Army Life at Fort Cronkhite

off-duty soldiers in front of barracks
Fort Cronkhite soldiers enjoying some off-duty time, circa 1942.



A Soldier's Life

The first soldiers stationed at Fort Cronkhite were assigned to the 6th and 5th Coast Artillery Regiments. A soldier’s life at Fort Cronkhite, as anywhere in the army, meant that you did what you were told to do. A soldier’s daily life on post was structured and regimented; they were required to drill and train, eat and clean their barracks, all at tightly scheduled times. The soldiers trained constantly, either up at Battery Wallace or on the post’s main parade ground which was located in the large open space that is now a parking lot. Fort Cronkhite, like most World War II posts, provided the men with the bare necessities for military life. In addition to providing food and housing, the army also provided medical and dental care to the soldiers; there was even an on-post barber.

While off-duty, the men relaxed in the recreation building (called "day rooms"), where the army provided ping-pong tables, pool tables and popular reading material. The newly-constructed chapel at Fort Barry provided multi-denominational services and the chaplain also sponsored dances and stage shows for the men. To maintain morale among the troops and provide much-needed breaks from foggy Fort Cronkhite, leave passes were awarded and the soldiers who received them eagerly traveled to local bars in Sausalito or took buses into soldier-friendly San Francisco.

photo of soldier at attention during inspection
Barracks inpsections were a daily part of army life. This photo, dated 1941, shows a soldier standing at attention next to his equipment, including a gas mask (at right) and eating utensils (at left).

Photo courtesy of National Archives, photo no 111-SC-124064


Feeding the Army

Fort Cronkhite contained several mess halls, where the soldiers ate three meals a day. One cook was assigned to each grouping of three barracks, and soldiers on KP (Kitchen Patrol) duty, helped prepare the food. Army food was usually cheaply prepared and of inconsistent quality, but special menus were created for holidays. The 1941 Christmas Dinner menu for the Harbor Defenses of San Francisco included roast turkey with oyster dressing, candied sweet potatoes, spinach with hard-boiled eggs, mince and pumpkin pies, mixed nuts, coffee with fresh milk and cream (a refreshing break from powdered milk) and cigars and cigarettes for all.

photo of WWII mess hall
This photo from 1941 shows the sparse and orderly nature of a World War II mess hall.

Photo courtesy of Fort Lewis Military Museum, Fort Lewis, WA

photo of Army cooks working in a World War II kitchen
As per regulations, each World War II army kitchen was fully equipped with ovens, stoves, cereal cookers, ice cream freezers, coffe pots and dishwashers. This 1942 photo shows soldiers from the Cooks and Bakers School in Camp Forrest, Tennesse, training to make pies.

Photo courtesy of National Archive, photo no 111-SC-133703

Last updated: August 2, 2016

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