Fort Hancock Days, A Celebration Of This Historic Fort's Past, To Be Marked at Gateway National Recreation Area

Gunnery practice -- without the firing -- will be featured at Fort Hancock this weekend during the fort's annual celebration. NPS photo.

They'll turn the calendar back to 1943 at Gateway National Recreation Area this weekend when volunteers demonstrate how Fort Hancock's battery's were manned and operated during World War II.

The demonstrations, by Army Ground Forces Association members, are part of the annual Fort Hancock Days Celebration in the NRA's Sandy Hook unit. The celebration opens Friday and runs through Sunday.

On Friday, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., volunteers from the Army Ground Forces Association (AGFA) will conduct a lantern tour of the fort, which was formed in October 1895. The tour is to begin at the Fort Hancock Museum and end at Battery Gunnison, which was built in 1904.

AGFA volunteers, wearing authentic World War II U.S. Army Coast Artillery Corps uniforms, will emphasize the fort's war years when Fort Hancock's population swelled to more than 12,000 soldiers, civilian defense workers, and family members. AGFA will focus in particular on October 1943, when the Army converted Battery Gunnison from being a disappearing gun battery into its present configuration as a pedestal mounted gun battery.

On Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., visitors can watch or join in helping AGFA members conduct gun drills at Battery Gunnison to see how an original Model 1900 six-inch gun (actually over 25 feet long and weighing 10 tons) was aimed and loaded. An original World War II ambulance will also be on display, complete with period medical equipment and staffed by an AGFA volunteer Army nurse.

Battery Potter, America's first concrete disappearing gun battery, will also be open for tours from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. During World War II this battery served as a Harbor Entrance Control Post that controlled the movement of all ships entering into New York Harbor.

To learn about the war's affect on home life for military families, visit the History House located on the north end of Officer's Row in Fort Hancock from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Fort Hancock protected the harbor area from enemy warships and warplanes from the time of the Spanish-American War through the nuclear age. During the Cold War, radar and Nike air defense missiles were the fort's last defense system. Former Army Nike veterans will conduct guided tours of Fort Hancock's Nike Missile Radar site at Horseshoe Cove on Sunday from noon until 4 p.m.

The fort was deactivated in 1974, when the Sandy Hook peninsula became one of the park units of Gateway National Recreation Area. Visitors are welcome to tour Sandy Hook's beaches, trails and military history sites.