with most of the fleet in the Atlantic, the Navy's General Board viewed the submarine as the principle way to defend the west coast of the United States if attacked. So, in 1910, with the defense of the harbor a major concern, the Navy's first A-class submarines, GRAMPUS and PIKE became the first submarines to visit San Pedro.

By the end of 1910 the U.S. Navy had only 20 submarines. Among the submarines built during this period were the HOLLAND, 7 A-class, 3 B-class, 5 C-class, 3 D-class, and 2 E-class submarines. Also under construction were 4 submarines of the F-class, 4 of the G-class, and 3 submarines of the H-class. Of this number the F and H-class submarines would be the first submarines to play a role in the establishment of the Navy's first Submarine Base on the West Coast at San Pedro.

So, with no fortification capable to defending Los Angeles harbor, in 1913, the Navy Department assigned four submarines and a tender to San Pedro. These submarines were charged with the coastal and harbor defense of Los Angeles harbor until a permanent harbor defense at Fort MacArthur could be established. The city of Los Angeles graciously responded by leasing the city's old Municipal Pier along Gaffey Street for $1 to the U.S. Navy for use by its Submarine Force which had arrived in San Pedro in late 1913 for that purpose.

No one knew it then, but the presence of these F-class submarines marked the beginning of the Navy's first submarine base on the West Coast. (4) Thus, America's infant submarine force was the first military force charged with coastal and harbor defense of Los Angeles until a permanent harbor defense at Fort MacArthur could be established. A job which would last for the next two decades.

Like the submarines GRAMPUS and PIKE which had visited San Pedro a few years earlier, the F-class submarines CARP (SS-21), later renamed F-1, and BARRACUDA (SS-22), later renamed F-2, were built by Union Iron Works, San Francisco, California, for the newly formed Electric Boat Company, each being commissioned at the Mare Island Navy Yard. The submarines PICKEREL (SS-22), later renamed F-3, and SKATE (SS-23), designated F-4, were built by the Seattle Construction & Drydock Co., Seattle, Washington.

The old navy monitor WYOMING, which had been converted to a submarine tender and renamed CHEYENNE, was the first tender to be assigned to San Pedro for that purpose, operating with the submarines of the 2d Submarine Division, Pacific Torpedo Flotilla. The CHEYENNE was well suited for the task because of her gun mount. In 1914 the CHEYENNE was joined by the newly converted iron-hulled screw steamer ALERT. The ALERT, had been transferred back to the Navy from the CALIFORNIA NAVAL MILITIA in 1910, and reactivated in 1912 as a submarine tender and placed in full commission that same year. She too was assigned to San Pedro to serve with the Pacific Torpedo Flotilla.

Meanwhile, between the years of 1914 and 1916, World War I accelerated the building program at Fort MacArthur. Between the winter of 1917 and spring 1918, many temporary buildings were constructed in what was later called the 900-building area. Buildings and tents were also erected on the upper reservation, where coastal defense batteries were being constructed on the Fort MacArthur's Upper Reservation. The Lower Reservation, located below the bluffs, was a filled flatland which became a Training Center for the soldiers destined for the front lines of World War I. More than 4,500 soldiers at one time were stationed at the fort before the end of the war.

It was not until 1917 that the Army completed its construction of four batteries of 14-inch disappearing carriage rifles and two batteries of 12-inch mortars on Point Fermin.

Along with the buildings constructed on the upper reservation, temporary barracks were also built on what was known as Deadman's Island, once a protrusion of 14 acres at about the seaward tip of Terminal Island. These were used to house members of the 21st Company of the California National Guard, from Glendale, California (redesignated the 9th Coast Artillery Company) who manned four 3-inch pedestal-mounted 15-pounders. These guns were used to provide protection for the mine field at the harbor entrance. About ten years after the war, the island was removed to clear the harbor entrance for the deep-water port.

 

One of Two 14-inch Guns Being Delivered to Fort MacArthur by the Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad, March, 1917. Everyone Has to Get Into this Historic Picture. Photograph Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library, S-001-766, 4x5.
All the Pieces for the Battery Are There, "Now Where Do I Start?", 1916. Photograph Courtesy of the University of Southern California Library, Los Angeles, California.

The construction of batteries Osgood-Farley and Merriam-Leary was completed in late fall of 1917. Both Osgood-Farley and Merriam-Leary housed the 14-inch disappearing carriage rifles and batteries Barlow-Saxton, also completed during this period, housed the 12-inch mortars.

The arrival of each gun tube was an important event in the life of the local residents. Each of the 14-inch gun-tubes weighed about 110,000 pounds. This weight was much heavier than any "housemover" in the area had ever attempted to move. Some day's the guns were moved only a few feet. Snaking the gun-tubes up San Pedro hill became increasingly difficult with the arrival of each new weapon. The pavement was deeply gouged and rutted as the wheels of the housemover dollies were driven into the pavement by the concentrated weight.

The first regular Army unit to arrive at Fort MacArthur was the 4th Company, 38th Artillery which was transferred from Fort Scott, California, and arrived in March 1917. This unit assumed the mission of post operating company. Fort MacArthur was soon garrisoned by the 1st Coast Artillery Company (5) and several units of the California National Guard were mobilized into federal service in the latter part of 1917 and stationed at Fort MacArthur.

 
An aerial view of the main cantonement area of Fort MacArthur. The large building on the right, across Pacific Avenue, was the the post hospital. Most of these building are still standing as part of the Fort MacArthur Annex of the Los Angeles Air Force Base.

On May 13, 1918 the first group of trainees from the receoption and training center departed for France as members of the 52nd and 53rd ammunition trains. Demobilization following the end of "the war to end wars" soon left only skeleton units manning armament that one day would become outmoded for the coastal defense of the United States.

The U.S. Army Hospital at Fort MacArthur was constructed in 1918 with a capacity of 23 beds. Further construction in 1942 and again in 1952 would increase the designated bed capacity to 60. By 1919, additional housing and headquarters buildings were also constructed on the Middle Reservation.

As Fort MacArthur returned to its peacetime mission as a Coast Artillery post, interest and attention to the problems of the Fort diminished on both the local and national levels. There were, however, occasional flurries of interest and excitement. During an inspection trip in April 1924, Brigadier General Henry D. Todd, Commanding Ninth Coast Artillery, stated that the guns at Fort MacArthur were too few and too short range to fulfill the mission of defense of the harbor. Although his statements were true, the nation as a whole was more interested in disarmament, and locally, the robbery of the paymaster's safe at the Fort a few months later created more interest in the newspaper columns.

Fort MacArthur nevertheless continued to serve as the guardian of the harbor. By this point, San Pedro had become the home for the Battle Fleet and within a few years the Submarine Base below was soon turned over to the Battle Fleet and Fort MacArthur became a training facility for the California National Guard.

By the early 1920s the fort's armament had grew outmoded in comparison to the naval ordnance of the period. So, in 1925 and 1930, the Army installed two modern 14-inch railroad guns on the Middle Reservation, and anti-aircraft units began to augment the fort's defenses in the 1930s.

In 1925 the first of two giant 14-inch railway guns arrived at Fort MacArthur and during the next few years, a few practice and test firings of that gun and the other big guns were conducted. The blast from the firing was felt in the homes and business sections of San Pedro. Damage to windows and buildings were severe. Despite the advance warnings of the firings given to the residents and householders, each time firings were held, many householders either disregarded the warnings or failed to take the recommended precautions. The public outcry against the firings by some of the residents soon reached a fever pitch. Eventually, in 1928, the firings became such a political issue that the War Department was forced to issue orders that no further firings would be permitted at Fort MacArthur.

The summer of 1926 was a busy time for Fort MacArthur. It was during this period that the Citizen's Military Training Corps (CMTC) was activated. Under the program men between the ages of 17 to 24 received military training for 28 days each summer. They were fed, housed and clothed and received instruction in basic military subjects. Many of these individuals, after four of these summer sessions and additional tests and instruction, were offered reserve commissions in the Army.

During the lull between the wars, Fort MacArthur was also used to house companies of the Civilian Conservation Corps, and was also used by the California National Guard for its summer training camp.

