Homeland Security of the 1930s
By summer of 1940, Battery Townsley was ready for testing with live ammunition. Waiting for a non-foggy day in July took some patience, but finally, the fog cleared and several test shots were fired. As the mountain shook with the power of this incredible machine, a resounding roar was heard throughout San Francisco. The army calculated that the 16-inch guns' farthest range would be 25 miles out to sea, about the distance to the Farallon Islands. Battery Townsley, together with Battery Davis at Fort Funston on the coast south of the Golden Gate, became the prototypes for the army's future coastal defenses; the army planned to construct at least 25 additional 16-inch gun batteries along both the nation's eastern and western seaboards.
The growing threat of long-range bombers and nuclear weapons made Battery Townsley obsolete at the end of World War II. Its long-range guns, designed to shoot at battleships far at sea, were useless against aircraft flying at tens of thousands of feet. The big guns were scrapped in late 1948, and the battery converted to use as a warehouse, temporary barracks, and underground test facility. Sealed for many years, the National Park Service began restoration work in 2006. Work continues to this day, carried out by a group of dedicated Volunteers in Parks (VIPs).
Visiting Battery Townsley
Battery Townsley is located one ½ mile up from the Fort Cronkhite parking lot, following the Coastal Trail; the walk up to the battery is strenuous so please allow at least 45 minutes. (Due to COVID-19 and in accordance with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local public health authorities, Battery Townsley is closed until further notice.)
You can also visit the Marin Headlands page for more information about volunteering in the battery's preservation efforts, as well as directions and other programs and activities.
Last updated: August 29, 2020