Coastal Defense

Military History Banner

Military History and Coastal Defense

Excerpt from the Cabrillo National Monument webpage:

Within the monument are 21 structures of a varied and widely scattered complex of artillery positions and support facilities that made up part of the San Diego harbor defense network during World War I and II. Construction began before World War I and greatly expanded during World War II. The complex extends beyond the monument’s northern boundary on the Pacific Ocean side, around the tip of Point Loma, and to the northern boundary of the federal reservation on the bay side.

Military Bunker
For soldiers stationed here, Point Loma was an isolated and lonely sentinel. -NPS Photo

Military History – Lonely Sentinels

 The Point Loma Peninsula forms a natural protective barrier at the entrance to San Diego Bay, rising 422 feet to provide strategic views of the harbor and ocean. In 1852, the government of the United States recognized the importance of this sandstone rampart and designated the area as a military reserve. In 1899, the War Department dedicated Fort Rosecrans and built a series of gun batteries over the years. During World War I and II, military facilities on the Point provided vital coastal and harbor defense systems. Between 1918 and 1943, the Army constructed searchlight bunkers, fire control stations and gun batteries. The largest guns were at Battery Ashburn, adjacent to the park entrance station, where two 16-inch guns could fire 2,300-pound shells nearly 30 miles out to sea.

16 inch military gun
Massive 16-inch gun formerly at Battery Ashburn. After the war, it was dismantled and sold for scrap. -NPS Photo

The military also painted the Old Point Loma Lighthouse olive green and used it as a command post and radio station.

Along the paths of Cabrillo National Monument sit the remains of coastal defenses built to protect the approaches to San Diego Bay. While visiting the park, you will find base-end stations, fire control stations, searchlight bunkers, a radio station which now houses an exhibit, and other remains of troubled times; lonely sentinels that now serve to guard our memories of the past.

Military Bunker
Relic coastal defense systems dot the Point Loma Peninsula, including Cabrillo National Monument. -NPS Photo

Housed in an old radio station, the exhibit, “They Stood the Watch”, shares the story behind these remains, and ranger talks are often given on weekends. For those who wish to learn more, the Cabrillo National Monument Foundation bookstore, located in the Visitor Center, offers several titles about Fort Rosecrans and the military history of Point Loma.

Military Exhibit
The exhibit, “They Stood the Watch”, is housed in an old military radio station. -NPS Photo
Military Exhibit
Interactive exhibits tell the story of Point Loma’s coastal defense. -NPS Photo
They Stood The Watch
Our nation’s history is revisited in “They Stood the Watch”. -NPS Photo
A Harbor Worth Defending
Authored by a former Cabrillo National Monument ranger, “A Harbor Worth Defending” offers a detailed account of Point Loma’s coastal defense. -NPS Photo

Last revised 17-Aug-13