Military History and Coastal Defense

For soldiers stationed here, Point Loma was an isolated and lonely sentinel.

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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.

Battery Ashburn
Massive 16-inch gun formerly at Battery Ashburn.  After the war, it was dismantled and sold for scrap.

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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.

Relic coastal defense systems dot the Point Loma peninsula, including Cabrillo National Monument.

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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.

Military History Exhibit
The exhibit, "They Stood the Watch," is housed in an old military radio station.

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Military History Exhibit
Interactive exhibits tell the story of Point Loma's coastal defense.

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Military History Exhibit
Our nation's history is revisited in "They Stood the Watch."

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A Harbor Worth Defending - Book
Authored by a former Cabrillo National Monument Park Ranger, "A Harbor Worth Defending" offers a detailed account of Point Loma's coastal defense.

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Photographic Tour of the Base End Station

View a photographic tour of the Base End Station at Cabrillo National Monument.

Last updated: September 9, 2020

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1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive
San Diego , CA 92106


619 523-4285

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