October 14th 2007 was the date of the grand opening of Battery Townsley.   This top secret WWII coastal defense installation was closed to the public, but now thanks to the efforts and contributions of volunteers, staff, and special benefactors, this battery at Fort Cronkhite has recently been refurbished and electrified.   

Below are pictures and information on this great historic site.

San Francisco Channel 2 and Channel 5 news both did storys on the battery tonight:
Channel 2 News at 10pm, 10-14-2007

Channel 5 News at 11pm, 10-14-07.
You can see Kris, Peter and Zack walking in one of the access tunnels early in the report, and Emma and Daniel walking into the bunker at the very end of the video.

Channel 2 News at 7am, 10-15-07

All pictures are HERE.

The picture below is the sign that describes the site.   This sign was unwrapped for the first time during the opening ceremony.

The opening ceremony was held at the rear entrance to gun position number 2, which is on the left side of the complex when viewed from the rear.

A number of special guests were present for the ceremony, including some members of the Townsley family, WWII coastal defense veterans including one of the battery commanders, and some of the family's that contributed to the restoration of the site.

Here the informational plaque is unwrapped.

To give some reference to the location of the battery, this picture is looking down from the rear of gun position 2 looking down towards Fort Cronkhite and Rodeo Beach.  If you park at the parking lot at Rodeo Beach and walk up the paved road past the gate you will eventually reach the battery.   It is a good 3/4 mile uphill walk.
After the opening speeches and ceremony, the ribbon was cut at the entrance to the battery.
With news cameras watching (Bay Area channels 5 and 11 were present) Townsley family members, veterans and conservancy members cut the ribbons and opened the complex to the public.

Here is a map of the complex.   The red dot shows where the entrance is from the ribbon cutting ceremony in the picture above.

The left and right sides of the battery are basically a mirror of each other, so they only worked to restore the middle section and right side of the complex.

Just inside the doors are two showers.   After the Pearl Harbor attack, this battery was kept on a constant 5 minute alert status.  This meant that it had to be fully staffed and ready to fire on only 5 minutes notice at all times, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

To keep the complex at this state, there was a crew of about 100 men that lived in the bunker at all times.

You can click on the image for a full size version (very large!)

The first room we went through was the power room.   This room held large generators that could power the entire complex if needed in case power was lost during an attack.

The pictures below show what the room looked like when all of the equipment was present.

The next room past the far wall (through the open doorway) was the radiator room.   There are several "windows" with bars that look almost like jail bars that open into the main corridor that a series of large radiators with their cooling fans were mounted to keep the generators cool.

This is the main corridor between the two gun positions.   The radiator room is just around the corner in this picture.  

The open door that is almost around the corner is one of the two powder rooms for gun #1, the second powder room was just to the right of me when I took this picture.   

Note the overhead trolley tracks.   The two open areas that these tracks go into on the left are the shell rooms.   The guns that were mounted in this battery were 16 inch guns that were designed to be mounted on battleships.   They would fire a 2100 pound armour piercing shell over 25 miles out to sea.   

Here you can see a picture of the shell trolleys that rolled along the overhead tracks.
My daughter Emma and one of the neighborhood boys Daniel with a few of the 2100 pound shells that were fired by the 16 inch guns.

One of the many doors throughout the complex.  All of the doors are made of very heavy steel.   Note the writing on this an most of the doors in the complex:

"This door will be kept open at all times when the battery is being fired... By order of the commanding general"

There was a very good reason to keep all of the doors in the complex open when the guns were firing!   Read on below to find out why!

To the left you can see a picture of USS Wisconsin firing one of its 16 inch guns.   As you can see, quite a large explosion is created when the gun fires and you can see the turbulence on the water created by the explosion and shell leaving the barrel.

The shell was pushed into the barrel, and was followed by 6 bags (total weight of 540 pounds) of powder.   The shells would leave the guns barrel at a speed between 1,568 and 1,797 miles per hour, depending on the type of shell being fired.

Each time one of the guns of Battery Townsley was fired, it created a vacuum throughout the complex.   If you were in the complex when the guns fired, your ears would have popped as the air was sucked out from the firing of the guns and the air rushed in from the rear again.   Because of the sudden unequal air pressure, all of the doors were left open to prevent them from being damaged (warped and bent) when the air pressure changed.   During the renovation of the complex, they found that some of the doors, although very heavy, were bent because of this.

Try to imagine if you can the incredible noise and conditions when the battery was in full operation.  The generators would be running, and their noise by itself would have been tremendous.   The large radiators and their fans would be moving large volumes of air to keep the generators cool, and all that hot air would be moving around the inner areas of the complex.   The guns would be firing, the air moving in and out with each volley, your ears popping much like when you fly or go up and down large hills.   The noise of the trolleys carrying the shells to and from the guns must have been quite loud, the steel wheels on the the steel tracks sounding much like a freight train.   Men would have been yelling back and forth over all the other noises as they went about their designated jobs.... it must have been something!

Battery Townsley was the first of its kind to be completed and fired, and because of this they were still learning about how these battery's would function in real life.   The bent doors were most likely created during this learning process!   During this time they learned by trial and error what the process for firing the guns would really be, where people would stand during firing and other related procedures.  As is often the case, the way things were planned to work and how they actually worked in real life were two different things!

You can see the entire process of loading and firing the 16 inch guns in the video below, this was taken on board the battleship USS Wisconsin.


This display was in a store room, the room behind the wall to the left was a shop.

The picture shows what the battery looked like from the outside when it was functioning.   

The scope on the tripod was one that would have been found in one of the many observation sites along the coast to the north and south of the gun positions.

Because of the great range of the guns, numerous observation points were placed up and down the coast to help find and locate potential targets.   Once a target was located, multiple observation locations would give range and directional information on the target to the fire control center for the battery.   The fire control center would triangulate the targets position on the map and relay bearing and gun elevation information to the battery for firing.   Once the battery fired, the observers would look to see where the shell hit and relay information back to the fire control center so they could correct the shot and hit the target.

Some of the old signs are still visible on the walls inside the complex.
The rear tunnel entrance to gun #1 (right side when looking from the rear).
The above photo is a cross reference section of one of the gun emplacements.   In the picture to the right, the pit where the gun was mounted has been filled in, but you can see the ring on the floor where the edges were.
On the wall behind the gun, you can see a chalk board that would have the names of the people manning the gun position.
If you wish to visit the battery, you can do so on the second Sunday of every month between noon and 4pm.   You should find a sign like this near the gate on the road leading up to the gun battery.   During the opening ceremony, a shuttle van was there to carry people up the hill.   I am not sure if this would be the case normally, but I believe you can arrange for a shuttle by calling ahead.
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