2010-01-08 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

Fort Tilden Once Held Two 16-Inch Coastal Artillery Guns
From The Rockaway Museum Commentary by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

Fort Tilden at Rockaway Point was an active post for the protection of the New York Harbor entrance from 1917 to the Cold War days. In the mid-1960’s, the fort became part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. The two cannon, or 16-inch rifles, could fire a heavy explosive projectile at a target about 20 miles or more away.

Today in views are three images; two showing what was fired out of the big guns, and the third showing what it took to fire these projectiles from the guns. The first is of a destructive steel projectile, fired at 2,300 feet per second muzzle velocity. The weight of the giant bullet, if you will, was 2,395 pounds. The small child accents the size of the projectile.

The second image shows an explosive A.P. shell that weighs 2,400 pounds, has the same muzzle velocity as the steel shell, and is loaded with 125 pounds of the explosive, Dunnite. I don’t know about you, but I would rather have something else five-foot, four-and-a-half inches tall standing next to me!

The third photo shows what it took to fire these projectiles for an accurate range of about 20 miles, and that was 640 pounds of smokeless powder.

First the projectile was rammed into the breech of the big gun, and when properly seated, the sacks of powder were placed on the rammer and pushed in behind the shell. Then the breech was closed and locked. When the order was given to fire, the trigger was pulled and the powder was ignited to create 38,000 pounds per square inch of gas pressure to send the projectile up and out of the muzzle towards the target.

The Fort Tilden guns were originally for the battleship construction that was cancelled after WWI. They were then all used for coast artillery sites.

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