Meanwhile, although strict neutrality and isolationism was the popular theme politically during the 1930s, the War Department foresaw the need for a different, improved-type of harbor defense. Emphasis shifted from the heavy coastal defense weapons theory to that of antiaircraft and antisubmarine warfare defense. And, although the large "big berthas" were still an important part of the defense system, three companies of the 63rd Coast Artillery (Anti-Aircraft) were assigned to Fort MacArthur from Fort Scott, California, in March 1930.

While the antiaircraft defenses at Fort MacArthur were being strengthened with the assignment of additional personnel during the mid 1930s, members of the Headquarters Battery, Third Coast Artillery, received training in firing the big guns. On one occasion, the two 14-inch railway rifles were fired from a training site at Don, California (forty miles north of San Diego). The Los Angeles Times, commenting on the successful firings, stated that these two rifles were the only two modern long range heavy railroad guns in the continental United States.

Once again, war clouds loomed on the horizon and Fort MacArthur responded. On February 9, 1941, the first 1,000 draftees from the Middle West arrived at Fort MacArthur. News reporters and newsreel cameramen were on hand at the Fort to record the arrival of the draftees. In June, 1941, Fort MacArthur again attained national prominence. By executive order, the government had assumed control of the North American Aviation Company plant in Inglewood, California, which had been forced to stop aircraft production because of labor troubles. Army troops from Fort MacArthur were immediately sent to the scene. Within a matter of hours the disturbance was quelled and the workers returned to their jobs on the morning of June 9.

On September 9, 1941, the first sentry dog unit of the K-9 Company was formed at Fort MacArthur. This program was another step in the fort's campaign to increase its effectiveness. Originated and organized on a trial basis in December 1940, the first dogs for the unit were recruited directly from their owners at Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles after extensive newspaper publicity. Sergeant Robert H. Pearce was designated head trainer, and the unit became the nucleus of the internationally famous K-9 Command, U.S. Army.

The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, caught American off guard. Colonel William W. Hicks, Commanding Officer, Harbor Defense of Los Angeles, as well as the Third Coast Artillery and Fort MacArthur, learned of the Japanese attack at 11:35 A.M. He immediately ordered all fortifications manned, all mobile batteries moved into previously selected positions and service ammunition was issued to all units. The strength of the post at that time was 163 officers and 1,869 enlisted men.

Realizing the importance of Los Angeles as a prime military target in any move by the Japanese directed against the west coast, the officers and men of Fort MacArthur braced themselves for imminent attack. Liaison was established with law enforcement agencies and top civil officials in Los Angeles. During the remainder of December 7 and throughout the following day, numerous conflicting reports were received regarding the presence of Japanese submarines, surface craft and airplanes in the coastal waters off Southern California. With each report, gun crews were alerted and scanned the ocean and sky.

From then on, and throughout the early months of 1942, numerous sightings of enemy submarines were reported in the coastal waters, and several vessels reported torpedo attacks. The freighter Absoroka, loaded with lumber, was torpedoed off of Point Fermin. Fortunately, due to the lumber she carried, she never sank. The SS Montebello, however, was sunk by torpedo and shell fire off of San Simeon.

Even though Fort MacArthur's "big guns" never actually went into action, the day following the torpedoing of the Absoroka, Battery "F", 105th Field Artillery Battalion, fired 10 rounds of smaller ammunition at what was reported to be an enemy submarine approximately 4,000 yards off shore near Redondo Beach, California. It was believed to be the same submarine which had torpedoed the freighter the previous day. All traces of the submarine had disappeared the next morning and it was assumed that it had been sunk. The unit was cited for its action against the submarine at the end of the war.

On the evening of February 23, 1942, another enemy submarine surfaced about one mile off the shore of Santa Barbara island and fired 15 rounds into the oil field installation at Elwood. There were no casualties; however, one oil derrick was hit and destroyed, and one pumping unit was damaged. The shelling lasted, in all, about 25 minutes. The Naval Operations Base at San Pedro sent three planes and two destroyers to the area. The planes dropped flares and depth charges to keep the enemy submarine submerged until the destroyers arrived. At 04:51 A.M. on February 24, the U.S. Navy reported that the patrol vessel Amethyst had made contact with a submarine three miles southwest of Point Vincente and was dropping depth charges. The Amethyst also reported that she had evaded a torpedo aimed at her.

As the United States' offensive during the summer of 1942 gained momentum, enemy submarine incidents in the coastal waters decreased rapidly. As the threat lessened, an Artillery training mission was added to the operational mission at Fort MacArthur. More than 200 officers and 2,500 enlisted men were trained and sent overseas before the surrender of the Japanese in August 1945.

Even before World War II there was considerable doubt in military circles as to the effectiveness of most of the armament at Fort MacArthur. Of the heavy coast defense artillery only the two 14-inch railway guns could be classed as modern armament. The 14-inch rifles of Batteries Osgood, Farley, Merriam and Leary had a slow rate of fire compared to naval armament. The range of the 12-inch mortars of Batteries Barlow and Saxton was so short that they were comparatively ineffective against naval armament of the time. In addition, the fire control methods used with these batteries involved extensive hand plotting. This method was very accurate against stationary or very slow moving targets, but was only of marginal effectiveness against high speed maneuvering naval ships. Recognizing the limited effectiveness of 12-inch mortars and the old 14-inch disappearing rifles, work was started in 1943 on emplacing two 16-inch rifles on the crest of Whites Point, a bluff on the coast a little less than a mile West of the Upper Reservation.

As the United States Navy drove the Japanese naval forces back to their homeland, the need for maintaining all batteries at Fort MacArthur in full commission lessened. The 12-inch mortar battaries at Barlow and Saxton were the first to be inactivated in 1943. In January 1944, batteries Osgood, Farley, Merriam and Leary with their 14-inch disappearing rifles were inactivated. This left the two 14-inch railway rifles of Battery Erwin as the major caliber armament of the Harbor Defense of Los Angeles.

A month prior to the surrender of Japan, a Separation Center was activated at Fort MacArthur on July 1, 1945. Many of the same facilities of the Recruit Reception and Training Center which had been used to transform civilians into soldiers were now put to use to process soldiers back into civilian life. The Recruit Reception and Training Center, however, did not close until April 1, 1946. It had been in operation less than six years, but in that time some 750,000 men had been inducted into the Army through its facilities. The Separation Center at Fort MacArthur, was in operation less that a year, closing on April 16, 1946. Sergeant Howard O. McIntosh had the honor of being the 150,710th soldier discharged at Fort MacArthur since the center was activated.

Like many other military installations, Fort MacArthur was reduced to practically caretaker status. There were barely enough troops to maintain the armament, and much of the armament which had long been a fixture at Fort MacArthur was in the process of being dismantled and sold for junk. The old 12-inch mortars of Batteries Barlow and Saxton were the first to go. The 14-inch disappearing rifles of Batteries Osgood, Farley, Merriam and Leary were the next to be disposed of. Finally, the "Big Berthas of the Pacific" left Fort MacArthur, never to return. Finally in 1946 the two 16-inch rifles of Battery 127, built in 1943 for $1,500,000 were sold for $17,000 and sawed up for scrap. This removed the last of the major sea coast artillery from Fort MacArthur.

By June 1948 the personnel strength at Fort MacArthur had dropped to 300 troops. The troops stationed at Fort MacArthur were primarily concerned with overseeing the dismantling of the large guns, and maintaining the anti-aircraft and mobile batteries. To many it appear that Fort MacArthur was about to disappear at a military installation entirely. However, due to the planning, vision, and ability of some of the leaders at Fort MacArthur and the Headquarters, Sixth U.S. Army, Presidio of San Francisco, such was not to be the case.

Fort MacArthur would continue to serve as the harbor's main defense against enemy attack. But Fort MacArthur's mission was to change radically. Fort MacArthur was to again come to life with the implementation of what was called the "Fort MacArthur Plan."

During the days of the "Great Demobilization" in 1945 and 1946, the U.S. Army, reluctant to lose all the training and experience vested in its wartime soldiers, strongly urged all of the soldiers to join the Organized Reserves when they were separated. Thousands of former servicemen joined the Reserves. But as time passed it became more and more apparent that the Reserves required increased training in order to maintain their effectiveness.

