March 05, 2016

Photo Essay: The Bunkers of White Point

When I'd been skulking around White Point-Royal Palms Beach, I came to discover that there were actually two White Points: the beach down below, and the former Nike missile site up above.

Most people probably know the White Point Nature Preserve these days as ground zero for the active landslide area that forced part of Paseo Del Mar to close, but it's actually the former White Point Military Reservation that was a sub-post of Fort MacArthur, decommissioned in the 1970s.

The nature center itself is in a converted Cold War-era assembly building...

...and includes interpretive displays and artifacts related to the history of White Point both up above and down below, including some samples of abalone shell.

There's another historic structure on the site (a former warhead building), but the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy—which runs the nature center—hasn't figured out what to do with it yet. Reportedly, it's full of bird poop.

Beyond the historic structures, you initially encounter a restored coastal sage scrub habitat...

...but upon further examination, you'll find the ruins of Ramon Sepulveda's rancho.

And snails. Lots of snails.

Climbing the Vista Trail takes you on an "up and around" path through the preserve...

...and takes you right to a World War II-era battery for 16-inch guns...

...which was built and in use in the 1940s.

It is so well-hidden, you would never see it from any of the other trails in the preserve—much less from the road or the shore.

Everything's pretty locked up tight and vandalism-free...

...even though you can walk right through the bunkers.

The guns and their carriages, which were designed to cover the northern approach to the LA harbor, are now long-gone...

...but there must be something locked away in the internal rooms of Battery Paul D. Bunker 127 (whose sister battery was built at Bolsa Chica but never used).

While the upper portion of the site was used primarily in World War II defense, the lower area was dedicated to Nike missile defense use by the Army in 1954. At that time, our efforts had shifted away from Japanese or German enemies and, in the height of the Cold War, focused instead on the Russians.

In 1965, the LA-43 Nike site site was upgraded to accommodate the use of the newer Hercules anti-aircraft missiles ("If it flies, it dies"), and much of it is still there—including the checkpoint building.

In fact, the entire site is in a state of arrested decay...

...not really being touched by the PVPLC.

In fact, the Nike site isn't included in the master restoration plan for the park, which is technically owned by LA Parks and Rec.

The Nike Historical Society tried to refurbish one of the pits and turn it into a museum...

...but their plans fell through.

Now, the launch sites and storage bunkers sit there, rusting... to the elements and vandals...

...their history locked away behind doors that have been welded shut.

Of course, it's not hopeless for this deserted parcel of military history. Even the rest of the White Point site had been just sitting there, fenced off and abandoned, throughout the 1980s and '90s, until the park was finally dedicated in the year 2000.

So maybe something will be done with LA-43 (besides obliterating it).

That is, if it doesn't slide into the ocean.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: The Ruins of White Point
Photo Essay: Combing the Beach For the Royal Palms Country Club
Photo Essay: Trespassing Through Southland's Military History
Photo Essay: Fort MacArthur and The Battle of Los Angeles
Photo Essay: Cabrillo Beach & A Crumbling Concrete Bunker

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