Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

Belching smoke and flames during the pre-World War II heyday is one of the 14-inch disappearing carriage rifles at Ft. MacArthur in San Pedro. The cannon's barrel weighed 110,000 pounds. This photo was published in the Oct. 16, 1966, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

Graphic published in the Sept. 10, 1916, Los Angeles Times illustrating how a typical coastal fortification would work. Ft. MacArthur was under construction.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

April 12, 1917: Newspaper reporters gather outside Ft. MacArthur following United States entry into World War One.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

Nov. 15, 1918: Panorama made from two photos of barracks at Ft. MacArthur with four companies of soldiers coming from parade. This photo was published in the Dec. 15, 1918, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

November 1918: Long Beach vocalist Josephine Browne MacClure leads Ft. MacArthur troops in song.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

July 1, 1924: Maj. George Ruhlen Jr., commander of new 3rd Coast Artillery Regiment, left, presenting through his adjutant, Capt. J.C. Stephens, guidons to the battery commanders.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

June 24, 1924: Artillery piece is fired at Fort MacArthur.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

April 1932: During a nighttime training session, antiaircraft guns at Ft. MacArthur fire at a target towed at 16,000 feet.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Wide World Photo

Fourteen-inch disappearing rifle at Ft. MacArthur.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

June 2, 1936: A 14-inch railway gun based at Ft. MacArthur is prepared for transport to an isolated location near Carlsbad for target practice.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Wayne B. Cave / Los Angeles Times

Aug. 29, 1939: Headquarters Battery, 3rd Coast Artillery at Ft. MacArthur, firing 155-millimeter guns at target towed 12,000 yards at sea.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Wayne B. Cave / Los Angeles Times

April 29, 1939: Guns of Third Coast Artillery at Fort MacArthur are fired during annual target practice at target 12,000 yards offshore.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Wayne B. Cave / Los Angeles Times

March 31, 1940: Three-inch anti-aircraft guns at Ft. MacArthur in San Pedro.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Wayne B. Cave / Los Angeles Times

June 1940: Gun emplacements at Ft. MacArthur in San Pedro.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

March 31, 1940: Regimental review of the 63rd Coast Artillery based at Ft. MacArthur in San Pedro.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Wayne B. Cave / Los Angeles Times

June 7, 1940: Soldiers at Ft. MacArthur with a shell for 14-inch railroad guns.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

April 1, 1940: Tour of Ft. MacArthur in San Pedro includes this 14-inch disappearing rifle.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Wayne B. Cave / Los Angeles Times

March 27, 1941: Medium-caliber mobile guns at Ft MacArthur during training by Battery B 3rd Coast Artillery.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Wayne B. Cave / Los Angeles Times

March 27, 1941: Group of recruits firing the medium-caliber guns, Battery B, 3rd Coast Artillery at Ft. MacArthur. A target floated 10,000 yards at sea.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

June 24, 1941: Col. W. W. Hicks, new commandant at Ft. MacArthur, inspects the field equipment of the camp personnel, which weighed 45 pounds compared to 80-pound packs in World War I.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

March 6, 1941: U.S. Army recruits from Indiana and Ohio run to stations during training at Ft. MacArthur.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Wayne B. Cave / Los Angeles Times

Sep. 18, 1945: Lineup of soldiers at Ft. MacArthur Separation Center. Hundreds of soldiers poured into the post. They had expected 200 a day, but were handling 500 a day.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

Jan. 11, 1949: U.S. Army equipment at Ft. MacArthur includes a 155-mm howitzer pulled by a prime mover and a tank truck carrying a prime mover.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

Jan. 8, 1953: Battery of 90-mm antiaircraft guns is unpacked at Ft. MacArthur after the arrival of the 77th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

May, 1954: Nine men at Ft. MacArthur form a gun crew to demonstrate readiness. The cook, right, also is an expert on controls of the 90-mm antiaircraft gun.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Roland R. Laursen / Los Angeles Times

Feb. 4, 1974: Aerial photo showing San Pedro's Ft. MacArthur, at bottom.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Michael Mally / Los Angeles Times

More galleries on Framework

return to gallery

The genesis of L.A.'s skyscraping New Wilshire Grand

L.A.'s skyscraping New Wilshire Grand: Soaring designs fighting against the bottom line

The skylight rising above the entrance to the New Wilshire Grand is spectacular. Draped between the 1,100-foot skyscraper and its seven-story companion, the skylight runs nearly...   View Post»

   