Most of the Reserve Training Centers had limited areas available for field training. Field training facilities were available at Regular Army posts, but most Reservists were reluctant to leave their jobs or families for the time required to travel to the posts, train and return home.

The "Fort MacArthur Plan" essentially was an effort to encourage the Reservists to report for the required training by enabling them to bring their families with them. When the idea was explained to General Mark W. Clark, Commander of the Sixth U.S. Army, in 1948, he gave his enthusiastic support. General Clark won approval from the Department of the Army for a trail program of the "Fort MacArthur Plan" at Fort MacArthur in November 1948.

The key feature of the "Fort MacArthur Plan" was to encourage the Reservists to bring their families with them when they reported for training one weekend each month. When the Reservist arrived on Friday evening he would settle his dependents in the Hostess House facilities before reporting to his training area. The Reservist trained with his unit, handled equipment of his speciality and became familiar with the equipment and tactics he might be called upon to use in any future emergency. In the meantime, his dependents utilized the facilities of the Fort.

The plan was such a success that Fort MacArthur on weekends looked almost as busy as when the Reception and Training Center was in full operation during World War II. About one thousand Reservists were training at the Fort each weekend, and the program was approved for adoption nationwide.

With the advent of the Cold War, in 1948, Fort MacArthur quickly became a major training center for Army National Guard personnel. Reserve units from all of southern California reported to the fort for supervision and training.

On June 25, 1950 the North Koreans broke the uneasy truce by driving south across the 38th parallel. The United States at once brought the crossing of the 38th parallel before an emergency session of the Security Council of the United Nations. The temporary absence of the Soviet Union, which was boycotting the Council, cleared the way on June 25 for prompt passage of a resolution terming the action of the North Koreans as a breach of peace. Taking this resolution as justifying the immediate extension of aid to the victims of aggression, President Truman ordered U.S. forces to give support to the South Koreans.

The Reserve training that had been initiated under the "Fort MacArthur Plan" proved invaluable in this crisis.

Shortly after the outbreak of the Korean War the 409th Engineer Special Brigade was activated at Fort MacArthur. The Brigade reoccupied the facilities at "Bottomside" which had been occupied by the U.S. Navy since October 1947.

The Korean War did not bring about the tremendous expansion at Fort MacArthur that had previously accompanied World War I and World War II.

However, by 1951, Fort MacArthur had become the Los Angeles area headquarters for the Army anti-aircraft defenses. Soon after the establishment of the Army's Antiaircraft Artillery Command in 1950, several Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA) battalions were assigned to the Pacific coast.

The 47th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Brigade was re-activated on April 1, 1951 to oversee the training of these new AAA battalions. On November 16, 1951 the Headquarters III Corps arrived at Fort MacArthur and assumed command of the installation. A little over a year later, on November 20, 1952, the 47th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Brigade arrived at Fort MacArthur on permanent change of station orders and established its headquarters on the middle reservation of Fort MacArthur.

In December 1953, the first NIKE-AJAX surface-to-air missile battery became operational at Fort Meade, Maryland. These supersonic missiles were the first ground-based anti-air missile systems to become operational in the United States. As soon as the required storage shelters, fire control equipment, missiles, and trained crews could be assembled the NIKE-AJAX missile batteries replaced the gun batteries as the backbone of the Army's anti-aircraft defense.

On NIKE battery was emplaced at the upper reservation in 1954. That year, the 47th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Brigade was reorganized and assumed command of all the units in Southern California; the 424th battalion (now armed with 75 mm guns) at March Air Force Base, the 77th battalion (90 mm guns) as well as the 551st and 554th battalions which were being converted to NIKE units. Soon other NIKE guided missile sites of the 47th Artillery Brigade represented a ring of supersonic steel around an area of 25,000 square miles, including all of Greater Los Angeles. NIKE sites were located from the mountains near Chatsworth on the northwest to Garden Grove on the southwest, from the San Gabriel Mountain Range on the north to the coastal areas of San Pedro on the south.

Headquarters III Corps departed from Fort MacArthur for Fort Hood, Texas, on April 15, 1954. At that time the mission of Fort MacArthur became twofold. As Headquarters Southern California Sub-district of the California Military District, and Headquarters Fort MacArthur, the post had the mission of command supervision and training of all U.S. Army Reserve units and personnel, and ROTC units in Southern California, as well as the mission of providing logistical support to the 47th Artillery Brigade. As a part of the Reserve mission, the post at one time maintained some 60,000 personnel records in the Reserve Personnel Management Division of the AG Office. This entire Reserve mission was later transferred to Headquarters XV, U.S. Army Corps, when the Corps were formed in 1958, to replace the Military Districts throughout the United States.

On September 1, 1954, by direction of the Secretary of Defense, elements of all military services with air defense capabilities were combined into a single air defense system with headquarters in Colorado Springs. The new command, directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then with the U.S. Air Force as executive agent, included the U.S. Army Air Defense Command, the U.S. Air Force Air Defense Command, and U.S. Naval Forces. This reorganization provided for closer integration of all elements of the air defense systems to secure greater defense in depth and better utilization of available information and facilities.

Additional Army 90 mm gun AAA brigades were activated in the area in 1955 –the 865th, the 933rd and the 720th, the latter battalion being manned by men of the California National Guard.

The year 1954 also marked the installation of the first Los Angeles area NIKE-AJAX battery in the mountains above Malibu. At the peak of the NIKE period, there were 16 missile launch sites guarding the greater Los Angeles area, protecting an area of some 4,000 square miles with a "ring of supersonic steel." That same year a NIKE AJAX missile battery was emplaced on the Upper Reservation converting the fort to an antiaircraft missile site. Other NIKE sites were built in remote locations around southern California, all controlled by the 47th Artillery Brigade headquartered at Fort MacArthur.

On September 27, 1955, Battery "D" of the 554th AAA Missile Battery at Point Vincente had the honor of being the first NIKE site to be shown to non-military personnel. In addition to numerous civic leaders, fifty newsmen from all over the Los Angeles area attended the unveiling. This action did much to gain public acceptance and understanding of the part the NIKE missile battery played in the air defense of California.

Improving public relations within the area where the NIKE batteries were located became more of a challenge as the NIKE-AJAX missiles were replaced with the more powerful NIKE-HERCULES missiles. The NIKE-HERCULES missiles were not only larger, (the HERCULES missile plus booster weighed about five tons against the on one ton for the AJAX missile and its booster), and faster (Mach 3.0 plus), they also had the capability of being armed with a nuclear warhead. The possibility that nuclear warheads were to be stored at the NIKE-HERCULES sites was disturbing to many people. It took an extensive educational program and several years of a perfect safety record before many people accepted the fact that the nuclear warheads stored, handled, and if ever necessary, fired by trained crews, offered no danger to the communities they defended.

The action of Fort MacArthur personnel in late January 1956 in dispatching troops and disaster relief to aid flood control authorities in the Los Angeles area won extensive praise from civilian leaders. Less than a year later the Army joined civilians in fighting forest fires in the Malibu area. The main Army effort, however, had to be devoted to protecting the NIKE sites that were threatened by the fires. No NIKE site was damaged, but the flames came close to one site.

In 1958 the title Air Defense (AD) was added to the designation of the 47th Artillery Brigade.

The Missile Master facility at Fort MacArthur did not become operational until December 1960. Prior to that the 47th Artillery Brigade (AD) achieved a nation-wide first in September 1958 when operational control of four NIKE-AJAX missiles sites than manned by the 865th Missile Battalion of the 47th Brigade were turned over to the California National Guard's 4th Missile Battalion, 251st Artillery.

The turn over to the California National Guard served as a standard and a pathfinder for the turnover of the NIKE sites in the United States to the National Guard as a whole. Because of the security requirements connected with the nuclear warheads, the turnover of the NIKE-HERCULES sites was much more complicated. Nevertheless, the required planning and procedures were completed, and the first of the NIKE-HERCULES sites of the 47th Brigade were turned over to the California National Guard in 1962


In July 1963, Fort MacArthur became the main link in the Defense Communications chain in the immediate Los Angeles area for Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as other Governmental agencies with the opening of the Commercial Refile Communications Center. In October of that same year Fort MacArthur assumed the additional mission of on-line crypto commercial refile for all Air Force Plant representatives in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas. This action was transferred from Norton Air Force Base and consisted on nine Air Force installations. Also, at this time, the commercial refile mission was expanded to include responsibility for the entire Southern California area.

