Thursday, June 01, 2006

Golden Gate Security

WWII Machine Gun Nest found
in San Francisco National Park

Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco, CA

The Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, produced devastation in Hawaii -- and panic on the West Coast.

Anything seemed possible. The attack had come out of the Sunday morning sky without warning. What if Pearl Harbor was only the first target? What if the Japanese navy was off California ready to strike?

What if the Japanese battleships got past the big guns that were the key coastal defenses around San Francisco and the Golden Gate? What then?

The U.S. Army had an answer. On the night of Dec. 7, the Army assigned every available soldier at the Presidio of San Francisco to get to work digging slit trenches and field fortifications to stop a Japanese invasion.

Trenches were dug on the bluffs above the Golden Gate. Machine guns were sited to cover Baker Beach on the western edge of the city. If the Japanese came, we were ready.

Nearly 65 years went by, and the world changed. The Army is gone from the Golden Gate. The Presidio is part of a national park now. The other day, National Park Service crews clearing weeds and making surveys for a hiking trail above Baker Beach found some of the old wartime trenches and machine gun nests, still there, still ready for the invasion that never came.

The rangers were amazed. "It's hard to describe the experience,'' said Park Service historian Stephen Haller. "It's peeling back history.''

The Park Service doesn't want to reveal the exact location of these trenches until archaeologists can look at them and prepare them for public viewing. There are perhaps a dozen trenches, on the bluffs north of Baker Beach, behind "keep out'' signs.

The fear of those dark winter days in 1941 and 1942 seems nearly absurd now. The Japanese had no plans to invade and no fleet ready to mount an invasion -- a good thing, since the West Coast was defenseless. The Navy was out in the Pacific, and the Army was undermanned and unprepared. At one point in early 1942, Boy Scouts were sent to guard the Bay Bridge.

Check out the article at The San Francisco Chronicle.

It's amazing that these trenches could remain undiscovered and intact more than 60 years later!

In related articles, old WWII ordinance is continuing to be discovered in Europe. Check out Suspected WWII Bomb Causes River Traffic Near Liverpool and London City Airport Suspends Flights After WWII Bomb Discovered Nearby at Fox News.

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