A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE COAST ARTILLERY CORPS
The concept of seacoast defense became extremely important in the United States after its severe lack of preparedness during the War of 1812. This emphasis continued after the Civil War as more powerful and more sophisticated artillery weapons were developed. As the 20th century approached, military strategists realized that heavy (fixed) artillery required a very different training program than lighter, mobile field artillery. The obvious solution was to divide the Artillery Corps into two new branches: Field Artillery and Coast Artillery. This process began in February 1901 with the creation of dozens of Coast Artillery companies. Six years later the venerable Artillery School at Fort Monroe became the Coast Artillery School. It operated at this post until 1946, serving as the principal training center for most officers and many enlisted men in this branch of the Army.
During the 1880s a special board convened by Secretary of War William Endicott made sweeping recommendations for new or upgraded coastal defense installations and weapons systems. The primary artillery pieces were the 12-inch mortar and the “disappearing” gun (available in at least five sizes), supplemented by smaller armament. Foreign navies eventually developed new guns that exceeded the range of these weapons, so the Coast Artillery responded with 16-inch howitzers and guns. During World War I thousands of Coast Artillerymen received abbreviated training at Fort Monroe and other training centers before going overseas to serve in railway or field artillery batteries.
By World War II the Coast Artillery Corps had shifted its emphasis to antiaircraft artillery. The older, larger guns at seacoast installations were retained for training purposes but were practically useless against long-range bombers or carrier-based aircraft. Even before the war ended, the U. S. Army began to phase out its coastal defense operations and divert manpower to higher-priority needs. In 1946 the Coast Artillery School moved to Fort Winfield Scott, California, as military experts pondered the fate of this Corps. Not unexpectedly, the Coast Artillery Corps was inactivated on January 1, 1950, in accordance with the Army’s latest reorganization plan.