I was hoping to visit batteries Guenther and O’Flyng on my second trip to Fort Canby but I wasn’t successful on contacting the Coast Guard at Cape Disappointment Station to inquire about access and getting clearance to visit these two batteries. However, I never visited Battery 247 so I decided to go visit the old WWII battery on September 13th, 2008.
I arrived at the parking lot of the McKenzie Head trail pretty late in the afternoon. To be completely honest, I am out of shape and looking at that trail going up McKenzie Head didn’t look all that appealing, especially after hiking the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse Trail. This was especially true given the McKenzie Head trail was half a mile long and up a large hill. But I was there and I wanted to visit the battery so I began to hike the trail.
It was the biggest relief in the world to come up the trail and see the second gun emplacement. Fortunately, there were wooden benches between the Lewis and Clark information signs so I sat for a spell. It was such a beautiful sunny day that I could see out to the Pacific Ocean. I heard it’s a rarity this time of the year at Cape Disappointment. It was such a spectacular and commanding view. I could see the reason why the Army built the battery on the summit of McKenzie Head. There is immense strategic advantage in being able to fire 6″ shells over 15 miles from a elevation of 225 feet. Not only would you be able to spot enemy ships with relative ease but you can also get the same range with less of an arc. Well, that is my theory and it seems to make sense.
I also took the opportunity to look around the immediate surroundings. It is interesting to note that like its Endicott predecessors, the battery is pretty well camouflaged with plant growth, unlike its sister batteries 245 and 246. It is unknown how much of this growth accumulated after the battery was abandoned in 1947, but something tells me that the Army would have intentionally camouflaged this battery, given the natural surroundings, to make it harder for enemy ships to spot the battery. As I said earlier, the battery was built on top of a hill, which made it easier to spot enemy ships; the same could have been true for the enemy ships, if the battery wasn’t camouflaged. Camouflage nets would have been used for the guns and concrete emplacements since you can’t have plant growth obscuring the line of fire.
There is no lighting inside the battery but I had my trusty mini Mag-Lite to highlight every nook and cranny. Experience has taught me that when visiting batteries always have a flashlight handy. Most batteries don’t have interior lighting anymore so it can be very hazardous if you can’t see. You could walk into a steel door that is partially open, or trip and fall on the concrete because you couldn’t see that little step up before the entrance of a room.
Despite 61 years of abandonment, the concrete is in excellent shape with no cracking, crumbling, or any visible deterioration. All the walls were smooth and cool to the touch. The steel doors that remain are still solid with only surface rust. The battery is pretty dry but there are some areas of standing water in the radio room. There were droplets of water all over the ceiling of the plotting room, radio room, and latrine, which I found interesting because these same water droplets in some Endicott batteries can cause stalagtite formations due to mineral leeching, much like the same process in a cave. Could this be the beginning of the same thing for the ceiling of this WWII battery? Only time will tell.
I was able to explore most of the battery but I couldn’t explore the power room, water cooler room, exhaust gallery, and the shell room for the second gun. The heavy steel doors to these rooms were closed, denying access either directly or indirectly.
This post was written by John Stanton on September 17, 2008