6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK)
Ft Cronkhite Years

Battery F, 56th Coast Artillery Activated at Fort Cronkhite, CA

The 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery was constituted 29 July 1921 in the Organized Reserves as Battery F, 506th Artillery (Antiaircraft). In August 1922 the unit was organized in Wisconsin and redesignated 20 February 1924 as Battery F, 506th Coast Artillery. Inactivated 1 October 1933; concurrently withdrawn from the Organized Reserves and allotted to the Regular army. Redesigned 16 December 1940 as Battery F, 56th Coast Artillery. Activated 2 June 1941 at Fort Cronkhite, California.

Fort Cronkhite, California

During 1941-42, Fort Cronkhite was a station of the Harbor Defenses (HD) of San Francisco in the Ninth Coast Artillery District.
 

56th Coast Artillery

Constituted 506th Artillery (AA) in 1921, the 56th Coast Artillery (155-mm Gun) was activated at Fort Cronkhite in 1941. During Feb–May 42, it served ( - 2nd Battalion) at Fort Barry, while sending detachment of guns and personnel to South America. Returning the Headquarters, 1st Battalion ( - Battery A) and 1st Platoon ( - 1 section) of Battery G (Searchlight) back to Fort Cronkhite, the regiment reorganized and began a series of moves. Disbanded at Camp Cooke in 1944, its lineage lives on, with the 56th Air Defense Artillery serving proudly today.

 

The 56th Coast Artillery was a tractor-drawn (TD) 155-mm Gun mobile regiment, organized in 1941 as follows:

Regimental HQ and Band

HQ Battery

HQ section

Operations platoon

Communications platoon

Supply platoon

Headquarters

(3) Battalion sections

Maintenance section

1st Battalion

HQ section

HQ Battery

HQ section

Operations section

Communication section

Maintenance section

Ammunition Train

Headquarters

(2) Sections

(2) Batteries (A-B)

HQ section

Operations section

Command post detail

Communication detail

Reconnaissance detail

Firing battery

(2) Gun platoons

(2) Gun sections

Platoon detail

Machine gun detail

Maintenance section

2nd Battalion

HQ section

HQ Battery

Ammunition train

(2) Batteries (C-D)

3rd Battalion

HQ section

HQ Battery

Ammunition train

(2) Batteries (E-F)

Searchlight Battery (G)

HQ section

(3) Searchlight platoons

Headquarters

                                    (2) Searchlight sections

Headquarters

(2) Searchlight squads

Maintenance section

 

The 56th Coast Artillery from Recruits to Concrete Soldiers

 

The men of the 56th Coast Artillery moved in to their new barracks at Fort Cronkite, California on 20 June 1941. Most of the recruits were from the Midwest, mainly Michigan and Illinois. All had trained together at Camp Callan, California and had brought with them the 155mm guns they had trained on.

 

The barracks of the 56th Coast Artillery stood by the ocean, five hundred yards from the waves crashing against the beach and cliffs of Rodeo Cove.

 

The 56th Coast Artillery deployed three battalions, each with three gun batteries. Each battery fired four mobile M1918 155mm guns. The regiment had 36 of these seacoast artillery pieces. In case of war, the mission of the 56th Coast Artillery in the Harbor Defense of San Francisco (HDSF) involved rapid movement to areas uncovered by the fixed defenses, like landing beaches to the north and south of the Golden Gate. The 155mm gun was a World War 1 artillery piece of French design. The coast artillery model fired a 95-pound projectile to a maximum of 17,716 yards, or roughly tem miles. Trucks towed the 155mm guns on the open road and caterpillar tractors pulled them through rough terrain.

History of Camp Callan, California

Camp Callan was named in honor of Major General Robert E. Callan, distinguished Coast Artillery Officer. He served in the United States, the Philippines, and saw frontline action in the Spanish-American War and World War I. He was born March 24, 1864 in Baltimore and died November 20, 1936 in Washington, D.C.

Camp Callan was a World War II anti-aircraft artillery replacement training center. Located along U.S. Highway 101 approximately 15 miles north of downtown San Diego, it occupied a three-by-half mile rectangular area on Torrey Pines Mesa.

On November 22, 1940, the War Department announced plans to create the nucleus for new coast artillery units with men inducted under the Selective Service Program and assigned to the center on Torrey Pines Mesa. A month earlier, the San Diego City Council had granted the military 710 acres of land for $1 a year. Additional acreage was acquired from private sources.

With the establishment of a cantonment site and gun firing positions, the purpose of the camp was to teach trainees how to fire long-range weapons in the event the Japanese fleet tried to attack the West Coast.

Construction of the camp began in November 1940 and official occupation of the facility was marked by a flag-raising ceremony on January 15, 1941. Twenty officers and 120 servicemen, all members of the first unit of operations personnel, attended the ceremony. Brigadier General Francis P. Hardaway was the camp's first commander. He spoke on the importance of the camp to the defense program.

On February 24, 1941 the first large guns arrived at the camp. Among these were nine French-made 155-mm guns that dated back to World War I. Between the last week of February and the end of March, some 5,000 trainees arrived by rail at a nearby reopened railroad station. These trainees came mainly from Forts Ord and MacArthur in California, Fort Sheridan in Illinois, Fort Missoula in Montana, and Fort Vancouver in Washington.

