Closed Mondays: The Fort MacArthur Museum
Deep in the earth beneath the hills of San Pedro lie cold cement corridors once used by the military for radio transmissions, to house soldiers, and to arm gun batteries. Sometimes only a few feet in width, and with the danger of sudden drops to the floor below, the bunker doors are now welded shut to discourage intruders.
Parts of Fort MacArthur, Battery John Barlow and Saxton, and the Paul D Bunker (added after the bombing of Pearl harbor) are closed off deep in the hills. The cliffs overlooking the Pacific are home to over a dozen gun batteries once armed with live artillery, including Anti-aircraft guns. The area is well-preserved. Magazine doors and an overhead rack for moving shells remain in the Battery John Barlow even today.
Fort MacArthur has been in use by the military since 1897. The first large gun batteries were put in place in 1917. In 1974 the guns, which could "could fire a 1560 pound projectile fourteen miles out into the Catalina Channel" were removed.
A section of the Army Base was dedicated to the City, and is now the Cabrillo Marina and Angel's Gate Park, home to the Korean Friendship Bell. Every July the Museum holds Old Fort MacArthur Days. This is one of the few times when you may be able to tour restricted areas of the bunkers.
The Fort MacArthur Museum opened in 1985 in the corridors of Battery Osgood-Farley. This is the only area of the underground bunkers open to the public. The museum is dedicated to preserving the history of the US Army's defense against coastal invasion. According to the website,
The rooms, galleries and corridors of the Museum contain a variety of exhibits and displays which include: the history of Los Angeles harbor defenses, home-front activities in the greater Los Angeles area during the World Wars, Civil Defense, American Pacific Theater military campaigns, early American Air Defenses and the important role of Los Angeles as a military port for both the Army and the Navy.
Even if you are not a military buff, it is thrilling to feel the chill of wandering deep beneath tons of cement, surrounded by dusty military equipment. Also, the views of the sea from up above are spectacular, and you may even spot a few blue whales.
Many people believe that the "hoax" or "paranoia" portrayed in the film 1941 is actually true, and that there was an attack on Los Angeles which the batteries were able to quash. Others believe the cold tunnels are haunted by the ghosts of soldiers once stationed there. The Museum is open 12pm to 5pm Tuesdays, Thursdays, Weekends & Holidays.