Fort MacArthur received many requests from civil agencies for assistance and support during various emergency situations. Typical of these was a request made in August 1964 by the U.S. Forestry Service for manpower assistance in fighting a forest fire in the rugged Santa Monica Mountains which endangered many homes and destroyed several. On August 17 some fifty soldiers were dispatched for the Fort upon approval of the Commanding General, Sixth U.S. Army, to lend assistance. The fire was brought under control the following day, and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors gave recognition to the post for its assistance in a resolution passed on August 24.

On numerous occasions Fort MacArthur received requests to support exercises and maneuvers held in the desert areas of California. During a 1964 exercise, Operation Desert Strike, one of the largest exercises to be held in the Sixth Army area, was supported by the installation with personnel, supplies and transportation.

In July 1964 the Pasadena Support Center, a sub-installation of Fort MacArthur for eight years, was transferred to the control of the General Services Administration.

A portion of land on White's Point reservation containing about 50 acres was transferred to the Department of the Navy for construction of family housing which commenced in February 1965. White's Point had originally been acquired during the early years when the coastal defense mission of the post was at its peak. Construction of 78 officers housing units was completed and the units were occupied by April 1966.

Fort MacArthur's mission of providing administrative and logistical support to air defense, Reserve and ROTC units was expanded on July 1, 1965 to include support to Reserve and ROTC in Arizona and Southern Nevada, as well as Southern California. Budget requirements to carry out the many missions normally exceeded $40 million annually.

As part of the U.S. Army conversion into the computerized programing of data processing activities, a small-scale Sperry UNIVAC 1005 Card Processor was installed in September 1965. This phase consisted primarily of converting the method of producing current reports from punched card accounting machines to the computer programs in the areas of supply accounting, cost accounting, appropriations and fund accounting, labor management, military personnel, TARES, and the commissary account. Subsequent phases involved the upgrading of all data processing into the computer programs.

As the Vietnam war escalated during the latter part of 1965, there was a sharp increase in the number of Reservists utilizing the training facilities at Fort MacArthur. Meanwhile, the new Army Community Service Program was established which provided assistance and guidance to dependents of military personnel residing in the area apart from the sponsors. In early 1966, the personal notification of NOK of deceased Army Personnel was put into effect, with Fort MacArthur being the central control point for the densely-populated Southern California area.

By 1974, the NIKE sites had become obsolete and were shut down, causing the Army to again reduce its presence at Fort MacArthur. The Army retained the Middle Reservation as an administrative center for support of active and reserve Army and National Guard units in southern California. However, it disposed of all other land attached to the fort, which included the Lower Reservation, the Hospital Area, the Upper Reservation, White Point, and Point Vicente.

In 1975, Fort MacArthur became a sub-post of Fort Ord and was manned by an Army support detachment. Three years later the Army announced its plans to transfer its support units from Fort MacArthur to the Los Alamitos Armed Forces Reserve Center (now Joint Forces Training Base, Los Alamitos) and would declare the remaining land excess.

At that point, the U.S. Air Force's Space and Missile Systems Center was looking for a site where it could build housing for its military personnel, many of whom could not afford to buy or even rent housing in the very expensive Los Angeles market. It saw Fort MacArthur as the solution to its problem, and it asked the Air Staff to place a hold on the land. In September 1979, the Department of Defense approved the transfer of Fort MacArthur from the Army to the Air Force. After some initial delays, Congress appropriated funds for construction of military housing at the Fort, and 370 townhouses were built there between November 1981 and December 1985. In addition, 33 existing homes at the Fort were renovated.

Fort MacArthur was officially transferred from Army to Air Force control on October 1, 1982. The housing on Fort MacArthur made the base a more attractive installation for military families and also helped it to survive the base closures conducted under the Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1990.

To learn more about Fort MacArthur: Visit the Fort MacArthur Museum's Website

 
Coast Artillery Armament of Fort MacAuthur
 
Taft Period

 Location

 Battery name

 Number of Guns

 Type of Gun

 Type of Carriage

 Constructed

 Completed

 Decommisioned

Fort MacArthur (Upper)
Osgood

 1

14 Inch M1910MI

 M1907 Disappearing

 1915

 1919

 1944 (1)

Fort MacArthur (Upper)
Farley

 1

14 Inch M1910MI

 M1907 Disappearing

 1915

 1919

 1944

Fort MacArthur (Upper)
Merriam

 1

14 Inch M1910MI

 M1907 Disappearing

 1915

 1919

 1944

Fort MacArthur (Upper)
Leary

 1

14 Inch M1910MI

 M1907 Disappearing

 1915

 1919

 1944

Fort MacArthur (Upper)

 Barlow

 4

12 Inch M1890MI 

 M1896MIII Mortar

 1915

 1917

 1943

Fort MacArthur (Upper)

 Saxton

 4

12 Inch M1890MI

 M1896MIII Mortar

 1915

 1917

 1943

 Deadman's Island

 Lodor

 4

 3 Inch M1903

 M1903 Pedestal

 1916

 1917

 1927 (2)

(1) Battery Osgood's gun was originally a M1910. In 1923, it was removed, converted into a M1910MI and remounted.
(2) Fort MacArthur was initially composed of two seperate tracts of land, the Upper, and Lower Reservations. Battery Lodor was at another separate location, on a sand spit connecting the northern tip of Terminal Island and Deadmans Island. In 1927, the guns were taken out and put in storage, and Deadmans Island was removed to widen the harbor entrance. In 1942 Lodor's guns were re-emplaced in the two parts of Battery JAAN. JAAN#1 was located on the Lower Reservation next to the jetty, while JAAN#2 was located at Bluff Park in Long Beach next to Ocean Drive at Lindero St.
 
Post World War I

 Location

 Battery name

 Number of Guns

 Type of Gun

 Type of Carriage

 Constructed

 Completed

 Decommisioned

Fort MacArthur (Upper)
Anti-Aircraft

 2

3 Inch M1917

 M1917 Pedestal

 1929

 1929

 1942 (1)

Fort MacArthur (Upper)
Hogsdon

 2

155mm GPF

 Field Mount

 1928

 1928

 (2)

Fort MacArthur (Lower)
Anti-Aircraft

 2

3 Inch M1917

 M1917 Pedestal

 1929

 1929

 1942

Fort MacArthur (Lower)
Erwin

 2

155mm GPF

 Field Mount

 1928

 1928

 1945 (3)

Fort MacArthur (Lower)
Anti-Aircraft

 2

3 Inch M1917

 M1917 Pedestal

 1920

 1920

 ?
(1) Four AA emplacements were constructed in 1920: two on the white Point Reservation and two on the bluffs on the Middle reservation. In 1929 the two AA guns at the Lower Reservation were transferred to new positions on the cliff edge on the Upper Reservation. In 1942 a new three gun AA battery was built behind Battery 241. Two of those guns had carriages orginally emplaced at White Point.
(2) Hogsden's guns may have been used in Tactical Battery #6 in 1942.
(3) In 1926, a single emplacement for the 14" railroad gun was built on the Middle Reservation for the gun which arrived in 1925. A second gun arrived in 1930. In 1936 two emplacements were constructed for the guns on the Lower Reservation and the 1926 emplacement was abandoned
 
World War II Temporary

 Location

 Battery name

 Number of Guns

 Type of Gun

 Type of Carriage

 Constructed

 Completed

 Decommisioned

  Fort MacArthur (Upper)

 Tactical Battery 6

2

155mm

  Panama Mount

1942

-

-
 
 
1940 Program

 Location

 Battery name

 Number of Guns

 Type of Gun

 Type of Carriage

 Constructed

 Completed

 Decommisioned

White Point

Paul D. Bunker

2

16 inch MarkIIMI

 Casemated Long Range Barbette M1919M4

1942

 1943

1948

Fort MacArthur (Upper)
241

2

6 inch T2M1

 Shielded Long Range Barbette M4

1943

 1944

1956

Fort MacArthur (Upper)
Anti-Aircraft

 3

3 Inch M1917A2

 M1917MII Pedestal

1942

 1942

 194? (1)

Fort MacArthur (Upper)

Gaffney Buldge

4

90mm M1

  Fixed M3 and Mobile M1

1942

  -

  -

Fort MacArthur (Lower) 

 JAAN #1

2

 3 Inch M1903

 M1903 Pedestal

1942

 1942

 1945 (2)

Fort MacArthur (Lower)

 Navy Field

4

90mm M1

 Fixed M3 and Mobile M1

 1942

  -

Fort MacArthur (Lower)

 Navy Field

2

 37mm

Mobile

1942

  -

  -
(1) Now buried.
(2) Fort MacArthur was initially composed of two seperate tracts of land, the Upper, and Lower Reservations. Battery Lodor was at another separate location, on a sand spit connecting the northern tip of Terminal Island and Deadmans Island. In 1927, the guns were taken out and put in storage, and Deadmans Island was removed to widen the harbor entrance. In 1942 Lodor's guns were re-emplaced in the two parts of Battery JAAN. JAAN#1 was located on the Lower Reservation next to the jetty, while JAAN#2 was located at Bluff Park in Long Beach next to Ocean Drive at Lindero St.
 
