Photos inside a World War II bunker on Point Loma.

Visitors to Cabrillo National Monument enter the restored Base End Station and Battery Commander's bunker north of the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. Battery Ashburn can be seen in the distance.
Visitors to Cabrillo National Monument enter the restored Base End Station and Battery Commander’s bunker, north of the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. Battery Ashburn can be seen in the distance.

The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 caused many to fear that the Imperial Japanese Navy might attack the mainland United States.

Coastal defenses were rapidly built up at strategic points along the West Coast, including Point Loma, the peninsula that overlooks the narrow entrance to San Diego Bay. Many of the United States Navy’s remaining ships were homeported in San Diego and had to be protected at all costs.

During World War II, Point Loma’s Fort Rosecrans was the home of the U. S. Army 19th Coast Artillery Regiment. Soldiers manned steel-reinforced concrete bunkers containing Base End Stations, and scanned the horizon for enemy vessels. Should the enemy be sighted, they relayed their information to a Battery Commander, who precisely calculated the enemy’s position, then issued orders to various gun batteries that guarded the approach to San Diego.

Today, almost a century later, the general public can enter one of those old bunkers overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

During my recent Saturday visit to Cabrillo National Monument, I was excited to see that the park’s restored bunker, designated Battery E Control Station, was open. I descended the steep steps into a small underground world, and experienced what life was like for those who stood watch over the wide ocean day and night during the war.

I then checked out a small museum near the bunker to learn a little more about San Diego’s coastal defenses during World War II.

Here are photographs that I took. Read the captions for more fascinating information. Click the signs and they will enlarge.

The Battery E Control Station can be entered on many weekend days. Tours are provided by volunteer docents who are members of the San Diego Military History Association.
The Battery E Control Station can be entered on many weekend days. Tours are provided by volunteer docents who are members of the San Diego Military History Association.
Walking down steps into the two-level, steel-reinforced concrete bunker is like stepping back in time. The 19th Coast Artillery Regiment manned multiple Point Loma bunkers during World War II.
Walking down steps into the two-level, steel-reinforced concrete bunker is like stepping back in time. The 19th Coast Artillery Regiment manned multiple Point Loma bunkers during World War II.
A docent in a World War II era uniform demonstrates the use of an azimuth scope, used to scan the ocean for enemy vessels during the war. These spotting scopes gave accurate readings of target positions.
A docent in a World War II era uniform demonstrates the use of an azimuth scope. These spotting scopes gave accurate readings of target positions.
A photograph inside the top level of the bunker, which served as the Battery Commander Station for nearby Battery Ashburn.
A photograph inside the top level of the bunker, which served as the Battery Commander Station for nearby Battery Ashburn.
Objects displayed include a map, helmet, canteen and pin-up girl on the wall. A WWII veteran who served at Fort Rosecrans helped to make the bunker's interior appear historically accurate.
Objects displayed include a map, helmet, canteen and pin-up girl on the wall. A WWII veteran who served at Fort Rosecrans helped to make the bunker’s interior appear historically accurate.
Diagram on wall identified the silhouettes of Japanese Naval Vessels during World War II.
Diagram on a wall identified Japanese Naval Vessels during World War II.
Marks show the direction and distance to South and North Coronado Islands, which lie in the Pacific Ocean off Mexico.
Marks show the direction and distance to South and North Coronado Islands, which lie in the Pacific Ocean off Mexico.
Phones on the wall beside a small Duty Roster chalkboard. The Battery Commander would communicate information to nearby Battery Ashburn.
Phones on the wall beside a small Duty Roster chalkboard. The Battery Commander would calculate and communicate accurate information to nearby Battery Ashburn.
Metal rungs descend into the lower level of the bunker, where visitors can see the small bunkroom and a typical Base End Station.
Metal rungs descend into the lower level of the bunker, where visitors can see the small bunkroom and a typical Base End Station.
A friendly docent shows me the bunkroom, where those who manned the bunker took turns sleeping.
A friendly docent shows me the bunkroom, where those who manned the bunker took turns sleeping.
Objects in the bunkroom include toiletries, U. S. Army rations, cigarettes, magazines and pin-ups on the wall.
Objects in the bunkroom include toiletries, U. S. Army rations, cigarettes, magazines and pin-ups on the wall.
Next to the bunkroom is a Base End Station, where soldiers continuously scanned the ocean horizon. It is one of five Base End Stations that were assigned to the Battery Commander Station directly above.
Next to the bunkroom is a Base End Station, where soldiers continuously scanned the ocean horizon. It is one of five Base End Stations that were assigned to the Battery Commander Station directly above.
Old photos above two phones show the operation of azimuth scopes in a Base End Station.
Old photos above two phones show the operation of azimuth scopes in a Base End Station.
A pair of Base End Stations would track an enemy ship's position, course and speed. Distance to an enemy vessel was determined through triangulation.
A sign describes Fire Control Rooms. A pair of Base End Stations would track an enemy ship’s position, course and speed. Distance to an enemy vessel was determined through triangulation.
Sign shows the different battery positions on Point Loma during World War II. Battery Ashburn's two 16 inch naval guns had a range of 26 miles.
Sign shows the different battery positions on Point Loma during World War II. Battery Ashburn’s two 16 inch naval guns had a range of 26 miles.
Old photos include Battery Ashburn in 1943 and Battery Point Loma in 1941.
Old photos include Battery Ashburn in 1943 and Battery Point Loma in 1941.
A sign in the nearby museum shows the ranges of Point Loma's many defensive gun batteries.
A sign in the nearby museum shows the ranges of Point Loma’s many defensive gun batteries.
During World War II, Fort Rosecrans on Point Loma was garrisoned by the 19th Coast Artillery Regiment. Troops assigned to Fort Rosecrans in San Diego thought it a good duty station, with pleasant weather.
During World War II, Fort Rosecrans on Point Loma was garrisoned by the 19th Coast Artillery Regiment. Troops assigned to Fort Rosecrans in San Diego thought it a good duty station, with pleasant weather.
Binoculars at the ready. Enter a coastal defense bunker at Cabrillo National Monument to experience a bit of what it was like during World War II in San Diego.
Binoculars at the ready. Enter a coastal defense bunker at Cabrillo National Monument to experience a bit of what it was like during World War II in San Diego.

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Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

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