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Coast Artillery Corps

Upon the Navy rested the main responsibility for keeping hostile ships from American shores. The primary line of defense was the fleet. By the end of the Great War submarines and hydroplanes formed the second line of defense; while mines for channels and guns on shore constituted a third line. Submarines, hydroplanes and mines were all appropriate naval means of defense. The service of the guns of a harbor fortress may be said to differ essentially from that of the service of the guns of a ship only in that a ship is floating and a fortress is not. Both fire across water, with guns of like weight and power, to hit a ship as the target.

After the Civil War artillery was organized into one regiment, with twelve coastal artillerycompanies and two field artillery batteries. Though they remained one branch, the two artilleriesgrew more and more distant. Coastal fortifications and light battery development underwentgreat modernization; so much so that by 1900, most officers questioned the requirement tolearn and master two very dissimilar crafts.

General Orders No. 24, dated February 2, 1907, promulgated the Act of Congress creating the two branches, but it could not nullify the common heritage of the artillery. The Field Artillery became a separate branch after parting ways with the Coast Artillery. The Field Artillery and the Coast Artillery were each organized with specific missions obvious from their names, and during World War I the Coast Artillery was given the additional job of developing railroad-mounted and antiaircraft artillery pieces.

In order to understand the Coast Artillery Corps of 1941, perhaps the first thing necessary is to learn not to take the word Coast too seriously. Antiaircraft guns, fixed coast defense guns, railway guns, tractor- and truck-drawn guns of many calibers; submarine mines, barrage balloons, and searchlights make up the armament of the CAC. With the exception of the fixed guns and the submarine mines, all Coast Artillery armament can, and often does, prove very useful far from the tang of salt air. During the 1917-1918 fracas the CAC performed quite a chore in France with heavy field guns, railway artillery and antiaircraft materiel, to say nothing of the vicious little trench mortars.

In fact, versatility was the outstanding characteristic of the Coast Artillery Corps. The Corps was prepared to engage the enemy in the air, on the ground, and on the sea. Even submarines, under the surface of the sea, find the CAC prepared to dispute control of harbor waters. This same versatility and diversity of materiel keeps the Coast Artilleryman on his toes, realizing he has a lot to learn-and learning it. The new emphasis on using antiaircraft materiel for antitank defense, as well as barrage balloon functions, have many Coast Artillerymen studying nights at the present time.

In seacoast guns, the CAC was provided with calibers of 3-inch, 6-inch, 155-mm. 8-inch, 10-inch, 12-inch, 14-inch and 16-inch. Multiply this by types of mount (barbette, disappearing, mobile, railway, turret, etc.), and then by type of ordnance, as gun, mortar or howitzer, and there was quite a start toward a multiplicity of weapons. Add mines and searchlights, and .30 caliber rifles, and pistols, and ground-defense machine guns. In antiaircraft work, there were 105-mm. and 3-inch fixed mounts, 3-inch and 90-mm. mobile mounts among the heavier calibers; in the lighter categories there are 37-mm. and 40-mm. automatic cannon, .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, and rifles and pistols. Searchlights are important here, too. The barrage balloon battalions had only their balloons, machine guns, rifles and pistols.

A typical Harbor Defense organization was the mythical Harbor Defenses of Oldport. At Fort Fixed, there are emplaced three permanent batteries: 10-inch, 12-inch, and 16-inch. On the beach to the south of Fort Fixed are emplaced two 155-mm. tractor-drawn gun batteries. For purposes of tactical control, the batteries at Fort Fixed would be combined into a group, and the mobile batteries on the beach have also been organized into a group. These groups correspond roughly to a battalion-the groupment, consistingof Groups 1 and 2, corresponds roughly to a regiment.

Thus, there would be groups composed of weapons of nearly related functions-Group 1 will prevent enemy landings and keep smaller craft, such as destroyers and transports, away from the beach; Group 2, with its heavy guns, will engage the enemy fleet's heavier units. The Fishtown Groupment will coordinate the fires of the two groups. On the other side of the harbor entrance we have another groupment composed of a group of 155's and a group of railway guns.

The mine group in this example consists of the mine battery and three gun batteries. The fixed 6-inch guns and the mobile 155-mm. guns are present primarily to prevent the enemy from sweeping the mine field at the harbor entrance, but they will be used, of course, against any of the enemy's lighter units that may come within range.

