New Gun for Battery Townsley

historic photo of large metal gun barrel on tractor wheels
A 16-inch gun barrel being moved through San Francisco, circa 1939.



It's huge, it's heavy, and it's historic!

On October 1, 2012, a 16-inch naval gun was transported to Fort Cronkhite for display at Battery Townsley. The giant weapon, 68 feet long and weighing 120 tons, was once on the battleship USS Missouri and is identical in size and caliber to the ones that protected the bay during World War II.

The gun is now displayed outside Battery Townsley, while plans are developed to fabricate a replica gun carriage inside the casemate (south gun room).

The 16-inch gun barrel, designated U.S. Navy Mark VII #386, is a key interpretive feature of Fort Cronkhite, helping tell the stories of Battery Townsley and the men who served here and at the other harbor defense sites during World War II, as well as the military's role in preserving the future Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Battery Townsley's interior is currently being rehabilitated by a group of dedicated Volunteers in Parks (VIPs) and is open to the public on the first Sunday of each month from noon to 4 PM.

For more detailed information on the transportation of the 16-inch gun, please visit the New Gun Update page.

historic photo of the Japanese surrender ceremonies aboard USS Missouri in 1945
16-inch gun #386 aboard USS MISSOURI during the Japanese surrender ceremonies in Tokyo Bay, 2 September 1945. The barrel was removed from the battleship turret during the Korean War and put into storage.

Library of Congress


The Gun

The 16-inch gun barrel, designated U.S. Navy Mark VII #386, was originally mounted in one of the forward gun turrets aboard the famed battleship USS Missouri and saw extensive action during World War II. The turret and gun #386 are prominent in historic photographs of the Japanese surrender ceremony held aboard the battleship in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945.

The gun barrel was taken off the Missouri during the Korean War (battleship guns were removable) when the ship was refurbished. The gun barrel was put into storage at the Naval Weapons Depot at Hawthorne, Nevada, for possible re-use aboard another battleship. But it was never remounted and lay in the Nevada desert alongside eighteen other battleship gun barrels for more then forty years.

When the U.S. Navy phased out its last battleships in the 1990s, the spare guns at Hawthorne were eventually declared surplus and put up for sale as scrap. However, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area has worked closely with the Department of Defense to save one weapon for eventual display at Fort Cronkhite. Gun #386 was selected for preservation because of its important historic association with the USS Missouri.

historic photo of gun coming through tunnel
Gun Tube No. 87 coming out of the West End of Fort Baker Tunnel; August 1939



The Battery: A Zenith of Military Technology

Battery Townsley was a casemated battery that mounted two 16-inch caliber guns, each capable of shooting a 2,100 pound, armor-piercing projectile 25 miles out to sea. The guns and their associated ammunition magazines, power rooms, and crew quarters were protected from air and naval attack by dozens of feet of concrete and earth. Construction began at Fort Cronkhite in early 1938, and by 1940 Battery Townsley was completed and its two guns installed.

The battery was active throughout World War II, manned by up to 150 soldiers at a time who lived inside the cavernous halls and galleries. Fired many times in target practice, the battery never saw battle. Its guns were cut up for scrap in 1948, victims of the dawning nuclear age.

Since 2007, a group of dedicated Volunteers In Park (VIPs) have been refurbishing the interior of Battery Townsley and opening it for public tours. The 16-inch gun from the USS Missouri is a key interpretive exhibit for telling visitors the story of the former Harbor Defenses of San Francisco.

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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