William Endicott was born in Salem, Massachusetts, in November 1826, to a prominent family with deep colonial roots. He studied at Harvard College, graduating from Harvard Law School in 1850. He then established his own law practice.
When Massachusetts expanded its supreme court, Endicott was named to one of the new seats in 1873; he served on the high court for nine years. Endicott resigned in 1882, citing ill health. (UVA)
During the 1870s, several advances took place in the design and construction of heavy ordnance, including the development of breech-loading, longer-ranged cannon, increasingly made of steel rather than iron. Coupled with these developments was a growing alarm over the obsolescence of existing seacoast defenses.
In 1883, the navy began a new construction program for the first time since the Civil War. The navy’s new ships were to be used offensively rather than defensively. This naval policy, along with the advances in weapon technology, required a new system of seacoast defenses which would safeguard America’s harbors and free the navy for its new role. (Coastal Defense Study Group)
In 1885 President Cleveland made Endicott his secretary of war. A joint army, navy, and civilian board was formed, headed by Endicott, to evaluate proposals for new defenses.
The Endicott Board of Fortifications, created by Congress in March 1885, recommended a major improvement program for the modernization of port defenses along the Eastern seaboard and Great Lakes. (UVA)
From 1890 to 1905, the United States undertook a massive program to modernize its coastal defenses. Known as the Endicott era; the huge construction program resulted in all the major harbors being fortified with newly designed steel guns ranging in size from 3 to 12 inches in diameter of bore and 12-inch, breech-loading mortars.
The gun emplacements were constructed with reinforced concrete and had huge earthen or sand parapets in front. Bombproof magazines were placed far underground.
Electrically controlled submarine mine defense projects were developed for the harbors, and fire control systems for locating targets and directing artillery fire were developed.
Improvements in design and construction techniques were made as the program moved forward and those batteries constructed toward the end of the period were more efficient than the early works. Hawaii’s coastal defenses, coming after those on the mainland, would be the beneficiary of these improvements.
As construction wound down on the mainland in 1905, concerns about the state of the nation’s defenses were still heard. A few
important harbors, such as Los Angeles, still lacked fortifications, as did the new American overseas interests, including Hawaii, the Philippines, and the Panama Canal, then under construction.
President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Secretary of War William H. Taft to head a new National Coast Defense Board to review the state of the defenses and to further their effectiveness technically. (Thompson)
In January 1905 Roosevelt instructed Secretary of War William H. Taft to convene the National Coast Defense Board (Taft Board) ‘to consider and report upon the coast defenses of the United States and the insular possessions.’ (Dorrance)
The improvements resulting from the Taft Board’s work included organization of coastal searchlights in batteries for the illumination of harbor entrances, electrification of the fortifications (lighting, communications, ammunition handling), and development of a modern system of aiming.
Since these advances coincided with the construction of Oahu’s fortifications, the new gun and mortar batteries and the mine defense may be said to be from the Taft period. (Thompson)
The Taft Board report recommended in 1906 that O’ahu’s defenses consist of fortifications that defended Honolulu Harbor and Pearl Harbor. The recommendations were refined by a joint Army and Navy board in 1908, and the harbor defense buildup on O’ahu followed the refinements until the onset of World War I.
In 1908 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was in the midst of constructing O‘ahu armored fortifications in accordance with the recommendations of the joint board.
These weapons were to be emplaced within new military reservations that were eventually named Forts Armstrong, Kamehameha, DeRussy and Ruger.
Fort Armstrong (Battery Tiernon) got two 3-inch cannons in 1909; Fort Kamehameha got two 12-inch cannons at Battery Salfridge in 1907 and eight 12-inch mortars at Battery Hasbrouck in 1909); Fort DeRussy got two 14-inch cannons at Battery Randolph and two six-inch cannons at Battery Dudley; and Fort Ruger got eight 12-inch mortars at Battery Harlow in 1907. (Dorrance)
The forts and battery emplacements were constructed according to the concepts of the times. The batteries were dispersed for concealment and to insure that a projectile striking one would not thereby endanger a neighbor. They were open to the rear to facilitate ammunition service at a rapid rate.
The mortars were emplaced four to a pit and were secure when exposed to the flat naval fire of the time. The guns were mounted on disappearing carriages that remained concealed behind a frontal parapet until elevated to fire. (Dorrance)