Jump to content

Hawaii Coastal Artillery Batteries


Recommended Posts

Before you read ...


Most of the sites listed in this thread are either on private or military land. Please make sure you have permission to visit.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Few states offer as many sites that are directly related to World War II as Hawaii.


Many of these are well known, and available to tourists. That would include the USS Arizona Memorial, Ford Island with the new aviation museum, the look out stations on Diamond Head, and commercial landmarks such as the old hotels that served the military during WWII.


However, hidden away are other remnants of the wartime period, many of them in a slow state of decay.


Perhaps the largest remnants of the time are the coastal artillery positions officially referred to as the "Artillery District of Honolulu".





The Artillery District of Honolulu was established

by WD GO No. 74 on 24 April 1909 and consisted of Forts Ruger, DeRussy, Kamehameha, and

Armstrong. The District was renamed Headquarters Coast Defenses of Oahu sometime between

1911 - 1913. Following World War I and until the end of World War II, additional coastal

batteries were constructed at the above-mentioned and other locations throughout the

Island, For the most part these later fortifications and even those original structures

remaining at Fort Ruger and Fort Armstrong, are no longer under Army-control. Forts

Ruger and Armstrong have since been returned or sold to the State of Hawaii. Other

fortifications remain under military ownership or, in a few cases, private ownership.

Therefore, only those structures at Forts DeRussy and Kamehameha, under Army-control

and reflecting the Roosevelt-Taft period of expanding American interest in the Pacific,

are presently included.


The Army mission in Hawaii was defined in 1920 as "the defense of Pearl Harbor

Naval Base against damage from naval or aerial bombardment or by enemy sympathizers

and attack by enemy expeditionary force or forces, supported or unsupported by an

enemy fleet or fleets," the batteries at Fort Kamehameha, as the coast defense for

Pearl Harbor, was the keystone of this mission. Batteries at Fort Weaver and Fort

Barrette (constructed in 1935) completed pre-World War II coastal defense network for

Pearl Harbor. Batteries at Fort DeRussy, including Battery Randolph, and Fort Ruger,

were responsible for the defense of Honolulu Harbor. While none of the large caliber

guns were ever fired except in practice, the secondary anti-aircraft guns of coastal

artillery units at Fort Kamehameha were credited with shooting down a number of attacking

aircraft on the morning of 7 December 1941. During the years that followed and

continuing to the end of World War II, the batteries had a calming effect on the

local populace.


For those who would like detailed maps of the era, check out:




Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

While living in Hawaii in the mid-1980's I had access to the military bases.


One day I decided to poke around the backside of Hickam AFB, along the east side of the Pearl Harbor channel.


You have to remember that we did not have the internet as a resource back then. I literally stumbled across what remains of Ft. Kamehameha.

At the time it was still being used as a housing area for the US Army. Despite being under the flight path of both Hickam and the Honolulu International Airport, they were some of the nicest quarters you could ever be assigned... right near the ocean and the envy of any tourist. They were a tropical bungalow style with wide porches, like something out of a movie.






While only 33 houses, a bandstand and a chapel remain today, Fort Kamehameha was once a fairly substantial military installation with layered defenses protecting both the city and Pearl Harbor.


Today the homes have been evacuated since 2008, and the area has been blocked to non official traffic since 2009. Despite the fact that generations of Army personnel had lived there for decades, the Air Force decided that it was in an aircraft accident protection zone. A debate is ongoing whether to preserve the area or demolish it.


Just to add to the controversy, remains of ancient Hawaiians were found in the housing area in the 1970's, and portions of it are now considered sacred ground.





Link to comment
Share on other sites

While driving through the area, I spotted a pair of towers that looked to have been wartime vintage. I am still not sure what their function was, but a map identified them as belonging to the US Navy. I'm wondering if they might have been part of the complex for an anti-submarine net, or if they were simply for a traffic control function. As I recall, I could only get a photographic angle on the larger one.


These were painted an OD green shade to blend in with the surroundings.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just up the road looked to be a bunker of some sort.


I was delighted to find the remains of Battery Hawkins.


Per Wikipedia: Battery Hawkins was constructed in 1914 with two 3-inch (76 mm) guns with a range of about 6,000 yards (5.5 km).




This was one of the smaller fortifications of the complex, but there it was, and wide open for exploration.


I realize that generations of Army dependents had probably run up and down it's stairs for years, but I felt like I had found a long deserted ruin all by myself!


