coast defense

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East Point

During WW2, East Point (also known as Location 131 Site 3B) bristled with the highest concentration of larger guns in the Boston Harbor defenses. This included the two 16-inch guns of Battery John Murphy (Construction 104) in the center of the Point, the two rapid-firing 6-inch guns of Battery 206 on the southwest tip, and the two temporary 155 mm guns that were emplaced in Panama mounts on the southeast tip early in the war. East Point also features a massive underground bunker that housed the plotting room for Battery Murphy and a control point at the eastern tip for the underwater magnetic detection loop cables that were part of the harbor defenses.

The Battery Murphy gallery at left shows an overall site plan at a small scale and larger scale views of the northwest and southwest portions of the site. The NW portion includes the bunker for the Battery Murphy poltting room. The SW portion shows the gun positions and underground munitions storage areas for the 6" guns of Battery 206. A fourth plan, at a slightly smaller scale, shows the eastern part of the site, including Battery Murphy and the two 155 mm gun positions on the tip of the Point.


Construction of Battery Murphy commenced in January, 1942 and was completed in December, 1943, at a cost of $1.655 million (equivalent to over $21 million in 2010 dollars). The result was two buried casemates, each of which sheltered an M4 16-inch gun on a barbette carriage. The two gun positions were linked by an underground corridor over 650 ft. in length. The Battery ran three 375 KVA generators.

The Battery was declared surplus in 1948, and today all of East Point is managed by Northeastern University, which uses the underground portion of the Battery to house a number of small laboratories that are part of its marine research effort. It is somewhat bizarre to tour the bunker and find tanks of lobsters, algae, and fish behind the massive steel doors of storage rooms for 16-inch powder and shells. The platform for Gun 1, on the south end of the bunker, has been bricked over and is now used to store a sailboat and piles of spare furniture. The platform for Gun 2, at the northern end, appears to be open to the outside but shut off by a safety door and, on the outside, by a chainlink fence.

In the 1950s, the portion of East Point lying the east of the Battery was redeveloped as a Nike missle launch site (with its target tracking radar near Fort Ruckman in western Nahant). This development entailed massive earthmoving, building up a tall ridge east of the Battery, and effectively cutting off the firing angles for Gun 1. Sadly, it also obscured or buried many of the other details of the WW2 emplacements and geodetic markers on the Point. Efforts have been made by the author and others to find any of the half dozen or so survey markers originally set there, one of which dates to 1846, but to date these searches have gone unrewarded.

Construction of Battery 206 was authorized shortly before the outbreak of WW2 and was completed on May 31, 1943. Battery 206 followed the so-called 200 Series standard design for a 6-inch battery, and mounted a pair of 6-inch guns, M1903A2 on M1 barbette carriages. These guns were. served by a common magazine located under earth protection between them. The magazine had a portal on its western side for delivery of munitions and two for exhaust of its generators, and one portal each on its northern and southern sides, to serve shells to the guns. All of these entrances now appear to have been welded shut by the site manager, Northeastern University, likely to reduce vandalism. The portal serving Gun #2 (on the northern side) has been buried under fill and trap rock, probably during the construction of the Nike missile battery in the 1950s.

As shown in Slide 4 of the Battery 206 gallery at left, the front and sides of this type of gun were protected by a bulbous, sculpted steel shield, 6 inches thick, that wrapped around the gun and was designed to deflect shrapnel from enemy fire. The outlines of this shield are shown in the cutaway drawings of the gun in Slides 5 and 6 at left. The 6-man gun crew is shown in Slide 7 preparing to fire the gun.

These guns were traversed manually, via a handwheel on the left side of the gun (one turn of the handwheel turned the gun about 1 degree) but could be elevated either manually or electrically. Their maximum elevation was 47.5 degrees, but they had to be returned to a 10 degree elevation for loading. This meant that the electrical elevating mechanism greatly speeded up the firing cycle. The gun was also served by a gas ejection system that automatically injected high pressure air from the barrel back toward the the breech after each shot, blowing away bits of fouling material and avoiding the need to swab out the breech manually after each round. This further increased the rate of fire. Each gun was served by a crew consisting of 25 enlisted men, led by a gun commander, and divided into gun and ammunition squads.

The guns of Battery 206 were estimated to have an effective range of 26,250 yards, or about 15 miles. This meant that the guns could reach northwest almost to Eastern Point in Manchester, MA or southeast down as far as the coast of Cohasset.

