WINTER SEASON

2017

Seacoast Defenses on the Texas Coast 1939 - 1944

World War II was a tough time for Texas, just like the rest of the nation. Largely an agricultural state, most of the people of Texas lived on farms and ranches, rural Americans who gathered around radio sets at cafes or a neighbor's house -- if they were lucky enough to have a radio - to get the latest war news.

 

What many people may not realize is that Texas was a major contributor to the U.S. war effort, perhaps more so than any other state, both in terms of of their contributions in raw manpower, meaning sailors and servicemen, but also in natural resources and major manufacturing.

 

According to the Texas Historical Commission web site, in 1940 the population of Texas was only about a quarter of what it is today. Yet the state played a major role in war efforts. Topping the list perhaps, Texas provided two of the key figures of WWII military history, Dwight David Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, and Chester Nimitz, U.S. Commander of the Navel Fleet in the Pacific following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The most decorated soldier of the war was also a Texan, a young man who resided in Honey Grove, Texas, near Greenville, by the name of Audie Murphy.

 

While the state’s population represented only 5 percent of the national total at the time, Texans accounted for 7 percent of the war’s military personnel — equaling more than 750,000. Another 1.5 million people came to Texas for military training, and many later made the state their home. More than 22,000 Texans — men and women — died during the war

 

Texas was home to 175 major military installations, including 65 Army airfields, 35 Army forts and camps, and seven naval stations and bases. There were also more than 60 base and branch prisoner of war camps,

more than in any other state, and three internment camps used for the detention of individuals, mostly of Axis nationalities, suspected of being security threats.

 

Nazi Uboats were often seen by Texas' coastal residents cruising up and down the coastline, once even landing near South Padre Island to scavenge for repair parts for their submarine.

 

But perhaps most visible of all on the Texas coast were a large number of gun placements that were constructed to defend U.S. shores from invasion and excursions by enemy troops. The Texas coast was -- and in many ways remains -- a remote, sparsely populated coastline. Texas sports nearly 400 miles of coastline, including the longest barrier island in the world, an area described as one of the most remote beaches of the 48 lower states.

 

All along this stretch of coast, gun placements could be found and garrisons of men -- and in some case woman -- who were stationed there. Many were located near port cities, like Galveston, Corpus Christi and Brownsville. Others were spotted in more remote areas to serve both as watch-stations and as armament against enemy naval approach and activities along the coast.

 

Until a few years ago, many of these heavily armored concrete placement station remained visible and a few were open for inspection, unofficial tourist stops along the coast. Most notable, perhaps, the largest of these gun emplacements were located in the Galveston Island-Bolivar Peninsula area and were used to protect the busy port there and to guard the many petroleum plants, key installation in the war. Texas was the largest producer of oil and the the largest refiner of petroleum products.

 

Remnants of many of these artillery garrisons can still be seen. Fort Crockett was a government reservation on Galveston Island overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and originally built as a defense installation to protect the city and harbor of Galveston and to secure the entrance to Galveston Bay. There are two other major artillery garrisons located nearby.

 

During the 1920s and early 1930s, Fort Crockett housed the United States Army Air Corps' (USAAC) 3rd Attack Group (an ancestor to USAF's 3rd Wing). At the time, the 3rd Attack Group was the only group devoted solely to attack aircraft. In 1932, Fort Crocket received eleven A-8 Shrike attack aircraft, the U.S. military's first all-metal monowing combat aircraft.

 

During the Second World War, Fort Crockett was expanded with an additional large gun battery, and focus was placed on defense against German U-boats. Additionally, the fort served as a German POW camp.

 

Regiments of the US Army Coast Artillery were headquartered at Fort Crockett, and manned four major artillery batteries, each supporting a different type of artillery. Though installed over several decades, the different guns were selected to provide both long-range and rapid-fire support. Battery Izard contained eight 12-inch mortars. Battery Wade Hampton contained two 10-inch "disappearing" guns. Battery Laval contained two 3-inch (76 mm) guns, and Battery Hoskins contained two 12-inch (305 mm) guns.

 

At nearby Fort San Jacinto, four more companies of Coast Artillery were stationed. Battery Mercer contained 12-inch mortars. Battery Heileman contained two 10-inch "disappearing" guns. Battery Hogan contained two 4.7-inch (119 mm) guns, and Battery Croghan contained two 3-inch (76 mm) guns. Battery #235 contained 6-inch (152 mm) guns and another battery contained 90 mm guns.

 

Fort Travis on Bolivar Peninsula Battery Kimble contained two 12-inch (305 mm) guns. Battery Davis contained two 8-inch (203 mm) guns. Battery Ernst contained two 3-inch (76 mm) guns.

 

Placements were also to be found in Freeport, Corpus Christi and Port Aransas, and several points along the 90 mile stretch of Padre Island.

 

In addition, the island was used as a bombing range for pilots and gunners in training.