Pacific Northwest Book Review
"Battle Ready: The National Coast Defense System and the Fortification of Puget Sound, 1894-1925"
By David M. Hansen
Published in 2014 by
The National Coast Defense System and the Fortification of Puget Sound, 1894-1925
Before airplanes, the cold war and the space race changed warfare forever, coastal cities were most vulnerable to attack from the sea. Though small compared to coastal areas on the eastern seaboard, Puget Sound was already an established and growing sea port at the end of the 19th Century and was deemed by the U.S. government to be worth defending.
A series of coastal fortresses were constructed in strategic locations along Admiralty Inlet connecting the Strait of Juan de Fuca with Puget Sound in Washington state. These included Fort Worden and Fort Flagler near Port Townsend, Fort Casey on Whidbey Island and Fort Ward on Bainbridge Island.
Back in those days, coastal fortresses had giant canons and mortars that hid behind large stone structures. The Puget Sound’s state-of-the-art defenses were designed to be invisible from the sea, with retracting canons that fired and then disappeared into hidden batteries.
David M. Hansen’s scholarly book “Battle Ready” traces the development of the Puget Sound fortifications and documents the almost continuous upgrades to the fortifications in the years leading up to World War I. Mr. Hansen’s book is full of historical black-and-white photos of the fortifications prior to, during and after construction, including several modern photos taken by Hansen himself.
The Great War changed the military’s attitudes toward fixed coastal defenses, particularly once the firing range of the guns on battleships greatly surpassed their coastal counterparts. Fixed artillery was gradually removed from the forts and was replaced with mobile artillery and anti-aircraft weapons. Coastal fortifications that had been invisible from the sea were now easy targets for aircraft, and camouflaging them from the air was determined to be too expensive, complicated and inefficient.
The Puget Sound was well defended for many years but it was never attacked by naval forces. Upgrades to the forts kept coastal and harbor defenses ahead of their time for a while, but eventually they became obsolete and were abandoned to become parks and historical sites. Today, visitors can still explore the remnants of these massive concrete structures and learn about the Coastal Artillery Corps that protected us from enemies who never came.
Reviewed by John Morgan, 7/07/2015