Plans are moving forward to create a visiting area at a World War II-era gun emplacement site on sand dunes off the east end of Cotter Avenue.
Port Aransas City Manager Dave Parsons said the matter is expected to go before the city council on Thursday, Sept. 17. The meeting, which will address a variety of topics in addition to the gun emplacement site, starts at 5 p.m. at council chambers, 710 W. Ave. A.The Port Aransas Preservation and Historical Association (PAPHA) and Moore-McDonald VFW Post 8967 are working together to make the project happen. The city is involved because parking for the visiting area would be built on city right of way.
Former VFW Commander Claude Lamoureux has been working to coordinate efforts toward establishing the visiting area.
The emplacements were built for coastal defense during World War II. Little more than crumbling stone walls are left now, but they’re still visible from Cotter Avenue.
Lamoureux and others involved in the project want to memorialize the site. Many soldiers once served there.
Island Construction has agreed to donate the materials and labor required to pave a 100-foot-long strip where visitors could parallel park off Cotter, Lamoureux said. The city won’t have to fund any of the work going into the visiting area, Parsons said.
PAPHA members Bill Behrens, Mark Creighton and John Guthrie Ford are working on producing signs explaining the history of the site. The signs could end up looking similar to the signs at the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie’s Pasture, according to folks involved in the project.
Some landscaping is expected to be done, though specifics haven’t been worked out .
The Port Aransas Garden Club made a $5,000 donation as seed money for the project.
Lamoureux said he’s hoping to see the parking area built and signs erected within the next few months. An opening ceremony eventually will be scheduled.
Organizers have pared down the original scope of the project some. They’ve decided against pursuing the idea of finding retired Army artillery equipment and putting it on display at the foot of the dunes, which are owned by the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, Lamoureux said. That means no lease will have to be worked out with UT.
Because the institute is an open campus, people may walk up on the dunes and look at the emplacement ruins, but they should be careful, because rattlesnakes are known to live in the dunes, said Steve Lanoux, assistant director for operations at the institute. Lanoux also is a Port Aransas city councilman.
If the dune suffers degradation due to foot traffic, the institute will work with memorial organizers to put in some sort of erosion-resistant steps like railroad timbers, Lanoux said.
The emplacements originally were built because vessels coming from the Port of Corpus Christi and an oil depot just inside the Aransas Pass were seen as possible targets by the enemy during World War II.
A field artillery battery from the Second Infantry Division at Fort Sam Houston was dispatched to Mustang Island. The soldiers brought 105 mm howitzers with them, but the guns weren’t permanently emplaced.
The field artillery battery was replaced in April 1942 by Battery E, 50th Coast Artillery Regiment to provide for a stronger defense. Extensive communication equipment and searchlights were included.
Situated atop each of two dunes was a gun that fired six-inch (155 mm) shells that reached targets up to 11 miles away. The guns were put on reinforced concrete and involved what is known as a Panama mount – a gun mount developed by the U.S. Army in Panama during the 1920s and still used during World War II for coastal defense.
What came to be known to Port Aransas residents as “Fort Port Aransas” was finished in April 1943. It was made up of structures including 60 army “huts” for soldiers, plus vehicles, machine guns and more.
Soldiers practiced often, firing shells into the Gulf, but no actual conflicts with enemy craft ever occurred.
The coastal defense of the Aransas Pass lasted from January 1942 to July 1944, when enemy naval threats in the Gulf of Mexico ceased.
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