By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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PORT TOWNSEND — A military vehicle show featuring vintage combat machines will celebrate Fort Worden's military past this weekend.
Tours along with the free exhibit are planned during the show from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, but visitors can take a look at the vehicles in a less formal setting today and Monday.
“We have some really cool things this year,” said Kevin Anderson, an employee of the nonprofit Puget Sound Coast Artillery Museum and one of the event's organizers.
“People will be able to see a lot of unique things up-close, like a portable motorcycle that was put in a tube and air-dropped along with our troops in World War II.”
Anderson said the portable motorcycles gave soldiers mobility around the French countryside.
The exhibits are split between two locations: the Coast Artillery Museum at Building 201 on the Fort Worden State Park campus and a gathering of about 30 vehicles on Artillery Hill, the site of one of the batteries that was intended as a defense system against enemies who might attack from the water.
Fort Worden was operational from the early part of the 20th century through World War II, according to volunteer Gary Hagge, who added that the fort was not completely obsolete until the late 1950s.
“On Dec. 8, 1941, the day after the Pearl Harbor attack, a lot of people on the West Coast were real happy this was here,” volunteer Alfred Chiswell said of the batteries.
“It made them feel a lot safer.”
The battery area, now overgrown with trees that obstruct the water view, looked quite different in those days, Hagge said. The area was clearcut and provided a 360-degree view.
For the show, Hagge is installing a telescope in the observation tower, which is now in ragged shape, to point out how it connected to a control room below to determine the position of the target and the angle of the shot.
On Saturday and Sunday, tours of the Harbor Entrance Control Post will be available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the Mortar Battery Plotting Room will be open.
Guided walking tours of the gun line will start in the grassy field near Battery Randol at 1 p.m.
Parking will be available near the Coast Artillery Museum next to the Parade Ground or in the field at the gate to Artillery Hill.
A Discover Pass is required to park by the gate.
Visitors parking near the gate can access the vehicles with a three-fourths-mile uphill hike, or they can catch a shuttle from the Coast Artillery Museum.
Rides will stop at the museum, the gate, the Mortar Plotting Room, the control post and camp as needed.
Displays set up next to the museum will include a restored 1942 Army firetruck and an Abbot self-propelled gun, a British-made artillery piece. The tracked L109 has a turreted 105mm gun.
Members of the 249th Coast Artillery living history group from Fort Stevens State Park in Oregon will bring a display representing the World War II era.
A collection of World War I memorabilia and gear also is planned, and an exhibit set up by a Philippine Insurrection re-enactor likely will be part of the show.
As explained on the museum's website, “because the vehicles are privately owned and things happen we can't guarantee that any particular vehicle will be able to show up, but we expect an excellent turnout.”
For more information, visit www.coastartillery.org.
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.