Fort Hero (Montauk Point, Long Island, NY) officially joined the roster of the "Harbor Defenses of the North Atlantic" in 1929. The fort was named after Major General Andrew Hero, Jr., who was the Army's Chief of Coast Artillery between March 20, 1926 and March 21, 1930 (Hero died in 1942). The site was originally commissioned by the U.S. Army in 1942 (and was renamed Camp Hero) as part of the coastwide defense system known as the Eastern Shield. The location, at the extreme eastern end of Long Island, was initially chosen because of the fear that a New York invasion might be staged from the nearby sea-lanes. Later, a more tangible threat that of German submarines (or U-Boats) operating in close proximity to New York area points of embarkation was realized. A unique aspect of the coastal defense structures at the camp were that many were disguised as everyday buildings. There were two-story Cape Codstyle homes and other buildings. There was even a church (with fake steeple) that concealed a gymnasium for the artillerymen. The deception was achieved by painting windows and doors on concrete bunkers, and affixing false dormers and other facades to them, so that from the air or sea, viewed through Nazi binoculars, Camp Hero would seem like nothing more than a New England fishing village. The camp was totally self-contained, complete with barracks, stores, and even its own power plant and water supply. The centerpiece of the facility, however, were the five bunkers housing the massive seacoast artillery pieces (see bunker map below).
Camp Hero's location on the Eastern tip of Long Island (map reprinted courtesy New York's Forts).
A full construction program was authorized by Congress in September 1940. The program planned for new defense at some 19 harbors along both coasts of North America. The fortifications were built using two standardized designs, a two-gun 16-inch battery (or in some cases remodeled 12-inch batteries) and a two-gun 6-inch battery (or in some cases 8-inch batteries), along with their supporting command and observing stations. When America entered the war in December 1941, a large number of mobile weapons were rushed to both coasts. A number of other "temporary" seacoast defenses were built using old naval weapons and relocated Army seacoast weapons. The seacoast defense construction program went into high gear in 1942, with priority for the sites along the Pacific coast since fear of a Japanese invasion was at a fever pitch. Batteries of new 90 mm guns were added to the program as anti-motor torpedo boat (AMTB) units. By that year permanent defenses were planned for 33 harbor areas. However, after the Battle of Midway in June of 1942, the possibility of a Japanese attack on the American mainland diminished. As a result, the construction program was curtailed in 1944 and halted altogether by 1948. On the Eastern seaboard, construction went ahead at numerous harbors and harbor approaches to combat the threat of U-Boats, which operated with impunity from Maine to Miami as well as in the Gulf of Mexico. Long Island was no stranger to German incursion during the war, including, in 1942, the landing of spies by submarine at Amagansett (Operation Pastorius), 11 miles west of Camp Hero. At the time of the Pastorius landings, the East End was in the thick of the war effort. Montauk's location at the end of Long Island, astride the major shipping lanes into New York, made it strategically important. And the Army wasn't the only military service active in wartime Montauk. The largest facility was the Navy's massive new torpedo testing plant. Designed to help develop and test the new generation of torpedoes that would win the war, it was located on Fort Pond Bay, along Navy Road. Montauk was a logical choice. Geographically close to the only torpedo development facility in the country at Newport, Rhode Island, the town was lightly settled, guaranteeing total security, and provided easy access to a body of water deep enough for the biggest Navy ships and wide enough to safely test-fire and retrieve torpedoes (Fort Pond Bay).
A 16-inch gun used in the defense of the Panama Canal.
To defend the approaches to New York Harbor, Camp Hero's main armament was as follows: Battery Dunn (aka Battery No. 113) two 16-inch guns in concrete casemates (1944-1948); Battery No. 112 two 16-inch guns in concrete casemates (1944-1948); and Battery No. 216 two 6-inch guns on surface mounts (1944-1947). The 16-inch guns were capable of hurling 2,000-pound shells 20 miles out to sea, with pin-point accuracy. Ever vigilant, the four guns were never fired at a hostile enemy, and in 1947 the guns were dismantled by the Army and the metal salvaged for scrap.
A fire-control tower adjacent to the Montauk Point lighthouse was completed in 1942 as part of the extensive Eastern Coastal Defense Shield. Spotters high in the tower could coordinate artillery fire for the crew of the 16-inch cannons located at Battery 112 on a bluff 500 meters to the west of the tower on the camp grounds. Additional fire-control positions were located in the Shadmoor area, just east of Montauk village. All the towers were part of the communications and defense network that coordinated the large guns located at Camp Hero. From these wooden towers, which survive in situ today, coast artillery observers could report on the accuracy of the gunners firing from their positions five miles away at the camp.
Wooden fire-control stations at Shadmoor, near Montauk, Summer 2002.
View of Atlantic Ocean from Shadmoor fire-control station, Summer 2002.
Contemporary view of the famous lighthouse at Montauk Point; the
fire-control/sub-spotting tower is the tall white structure with the
horizontal slit-like windows just to the left of the lighthouse itself.
Standard 16-inch gun casemates at Ft. Story, Virginia, like those at Camp Hero. This is how the entire bunker
would look before landscaping and addition of camouflage.
The empty, overgrown 16-inch gun casemates at Camp Hero, Summer 2001.
A wide shot of a battery similar to those at Camp Hero, showing both guns in their casemates.
Close-up of a 16-inch gun at Ft. Story, Virginia.
One of Montauk's 16-inch guns in its casemate. Note this version of the gun is shielded.
A casemate as it appears today.
Another current view of a casemate.
On the opposite side of each gun opening are these massive access doors; trucks containing
shells, powder, and other supplies could easily be driven inside the bunker.
The dark circles mark the locations of the five Camp Hero bunkers. The Montauk Point lighthouse is just off
the right border of the map where the roads converge. (Alternate map?)
Aerial photo of Camp Hero, courtesy Terraserver. Dominating the loop at the extreme right
are the parking lots for the Montauk Lighthouse. The camp occupies the entire southeastern
quadrant of this image, bounded on the north by Route 27 and on the south by the Atlantic
Ocean. The camp's extensive road system is easily discernible.