What of the regimental organization? In the Harbor Defenses of Oldport were a 155-mm. regiment, a Harbor Defense Regiment (Type B), and a Railway Battalion. The flexibility of the harbor defense command system makes it possible to use each battery in the proper manner to take advantage of the tactical situation without losing the element of control, and without requiring additional officers or command and administrative personnel. The battalion-regiment organization is temporarily shelved in favor of the group-groupment organization.

The act of January 25, 1907, provided an increase of 5,043 enlisted men in the Coast Artillery. Of this increase 4,970 men were for the purpose of providing one complete manning detail for all mines, searchlights, and power plants to be operated in connection with the defense of all fortified harbors of the United States completed or under construction as of 1907. Deducting this 4,970 from the authorized maximum enlisted strength, 19,321, there remained 14,351 authorized by law for manning all guns mounted in the fortifications of the entire country. These guns, however, actually required 36,863 men for one complete detail, so that the maximum number of men authorized for gun defense as of 1907 was 4,080 short of one-half of one complete manning detail for the guns mounted in the United States.

In addition, 330 men would be required for the operation of the mines, searchlights, and power plants and 5,546 men for the gun defenses of the United States pro]ected by the National Coast Defense Board, making a total of 47,709 enlisted men required for the defenses of the United States alone as completed and projected in 1907. For the defenses of the insular possessions and of the Panama Canal, as projected by the National Coast Defense Board, there would be required 1,270 men for the operation of mines, searchlights, and power plants and 6,131 men for the gun defenses, a total of 7,401 men. In 1907 a total of 55,110 men were required for one complete manning detail for all coastal defenses as completed and projected.

In the 1920s the reductions made by Congress in the strength of the Army have made necessary reductions in all branches of the service, and, after very careful and exhaustive study of all conditions affecting the problem, the War Department has directed the reduction of the Coast Artillery Corps to an authorized strength of about 12,026. Those units required for service in the fortifications of Insular possessions were kept at full strength at all times. Those required in the fortifications of the Panama Canal were kept at all times at a certain percentage of their full strength, such percentage being determined as the result of a consideration of the possibilities of promptly bringing them to full strength when necessity requires. The units so required for foreign garrisons must, therefore, be drawn from the Regular Army. But many coast defense commands within the continental United States necessarily had to be placed on a caretaking basis with an allotment of personnel deemed sufficient merely to keep the armament, fire control equipment and other accessories in condition at all times for use in training or in war. This meant that all armament and accessories in these coast defense commands is "in commission" but "out of service".

Area1922 status
Long Island Sound
Sandy Hook
Chesapeake Bay
San Francisco
Puget Sound
Sufficient personnel to permit of the organization of four companies - one headquarters company, one gun company, one mortar company, and one mine company. The Coast Defenses of Long Island Sound are also provided with sufficient additional personnel for the organization of a company to be used in connection with the development of subaqueous sound ranging.
Narragansett Bay
Los Angeles
Sufficient personnel to permit of the organization of three companies - one headquarters company, one gun company, and one mortar company.
Sufficient personnel to permit of the organization of one company for use, in addition to the care of the armament, as a training unit in connection with National Guard Coast Artillery.

In September, 1945 a board of officers, headed by General Alexander Patch (and following Patch's death, by Lieutenant G. Simpson in December 1945) convened to apply the WW II lessons learned and recommend new War Department organizations and processes. The Simpson Board completed its work and submitted its report to General Eisenhower, the Army Chief of Staff, in January, 1946, who quickly approved the recommendations. Among its many recommendations was a call to combine the Coast Artillery (comprised ofcoastal defense and antiaircraft units) and the Field Artillery into a single Artillery branch.

To accomplish the integration of the Coast Artillery and the Field Artillery steps were taken in anticipation of legislative approval of integration of the artilleries. These included the redesignation of the Field Artillery School at Fort Sill as "The Artillery School," with an Antiaircraft and Guided Missile Branch at Fort Bliss, Texas, and a Seacoast Branch at Fort Scott, California. Instruction at The Artillery School in both the basic and advanced courses has been altered to include all types of artillery weapons. Similarly, the ROTC program has been revised and a common artillery course were taught beginning in the fall of 1947.

Congress agreed to the consolidation of the Artilleries, and Coast Artillery was eliminated as a branch by the Act passed as part of the Army Reorganization Act of 1950.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:35:05 ZULU