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John Martini | profile | all galleries >> Galleries >> Battery Townsley Galleries: Historic Photos, Interpretation & Preservation Efforts tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Battery Townsley Galleries: Historic Photos, Interpretation & Preservation Efforts

Battery Townsley is a casemated Coast Artillery battery located at Fort Cronkhite, California, just across the Golden Gate from San Francisco.

The battery originally mounted two 16-inch caliber guns, each capable of shooting a 2,100 lb. armor-piercing projectile 25 miles out to sea. The guns and their associated ammunition magazines, power rooms, and crew quarters were covered by dozens of feet of concrete and earth to protect them from air and naval attack. The battery was named in honor of Major General Clarence P. Townsley, a former Superintendent of West Point and a commander of the 30th Infantry in World War I. At the time of its completion it represented the zenith in America's coastal fortifications.

As early as 1915, the army was eager to construct the 16-inch gun batteries at San Francisco, and by 1928, the decision had been made to install two batteries near the city, one on either side of the Golden Gate straits. Work actually began on the fortification in 1937, and three years later Battery Townsley was completed.

On July 1, 1940, Townsley's gun #1 became the first casemated 16-inch gun to be fired in the defenses of the United States.

Battery Townsley was a high security operation; civilians living in San Francisco knew that there were batteries nearby but their exact locations were not revealed. A battery of this design had never been actually fired before, so the soldiers underwent several months of practice before firing the guns for the first time. The men were subjected to endless training, often under difficult situations: in the rain, in the pitch dark with all the electricity shut off, or with their commanding officer blocking the traditional route to the battery. The practice of dealing with any contingency ensured that the soldiers could operate their guns at a momentís notice (and almost in their sleep) if ever under enemy attack.

During World War II, over 100 Coast Artillery soldiers lived in the battery around the clock and were ready for action on a 5-minute notice. The guns' 25 mile range and their massive overhead protection made Battery Townsley among the most formidable fortifications in the harbor defenses of San Francisco.

Townsley was active from 1940 until 1948 when its two huge guns were scrapped, the victims of advancing military technologies that included long-range bombers and the dawn of the nuclear age. Used briefly as a testing site during the Cold War, the interior of the battery was abandoned and vandalized for many years. Now, though, it is receiving a new life as contractors and volunteers refurbish its interior spaces for public tours.

This important preservation work is being carried out through the generous bequest of Mr. Charles Wofford of San Francisco, a former National Park Service volunteer and coast artillery historian.

Thanks, Chuck.
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Harbor Defenses of San Francisco - 1860s to 1940s.
:: Harbor Defenses of San Francisco - 1860s to 1940s. ::
Townsley 16-in gun  & soldiers
Townsley 16-in gun & soldiers
Historic Photos of Battery Townsley & Vicinity
:: Historic Photos of Battery Townsley & Vicinity ::
Preservation & Interpretation
:: Preservation & Interpretation ::
Battery Townsley -- before preservation work.  2005-2006 views
:: Battery Townsley -- before preservation work. 2005-2006 views ::
U.S. Army 16-inch rifles: transporting and emplaced
:: U.S. Army 16-inch rifles: transporting and emplaced ::
Ammunition Magazines, Powder Storage & Projectiles
:: Ammunition Magazines, Powder Storage & Projectiles ::
Townsley graffiti cleaning, October 20 to 23, 2008
:: Townsley graffiti cleaning, October 20 to 23, 2008 ::
Battery Townsley mechanical details
:: Battery Townsley mechanical details ::
Townsley's PSR (Plotting, Switchboard & Radio) Room
:: Townsley's PSR (Plotting, Switchboard & Radio) Room ::
Townsley Reserve Magazine
:: Townsley Reserve Magazine ::
Various views of other 16-inch casemated batteries
:: Various views of other 16-inch casemated batteries ::
Blast Effects on Townsley's Doors, 1943
:: Blast Effects on Townsley's Doors, 1943 ::
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