Fort MacArthur (1914-1974) - A U.S. Army coastal artillery post established 31 Oct 1914 in San Pedro, Los Angeles County, California. Named after Lt. General Arthur MacArthur, U.S. Civil War Medal of Honor recipient and father of General Douglas MacArthur. Deactivated in 1975 but quarters and some other activities remained.
World War I (1917-1918)
World War I began in Europe in August 1914 and the Panama Canal opened that same month. Construction began at Fort MacArthur 31 Oct 1914 and include the construction of three Taft Period batteries (two 14" disappearing gun batteries and one 12" mortar battery). None of those batteries were completed before the end of World War I in 1918 but they were all completed and accepted in 1919.
The Fort MacArthur reservation was geographically divided into three parts: the Lower Reservation, Middle Reservation, and Upper Reservation. The Taft Period Batteries were located on the Upper Reservation. The lower reservation was a training center for troops heading to the war in Europe and the middle reservation housed the garrison.
The Army installed one 14" Railway gun in 1925 and another in 1930 and additional anti-aircraft units were placed strategically around the larger gun emplacements. Because of public outcry over the test firing of the 14" railway guns they were transported to remote locations for additional firings and returned to Fort MacArthur for storage, ready for emplacement. Two special roundtable like emplacements that allowed the railway guns to traverse 360 degrees were constructed in 1937 at the ends of spur tracks on the lower reservation. Activity increased as World War II broke out in Europe and 1941 saw additional manpower and missions assigned to Fort MacArthur.
Five additional military reservations were established out from Fort MacArthur in the years between World War I and early into World War II to provide additional protection for Los Angeles Harbor. White Point MR was established in 1941 to house Battery 127 (Battery Paul D. Bunker). Bolsa Chica MR was established in 1942 to house Battery 128 and Battery 242. Long Point MR was established in 1930 to house fire control stations and later Battery 155 - Long Point. Point Vicente MR was established in 1942 to house Battery 242 (Battery Barnes). Manhattan Beach MR was established in 1941 to house two 8" railway guns in Battery Eubank.
World War II (1941-1945)
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 Dec 1941, found Fort MacArthur with 163 officers and 1,869 enlisted men. When word of the attack reached the fort all fortifications were manned and the 14" railway guns were moved onto their emplacements on the lower reservation.
All of the large batteries at Fort MacArthur, with the exception of the railway guns, were obsolete and unsuitable for combat against the modern naval craft and weapons of that day. Early in the war replacement batteries were planned for Fort MacArthur including two of the standard 100 series and three of the standard 200 series. Even before the construction of the new batteries was complete, the old batteries were deactivated. Battery Barlow-Saxton was deactivated in 1943 followed by Battery Osgood-Farley and Battery Leary-Merriam in Jan 1944. This left only the two 14" Railway Guns to defend Los Angeles Harbor until the replacement batteries were complete. Mobile 155mm guns were moved to preselected positions along the coast.
Construction began on the new 16" gun batteries in 1942 with Battery 127 followed by Battery 128 in 1943. By late 1943 it became obvious that many of the larger caliber guns were unnecessary because the tide of the war had turned in the Pacific. Battery 128 was curtailed before the guns could be installed in Nov 1943. Construction continued on the three 6" Rapid fire gun batteries, Battery 240, Battery 241 and Battery 242 and they continued in service even after the war.
Four 90mm Anti Motor Torpedo Boat (AMTB) Batteries were deployed at Fort MacArthur and sub-posts along with two Joint Army And Navy (JAAN) 3" Batteries at Cabrillo Beach and Long Beach. Numerous Anti-Aircraft gun batteries and searchlight positions lined the coast to the north and south of Fort MacArthur during the war.
Five military reservation sub-posts operated under Fort MacArthur during World War II, they housed the new 16" batteries, 6" batteries and a railway battery. Numerous remote fire control stations, searchlight positions, and radar sites also operated along the coast under the control of Fort MacArthur.
Cold War (1947-1991)
At the end of World War II Fort MacArthur became a Separation Center for returning veterans and when that closed 16 Apr 1946 it was reduced to caretaker status. Most of the armament for the old and some of the newer batteries were removed and scrapped and by 1948 only 300 troops remained.
A NIKE-AJAX surface-to-air missile battery was installed on Fort MacArthur in 1954 as part of an air defense network for Southern California. The conversion of this battery to the NIKE-HERCULES brought a nuclear capability to the air defense system. The NIKE sites became obsolete when the threat from enemy bombers was replaced by the missile threat and they were closed in 1974.
In 1961 a joint use USAF/FAA/Army radar station began operation at the top of San Pedro Hill with an FAA ARSR-1C search Radar and Air Force FPS-6B, FPS-26A Height Finder radar sets. Designated as the San Pedro Hill Air Force Station manned by the 670th Radar Squadron, it operated until deactivated in April 1976. The FAA took over operational control of the site and still maintains an ARSR-1E Search Radar and an FPS-26 Height Finder Radar at the same location.
Must See! In 1977 the Upper and Lower Reservations were deeded to the city of Los Angeles. All of the buildings on the Lower Reservation were removed and the property was dredged to create the Cabrillo Marina. The city of Los Angeles turned the Upper Reservation into a city park in 1982. In 1982 the Middle Reservation was transferred to the Air Force and used as a housing and administration facility for Los Angeles Air Force Base.
Battery Osgood-Farley now houses the Fort MacArthur Museum which contains displays and artifacts about the fort and the batteries. The museum has restored the battery powerhouse and has both generators in running order. Also restored by the museum are the Battery Commander's Station (BCS) and much of the plotting room. The museum has an excellent military vehicle collection that includes a running World War I truck and a working searchlight tracking system in which the searchlight tracks the motion of the aircraft spotter.
Visited: 4-5 Oct 2014, 4-5 Jan 2013, 1 Feb 2009