Mine Field Facilities
 
In addition to artillery, mine fields were also employed to protect the harbor entrances by the Army from the turn of the century to 1945. Mine facilities ashore included the mine wharf, a tramway, torpedo storehouse(s) and loading room(s), cable tank(s), mining casemate(s) and observing station(s). The 'fleet' included a mine planter, a distribution box boat and some yawls. The mine fields were protected by light artillery batteries of 3 inch to 8 inch caliber guns.
 
Mine facilities were constructed at Fort MacArthur, but mines were never actually deployed at these locations.

Nike-Ajax Missile Air Defense System.

Beginning in 1954, NIKE surface to air missiles began to replace the Army's antiaircraft guns. NIKE-AJAX missiles were short-ranged two-stage rockets containing high explosive or nuclear warheads that were stored in underground magazines. If enemy bombers had threatened the United States, NIKE sites would have been quickly deployed to their firing positions. Once in flight, the missiles would have been guided to their targets by nearby ground based radar facilities.

At it's peak, in 1958, sixteen missile launch sites were administered through Fort MacArthur at various locations surrounding Los Angeles from the San Gabriel Mountains to the north and the Whittier Hills to the east, protecting an area of some 4,000 square miles with a "Ring of Supersonic Steel."

The NIKE-AJAX was the first of these ground-based supersonic anti-aircraft missile systems to become operational in the United States. The NIKE missiles were deployed at sites in a circular pattern around key American industrial and military locations.

The Los Angeles Defense area was manned by several battalions of U.S. Army and the California National Guard, under the command of the 47th Air Defense Brigade from 1954 to 1969.

Nike-Hercules Missile Air Defense System

These newer, more powerful NIKE-HERCULES missiles soon replaced the NIKE-Ajax during the period 1958-1963. NIKE-HERCULES had the capability of being armed with a nuclear warhead. The Hercules was completely powered by solid fuels, eliminating the dangerous liquid fueling procedure of the NIKE-AJAX. The NIKE-HERCULES also brought with it improved acquisition radar systems and an improved command coordinating system.

The NIKE-HERCULES system was installed into modified NIKE-AJAX sites in the Los Angeles area. However, only 9 of the original 16 sites were converted to fire the NIKE-HERCULES missiles. The NIKE-HERCULES was designed for defense against attack by large formations of bombers. As the perceived threat changed from bomber attack to missile attack, the usefulness of the NIKE-HERCULES diminished. On February 4, 1974, the Army ordered all existing U.S. Nike batteries to be deactivated.

The Story of White Point Military Reservation.

White Point was a very active military post for over a half century. In fact, planning for the construction of the White Point facilities began in 1917. However, the entire White Point Reservation would not be acquired until July 1942 despite litigation which dragged on to 1945.

Fort MacArthur's Fortress Commander's Station and the Fire Commander's Station were located on White Point. These two stations were completed in June 1920. These were the "bunkers" where the highest ranking officers would have "fought" from had an attack been directed at the Los Angeles Harbor. Additionally, White Point consisted of six fire control stations. These fire control stations were for Battery Osgood, Battery Farley, Battery Leary, Battery Merriam, Battery Barlow, and Battery Saxton, which were also completed in June 1920. Battery Paul D. Bunker was constructed during the years 1942-1944.

Directly after World War II, several of these fire control stations were used to support very early radar for the so-called "Lashup System" that later evolved into the SAGE system. By a strange circumstance the radar site was designated LA43, just as the later Nike site was designated 43L.

Battery Paul D. Bunker was a single gun battery with two guns. The term for the individual gun aperture in a wall or parapet is embrasure. These guns were subsequently scrapped in 1948 and the area was used as a target range. White Point also had an airstrip that ran parallel to Paseo del Mar, a flame-thrower range, a hand grenade range, a skeet range, an area for training tank drivers, and an area used to train engineers to put up Bailey bridges.

In 1954, White Point became a Nike missile battery. The Nike program was a missile antiaircraft defense system intended to protect cities from air attack during the early days of the Cold War. As a Nike site, new construction of underground magazines, a generator room, a ready room and sentry posts began. These were completed in 1957 and manned by the 3rd Battallion of the 57th Artillery until 1962. By the mid-1960s the Nike system had become obsolete. The site was upgraded for the Hercules missile. During the years of 1963-65, administrative buildings, missile assembly and test buildings were built on the site. The site remained in a state of combat readiness until 1975. Three years later, in 1978, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior transferred the White Point property to the City of Los Angeles for public park and recreation purposes.

Endnotes

(1) San Pedro (Wilmington). The post served as U.S. Army Headquarters in the Southwest from 1861 to 1871, serving as garrison for about 6,000 U.S. Army troops. The land was sold to the U.S. Army by Phineas Banning and Benjamin D. Wilson for a consideration of one dollar. One of the unusual features of Camp Drum was the Camel Transportation Service. Jefferson Davis, as Secretary of War, prior to 1860, had obtained Congressional authority to purchase camels for transport service in the arid southwest. The camels arrive at Drum Barracks in 1863 after making the trek from the Texas Gulf where they were landed. The experiment was unsuccessful and the animals were turned loose in 1864. Banning himself was commissioned a brigadier general in the California Militia by Governor John G. Downey. Banning and his associates were active supporters of the presence of federal troops in Los Angeles because of strong pro-Confederate sentiments in the area. During that war, more than 13,000 Union soldiers were processed there for deployment east. Its military hospital was considered to be the best equipped and staffed medical facility west of the Mississippi River. After the war, Drum Barracks was abandoned by the Army. Drum Barracks was finally decommissioned in 1877. The property reverted back to Banning and Benjamin Wilson purchased and donated some of the property, donating it to the Methodist Episcopal Church South which opened a college campus there. The school was named Wilson College. Today, the only surviving structures are the Officer's Quarters. Drum Barracks now serves as a Civil War museum.
 
(2) Lieutenant General Arthur MacArthur, Jr., was born in Massachusetts on June 2, 1845. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he was living in Wisconsin and immediately joined the 24th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, seeing action at Chickamauga, Stones River, Chattanooga, the Atlanta Campaign and Franklin. He was awarded the Medal of Honor (in 1890) for service at Missionary Ridge, and he and his son, Douglas, are the only father-son recipients of the Medal of Honor in U.S. history. He left the Army in June 1865 and began the study of law, but it was not for him and he returned to his first love, the Army, in February 1866, receiving a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Regular Army. For thirty years he traveled the nation, being assigned to Pennsylvania, New York, Utah Territory, Louisiana and New Mexico, and where he took part in the campaign against Geronimo in 1885. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1899. He was stationed in the Dakota Territory when the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898 and he was commissioned a Brigadier General of U.S. Volunteers and took part in the capture of Manila. After the war, President William McKinley named him Military Governor of the Philippines, but the following year, William Howard Taft was appointed as Civilian Governor and he and MacArthur clashed frequently (he seemed to resent civilian authority, much as his son, Douglas, did both in World War II and later in Korea). As a result, he was transferred back to the United States. In the years that followed he was assigned to various stateside posts and in 1905 was sent to Manchuria to observe the final stages of the Russo-Japanese War and served as Military Attaché to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. He returned to the U.S. in 1906 and resumed his post as Commander of the Pacific Division. That year the position of Army Chief of Staff became available and he was then the highest ranking officer in the Army. However, he was overlooked by Secretary of War William Howard Taft (old arguments bit him in the butt). He never did realize his dream of commanding the entire Army. He retired from the Army on June 2, 1909, the day that he turned 64. On September 5, 1912, he went to Milwaukee to address a reunion of his Civil War unit. While on the dais, he suffered a massive heart attack and died there. He was originally buried in Milwaukee on Monday, September 7, 1912, but was moved to Section 2 of Arlington National Cemetery in 1926. He is buried among other members of the family there, including his eldest son, Captain Arthur MacArthur, III, USN.
 