The first military review was held April 2, 1941. Six thousand men passed in formation before Major General Joseph A. Green, Chief of Coast Artillery. He congratulated the trainees on the progress they had made in such a short time. As Camp Callan still had no band of its own, a 100-piece Marine Corps band provided military music.

March of 1942 began a period of important change for Camp Callan. Whereas training emphasis had been on anti-aircraft and seacoast artillery, the decision was made to place full emphasis on anti-aircraft weapons, The military had seen the terrible damage inflicted on England by the German Luftwaffe.

The change signaled what was to become a two-year period of peak activity for the camp. The camp had grown to some 297 buildings covering 23 blocks. About 15,000 men were now going through each 13-week training cycle. Ranges existed for training with everything from hand-held guns to the larger anti-aircraft artillery. This included a 1,000-inch range and a 200-yard rifle range. A pistol range, and automatic weapons range, and a three-inch anti-aircraft gun range."

The men trained with guns of 155-mm, 90-mm, 75-mm and 40-mm calibers and the associated fire control equipment.

Like other camps, all the living amenities were provided for the health, general education and war training schools for the troops. A weekly newspaper called The Range Finder and an annual pictorial review called The Callander were published at the camp. The camp got its own 40-piece band.

During June 1944 the training emphasis at Camp Callan was again to change. The anti-aircraft cadres were transferred to Fort Bliss, Texas, and the camp became an important link in preparations for massive overseas amphibious assaults. However, the need for such training was short lived. By May 8, 1945, the war was over in Europe and by August 15, 1945 the Japanese had surrendered. On November 1, 1945, Camp Callan was declared surplus.
 

A Soldier’s Life at Fort Cronkhite

Fort Cronkhite had several mess halls, where the soldiers ate three meals a day. One cook was assigned to each grouping of three barracks, and soldiers on KP (Kitchen Patrol) duty, helped prepare the food. Army food was usually cheaply pre­pared and of inconsistent quality, but special menus were created for holidays. The 1941 Christmas Dinner menu for the Harbor Defenses of San Francisco included roast turkey with oyster dressing, candied sweet potatoes, spinach with hard-boiled eggs, mince and pumpkin pies, mixed nuts, coffee with fresh milk and cream (a refreshing break from powdered milk), and cigars and cigarettes for all.

The first soldiers stationed at Fort Cronkhite were assigned to the 6th and 56th Coast Artillery Regiments. A soldier’s life at Fort Cronkh­ite, as anywhere in the army, meant that you did what you were told to do. A soldier’s daily life on post was structured and regimented; they were required to drill and train, eat and clean their barracks, all at tightly scheduled times. The soldiers trained constantly, either up at Battery Townsley or on the post’s main parade ground which was located in the large open space that is now a parking lot. Fort Cronkhite, like most World War II posts, provided the men with the bare necessities for military life. In addition to providing food and housing, the army also provided medical and dental care to the soldiers; there was even an on-post barber.

While off-duty, the men relaxed in the recreation building (called “day rooms”), where the army provided ping-pong tables, pool tables and popular reading material. The newly-constructed chapel at Fort Barry provided multi-denominational services and the chaplain also sponsored dances and stage shows for the men. To maintain morale among the troops and provide much-needed breaks from foggy Fort Cronkhite, leave passes were awarded and the soldiers who received them eagerly traveled to Sausalito or took buses into soldier-friendly San Francisco.

The 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery was constituted 29 July 1921 in the Organized Reserves as Battery F, 506th Artillery (Antiaircraft). In August 1922 the unit was organized in Wisconsin and redesignated 20 February 1924 as Battery F, 506th Coast Artillery. Inactivated 1 October 1933; concurrently withdrawn from the Organized Reserves and allotted to the Regular army. Redesigned 16 December 1940 as Battery F, 56th Coast Artillery. Activated 2 June 1941 at Fort Cronkhite, California. National park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Historic Furnishing Report, Fort Cronkhite

       

A Soldier’s Cot

Private Anton T. Sterba, who was stationed at Fort Cronkhite from 1941 until February 1942, was assigned to Battery A, 56th Coast Artillery, which served 155mm mobile artillery. The above picture was taken shortly after Sterba moved in. This snapshot shows that the first soldiers to occupy Building 1059 used canvas folding cots. Private Sterba remarks on the photo, “We were mobile so we didn’t have the usual beds”

The photo also shows the pattern box locker. A suitcase is under the cot, probably containing civilian clothes; neither the suitcase nor the civilian clothes would have been in the barracks after December 7, 1941. National park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Historic Furnishing Report, Fort Cronkhite


National park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Historic Furnishing Report, Fort Cronkhite

Visit historic Fort Cronkhite to learn more about the history of the 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery

National Park Service

U.S. Department of the Interior

Marin Headlands

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

 

 Fort Cronkhite History Walk

The World War II Army Post that Helped Defend San Francisco

The visitor center is open daily from 9:30 to 4:30; or phone (415) 331-1540.

The Route

Length: About a ½ mile

Number of Stops: 8

Time required: About 45 to 60 minutes

Click For information on Fort Cronkhite, California

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