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Anti-Aircraft Defenses
Fixed and Mobile Mounts
 


This picture of a 3-inch M1917 anti-aircraft gun 
was taken at Fort Amador near the Panama Canal
in the 1920's. No photographs of the M1917 guns at
Fort MacArthur have yet been found.

During the earliest days the twentieth century, not much thought was given to the idea of defending the fort against attack from the sky. At that time, powered flight was limited to a few slow moving airships and aircraft were made mostly of wood and canvas.
 
When World War One broke out in 1914 air power was in its infancy, but it grew to be force to be reckoned with by 1918. Most air operations at that time consisted of activities such as obtaining information about troop movements, photographing defenses, and the making maps for the combatant armies. That activity caused the development of aerial combat aircraft, at first to prevent reconnaissance activity, and later for use against ground forces.
 
After the war ended, continued advances in general aviation, lighter-than-air commercial aviation, and the lessons learned during the war, caused the US Army to begin looking for a way to defend against the aircraft. The process was slow because the aircraft was still seen as only a limited threat due to the limited distance of flight and the fact that the United Stated was well insulated from Europe and Asia by the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
 
On May 21st 1920, not long after the construction was finished on the major guns of Fort MacArthur, work commenced on the installation of four 3-inch Model 1917 guns at two locations around the fort. The first location was on the lower reservation near the top of the bluff over looking the harbor and near the site of the radio station. The second location was a position set between White Avenue and Constellation Way on 25th Street. A few months before the start of WWII the four guns were removed from their original mounts, reconditioned and remodeled. The new guns were designated the 1917-A2 and beginning in January of 1942 a new set of fixed positions for three of the guns was built on the upper reservation just behind the site that is today occupied by the Korean Friendship Bell and Battery 241.
 

Beginning just after the First World War and continuing until about 1938, successive developers worked to create a mobile anti-aircraft gun that would later be adopted as the 37mm M1A1 and M1A2. Fort MacArthur had a small number of these guns in inventory, but their lifespan at the fort was short lived due to their light shell weight, short range and slow rate of fire. Two new designs were on the horizon that offered a larger shell, superior rate of fire and faster tracking of aircraft. In 1938 the Army issued a new set of requirements for anti-aircraft guns to counter the continued development of faster and more robust aircraft. By this time, the aircraft carrier also had now become a recognized force in naval operations.
 
During the years leading up to WWII, the army began developing a new and much more powerful gun. The 90mm M1A1 was at best a semi-fixed weapon that could fire a 23lb shell almost five times further than the older 37mm design. The heavy firepower of this design combined with its portability meant that it could be positioned in locations positions around the fort, or in surrounding communities.
 
During WWII a number of these guns were stationed near the Long Beach Airport to protect the Douglas Aircraft plant, near the shoreline at Bluff Park in Long Beach, on the athletic fields of local area high schools, and in city parks where the large open areas provided a clear field of fire into the night sky.
 
As good as the 90mm gun was the army still had a


A 40mm gun crew from Fort MacArthur pose for
this World War Two period photograph.

need for an anti-aircraft gun that could be manned by smaller crews while still providing reliable firepower at intermediate ranges. The Bofors 40mm M1 Automatic Gun was developed in Sweden in the 1930ís and found its way into American manufacture in 1940. Delays in production and a greater need by the navy meant that it would not be full deployed with the army until 1943. Both the 90mm and 40mm guns were so successful that they continued to be used in modified forms long after world war two.
 

Smaller anti-aircraft guns also played a roll in protecting the harbor. The .30 caliber M1917 Machine gun had been in use with the army since the end of World War One. The biggest drawback to the M1917 was its short effective range. The fort also had the much larger Browning M1921 .50 caliber machine gun. This newer gun had the ability to be mounted as a ground-based weapon, in vehicles, and in aircraft.
 
The M1921 is probably the most versatile heavy machine gun that has ever been produced for the United States and is still in use to this day. Both guns played a duel roll at Fort MacArthur by providing perimeter security and short range anti-aircraft defense mostly against fast moving low flying targets.


Two cast members from the Hey Rookie Show man a
 .30 caliber M1917 water-cooled machine gun in 1943

The Guns of Fort MacArthur

    Battery Osgood - Farley
    Battery Leary Merriam
    Battery Barlow - Saxton
    Battery Lodor
    Battery Erwin

    Battery Eubanks

    Battery 127 (Paul D Bunker)

    Battery 128

    Battery 240 (Harry C. Barnes)

    Battery 241

    Battery 242 (Harry J Harrison)

    90mm AMTB

    155 GPF Mobile Guns

    Anti-Aircraft (Fixed and Mobile)

Missile Systems of Fort MacArthur

    The Nike Program


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