(3) Reservation Point, originally deemed Terminal Point or Deadman's Island, a rocky promontory some fifty feet high and two-and-one-half acres at its base, that stood inside of where Reservation Point on Terminal Island is today. Deadman's Island was removed to widen the Main Channel in the 1920s, the material was used as fill to create part of Terminal Island where the Custom House, a Coast Guard Station and Federal Correctional Institution (prison) was built on Reservation Point.
 
(4) It should be noted here that submarines had long been operating along the coast of California. Ironically, the first submarines which had been built in California, GRAMPUS and PIKE, were both commanded by then Lieutenant Arthur MacArthur, III, the eldest son of Lieutenant-General Arthur MacArthur and older brother of future General of the Army, General Douglas MacArthur.
 
(5) In 1901, the Artillery Corps of the U.S. Army was divided into separate field and coast artillery components by General Order 9, War Department, 6 February, 1901 (See: Army Reorganization Act, 31 Stat. 748, 2 February, 1901). This led to the formation of the Pacific Coast Artillery District established under General Order 9, War Department, 6 February, 1913, thus implementing the provisions of General Order 81, War Department, 13 June, 1901, which called for tactical artillery districts, consisting of one or more forts and accompanying mine fields and land defenses to be established for the protection of the Pacific Coast of the United States. The subdistricts of the Pacific Coast Artillery District were redesignated as Coast Defense Commands by General Order 14, War Department, 19 February, 1913, and ultimately as Harbor Defense Commands, by General Order 13, War Department, 9 June, 1925.
 

Bibliography

 
Fort MacArthur History
by Justin Ruhge

Fort MacArthur was the last of the great forts developed in California. On September 4, 1888, an executive order placed the "Old Government Reservation" next to San Pedro Bay under War Department ownership. This land had originally been a Spanish and then a Mexican public landing place officially reserved as such by Governor Pio Pico in 1846 when a 100 varas square area around the old "Hide House", where the missions stored their cow hides until a "Boston Ship" could come and ship them east, was reserved as government property. At the time the area was increased to 500 varas. In 1897 and 1910, two additional tracts of land were added to the reservation to prepare for the construction of fortifications to guard the newly completed deep-water harbor facilities of the City of Los Angeles. The reservation was divided into two parts, the Lower and Upper Reservations. The Upper at Point Fermin was 100 acres. General order No. 1, Section II, 1914 named the military reservation so acquired Fort MacArthur, in honor of Lieutenant General Arthur MacArthur, United States Army, a Civil War Medal of Honor recipient who led the American troops against the insurrectionists in the Philippines in the years after the Spanish-American War and who died on September 5, 1912.

TheLower Reservation was Laid Out on the Original Mexican 500 Varas Reserve Set Aside by Governor Pio Pico in 1846. It Included the Original 100 Varas Property Centered Around the Mission Hide House. (City of Los Angeles)

Work began in 1914 on four Endicott era batteries, but because of their late start they were funded under the Taft Commission appropriations and incorporated the technical improvements recommended by that commission. These were batteries Osgood-Farley, Leary-Merriam, Barlow-Saxton and Lodor and were completed by 1917.

In addition to the Endicott Batteries, electrically controlled mines were to be stored on the Lower Reservation for deployment across the harbor entrance and were to be protected from minesweepers by four 3-inch rapid-fire guns located on a sandspit off the end of Terminal Island. Only the guns were emplaced, however, as the mines never were employed at the harbor entrance. The Quartermaster Corps rapidly constructed barracks and other buildings during the hectic years of the First World War from 1917 to 1918 on both the Upper and Lower Reservations. A hospital was constructed on the Lower Reservation.

After World War I, Fort MacArthur was regularly used for training and housing of California National Guard units, Citizen's Military Training Corps units, Army Reserve units and the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1920s and 1930s.

In 1917, the Trona Plant was built on land adjacent to the Lower Reservation. It processed nitrates mined in the Mojave Desert at Trona, California, which was used to make gunpowder.

In 1922 the 500 varas square designated by the Mexicans was finally purchased by the U.S. government and incorporated into the Lower Reservation.

 
 
Fort MacArthur's Lower Reservation circa 1921. It is easy to see the boundry of the original Mexican government reservation shown above. The letter "A" to the right of the parade ground marks the spot of Fort MacArthur's first antiaircraft battery. (National Archives)
 

 The Upper Reservation at Fort MacArthur, 1921. Note the Three Batteries Completed in 1917. (National Archives)
 

Fort MacArthur's meager firepower was a source of continued concern. In 1920, four 3-inch antiaircraft guns were added to the post's arsenal. In addition, two mobile 155-mm guns were brought to the Upper Reservation in 1928. The largest addition to Fort MacArthur's firepower came in 1926 and 1929 in the form of two 14-inch railway guns. These guns were mounted on special carriages that could be moved by rail to their firing positions. They initially were stored on the Lower Reservation on a spur that had a single special firing platform. In 1937, new firing platforms were constructed on fill land next to the Lower Reservation and the guns were then stored in special breakaway canvas buildings.

When war came on December 7, 1941, additional 155-mm and 3-inch antiaircraft guns were added to the Los Angeles defenses and a new fortification program hurried toward completion. Two huge 16-inch twin gun casemated batteries were built at White Point and Bolsa Chica. In addition three new twin gun 6-inch batteries were built at Point Vincente, on the Upper Reservation above Point Fermin and at Bolsa Chica. Sixteen rapid-fire 90-mm and eighteen 37-mm guns were installed around the harbor area. As these new weapons were readied, the older guns were inactivated.

To support the new armament, the Army acquired additional reservations north and south of the original two reservations at Fort MacArthur. To the west were Long Point near Point Vincente, Seabench and White Point. To the east were the Hilton Cupola fire control station and Bolsa Chica Military Reservation.

In 1944, Battery Leary-Merriam was converted into the Harbor Entrance Command Post and the Harbor Entrance Defense Post to monitor all incoming harbor traffic.

Fort MacArthur functioned as a separation center and as a recruit-training center during the late 1940s and early 1950s for the Korean War and again in the 1960s for the Vietnam War.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Fort MacArthur was the command center of 16 Nike-Ajax missile defense sites located around the Los Angeles Basin. The first launch complex was activated at White Point in 1954. The Radar control was located on the Upper Reservation at Battery Leary-Merriam. This launch facility was later upgraded to launch Nike-Hercules missiles. In 1960, the Missile Master command center for the Los Angeles area Nike defenses was activated on the Lower Reservation. The Nike missile system was deactivated in 1974.

In 1974, Fort MacArthur was placed on caretaker status and became a sub-post of Fort Ord near Monterey. The Upper and part of the Lower Reservations were given to the City of Los Angeles. In 1982, the remaining part of the Lower Reservation was transferred to the Los Angeles Air Force Base at El Segundo California that retained the original 500 varas parcel as the center of the barracks and administrative area. With this transfer, Fort MacArthur's 94 years of Army service ended.

