World War II gun in the Marin Headlands gets a paint job


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By: Mark Prado, Marin Independent Journal

Posted: 12/31/69, 4:00 PM PST | Updated: on 10/30/2013

A LARGE PIECE of World War II history is getting a shiny paint job in the Marin Headlands.

A 16-inch caliber, 68-foot-long gun that was once mounted on the battleship USS Missouri was brought to Battery Townsley in September 2012 from the U.S. Navy Weapons Station in Hawthorne, Nev. to help tell the story of a coastal defense system in which Marin played a part. It had been mounted on the battleship and can be seen in photos during the Japanese surrender ceremony on Sept. 2, 1945, which occurred on the Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

This week the gun is getting a fresh coat of paint as part of a project to maintain its integrity while facing a barrage of moist air and fog high above Rodeo Beach at Fort Cronkhite.

"It's a preservation project to prevent it from corroding and disintegrating while it sits here in the elements," said Brad Higley, project manager for Spalding Floor Co. & DBI Construction AJV of Auburn. "It's a harsh environment."

To do the work, Higley's company hired Kunst Bros. of San Rafael, whose crews were busy on the job Wednesday. They had to use sanders to clean and smooth out the surface before applying the olive-tinted paint that will match the color of the guns that were once at Townsley. Ten gallons of primer was used and seven gallons of finish. The work is expected to be completed by next week.

"This is absolutely unique, we have never done anything like this," said Nick Kunst, president of the company, as he stood by the 236,240-pound gun. "We are using the exact same coating system the Golden Gate Bridge uses: Two coats of primer, it's a very thick, thick coating so it protects the barrel. The outer coat is like car paint, it will be super shiny."

Kunst gives a five-year warranty on the $25,000 paint job.

The battery once had two, 68-foot-long, 16-inch guns, each capable of shooting a 2,100-pound, armor-piercing projectile 25 miles from the Marin Headlands out to sea. The guns and their ammunition magazines, rooms and crew quarters were covered by dozens of feet of concrete and earth to protect them from air and naval attack.

Battery Townsley was a highly secured operation and while civilians knew that the battery was nearby — the booming guns' target practice couldn't hide that fact — the exact location was not revealed. Camouflage by way of plants and even paper mache rocks hid the site.

The Missouri gun is anything but hidden. It sits outside the battery on a concrete pad for all to see — and touch. Future plans call for the manufacturing of a base for the gun and then moving it inside the battery, re-creating conditions that existed during World War II.

The battery and its guns were active between 1940 and 1948 and after that the guns were removed. In the 1950s the battery was used to house Nike missile personnel. After it was abandoned in the mid-1970s it became a spot for locals to hang out, drink and inscribe graffiti, but local volunteers have since worked to restore it. Battery Townsley is open to the public from noon to 4 p.m. the first Sunday of the month.