Despite that, there were signs posted that it was an emergency shelter, secured with fresh locks. So it wasn't entirely abandoned.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Part of my fascination with the site was the paint appeared to be vintage. There was a coat of black paint covering most of the backside. But where it had been worn away, one could clearly see a WWII camouflage pattern. Even in 1984 this was a rare sight.


The legend "Battery Hawkins" was engraved into the concrete.




Link to comment
Share on other sites

Of course, I walked all over the fortification to see what could be found, and to see the field of fire out to the sea.


Still in place were two gun emplacements, and a central fire control station. Over the center was a frame, probably to provide shelter from either sun or rain.


Surrounding the fort were various hatches and venting of unknown purposes.





Link to comment
Share on other sites

This generation of forts was designed to have a low profile in order to avoid detection. Walking around to the front, that was quite evident.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Even in 1984, nature was beginning to reclaim the forts.


Flash forward to 2012, I was curious if these could be spotted using GoogleMaps. It took me awhile to get oriented, and I finally found the church and the band stand.


The circled clump of trees is Battery Hawkins. If you look close you can see the outline of the fort. The only thing that confirmed this was you can just barely see the western gun position through the trees.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Once I "calibrated" my eyeball, I decided to look for the remains of the others.


As proud as I was to stumble across Battery Hawkins, the much larger Battery Hasbrook was hidden away in the woods on the far side of the Fort Kamehameha housing area. I can't recall if the area was fenced off or not at the time.


Per Wikipedia: Battery Hasbrouck (sometimes misspelled as "Hasebrock") was constructed from July 1909 to 1914 and was equipped with eight 12-inch coast defense mortars, with a range of about 15,000 yards (14 km). It was directly east of the entrance to Pearl Harbor, designed to protect its mine field.


(Quoted from: Glen Williford, Terrance McGovern (2003). Defenses of Pearl Harbor and Oahu 1907-50. Osprey Publishing. p. 60. ISBN 978-1-84176-572-3.)


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Much more visible was Battery Selfridge, which along with the smaller Battery Jackson were still in use as part of the Hawaii Air National Guard complex.


It is the dark grey concrete structure that looks like a side ways "3" in the middle of the photo.


Per Wikipedia:


Battery Selfridge:


Battery Selfridge was constructed from November 1907 to 1913 with two 12-inch M1895 guns on disappearing carriages, with a range of about 30,000 yards (27 km).


Battery Jackson:


Battery Jackson was constructed in 1913 was equipped with two 6-inch (150 mm) guns on disappearing carriages, with a range of about 15,000 yards (14 km).


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Further down on the coast and directly across the street from the Hickam AFB Golf Course parking lot, were the portals of Battery Closson.


At least half of that complex was still in use at the time as a training facility for Military Working Dogs.


The contrast between the refurbished western battery is and the degraded eastern battery is evident.


This area is restricted for obvious reasons.


From Wikipedia:

The batteries were placed behind massive reinforced concrete walls about 20 feet (6.1 m) thick, which were in turn behind 30 feet (9.1 m) of earth. Within a few years the armaments of the first phase were obsolete. In 1920, two 12-inch (300 mm) guns of a new style on a barbette carriage that could traverse a full 360 degrees were installed and named after Civil War General Henry Whitney Closson (1834–1917).[9] This design had a 975-pound (442 kg) projectile with elevation up to 35 degrees and range of 17 miles (27 km). Anti-aircraft guns were also added to protect from attack from above. In 1942, concrete shielding was added above the guns.[8] A row of officers' houses was built in 1916, and a chapel added in 1940.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

As noted in the article above, while the large guns of Fort Kamehameha never fired in anger, the anti-aircraft batteries were quite lethal on December 7th.


There are a number of photos of this Japanese Zero which was shot down by the Fort's batteries, unfortunately killing a number of people on the ground. However, the fighter was recovered fairly intact and was later examined by air intelligence. Photos exist of it being pieced together in a Hickam hanger after the attack.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Further to the west, and overlooking the Ewa plain overlooking what used to be Barbers Point NAS, is Ft. Barrette.


When I used to drive to this side of the island, I always looked for it looming over the highway.


Even in 1984 there was a lot of discussion over what the fate of the fort and adjacent land should be. Some suggested making it some sort of youth recreational facility, including using the concrete areas for a giant skate board park.


This has become a more active issue now that housing has boomed in the area, replacing what was once primarily agricultural land.


But it appears there has been an interest taken in the property in recent years, and it may be on its way to preservation.