By 1992, the lands that made up the Fort MacArthur Military Reservation had been put to various uses. Most of the fill lands below the Lower Reservation had been dredged out for use as a municipal boat basin and the rest of the land was used as a public park. The rest of the Lower Reservation around the old parade ground became a housing sub-post of the Los Angeles Air Force Base at El Segundo. Most of the original barracks, administrative buildings and officer's quarters built in 1916 to 1919 in the "Mission Revival" style are still located around this parade ground. The base is off limits to all non-military personnel but many of the buildings can be viewed from Pacific Ave. between 22nd and 30th Avenues. The Upper Reservation was designated by the City as a multipurpose use area known as Angels' Gate Park. Angels' Gate Park is the home of the Korean Friendship Bell and is jointly administered by the Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department and the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The historical aspects of the park have not been forgotten. The U.S. Army placed Battery Osgood-Farley on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Battery Barlow-Saxton and the parade ground area of the Lower Reservation, the original 500 varas Mexican public reserve, were added to the list in 1980. In 1985, the corridors of Battery Osgood were opened as a museum to preserve, interpret, and protect the history of Fort MacArthur and American Coastal defenses.

Fixed Harbor and Anti-Aircraft Batteries:


Search Lights
 
Seacoast Searchlight Arcs of Illumination. Click for a larger version (Coast Defense Study Group)
 
 
Anti-Motor Torpedo Boat Searchlight Arcs of Illumination. Click for a larger version (Coast Defense Study Group)


Mobile searchlights came to Fort MacArthur in the 1920s. Ten lights were stored in sheds, notably the long one next to Battery Barlow-Saxton. During World War II some 31 60-inch mobile lights were located from Santa Barbara to north San Diego County. In addition some 13 portable spreadbeam searchlights were located around the Los Angeles Harbor.

Searchlight training instructions are given in War Department Regulations No. 435-330, June 30, 1925.

Reports of Completed Works - Seacoast Fortifications: Harbor Defense Searchlights

 
155-mm Batteries

The first 155-mm battery at Fort MacArthur was Battery Hogsdon. This battery of two 155 mm GPFs was built in 1928 and located in front of the Korean Friendship Bell on the Upper Reservation north of Point Fermin. One of these mounting rings is visible in front of Battery 241. The other is used as part of a playground.

In 1942, a program began to place 155-mm batteries from Santa Barbara to Bolsa Chica.

Each battery consisted of two or three mounting rings that allowed the guns to be rotated 360 degrees, and underground ammunition storage bunkers and sleeping quarters for the troops. The batteries were transferred in 1943 and 1944 and cost on average about $10,000 each.

Locations of these Panama mounts and the 155-mm batteries were:
Some of these locations were built for 3 guns but only two were delivered.
 
 
World War II Period Batteries

Just prior to World War II and during the early 1940s five new large caliber batteries were authorized for construction at Fort MacArthur. Two were the 16-inch casemated batteries and three were the new, shielded 6-inch batteries designated as "standard" and built at various places around the U. S. and its possessions. Ninety-five of these new types of batteries were built or planned. They represented advanced technology for pointing and tracking. The 6-inch gun barrels were those taken earlier from the obsolete disappearing carriages and placed in storage. In this book, two batteries at San Francisco of this type have been described for Fort Miley, Construction 243, and Milagra Ridge, Construction 244; and three batteries at San Diego, Battery Woodward Construction 237, Battery Humphreys, Construction 238; and Battery Grant, Construction 239.

As at the above locations, the 6-inch batteries at Fort MacArthur were almost the same design but were numbered 240, 241 and 242. The earliest of these to be constructed was Construction 241 located north of Point Fermin at what is today the Korean Friendship Bell Park.

Each battery had two 6-inch guns. Battery Construction 241 had two T2 M1 guns mounted on M4 long range Standard Barbette Carriages. These were placed under a 2-inch steel shield. Each gun could fire an armor piercing 105-pound round up to 15.4 miles.

The guns were 210 feet apart separated by the self-contained concrete magazine, plotting room, switchboard, radio, power and battery commander's station complex all buried under 6-8 feet of soil and a concrete burster shield. However, for Construction 241, the battery commander's station was behind Battery Leary-Merriam on the hill just below the Marine Exchange Building.

Construction 241 was completed in 1945 and remained in place until 1956 when it was declared surplus. The Navy used the underground rooms for radio communications during the 1960's. The Korean Friendship Bell was built on top of the battery rooms in the mid-1980s.

In 1930 the Long Point Military Reservation above Point Vincente and between Palos Verdes and Hawthorne Drives was acquired for new fire-control stations. This property was enlarged during World War II for construction of Construction 240 in 1943. There were two 6-inch M1903A2 guns on M1 long-range barbette carriages. In 1945 this battery was named Battery Harry C. Barnes. The U.S. Coast Guard used the battery to house radar equipment after World War II.

In the 1950s and 1960s a Nike control and launch site designated LA55L&C was developed on the site. In 2004, the City of Rancho Palos Verdes' City Hall is housed in the modified buildings of the Nike administration site and uses the launch area for a maintenance yard. The author's son, Kevin, used the launch area to launch his model rockets in 1979 along with others in the local Model Rocket Club.

The 1930s era fire-control stations were located on the hillside to the east of the Nike Launch site, behind a radio-controlled model helicopter helipad in 1993. They were among the best-preserved fire control stations in the Los Angeles area.

East of the Long Point Reservation was the Sea Bench Military Reservation. This area was acquired in 1930 for the construction of new fire-control stations. A subsequent station was added in 1943. In 1993, the reserve is private property.

Work began at Bolsa Chica on March 31, 1943 on Construction 242 for a battery of 2 6-inch M T2M1 guns on M4 long-range barbette carriages. The completed battery was proof-fired on October 25, 1943. In 1945 it was named Battery Harry J. Harrison.

The Bolsa Chica Military Reservation was originally the property of a gun club. After the Army located two Panama mounts for 155-mm M1918 tractor drawn guns there in 1942, the gun club became a fancy barracks building. The Panama mounts are visible at the Marine Reserve Land on a bluff above the lagoon in 1993. The rest of the reserve is owned by the Signal Oil Company, who had plans to demolish the remains of Battery Harry J. Harrison and build condominiums in 1993.

The 6-inch gun program is described in The Six-Inch Part of the Modernization Program of 1940 by Robert D. Zink and Gerald W. Butler in Coast Defense Study Group Journal, Vol. 8, No 2, May 1994, Pg 21-37.

The second part of the armament designated for Fort MacArthur in 1940 was two 16-inch batteries much like San Diego with one battery on a high ridge and the second at sea level.

The first of these to be constructed was Battery 127. The construction was located at White Point Military Reservation, which was originally acquired in 1910 for base-end stations. The reserve was enlarged in 1940 for the construction of Battery Construction 127. These 16-inch batteries were the largest, most technically complex and most expensive of any of the Army large gun facilities.

Construction began on the casemated concrete structure on April 13, 1942. The burster course was integrated into the casemated structure. The battery was completed in December 1943 and transferred to the Coast Artillery in September 1944 at a cost of $1,256, 409. The battery was located 306 feet above sea level against the Palos Verdes Hills. Its guns were 16-inch, 66.7 feet long Model Mark II M1, Nos. 54 and 72 made by the Watervliet Arsenal. They were mounted in July 1944 on high angle barbette carriages Model M-4, Nos. 30 and 45, constructed by the Wellman Engineering Company and Mesta respectively. The two great guns could lob a shell weighing 2,340 pounds at a target 26 miles distance.

The right No. 1 gun was canted to the west by 22 degrees and 30 minutes to better cover those approaches to the San Pedro Harbor.
A second building was constructed a few hundred feet behind and above the main battery at 329 feet above sea level. This was the casemated plotting, spotting, switchboard and radio building or P.S.R. It was transferred in September 1944 and cost $132,189. It used an M-1 data computer, an M-4 plotting board and an M-5 transmission unit.

In January 1945, this battery was named in honor of Paul D. Bunker. The origin of this designation has not been discovered. In May 1948, Battery Bunker was disarmed.

In the 1950s, the White Point Military Reservation was used as a Nike launch site for LA-43L. This missile battery was closed down in the late 1960s.

In 1993, the Reservation was leased to the City of Los Angeles for possible use as a park. The Fort Commander's fire control station and the primary Fire Command Station were destroyed during the construction of Navy housing there in 1965. The other seven stations at this Reservation have been partially buried but are still visible on the ridge to the east of Battery Bunker. The great casemate for Battery Bunker can still be seen from the road against the hills behind it. Right along the road can be seen the concrete Nike missile storage vaults in 1997.

