Harbor Defenses of World War II at Fort Worden

As the war heated up in Europe in the late 1930s and early 1940s the US began upgrading and strengthening its military. Part of the upgrading included establishing Defense Command operations for major harbors in the Country. On June 23, 1940 a memorandum was issued discussing the duties of the Harbor Defenses. For a great deal of additional information about the Harbor Defense systems of WWII, see the 1974 Report prepared by the National Parks Service and referenced at footnote 1

From page 7 of the National Park Service report:

The HECPs were to be the central point for coordination and joint operation of Army and Navy elements of the harbor defense system whose mission was to: (a) "collect and disseminate information of activities in the defensive sea area"; (b) to control "unescorted commercial shipping in the defensive coastal areas"; and (c) to take prompt and decisive action "to operate the elements of the harbor defense," to deny enemy action within the defensive coastal area.

Each of the posts was "visualized" as being continuously manned by "an officer of both the Army and Navy and the necessary assisting personnel for clerical and communication duties, where the Army and Navy officers are the Senior Local Commanders of their respective services, or their direct representatives with authority to take the action necessary to accomplish the mission."

The Harbor Defense facilities at Fort Worden were one of about 18 similar facilities constructed at major harbor entrances around the country. Some were constructed simply by remodeling existing structures and went online pretty quickly. This was done temporarily at Fort Worden, but the two primary buildings at Fort Worden were purpose built in 1943, so were better protected and more efficiently laid out than many of the others. Planned Harbor Defense Posts were originally broken down into 4 types:

Type A—Harbor Defense Commander
Inshore Patrol
Anti-aircraft Groupment
Seacoast Artillery Groupment
Type B—Harbor Defense Commander
Inshore Patrol
Anti-aircraft Groupment
Type C—Harbor Defense Commander
Inshore Patrol
Seacoast Artillery Groupment
Type D—Harbor Defense Commander
Inshore Patrol

In a list of 16 HDCPs reprinted in the National Park Service report there were only 2 Type A posts shown, and Puget Sound was not listed at all. There was one Type B, there were no Type Cs at all, the rest were D's. An even smaller Type E was added later in the interests of keeping costs at a minimum. According to the Park Service report:

On November 19, 1941, the Chief of Engineers estimated the cost of constructing the various types of Harbor Entrance Command Posts at: Types A and B, $80,000; Type C, $70,000; Type D, $62,000; and Type E, $46,000. The Chief of Chemical Warfare Services, five days later, placed the cost of gasproofing Types A-D at $4,000 and Type E at $3,000.

The World War II Harbor Defense system for Puget Sound was apparently a Type A or better, consisting of the Navy's Harbor Entrance Control Post (HECP), the Coast Artillery/Army's Harbor Defense Command Post (HDCP), the Harbor Defense Observation Post (HDOP), the Signaling Station (SS), the Groupment Command Post (GPMTCP) and a Gun Group Command Post (GCP) probably specifically related to anti-aircraft batteries.

Prior to WWII similar functions were at the Groupment Command Post and Fort Command in a building built in 1908 on the highest point of the hill. In 1943 the HDCP was moved to temporary quarters and a new underground building was constructed for the GPMTCP/GCP then the 1908 building was torn down and replaced with a new underground structure which eventually held the HECP, HDCP, HDOP and SS. According to the RCWs for the two buildings the HECP building cost $95,508.76 when turned over to the military December 23, 1943 and the GPMTCP/GCP cost $26,300.00 when it was completed on July 26, 1943 for a total of $121,808.76, well over the projected cost.

For more information see the separate section about the
HECP and the pages related to the gas filtration systems.


This structure was a combined Groupment Command Post (GPMTCP) and a Gun Group Command Post (GCP), each with their own underground room and Obesrvation Booth in front.

The building was completed and turned over to the Army in July 1943. It replaced an earlier one a few hundred yards south that had been built in 1908. Once this building was operational the old one was torn down to make room for the HECP.

The GPMTCP/GCP is built into a hill over a tunnel between Batteries Ash and Benson. The GPMTCP side was protected from a gas attack by an airlock and filters, the GCP side was not. It turned out that the same filtering system along with the thick walls and earth cover would provide protection from radiation in the event of a nuclear attack.

All photos are from March 2013 unless otherwise identified.