A remembrance of Fort MacArthur in the 1940's.
My dad, Captain H. F. B., Jr., was in WWI and II. In August 1942 he reenlisted and was
given the rank of captain of Coast Artillery. His first assignment was to Fort
Monroe, VA, to a refresher course in that field. After that, he went to barrage
balloon school in Camp Tyson. TN. Then to Fort McArthur, San Pedro, CA, as his permenant
The Fort was named after Douglas MacArthur's father, whom you may know was a big hero
in the Civil War. Douglas was raised as an "army brat". Fort Mac was constructed on
three levels : Bottomside, in Los Angeles Harbor, as an induction center, typical
army barracks ; Middleside was up on the town level, consisting of offficer's
quarters, officer's club, PX, parade ground, the hospital was across Pacific Ave.
opposite the main gate ; Topside where all the defense were located : six inch guns, 155
howitzers, two bunkers of 14-inch disappearing rifles exactly like those on Corregido
in the Philipines. I went to a night firing of those in 1943 or '44 and the report of
those guns is still rattling around in my head. There were machine guns and searchlights along
the high cliffs on the coast. (1) (2)
One of Dad;s duries was to board a tug which pulled the artillery target.
Fortunately it floated two miles behind the tug. A practice aid was
small, lead ships, both American and Japanese, to be used for identication.
How well I remember playing with them on the living floor and having mock battles.
The Army was assigned a "crash boat" to be used to retrieve downed pilots
who had to ditch in the channel between the mainland and Catalina Island.
There was a pier inside the harbor breakwater right off Cabrillo Beach and
was used for mooring, repair, and fueling.
This vessel was 20 feet shorter than the PT, but of the similar design. The army designed it as Q 85.
We all called it the "crash boat." It had three Packard gasoline, marine engines and could do 35 knots.
In 1943, maybe September or October, my dad and the crew took a British brigadier general over to Catalina,
landed at Avalon, and the inspection team went on to Camp Rattlesnake the radar station on the opposite
side of that island. What a memorable trip. But one engine was not on line, so the vessel could do maybe 27 knots.
I forget if it was Bottomside or Middleside where the theater was, but in the summer
the Fort put on shows with Hollywood stars. I saw Abbot and Costello live.
Later, my dad was given command on Topside of one of those 14-inch rifles. After
that he was assigned to command an observation post in the hills of Palos Verdes, a
small unit with a day room, mess hall, motor pool facilities, barracks. The meals
were spectacular : meats, beef, pork, bacon, etc. which we could not get on the civilan market.
The observation facility was a three-tierd, concrete bunker on three levels.
When we went on Sundays, I remember climbing down the steel bars in the wall and
looking through the big telescope, which had special lens to block out the sun's glare.
Down the coast towards the South Bay and the beach towns, one could find Battery
240, later a nike platform. Across PV Drive West, very near Pt. Vicente lighthouse,
was the shooting range.
This military facility was turned over to the Air Force some years ago.
I am 82 years old now and it is enjoyable to recount these memories. I hope this
information will be enjoyable to you, as well.
H. F. B. III
(1) Donald Young wrote a book about all this, "Wartime Palos Verdes".
(2) Fort McArthur Museum, Battery Osgood-Farley Historic
Site website, http://www.ftmac.org
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Last updated on September 8, 2016
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