The Men Behind the Guns

Seventeen "batteries" of about 125 soldiers each, manned the Harbor Defenses of San Francisco during the war. These highly trained men maintained and fired the guns, plotted ranges, and staffed the base end stations. Early in the war, they lived at the remote gun batteries and base end stations for weeks at a time. Moral often suffered as they tried to maintain a high state of readiness through long periods with little to do.

Photo of soldiers in front of Battery Chamberlain
Battery D manned the two six-inch guns at Battery Chamberlin, located at the Presidio of San Francisco. They slept and ate at the battery early in the war.  

Photo courtesy of California Military History Museum

photo of the all African-American 54th Coast Artillery Regiment
Part of San Francisco harbor defenses in 1942, the all-African-American 54th Coast Artillery Regiment (Colored) fires a 155 mm gun in one of the few armed roles allowed these men. African-American soldiers during World War II had a very different military experience than their white soldier counterparts as the US Army's official policy of segregation reflected American society at that time. During and after World War II, civil rights groups worked tirelessly to balance the army's racial inequalities and injustices. 

PARC, Golden Gate National Recreation Area

photo of underground living quarters in Wolf Ridge in the Marin Headlands
After Pearl Harbor, all the posts within the Harbor Defense of San Francisco were placed on high alert, meaning that the soldiers had to man their guns at a moment's notice. At Fort Cronkhite, located in the Marin Headlands, that meant that the men had to sleep underground in a temporary corrugated metal shed, similar to a quonset hut, that was built into the side of Wolf Ridge. 

PARC, Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Photo of Red Cross Cookie Brigade bringing refreshments to the soldiers
The Red Cross Cookie Brigade visits Battery Chamberlin. Stuck at the batteries for weeks at a time, soldiers looked forward to visits from Red Cross girls and USO entertainers.

PARC, Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Photo of Fort Scott soldiers at ease in their day room
After a month or more in the field, the men were brought back for a week at Fort Scott, where they could eat off of china, take a hot shower and relax in the day room. Most of the Harbor Defense posts provided recreational opportunities such as libraries, gymnasiums and even bowling alleys.

Photo courtesy of the California Military History Museum

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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