Tuesday, July 14, 2020
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New Fort MacArthur Discovery a Bittersweet Find

By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, Army troops in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego were on heightened alert, afraid the Japanese would strike again. The military carved into the hillside as part of a defense system in case of another attack.

The hillside trenches and tunnels were designed by Robert Rose, an enlistee who volunteered for service during World War II when the war broke out, according to a Fort MacArthur Museum newsletter published in 2000.

Steve Nelson, the executive director of the museum, knew the military had secrets—he just didn’t know where to dig them up. This past May, amid work to make the Gaffey Street Pool compliant with the American Disabilities Act, the trench was discovered. Nelson says the discovery is bittersweet, considering there is no way to preserve the findings and also renovate the pool.

“We knew we were going to discover stuff,” Nelson said. “We didn’t know we were going to discover this. This is a victory and tragedy all combined into one.”

Originally from Syracuse, Ind., Rose’s pre-Army experience included work at a lumber mill. When the Army learned of his time there, they assigned him to work on an underground bomb shelter, known today as the earthen tunnel system through the upper reservation system.

Rose cut wood pilings for use as supports in the tunnel system. He also helped install the supports at its Paseo del Mar entrance.

Nelson is saving much of the wood piles with the hope of someday creating a replica of the trenches.


  1. Was stationed at Ft. MacArthur from 1955-1957 when it was a communication center for the AA Nike sites and tied with the Air Force longer range missiles. The tunnels were interesting.. used find our way into the one’s that were supposed to be sealed off for our poker games. Don’t remember the bunker we were in but it was under ground with the aircraft plotting board and communications center and had punch code door to get in; they changed the combination every month. We were all classified for “ top secret” security. Interesting time in my life.
    Bob Schearer


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