It happens every now and again when the elements have their angry way with Salisbury Beach and exhume a reminder of what this nation endured during World War II.
According to Newbury resident and Salisbury Beach lover Janet Hickey, as she walked the beach on Sunday, she realized that Friday’s furious storm tides had exposed two pieces of 20th century history: the remains of concrete gun batteries that guarded the coastline during World War II.
“The largest is maybe 15 to 20 feet in diameter, with a turret in the center,” Hickey wrote in a note to The Daily News. “Apparently, there was a military reservation at the point during WW II, with a commander’s tower and barracks to protect the entrance to the Merrimack.”
Hickey’s correct. From 1942 to 1945 as World War II raged, like other areas along America’s coast, Salisbury Beach Military Reservation had gun batteries. According to northamercianforts.com, the site held a four-gun, 155mm battery on “Panama mounts,” along with a commander’s tower, barracks and other support buildings on the site on the Atlantic side along the southern portion of what is now Salisbury Beach State Reservation.
A 155mm gun is a large piece of artillery, capable of projecting a 100-pound shell up to 15 miles.
Reservation Field Operation Team Leader Mike Magnifico knows just about every grain of sand along the 3.8 miles of state-owned Salisbury Beach, having worked for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, which owns the beach, since 1985. Magnifico said on rare occasions when the erosion is the worst, the gun turrets appear, then they disappear again when the sea pushes the sand back into shore.
“There are World War II gunnery turrets out there,” Magnifico said. “During the war they were used to keep a look out for enemy subs. They’re round, and they had guns that rotated 360 degrees.”