Battery Bunker and the Nike launch site have been fenced to prevent vandalism. However, there are holes in the fence so the author could tour and photograph both sites in 1997.

The second 16-inch battery at Fort MacArthur was Battery Construction 128 constructed at the Bolsa Chica Military Reservation to the east of San Pedro Harbor. Again a casemated Battery for two 16-inch guns and a P.S.R. fire control building were constructed as at Battery Bunker. However these were located only 50 feet above sea level. Construction began in April 1943. The two concrete casemated buildings were completed by January 1944 when all work on large battery programs was curtailed and finally suspended in January 1945. The two guns and carriages were never shipped. At the time the project was curtailed, $758,878 had been spent on construction. The abandoned buildings were filled with dirt in the 1950s. The entry way to Battery 128's P.S.R. building is visible from a riding stable at the rear of the old reserve but it is sealed shut. In 1993, a developer had planned to demolish the remains of this battery and replace it with condominiums.

Note: The last large gun program is described in
America's Last Seacoast Defenses: The World War II-Era Construction Program by Mark Berhow, Coast Defense Study Group Journal Vol. 8, No. 3, August 1994, pgs. 32-48; and Service of the Piece 16-inch Gun, Casemated FM 4-86, War Department, 10 August 1944.


Base End Stations
 
Site Map for Fort MacArthur Fire Control Site Nos 6 (located on Batteries Leary and Merriam), 7 and 8; and SCR-296 Radar Site No. 4.
The Hilton Cupola Base End Station is possibly one of the most ornate camouflage locations for a fire control station ever built. The station is readily visible from the entryway to the Long Beach Auditorium but access through the hotel is said to be limited.
 
 
 
 
 
Upper, the base end station Azimuth Observation Station. Middle, the Depression Range Finder. Lower, the data from the above instruments is sent to the plotting board where firing coordinates are calculated and sent to the guns. (Fort MacArthur Museum)

 

Anti-Motor Torpedo Boat Batteries (AMTB)

In 1942 five batteries of AMTB guns protected the San Pedro Harbor. There were four batteries of 90-mm guns and 37-mm guns and one of only 37-mm guns. These were fast-firing weapons, which were supplemented with 50-caliber machine guns and searchlights as needed. The 90-mm batteries were four guns, two of which were permanent and two mobile. These were supplemented with two mobile 37-mm guns.

These batteries were located at:
The seventh battery was designated Dolphins. This was a line of 10 37-mm guns on towers with searchlights located along the harbor breakwater - making a total of 34 guns.

Radars
 
Report of Completed Works - Seacoast Fortifications: Fort MacArthur SCR-296 Radar Set No. 4 (Coast Defense Study Group)
 
 
SCR-296 Radar Set No. 4's Field of Coverage (Coast Defense Study Group)
 

Radar was developed to aid in target search and detection, seacoast gun fire control and pointing directions for searchlights. Five sets of the SCR-296A were located on 100-foot high towers at:
 
SCR-682 Set A was on a 30-foot tower was located at San Pedro Hill. For a detailed discussion of seacoast artillery radars see Seacoast Artillery Radar 1938-46 by Danny R. Malone Coast Defense Study Group News Vol. 3, November 1989, No. 5.

SCR-296 Fixed Coast Artillery Gun-Laying Medium Wave Radar Set

 
 

Description: Fixed Coast Artillery gun-laying medium wave radar, assigned to modern 6 inch or larger batteries.

Uses: Set is designed to track a surface target in range and azimuth. Data are sent to the plotting room and used in firing. An SCR-296-A normally is assigned to one battery, but may furnish data to more. Works with IFF RC-136-A.

Performance & Sitting: Range is shown on "A" scope. The target is tracked in azimuth with a pip matching oscilloscope or a zero-center meter. Range accuracy is about ± 30 yards while azimuth accuracy is about ± 0.20 degree under the best conditions. The set has a dependable range of 20,000 yards on a destroyer size target when employed at a height of 145 feet. Site should be not less than 100 feet above sea level; 150 to 500 feet is recommended.

Mobility: Shipment includes areas and separate generator. When crated the total weight is 91,763 lbs. Largest unit is 5,270 lbs.

Installation: SCR-296-A includes a tower, an operating building, and two power plant buildings. The tower is obtainable in heights of 25, 50, 75, and 100 feet. Concrete floors must be put in locally.

Personnel: Operating crew consists of 5 men in addition to a power plant operator and maintenance man who should be available at all times.

Power: Primary power of 2.3 KW is supplied by PE-84C -- commercial or auxiliary 110 V, AC single phase. Generator needs high octane gasoline.

Information from Naval History Library Online.

For more information on the SCR-296 radar set CLICK HERE


Air Defense Missile Batteries

With the end of World War II, the sea-borne enemy threat against the shores of the United States ended. The big gun coastal forts were no longer needed. However, the new threat was from the air and to meet this threat more sophisticated defenses were required. These were the Nike batteries that were built in the 1950s around Los Angeles and San Francisco. With the development of Radar during World War II and the extensive field experience gained in using it, new Radar techniques were developed that allowed the antiaircraft missile to be guided to the target and therefore greatly improve its accuracy and kill efficiency and reduce the number of missiles needed to hit a given target. Two Radars were required for this system, one to track the target and one to track the missile to the target. In other words, "fire for effect" and watch for the splashes. A tracked target was now a "hit" target as long as the missile worked properly.
A very detailed summary of the Nike batteries in the Los Angles area under the control of Fort MacArthur is presented in the following figures. A further discussion of the Nike batteries in Los Angeles and San Francisco can be found in a later section of this work.
 
 
Lighthouses
 
Three lighthouses were located around Fort MacArthur and its military reservations. These were San Pedro Harbor Breakwater, Point Fermin and Point Vincente.
 
 
References:
 
Units Assigned to Fort MacArthur
 

 Data Source

Date(s)

 Unit(s)
Order of Battle of United States Land Forces in the World War (1931-1949)
World War I
Second Army Artillery Park
1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Coast Defense Companies, Fort MacArthur
4th (I) Coast Defense Company, Fort Winfield Scott
1st (I), 1st (II), 2nd (I), 2nd (II), 3rd (I), 3rd (II), 4th (I), 4th (II), 5th (I), 5th (II), 5th (III), 6th (I), 6th (II), 7th (I), 7th (II), 7th (III), 8th (I), 8th (II), 8th (III), 9th (I), 9th (II), 9th (III), 10th (I), 10th (II), 10th (III), 11th (I), 11th (II), 11th (III), 12th (I), 12th (II), 12th (III), 13th (I), 13th (II), 14th (I), 14th (II), 15th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 29th, 30th, 31st, 32nd, 33rd, 34th, 35th, 36th and 37th Companies, Coast Defenses of Los Angeles
US Army Order of Battle 1919-1941 1919-1941
2nd, 3rd and 7th Companies, Coast Defenses of Los Angeles
US Army Order of Battle 1919-1941 1919-1941
Annual Training Units:
57th Coast Artillery Regiment (Regular Army Inactive)
250th and 251st Coast Artillery Regiments (California National Guard)
509th, 517th - 519th, 529th, 605th, 608th, 626th, 628th, 975th - 977th Coast Artillery Regiments (Organized Reserves)
Battery A, 610th and 625th Coast Artillery Regiments (Organized Reserves)
Headquarters, Harbor Defenses of Los Angeles
US Army Order of Battle 1919-1941 1922-1924
27th, 38th and 158th Coast Artillery Companies
US Army Order of Battle 1919-1941 1922-1930
3rd Coast Artillery Regiment
US Army Order of Battle 1919-1941 1930-1941
3rd Coast Artillery Regiment (less 2nd and 3rd Battalions)
63rd Coast Artillery Regiment
   7 December 1941
Harbor Defenses Of Los Angeles
Headquarters and Headquarters Battery
3rd Coastal Artillery Regiment (Harbor Defense) (Type A)
78th Coastal Artillery Regiment (Anti-Aircraft)
Corps Area Support Unit 1943 (Station Complement)
Corps Area Support Unit 1959 (Reception Center)
 
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Updated 25 April 2016