Some recent photos from a tourist:




From what I understand on the web, the site is currently being maintained by a local archery club.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Of course the most well known coastal fort is Fort DeRussy located at Waikiki beach. Open to the public is the former casement which is now the US Army Museum of the Pacific. The fort was slated for demolition after the war, but the attempts to blow it up proved futile, and also somewhat hazardous to the surrounding buildings. Aside from the museum, there are still a handful of other official buildings on site... right downtown in the middle of one of the prime tourist districts in the world!




This just scratches the surface of what remains in Hawaii from World War II.


If you study the island, it truly earned the name "Gibralter of the Pacific". Aside from the casements that remain, there used to be connecting railroads, ammunition storage, underground fuel storage and command facilities. Even the highway tunnel cutting through the mountains had a military guard station.


I am going to stop here, but later I will add the photos of the observation posts that were on Diamond Head at Fort Ruger.


I hope some of you will get to visit the islands...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Of course, after writing this, I found the following photo tour...




Whoever wrote this and shot these photographs was escorted by someone who had full base access on Hickam AFB.


If you click on the photos, they enlarge very nicely.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you gwb123 for the interesting photos and text. I wish I had copied some photos a buddy took at Hickam after they filmed Tora Tpra Tora. He was sent tTDY back to the states during filming but he had a photo of the planes used in the movie and an Apollo capsule in a hanger.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

An awesome thread! I always love forts, so this thread is a real treat! Thanks! I am lucky that we have some forts here in Delaware (Fort DuPont, Fort Delaware, Fort Saulsbury and Fort Miles) from three different eras. I did a 20 page paper on their development for one of my history degree classes. Great stuff!!



Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Meatcan

cool photo tour, Gil! Thanks for writing it all up and posting all those pix. Poking around old installations is a hoot but they always seem to attract snakes! :blink:


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you gwb123 for the interesting photos and text. I wish I had copied some photos a buddy took at Hickam after they filmed Tora Tpra Tora. He was sent tTDY back to the states during filming but he had a photo of the planes used in the movie and an Apollo capsule in a hanger.


One of the fibreglass replica P-40's that was used in the movie has been on display just inside the gate at Wheeler Army Air Field. I have photos of my wife standing next to it with the big white star with the red dot center.


It's real enough looking that it fooled the author of a book on the airbases in Hawaii. He complained in his text about why the military would leave such a rare and historic aircraft exposed to the elements!


We were lucky enough to live in Hawaii for 5 years. I asked one of my older neighbors if he had seen the movie being filmed... it brought back some bad memories for some of the long time residents. He shocked me by doing me one better... he was 7 years old in 1941 and says he remembers seeing the Japanese aircraft flying in low over the center of the island on their way to the attack! He remembered that clear as a bell, and could tell you the exact direction they took (it checked out with the history books!). He said life in the islands changed overnight. That was quite a story to hear.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great post. I love the old concrete structures laying around our land scape that most people have no idea what they are.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

A friend of mine just posted up a bunch of pictures of Hawkens Battery on Facebook. Great to see more pictures! Being raised in Hawaii, we would go and look at the various public accesable ones frequently, and get friends with dads in the military to take us on base......

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

I found a few more photos taken in 1985, this time of the observation posts on Diamond Head.


Apparently these are still accessible:


"The trail to the summit of Le'ahi was built in 1908 as part of O'ahu's coastal defense system. The 0.8 mile hike from trailhead to the summit is steep and strenuous, gaining 560 feet as it ascends from the crater floor. The walk is a glimpse into the geological and military history of Diamond Head. A concrete walkway built to reduce erosion shifts to a natural tuff surface about 0.2 mile up the trail with many switchbacks traversing the steep slope of the crater interior.


The ascent continues up steep stairs and through a lighted 225-foot tunnel to enter the Fire Control Station completed in 1911. Built on the summit, the station directed artillery fire from batteries in Waikiki and Fort Ruger outside Diamond Head crater. At the summit, you'll see bunkers and a huge navigational lighthouse built in 1917."







Link to comment
Share on other sites

And a couple more...


Some of the observation points were a bit further down on the slope then I cared to venture... the ocean view was quite impressive from the main structure.


We are looking backwards across the crater towards the WWII tunnel that leads into the center. When we were there, the buildings were still in use by the Hawaii Army National Guard and Civil Defense.


Further down on Waikiki was the local Armed Forces Police. Even in the 1980's, MP's and SP's maintained patrols to keep soldiers and sailors out of trouble. Note the safety barrel for clearing weapons next to the entrance.






Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...