Visited Saturday, September 30, 2012, Fort Cronkhite, CA
Ever since it was first announced last year that the National Park Service was going to receive a 16-inch gun barrel saved from the scrap heap for installation at Battery Townsley, I have been waiting for the day to come face to face with this amazing piece of history. Well, today was the day, and boy was it worth the wait.
I have been diligently following the progress of the guns move from its home in the desert at the former US Navy Weapons Station, located in Hawthorne, Nevada, to its new home at Battery Townsely, located at Fort Cronkhite. When it was announced that the gun would be on display before heading up the hill to be installed at the battery it was time to act. I could not have asked for a better day to view the gun. Clear skys and the return of Indian Summer with the weather in the 80’s, was on tap for Fort Cronkhite. So off I went with my friend driving and my digital camera in tow to travel over the Golden Gate Bridge to Fort Cronkhite, from San Francisco.
We made our way over the bridge and through the Fort Baker/Barry Tunnel and headed over to the location where the gun was being displayed in front of an old Army warehouse located across from Rodeo Lagoon. It could not be missed driving by. It is not everyday that you find a 16-inch gun in your own backyard. The gun in fact was a show stopper! We pulled over to park to check out the piece, and the first thing that struck me was that the gun was big. I mean real big. This is not your 6-inch gun from Battery Chamberlin!
So in making my way around the gun, I was taking pictures left and right of this truly historic piece of history. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to come face to face with a real 16-inch gun, and it did not disappoint. I had the opportunity to touch barrel No. 386 and inspect the business end of the muzzle. It was really neat to run my fingers on the riffling and check out the inside of the barrel. The breach end of the gun was quite a site as well. There for all to see was the manufacturing information near the top of the breach end of the gun as clear as day. Of special significance, this gun is a piece of living history. The gun was originally mounted in the number two turret of the USS Missouri and was present for the Japanese surrender ceremonies at Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. If this gun could talk, boy I bet it has some amazing stories to tell. Not every day you run into something this historical in your back yard.
Here are some quick facts about the 16-inch Mark VII, No. 386:
- Official designation is Mark VII 16-inch/50 caliber
- Was mounted on Iowa class battleships during World War II
- Was designed in 1939
- Manufactured in 1942 at the Washington Navy Yard
- The weight of the guns is 236,240 lb and is 68 feet in length
- The projectile weighed up to 2,700 lbs
- Range was 41,622 yards (23.6 miles/38,060 m) with a 600 lb powder charge
|The Breech End|
Once the gun has been moved up the hill to Battery Townsley, the gun will be on display in front of the battery. It will then be cleaned up and painted in Army OD Green to reflect the guns use by the Army at Battery Townsley. Personally I can’t wait to get back over to Fort Cronkhite to see the gun in situ, proudly on display for the public to view. As an historian, I am always asked what was mounted at the gun batteries. Well, this is a chance for everyone to see exactly what was mounted at the 16-inch gun batteries here within the Harbor Defenses of San Francisco. And a true chance to come face to face and interact with a piece of living history. Get up there and check it out!
by Matthew Kent