San Pedro's Ft. MacArthur through two world wars

High winds in 1970s

Today, I've put together a small photo gallery of wind damage from the early 1970s. Since two of the images were published on Jan. 1, 1975, here's part of the wind report in...   View Post»

   

San Pedro's Ft. MacArthur through two world wars

Pictures in the News | Dec. 16, 2010

We begin with images from Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey of Ashura, which commemorates the 7th century killing of Iman Hussein; in Washington, the U.S. Capitol Christmas...   View Post»

   

San Pedro’s Ft. MacArthur through two world wars

Ft. MacArthur in San Pedro opened on Oct. 31, 1914. The fort was built to improve defenses of the Los Angeles harbor area. During World War I, the base was a training center. The first large guns were installed in 1917.

The fort is named after Lt. Gen. Arthur MacArthur, father of the famous Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

A history of Ft. MacArthur appeared in the Oct. 16, 1966, Los Angeles Times:

SAN PEDRO–The big guns of Ft. MacArthur were nearing obsolescence when they were installed between World Wars I and II and seldom roared except for target practice. They lost their biggest battle to San Pedro housewives.

The only reminders at the fort of the Army’s once-proud coast artillery are concrete gun emplacements and batteries, now crawling with weeds and used only for storage.

The emplacements once housed huge, 14-inch disappearing carriage rifles, whose barrels each weighed 110,000 pounds, and the breech-loading 12-inch mortars. But the guns have long since been cut up for scrap.

Even in 1924, Brig. Gen. Henry D. Todd, commander of the 9th Co., Coast Artillery, was dissatisfied with the guns. He complained that there were too few of them and their range was too short.

The following year, two 14-inch railway guns, more modern artillery pieces, were brought in to beef up the harbor defense.

Artillery crews occasionally practiced by firing at a triangle-shaped canvas target mounted on a raft and towed by a tug boat, the Maj. Evan Thomas.

Harold Simpson, a longtime San Pedro resident who has worked at the fort since 1937, remembers the practice sessions well.

“The guns had a tremendous roar and you could hear them for 30 miles if the atmospheric conditions were right,” says Simpson, now a maintenance supervisor.

“Before firing them, the Army used to go around the neighborhood warning people to open their windows and to take down all their breakable things,” he recalls.

But some people either didn’t get the word or were more interested in receiving payment for damages caused by pressure waves and ground shock from the test firings.

Casualties–to dishes, glassware and windows–mounted, indignant housewives buckled on their armor and carried their fight against the firings to City Hall. In 1928, the War Department ordered the guns silenced.

But they were to be heard again during World War II. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Col. William W. Hicks, Ft. MacArthur commander, ordered all fortifications manned, mobile batteries moved into selected positions and ammunition distributed to all men.

Early in 1942, the freighter Absoraka was torpedoed off Pt. Fermin and artillery batteries spotted along the coast went into action against a reported Japanese submarine 4,000 yards off Redondo Beach.

No trace of the submarine was found and it was assumed sunk–but not by the big guns. A mobile battery of the 105th Field Artillery Battalion was credited with the kill.

In 1943, batteries Barlow-Saxton (mortars) and Osgood-Farley and Merriam-Leary (14-inch rifles) were deactivated, leaving the 14-inch railway guns as the only large-caliber armament of the harbor defense.

After the war, two 14-inch rifles set up at the fort were dismantled and two sawed up for junk. The metal from the guns, built in 1943 for $1.5 million, was sold for $17,000.

The Army’s coast artillery branch is now only a memory. It played a minor role in World War II (some Japanese shipping was sunk in the battle of Guadalcanal) and the big guns have given way to the big missiles. …

Following World War II, Ft. MacArthur became the home base of the 47th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Brigade defending Los Angeles. A Nike surface-to-air battery was at the fort from 1954 until the early 1970s.

Following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, the base was closed. Ownership of much of the base was transfered to the city of Los Angeles. The lower section is now Cabrillo Marina. Part of the upper section is now Angels Gate Park, home of the Korean Bell of Friendship.

The Fort MacArthur Museum occupies the site of the Battery Osgood-Farley. The museum sponsors two popular annual events: in July the Old MacArthur Day Living History, and in February The Great Los Angeles Air Raid of 1942.

For more, check out these related From the Archives blog posts:

14-inch guns fired near Oceanside

Civilians trained to fire Ft. MacArthur’s guns

No comments yet

Add a comment or a question.

If you are under 13 years of age you may read this message board, but you may not participate. Here are the full legal terms you agree to by using this comment form.

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they've been approved.

Required

Required, will not be published