Interview with Robert S. Adams

From the interview with Robert S. Adams conducted by Henry West at the Fort Worden History Center on July 9, 2002. Mr. Adams’ father was a sergeant in the 14th Coast Artillery stationed at Fort Worden at variuos times during his career, which spanned the years from the 1920’s to the 1940’s. Here Mr. Adams recalls memories of his childhood at Fort Worden:

“I was allowed to go watch my dad’s battery, G Battery. The 14th Coast Artillery at that time had A Battery, D Battery, G Battery and Headquarters, plus the Quartermaster which was part of Headquarters. If I didn’t have school the next day, or on a Friday night, and they were going to fire guns (they fired them at night for practice) my dad would allow me to go to a certain area, but I couldn’t go outside that area. Because if I went outside that area, I got a Sam Browne belt across my backside.

…I was allowed more times to go see them fire Battery Kenzie than anything else, although I did see them fire Tooles. Once or twice I got to go up and watch them fire the mortars. All the batteries had to be proficient in all the guns. (They interchanged the training because) in a wartime situation, if a battery lost some men certain people from another battery would have to go in and they would fit right in.”

About the guns:

“…It was 1900 steel, it isn’t the steel that we have today. My dad told me that when they fired rapid fire, which was two shots within 35 seconds of one another out of the twelve-inch gun at Kinzie, that gun had to sit there and cool off for four minutes. The steel just couldn’t stand the heat and the barrel would have a tendency to bend. The barbettes, the guns on the fixed mounts, were from the same steel. I don’t think it was until World War I that they started getting steel that they could fire faster, longer.”

About the searchlights, night firing and targets:

“The searchlights were normally connected with observation posts. I will brag about the 14th Coast Artillery because those guys were good. They could get an azimuth on where the target was and the range, they could hit that range within about 15 yards. They called that in to the plotting room where everything came together. Thirty seconds later, that gun was firing. They say at 10 miles, the distance was a half mile that target would travel. It was like shooting ducks, you had to lead or you missed.

They used a tugboat that they called the L35 and they also had a mine planter, the Bell, to tow targets. …The target was about 100 yards behind the towboat.

I do remember Dad’s battery once firing a six-inch gun up on the hill. I think it was the Bell (towing the target). When they got to the end of their run, the target wasn’t there anymore. They radioed out to the Bell to put out another target, because they had some more rounds they wanted to shoot. The Bell came back and said, ‘Can’t do it, you broke every damn cable we got.’ So that ended the shooting for the night.”

A story about General James H. Cunningham:

“When Jimmy first came on the base as a bird colonel and the commanding officer, he started issuing orders. He was going to make this place G.I. Of course, the orders came down through the chain of command. By that time, my dad was a first sergeant in G Battery and the company commander said, ‘Sergeant, put these into effect.’ My dad would go in and read the orders. He wasn’t one who liked to use four-letter words, but I guess he used them.

Dad and I were walking back from lunch one day, I was going down to the beach to play, and along came Jimmy with his two black dogs. My dad saluted him and stopped in front of him. The general saluted back. My dad looked at him and said, ‘Sir, may I make a recommendation?’ The conversation went something like this: The General, ‘Yes, Sergeant, I take all recommendations under advisement.’ My dad, ‘Fine. You run the Officers Club, let the non-coms run the Army.’

He got away with it. It wasn’t a court martial offense.”


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