A battery of 155 mm guns on Panama mounts was emplaced at the southeast tip of East Point. Rushed into position shortly after Pearl Harbor, construction began at the end of March, 1942 and was completed on May 13th. Once the other larger guns of the Harbor Defense had been emplaced,

  • 155mm Bty Plan
    The benchmarks on this plan that locate the two guns of this battery can also be seen on the overall plan for East Point, at upper left, Slide 1, thus locating the guns precisely. Gun position #1 has been obliterated by Nike site construction. Slide 3 below shows a surviving part of gun position #2.
  • 155 mm Panama
    This photo shows a gun and mount similar to that which existed at the tip of East Point at the beginning of the war. Photo courtesy of CDSG.
  • 155mm-Gun2
    Photo looks NE from end of East Point. Circular center portion of mount is clearly visible. Circular track for gun trails is also visible, cutting through path at center-right. Mount has been partially buried with fill from construction of the Nike battery in the 1950s. Position of Gun #1 and fire control structure have been totally covered over. (PG 2010)
  • Magnetic-Loop-Station
    Photo looks SE from top of the bluff and about 500 ft. SW of the tip of the Point. This building controlled a segment of the system of undersea cables which defended Boston Harbor from attack by submarines. Clicking the full size image will take you to Dr. Richard Walding's excellent website that describes the cable system in detail, with many photos. (Note the new marine grafiti recently addedd to the building, in keeping with its setting.) (PG 2010)
  • Bty-Murphy-Plotting-Room
    Photo looks SE from Swallow Cave Rd. at the northerly one of two entrance portals on the NW side of the buried plotting room facility at Battery Murphy. Note the twin chimneys protruding from the top of the mound. (PG 2010)

these "emergency" batteries were retired. And a good thing too; this battery would not have been the place to be stationed when the 16-inch guns of Battery Murphy were fired....

Just below the edge of the bluff on the southeast tip of East Point is a surviving concrete Operations Building for the Navy's magnetic loop detection system used from June, 1942 until May, 1945 to detect submarines approaching Boston. The outstanding website authored by Dr. Richard Walding describes and documents this system quite completely, and the reader is referred to that website. Dr. Walding also has a full range of photos describing the interior and exterior of this building, as well as the nearby concrete Naval Administration and Power Building, which also survives.

Another surviving feature at East Point is the large underground bunker that served as the Plotting Room for Battery Murphy. Today the entrances to the bunker are overgrown (see Slide #5 above), but the bunker itself is apparently intact. Northeastern has recently cleaned out the bunker in preparation for using it as administrative space.



Battery Murphy

  • Loc 131-3B Site Plan Overview
  • Loc 131-3B Site Plan NW Portion
    This portion of the site is dominated by the massive underground bunker for the Battery Murphy Plotting room. Between that bunker and Battery Murphy is the administration building (new construction from the Nike era) now used by Northeastern University for the laboratories.
  • Loc 131-3B SIte Plam SW Portion
    This portion of the site contained the six-inch guns of Battery 206. The buried magazine originally had access from both guns, but the door to Gun 2 has now been buried with trap rock and fill.
  • Loc 131-3B Site Plan East Portion
    This plan shows the full length of Battery Murphy (over 650 ft.) and also the gun positions of the emergency battery of 155 mm guns on the eastern tip of the Point.
  • Battery-Murphy
    (PG 2010)
  • Bty-Murphy-Gun1-2010
    Photo looks westerly from the filled ridge of the Nike battery. This gun position has been bricked over and its firing angles blocked by the filled ridge. (PG 2010)
  • Bty-Murphy-Gun2-2010
    Photo looks westerly from the filled ridge of the Nike battery. Today, this gun position serves as an emergency exit (through the chainlink fence) from the laboratories that currently occupy the battery space. (PG 2010)
  • Murphy-Corridor-Mid-Way
    View north toward Gun 2 from half way along the central corridor. Note the magazine doors at left (now leading to laboratory rooms) and the tanks holding marine experiments to the right. (PG 2010)
  • Murphy-Corridor-Full-length
    Viewpoint is just outside the platform for Gun 1 at the south end of the corridor. People in the distance are at the same point as they were in the preceeding photo. (PG 2010)
  • Murphy-Inside-Gun1
    Photo looks easterly. Mouth of gun platform is ahead (painted light blue). It has been blocked up, except for a ventilation exhaust. Central corridor (and vantage point for preceeding photo) is just to the left. Access door to front of battery is to the rear. (PG 2010)