Military History and Coastal Defense
Military History – Lonely Sentinels
The Point Loma peninsula forms a natural protective barrier at the entrance to San Diego Bay, rising 422 feet to provide strategic views of the harbor and ocean. In 1852, the government of the United States recognized the importance of this sandstone rampart and designated the area as a military reserve. In 1899, the War Department dedicated Fort Rosecrans and built a series of gun batteries over the years. During World War I and II, military facilities on the Point provided vital coastal and harbor defense systems. Between 1918 and 1943, the Army constructed searchlight bunkers, fire control stations, and gun batteries. The largest guns were at Battery Ashburn, adjacent to the park entrance station, where two 16-inch guns could fire 2,300 pound shells nearly 30 miles out to sea.
The military also painted the Old Point Loma Lighthouse olive green and used it as a command post and radio station.
Along the paths of Cabrillo National Monument sit the remains of coastal defenses built to protect the approaches to San Diego Bay. While visiting the park, you will find base-end stations, fire control stations, searchlight bunkers, a radio station which now houses an exhibit, and other remains of troubled times; lonely sentinels that now serve to guard our memories of the past.
Housed in an old radio station, the exhibit, “They Stood the Watch,” shares the story behind these remains, and ranger talks are often given on weekends. For those who wish to learn more, the Cabrillo National Monument Foundation bookstore, located in the Visitor Center, offers several titles about Fort Rosecrans and the military history of Point Loma.
Did You Know?
Did you know that Pacific Gray Whales were nearly hunted to extinction? They now number about 25,000, thanks in part to full protection by the International Whaling Commission.